Archive for the ‘Resurrection’ Category

Why Did Jesus Go Incognito?

April 30, 2017

There are three episodes in the Gospels where the resurrected Christ appears to his disciples but initially goes unrecognized: at the tomb, to Mary Magdalene; in the appearance we hear about today, to a pair of travelers on the road to Emmaus; and lastly, to seven of his disciples fishing the Sea of Galilee.

Let us briefly review each encounter:

First, on Easter morning, Mary is weeping outside the tomb. She turns around and sees Jesus there, but she does not know it’s Jesus. He says to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thinks he’s the gardener and says to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus says to her, “Mary!” She turns, and says to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Perhaps Mary Magdalene’s tear-filled eyes and anguished mind simply could not make out Jesus’ face in morning’s early light, but after one more word she recognizes him. (John 20)

Today, Jesus draws near to Cleopas and another unnamed disciple as they walk to Emmaus, but their eyes are prevented from recognizing him, for he appears to them in another form. Later, when all three of them are dining together, Jesus takes bread, says the blessing, breaks it, and gives it to them. With that their eyes are opened and they recognize him. He is revealed to them in the breaking of the bread, but then he vanishes from their sight. (Luke 24, Mark 16:12)

Third and finally, after a night of completely unsuccessful fishing, Jesus appears to the Apostles Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, and John, and two other unnamed disciples. They’re in a boat and he’s on the shore, but they do not immediately realize it’s Jesus. He says to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answer, “No.” So he says, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” And they proceed to miraculously catch 153 large fish without tearing their nets. (The Biny fish, which is common to the Sea of Galilee today, has a weight at maturity of 13 to 15 pounds. A catch of 153 of these fish would weigh more than a ton.) Jesus then invites them, “Come, have breakfast.” And, St. John’s Gospel notes, none of the disciples dares to ask him, “Who are you?” because they realize it is the Lord. (John 21)

One might argue that Jesus’ looks were not in any way disguised on the shore, that the disciples simply failed to recognize him at first because he was about a hundred yards away from them and the light of dawn was still dim. But if that were the case, there would be no thought of asking him “Who are you” over breakfast around that charcoal fire; this question only arises if his identity remains somewhat concealed. Others have suggested that Jesus appeared elderly to the disciples at the Sea of Galilee, for he says, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” On the other hand, Jesus had previously referred to the Apostles as his children at the Last Supper, “My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.”

Jesus has no difficulty being immediately recognizable when he wants to be. On Divine Mercy Sunday, when Jesus appears before St. Thomas for the first time, we perceive no hesitation in the former doubter’s declaration, “My Lord and my God!” So why then did Jesus allow himself to go unrecognized, at times even becoming physically unrecognizable to his disciples. Perhaps Jesus had thousands of good reasons for this, but I would offer these four:

Reason #1: To add proof that these resurrection accounts are true

Imagine if Jesus’ bodily resurrection were a lie and you were making-up stories to bolster others’ belief in it. Would you invent and insert the odd detail that Jesus’ disciples could not always recognize him when they saw him? What reason would there be to weave such a confounding wrinkle into your resurrection accounts—unless it were the truth?

Reason #2: To demonstrate how people can believe in Jesus without directly seeing him 

The disciples in Emmaus said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” They came to faith in the resurrection by recognizing the fulfillment of prophesy, even before Jesus had opened their eyes to see himself. At the Sea of Galilee, when the Beloved Disciple saw the incredible catch of fish, he said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” The miraculous sign revealed to him the truth about a person he could not see. We today may not see Jesus unveiled presence among us, but he provides sufficient evidence to point to himself in every age.

Reason #3: To show how Jesus would continue to be with us

In the forty days between Easter and his Ascension, Jesus was not visibly present to his Apostles twenty-four hours a day. Yet at the Great Commission, Jesus promised, “[B]ehold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” What Jesus is saying is, ‘Even when you are alone, I will always be at your side.’ By revealing his resurrected self to his disciples “in a different form,” Jesus prepares them for how they will encounter him in the years to come through the Sacraments until he comes again; truly present, but veiled.

