The Second Sunday of Easter ~ April 19th, 2020~ “Peace be with You!”
Here we are continuing to celebrate the fifty days of the Easter Season as most of us are still locked down similar to the way the apostles were on that first Easter. See if you can learn from their experience today as we try to cope with this ongoing coronavirus that’s invading and infecting all our lives.
The Apostles were very disturbed after the crucifixion. Their life with Jesus ~ their hopes and dreams for the future ~ seemed to be totally shattered. They were afraid that the leaders would come for them and crucify them as well. How have your hopes and dreams been averted in the past month?
These issues were so strong in them that they could not believe the message that the Women brought them that Jesus had been raised. They were not at peace.
They were distressed and fearful, huddled together in the Upper Room behind locked doors. They were depressed and distraught that the One they had come to love had been murdered. They were afraid that the religious leaders would come after them as well.
William Barclay, the Scripture scholar says that “they met in something like terror.” They knew the envenomed bitterness of the Jewish leaders who had plotted his execution and feared they would be next.
They really needed some peace. So the first thing Jesus says when he appears to them is “Peace be with you.”
Thus, peace is an Easter gift. It’s a gift that we can claim and pray for too.
I’m not talking about peace between Israelis and Palestinians or Republicans and Democrats. It means more than “May you be saved from times of trouble or conflict.” It means much more than that. It means, “May God give you every good thing.”
Jesus said when he appeared to them in the locked room, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you.”
There’s a parallel between the sending out of the Church by Jesus and his being sent by the Father. John’s Gospel makes clear that the relationship between Jesus and God shows Jesus’ perfect obedience and perfect love. Jesus could be God’s messenger only because he rendered to God that perfect obedience and perfect love. It follows that the Church is fit to be a messenger and an instrument of Christ only when it perfectly loves him and perfectly obeys him. The Church must never be out to propagate man-made policies. The Church fails whenever it tries to solve some problems in its own wisdom and strength and leaves out of account the guidance of Christ.
“And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit . . . .”
Barclay suggests that when John spoke in this way, he was thinking back to the story of the creation of humankind. “And the Lord God formed man out of dust from the soil and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)
And we can compare this to the story of the valley of the dry bones in Ezekiel when he heard God say to the wind, “ Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain that they may live.”
The coming of the Holy Spirit is like the awakening of life from the dead.
. . . . Until Jesus appeared to them. They no longer had to rely on faith, which was lacking for all of them, not just Thomas. They had to experience the Risen One for themselves.
Then enter Thomas. He is not at peace. He says that unless he puts his finger in the nail-marks and his hand into his side, he will not believe.”
Thomas is honest.
Thomas needed to be convinced. He absolutely refused to say that he understood what he did not understand or to say he believed what he did not believe. There was an uncompromising honesty about him.
But when he was sure, he went all the way, My Lord and My God,” he proclaimed!
At this point, Thomas is overwhelmed. A week earlier he had said he would not believe. The truth of it all came home to him: so different from other men, he is the same one they used to be together with, who was put to death a short time ago. And Thomas surrendered. “You are my Lord and my God!” Thomas believed.
But then Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
These words are really extraordinary, according to Bread and Wine author Romano Guardini. Thomas believed because he had been allowed to “see.,” to see the hands and the side and to touch the blessed wounds, yet he was not blessed.
Blessed indeed are those whose who have yet learned to believe!” Those who ask for no miracles, demand nothing out of the ordinary, but find God’s message in every day life. Those who require no compelling proofs, but remain in a certain ultimate suspense, so that faith may never cease to require daring.
And those are called blessed who make the effort to remain open-hearted. Who seek to cleanse their hearts of all self-righteousness, obstinacy, presumption, and inclination to “know better-than-others.”. Who are quick to listen, and are humble and free-spirited. Who are able to find God’s message in the gospel of he day, or even from the sermons of preachers with no message in particular, or in phrases from the Law they’ve heard a thousand times, phrases with no charismatic power about them, or in the happenings of every day life that always end up the same way: work and rest, anxiety—and then again some kind of success, some joy, and an encounter, and a sorrow.
Blessed are those who can see the Lord in all those things!
~ Romano Guardini / Bread and Wine “Believing is Seeing” pp.. 119- 123,
There’s a message for us in what Father Guardini says here for all of us as we ” stay in place” bored perhaps, day-in- day-out, not knowing when our lives will return to normal, or if there will be a “normal.” A message of patience and love.
As for me, I consider myself a Witness to the Resurrection. I KNOW my Redeemer lives. I KNOW his love for me in the present moment. He is as close to me as my very own heartbeat. Not that I’m always aware of him. No, I am a sinful man who has made many mistakes in the fifty -one years of my priesthood. But I know that I love him and I know at the bottom of my heart that Jesus loves me. And, with all my heart and soul, I want you, my dear readers, to know in the bottom of your own hearts the deep, deep love and affection that Jesus has for YOU, too!
I praise and thank God and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord for the gift the peace he has given me.
AND MAY THE PEACE OF THE LORD BE WITH YOU AS WELL!
Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated on the Sunday after Easter. It is originally based on the Devotion to the Divine Mercy that Saint Faustina Kowalska reported as part of her encounter with Jesus, and is associated with special promises from Jesus and indulgences issued by the Church. Jesus associated with this devotion. A simple prayer associated with this devotion is “Jesus, I trust in you.” A simple act of abandonment is enough to overcome the barriers of darkness and sorrow and desperation. The rays of God’s divine mercy will restore hope hope to those who feel overwhelmed by any burden, especially the burden of sin.
And now, here is a powerful song to pull all of this together ~ , Click here.
Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen, and there’s another song just behind it.
And here are the Mass readings, if you’d care to reflect on them. Click here.
William Barclay The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of John – Volume 2 Revised Edition / Westminster Press – Philadelphia – 1975/ pp. 272-4.
Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord
April 12th, 2020
Christ is Risen, Alleluia, Alleluia!
How do we celebrate Easter against the background of this ongoing coronavirus crisis? It’s upended all of our lives and it surely could well upset our Easter Sunday celebration. For one, it preclude any kind of family dinners. Picnics are out. Walks in the park? Depends on your city. Play outside? Again depends. But it doesn’t have to ruin our spiritual enjoyment of the day. I want to try to help. You can also probably live-stream Easter Sunday Mass. (I’ll provide some resources for that on my email that accompanies this blog or you can google it yourself in your area.
As I did yesterday, I’m going to share another article from my favorite Lent / Easter spiritual reading book, this time from the Easter section. It’s one by Philip Yancey and it will lead into the them I want to set for all of us for this Easter Sunday and that is one of Gratitude. As we’ve had to step back and (most of us anyway) have had time on our hands, let’s use that time for good. For prayer and reflection. To think about the good things we do have and not the things we don’t. I hope you enjoy this article as much as I did. It really affected me deeply and as I share this with you today, it could possibly bring about powerful change among us. At least that is my hope and prayer.
The image of the Cross is proof that God cares. Today the image is coated with gold and worn around the necks of beautiful girls, a symbol of how far we can stray from contemplating the reality of the True Cross and what it ought to mean for us.
In this time of the coronavirus crisis in which all of us are shaken, anxious and fearful perhaps of what our future holds and that of our country that’s a perfect image for us to think about this Easter Sunday.
Love was compressed for all history in that lonely, bleeding Jesus. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).
What practical effect does Christ identification with us have on people who actually suffer? A dramatic example of this effect of this truth was seen in the ministry of Dr. Paul Brand while he was working among leprosy patients in Vellore, India. Dr. Brand was one of the few, together with his staff that would draw close to and touch a person with Hansen’s disease—the townspeople quarantined them.
He slipped in late to a patients’ gathering sitting on a mat at the edge of the open courtyard. The patients insisted on a few words from him and he reluctantly agreed. Gazing around, his eyes were drawn to their hands, dozens of them, in the familiar “leprosy claw hand,” some with no fingers. Some sat on their hands; others hid them from view.
“I am a hand surgeon,” he told them, waiting for a translation into Tamil or Hindi, so when I meet people “I can’t help looking at people’s hands. I can tell your past, for instance by the position of the calluses and the condition of the nails. I can tell a lot about your character. I love hands.” The patients were rapt with attention.
“How I would have loved to have had a chance to meet Christ and study his hands! ” He began with infancy when his hands were small, helpless, grasping. Then as a boy clumsily holding a brush or a stylus, trying to form letters of the alphabet. Then the hands of a carpenter—rough, gnarled, with broken finger nails and bruises working with a saw and hammer.
Then there were the hands of Christ the physician, the healer. Compassion and sensitivity seemed to radiate from them, so much so that when he touched people they could feel something of the divine spirit coming through. Christ touched the blind, the diseased, the needy.
Then there was the crucified hands. Dr. Brand said”it hurts me to think about a nail being driving through the center of my hand because I know what goes on there, the tremendous complex of nerves and blood vessels and muscles. It’s impossible to drive a spike through its center without crippling it. The thought of those healing hands being crippled reminds me of what Christ was prepared to endure. In that act he identified himself with all the deformed and crippled human beings in the world. Not only was he able to endure poverty with the poor, weariness with the tired, but clawed hands with the crippled.”