Reason #4: To reveal how Jesus is presented to us through others

Who is the manual laborer we bump into, like Mary Magdalene saw on Easter morning and addressed respectfully as “Sir,” even thought she was having a horrible day and thought he might be a body snatcher? Who is the traveler we pass on the road, like the Emmaus duo met, dialogued with, invited to stay with them? Who is the older person that greets us, like the Galilean fishermen encountered and shared their food with? Jesus would have us see himself in all of them, and everyone. At the Last Judgment, Jesus will declare to both the saved sheep and the guilty goats, “Whatever you did for the least of my brethren, you did it for me.”

Jesus once asked St. Catherine of Siena, the 14th century Italian mystic, “My beloved, do you know why I love you?” In response to Catherine’s negative reply, Jesus said, “I will tell you. If I cease to love you, you will be nothing; you will be incapable of anything good. Now you see why I have to love you.” Catherine replied, “It is true,” and suddenly added, “I would like to love you like that.” But as soon as she had spoken, she realized what she had said was misplaced. Jesus smiled. Then, she complained, “But this is not fair. You can love me with great love, and I can only love you with small love.” At that moment, Jesus interrupted, and said, “I have made it possible for you to love me with great love.” Surprised, she immediately asked him how. “I have placed your neighbor at your side. Whatever you do to him, I will consider it as being done to me.” St. Catherine went running to care for the sick in the hospital, rejoicing: “Now I can love Jesus with great love.”

After the resurrection, Jesus was sometimes unrecognized by his disciples, but he allowed this so that we might better recognize him; as the Savior truly risen, as the one evidenced by signs, as he who is truly present in the Sacraments, and who is presented to us in our neighbor.

But It Was Not Enough For Him

April 16, 2017

At Passover, in Jesus’ day and in our own, the Jewish people remember and celebrate the great Exodus, how God delivered his people from slavery in Egypt and led them into the freedom of the Promised Land. Through Moses, God commanded his people to keep the Passover feast as an everlasting memorial. Jesus’ Last Supper was something of a transformed Passover meal, and his Passion, Death, and Resurrection are the mystery that the Passover foreshadowed and prefigured.

Jews today observe their annual Passover meal with an assortment of ancient traditions. Among these is singing or reciting an up-beat Hebrew song named “Dayenu” (Da-yea-nu.) Dayenu means “it would have been enough for us!” Here is an English translation of this more than one thousand year old song:

If [the Lord] had brought us out from Egypt, and had not carried out judgments against them
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had carried out judgments against them, and not against their idols
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had destroyed their idols, and had not struck their first-born
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had struck their first-born, and had not given us their wealth
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had given us their wealth, and had not split the sea for us
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had split the sea for us, and had not taken us through it on dry land
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had taken us through the sea on dry land, and had not drowned our oppressors in it
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had drowned our oppressors in it, and had not supplied our needs in the desert for forty years
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had supplied our needs in the desert for forty years, and had not fed us the Manna
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had fed us the Manna, and had not given us the Sabbath
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had given us the Sabbath, and had not brought us before Mount Sinai
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had brought us before Mount Sinai, and had not given us the Law
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had given us the Law, and had not brought us into the land of Israel
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had brought us into the land of Israel, and not built for us the Holy Temple
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

It would have been enough for us,” for how could we demand more than what God had given? He created the universe out of nothing and every good thing is his gift. Apart from God’s promises (freely-imposed upon himself by His covenants) we could not rightfully insist upon anything more. As Job said at the onset of his trials, “Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I go back there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!” We could not demand more—but we would still desire more.

We would continue to desire life without end. We would still want deliverance from evils, outside us and within us. We would still desire unending delights, for as King Solomon observed, “The eye is not satisfied by seeing nor has the ear enough of hearing.” And would long for divine intimacy with the Holy Source of all good. All these desires are fulfilled for us through Jesus Christ.

We could not demand more, but we would still desire more, for the Lord has placed these desires within us. He did this that He might fulfill our desires and they reflected his own desires for us.

The Lord did all the great things that came before
— But this was not enough for Him!

He did all these great things, and then He became man for us
— But this was not enough for Him!

He became man for us, and then He taught us the New Law of Love
— But this was not enough for Him!

He taught us the New Law, and then He suffered and died to forgive us
— But this was not enough for Him!

He suffered and died to forgive us, and then He rose from the dead to save us from death
— But this was not enough for Him!

He rose from the dead to save us from death, and then He left us the Church
— But this was not enough for Him!