The effect on the listening patients—all social outcasts—was electrifying.
Dr. Brand continued. “Then there were his resurrected hands. One of the things I find most astounding is that, though we think that the future of life is something perfected, when Christ appeared to his disciples, he said, ‘Come look at my hands,” and he invited Thomas to put his finger in the print of the nail.”
“Why did he want to keep the wounds of his humanity? Wasn’t it because he wanted to carry back with him an external reminder of the suffering of those on earth? He carried the marks of suffering (and there there on every crucifix to look at) so he could continue to understand the needs of those suffering. He wanted to be forever one with us.”
And then . . . . and then hands were lifted high all over the courtyard, palm to palm in the Indian gesture of respect, namaste. The hands were same stumps, the same missing fingers and crooked arches. Yet no one tried to hide them. God’s own response to suffering made theirs easier.
It should make yours easier too.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matt 11:29-30)
As many of you, my readers are aware. I have suffered from a social disorder for many years too but it’s more hidden, but it did cause me a great deal of suffering. They call it manic-depressive disorder or bipolar disorder. And it has caused me to be estranged because of behavior that I was not fully in control of at the time with friends in the past. That has caused me a great deal of pain, let alone the embarrassment. I truly regret those incidents and hope someday I can be reconciled with some of those friends. I miss them!
But most of all, this leads me to a profound sense of gratitude. On Tuesday of Holy Week, I had the opportunity to go to confession to a special priest. We practiced “social distancing” outside under a gazebo and he let me talk for 45 minutes. And for my penance, he asked me to think of five things I am grateful for and I’m going to ask you, my readers to do the same, this Easter Sunday if you are moved by the grace of Mr. Yancey’s writing and my own contribution. Here’s my list: ( I came up with seven.)
* My Friendship with Jesus
* The gift of my priesthood over fifty-one years
* My home
* The friends who’ve nourished and sustained me
* My gifts and talents for writing especially
* My little dog Shoney
* My candy apple red Mustang (how ’bout dat?)
On this very peculiar Easter Sunday, I really am filled with gratitude for life and love ~ Your love ~ and the love of so many.
Please, Lord be with those who are suffering this day from the virus or in any other way. Those who courageously care for them.
Be with all those who are disabled in some way. My friends George and Pat who dedicates their lives to assist them. And so many others. Just thank you, thank, you, thank you!
JESUS IS RISEN!
Before you go, here’s the Australian young people’s group Hillsong singing “Worthy is the Lamb” with a stadium full of young people singing with them! Click Here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and be sure to enter full screen.
Now here are today’s Mass readings if you’d like to reflect on them Click here.
From Where is God when it Hurts?
Grand Rapids MI Zondervan Publishing House C. 1977 by the Zondervan Corp.
Bread and Wine / Plough Publishing House / Walder NY 2003
Good Friday April 10th, 2020
Like a sapling he grew in front of us,
Like a root in arid ground…
a thing despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering ….
And yet ours were the sufferings he bore,
ours the sorrows he carried.
But we thought of him as someone punished,
struck by God, and brought low.
Yet he was pierced through for our faults,
crushed for our sins.
On him lies a punishment that brings in peace
and through his wound we were healed
–excerpts from Isaiah 53.
Well here we are at Good Friday once again and life seems so surreal for all of us in the midst of this Coronavirus crisis. For our Jewish neighbors Passover began Wednesday night at sundown without the possibility for most of them to celebrate according to law and custom by family gatherings. It must be really hard for them. And the same thing will hit a lot of us Christians two days from now on Easter Sunday when most of us cannot gather with family either!
However, it is possible for us to have a good Good Friday and that’s the point of this blog. I selected some material that really helped me when I read it. It’s an article from my favorite Lent / Easter spiritual reading companion that now has a broken spine like an old man called Bread and Wine, It’s an article entitled Naked Pride by the Rev. John Stott, a distinguished Anglican priest and theologian. So, as we wait this crisis out, let’s put our fears and anxieties aside and open ourselves for some deeper prayer and learning this most sacred of days, would you so? Here we go . .
The essence of sin is human beings substituting themselves for God while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for us all. Humans claim prerogatives that belong to God alone while God accepts penalties that God should not have to endure—only humans.
As you and I gaze upon the cross this Good Friday— either one in your home or the one at the end of your rosary or just the one printed in this blog if you have no other—we can gain a clear view both of God and ourselves. Instead of inflicting on us the judgment we deserved, God in Christ endured that sentence in our place. Hell is the only alternative. This is the “scandal”; i.e. the stumbling block of the cross.