He left us the Church, and then He wedded and united himself to us through the Holy Sacraments

What God has given us, what Jesus has done for us, what we are given, what we are promised — this is enough for us. Let us rejoice in Him this day!

Pope St. Gregory the Great’s Reflections on John 21

April 10, 2016

From the Catena Aurea or Golden Chain, St. Thomas Aquinas’ collection of Church Father quotes.

  • It may be asked, why Peter, who was a fisherman before his conversion, returned to fishing, when it is said, “No man putting his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” The craft which was exercised without sin before conversion, was no sin after it. Wherefore after his conversion Peter returned to fishing; but Matthew sat not down again for the receipts of custom. For there are some businesses which cannot or it can hardly be carried on without sin; and these cannot be returned to after conversion.
  • The [disciples’] fishing was made to be very unlucky, in order to raise their astonishment at the miracle after: “And that night they caught nothing.”
  • It may be asked, why after His resurrection He stood on the shore to receive the disciples, whereas before He walked on the sea? The sea signifies the world, which is tossed about with various causes of tumults, and the waves of this corruptible life; the shore by its solidity figures the rest eternal. The disciples then, inasmuch as they were still upon the waves of this mortal life, were laboring on the sea; but the Redeemer having by His resurrection thrown off the corruption of the flesh, stood upon the shore.
  • To Peter was the holy Church committed; to him is it specially said, “Feed my sheep.” That then which is afterwards declared by word, is now signified by act. He it is who draws the fishes to the firm shore, because he it was who pointed out the stability of the eternal country to the faithful. This he did by word of mouth, by epistles; this he does daily by signs and miracles.
  • By holding this last feast with seven disciples, [Jesus] declares that they only who are full of the seven-fold grace of the Holy Spirit, shall be with Him in the eternal feast. Time also is reckoned by periods of seven days, and perfection is often designated by the number seven. They therefore feast upon the presence of the Truth in that last banquet, who now strive for perfection.

Jesus is Risen, Not Undead

February 26, 2016

All the classics of horror are Catholicism twisted. Vampires are the shadow opposite of Jesus in the Eucharist; they prey on the blood of others to possess eternal life apart from God. Depictions of Frankenstein are distortions of the Mystical Body of Christ, with the dead parts of many monstrously combined as one. And what are zombie stories but corruptions of the Resurrection? A new friend of mine teaches a faith formation class with a 5th grader who periodically pipes up saying, “Jesus was a zombie.” So, this week, she taught them about how Jesus is different from zombies.

Zombies are typically said to be created by a virus or a magic spell, but Jesus lives by the power of God. Zombies lose their memory and intellects, but the risen Jesus knows his friends and converses with them. The bodies of zombies decay and they can be “killed,” but the risen Jesus is free from corruption and can die no more. Zombies “desire” to kill people, but Jesus would give them life. (What other differences can you find with your family?)

After seeing The Passion of the Christ in 2004, I heard a fellow seminarian say that the movie ending with Jesus walking from the tomb on Easter morning frustrated him—he want to see what happened next, he wanted the story to continue. Last Friday, I had the great pleasure of seeing a new film which tells that story: Risen. In it, a Roman soldier named Clavius is tasked by Governor Pontius Pilate to find the body of Jesus the Nazarene and end rumors of his resurrection. Only about a dozen people were in the theater on opening night, so if you want to enjoy this highly-recommended film on the big screen you should make a point to see it soon.

 

Our Glorified Bodies Shall Be Like His

April 18, 2015

In inspired Scripture, St. Paul tells us:

“[The Lord Jesus Christ] will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.” 1

This means that we can glimpse what our own resurrected bodies will be like someday by studying the resurrected body of Jesus Christ.

The Resurrection by El Greco, Madrid, 1596-1600.•  Jesus’ Resurrected Body is the Same Body He Died In

        The tomb is empty on Easter morning because Jesus’ body is raised.2 On Easter evening, Jesus shows his disciples the wounds of his hands, feet, and side, which he received on the cross.3 His body retains its “flesh and bones” and can be touched and held.4 Our own dead bodies will similarly be reclaimed and resurrected, from the tomb, the sea, or the dust of the earth.5 St. Paul is so insistent on our own future resurrection he says, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised.” 6

•  Jesus Resurrected can do the Ordinary Things He did Before

        On Easter Sunday, Jesus walks and talks.7 He can breathe and eat.8 He knows who he is and he remembers his friends.9 (There is no reason to think that the dead will forget the lives they lived or their loved ones.)