For our proud hearts rebel against it. We cannot bear to acknowledge either the seriousness of our sin or our utter indebtedness to the cross. Surely there must be something we can do to make amends? If not, we give the impression we’d rather suffer our own punishment rather than of seeing God through Christ bear it in our place.
Our author tells the story of a play by George Bernard Shaw entitled Major Barbara (1905) about an incident at the alleged West Ham shelter in which Bill Walker, “a rough customer” arrives one cold January morning drunk. He gets himself into trouble there and seizes a girl by the hair and strikes her, cutting her lip. He’s mocked by the other residents because he didn’t have the courage to take on the “bloke” that he’s jealous about. Bill’s conscience and pride nag him until he can no longer bear the insult. He decides, in a kinda cockney accent, to spit in the guy’s eye, or if not, “git me aown fice beshed.”
But his opponent refuses to cooperate, so Bill returns shamefaced. He comes back to the group and lies, telling everybody, he spit in his eye to which one of the girls calls out, ‘Glory Allelloolier!”
The girl who was injured tells Bill that she’s sorry and he didn’t really hurt her, which makes him angrier still. “Aw down’t want to be forgiven by you or by anybody. Wot I did Aw’ll pay for.
He tries another ruse. He offers to pay a fine that one of his mates just incurred and produces a sovereign.
“Eahs the manney. Take it; and let’s ev no more o your forgivin and pryin and your Mijor jawrin me. Let wot Aw dan be dan and pid for; and let there be and end of it. This bloomin forgivin and neggin and jawrin mike a menn thet sore that iz lawf’s a burden to im. Aw won’t ev it. Aw tell yer. Avve offered to py. Aw can do more. Tike it or leave it. There it is.”—and he throws the sovereign down.
And so, our author sums up . . .
The proud human heart is thus revealed. We insist on paying for what we’ve done. We cannot stand the humiliation of acknowledging our bankruptcy and allowing somebody else to pay for us. The notion that that somebody else should be God himself is just too much to take for some people. We would rather perish than repent, rather lose ourselves than humble ourselves.
Rev. Stott, an Anglican priest, and renowned theologian, states that only the gospel demands such a self-humbling on our part. No other religion or philosophy deals with the problem of guilt apart from the intervention of God, and therefore, they come to a “cheap” conclusion. In them, you and I would be spared the final humiliation of knowing that the Mediator has borne the punishment instead of us! We would not have to be stripped absolutely naked.
But . . . but we cannot escape the embarrassment of standing absolutely naked before God.
Think about that for a moment. You and I will have to take off our shoes and socks. Our shirts and pants or our dresses.
Our undershirts or our bra.
Our skivvies. And stand absolutely naked with your private parts and all.
Rev. Stott continues: It’s no use trying to cover up like Adam and Eve in the garden. Our attempts at self-justification are as ineffectual as their fig-leaves. We have to acknowledge our nakedness and gaze on the Lord wearing our filthy rags instead of us.
And then . . . and then allow him to clothe us with his own righteousness and light.
Nobody has ever put it better than Augustus Toplady in his immortal hymn Rock of Ages . . . .
Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to your Cross I cling
Naked, come to for dress
Helpless, look to you for grace
Fool, I to the fountain fly
Wash, Savior, or I die.
And now here’s my prayer . . . .
Dear God, We give you thanks for sending your Son to us.
He has lived among us ~ become one with us ~ borne our griefs.
He became obedient unto death to bear our sins and pay our debts.
Yet we were ungrateful and turned our backs to goodness and love.
Forgive us, Lord for the hardness of our hearts.
Turn us back to you to accept you love and forgiveness.
And please, Lord, guide us through this terrible plague!
Be especially with those who are sick
and those who courageously care for them.
And let us once again share in the joy of your Risen Life!
We ask this as we ask all things through Jesus Christ our Lord!
And now, before you go, here’s the hymn from Bach’s Passion “O Sacred Head Sore Wounded” ~ Click here
Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
And here are the readings from today’s service of the Word, including the Passion story according to St. John. Click here.
John Stott Naked Pride In Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter Plough Publishing co. pp. 217-221. From “The Cross of Christ” by John R. W. Stott Copyright 1986 John R.W. Stott. Interunivarsity Press P. O. Box 1400 Downers Grove, IL 60515
From “The Cross of Christ” by John R. W. Stott Copyright 1986 John R.W. Stott. Interunivarsity Press P. O. Box 1400 Downers Grove, IL 60515