•  Jesus’ Resurrected Body can also do Extraordinary Things

        Though he is no ghost, Jesus can appear suddenly within a locked room or vanish from another.10 He can make himself unrecognizable to those who know him.11 His body can ascend into heaven.12 And now, resurrected to life, he dies no more, for “death no longer has power over him.” 13

        The spiritual gifts granted to some saints on earth (such as bi-location, levitation, incorruptibility, etc.) suggest powers belonging to our future glorified bodies. For her various apparitions, the Blessed Virgin Mary may be modifying her glorified body’s physical appearance (for example, to be as a dark-haired native at Guadalupe in Mexico, but fair and blond-haired at Champion, Wisconsin.)

•  Our Conclusion

        The bodies in which we live and die will be same ones in which we rise. Our glorified bodies will be able to do the familiar things we know, yet we shall also possess new abilities which seem extraordinary to us now. St. Paul describes our future glorified bodies in this way:

“Someone may say, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come back?’

It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.

That which is corruptible must clothe itself with incorruptibility, and that which is mortal must clothe itself with immortality.” 14

Endnotes:

  1. Philippians 3:21
  2. Matthew 28:6
  3. Luke 24:40, John 20:20
  4. Luke 24:39, John 20:17, Matthew 28:9
  5. John 5:28-29, Revelation 20:13
  6. 1 Corinthians 15:13
  7. Luke 24:15
  8. John 20:22, Luke 24:42-43
  9. Luke 24:39, John 20:16-17
  10. John 20:19 & 26, Luke 24:31
  11. Luke 24:16, John 21:12
  12. Acts 1:9, Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51
  13. Romans 6:9
  14. 1 Corinthians 15:35, 42-44 & 53

Encountering Jesus at His Ministry’s Beginning & End

January 9, 2015

Comparing John 1:35-43 & 20:11-18

  • John the Baptist is with two of his disciples when he points out Jesus “the Lamb of God” passing by. Jesus turns, sees the two disciples following him, and asks, “What are you looking for?
  • Mary of Magdala is with two angels at the empty tomb when Jesus comes by. She turns around and sees Jesus, but does not know it’s him. He asks her, “Whom are you looking for?
  • John the Baptist’s two disciples answer Jesus, “Rabbi, (that is, Teacher) where are you staying?
  • Mary, recognizing the risen Lord, says to him, “Rabbouni!” (which also means Teacher.)
  • Jesus tells the curious duo, (one of whom we are told is St. Andrew the Apostle) “Come, and you will see.
  • Jesus tells the overjoyed Mary, “Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.

Points for Reflection:

St. Mary Magdalene Clings to Jesus□ We first come to Jesus looking for something. (“What are you looking for?”) But we are in fact looking for a Someone. (“Whom are you looking for?”)

□ Our search begins with curiosity, but grows finally into love.

□ Jesus is a Teacher to them all, but he more than a teacher to Mary of Magdela. (Similarly, in Matthew’s telling of the Last Supper, all the apostles call Jesus “Lord,” while Judas calls him merely, “Rabbi.”)

□ Jesus makes the first two apostles, but he makes Mary (as the Church Fathers call her) “the Apostle to the Apostles.

□ Jesus draws us near (“Come and see,”) and then he sends us forth on mission (“Go to my brothers and tell them…”)

□ Jesus’ baptism leads to his tomb and resurrection.

□ Jesus, who dwelt on earth, now dwells with His Father in Our Father’s house. Jesus wills that we come to dwell with him, in Heaven, as it is on earth.

Called by the Spirit — 3rd Sunday of Easter—Year A

May 5, 2014

Gospel: Luke 24:13-35

Let me tell you about the neatest thing that happened to me this week. Since Easter, our parish has been reading the book Rediscover Catholicism and discussing it on Thursday evenings in the rectory. In the latest chapter, Matthew Kelly writes that today’s Catholic Church will become all that she is meant to be only through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

“[T]he ways of man will not get us from where we are today to where we are called to be. I also know that in every place and in every time since Pentecost the Holy Spirit has been present to guide you, me, and the whole Church. I am certain that the Church needs less and less of your ideas and mine, and more and more guidance from the Holy Spirit.”

Holy Spirit Dove - Sacred Heart Catholic Church -  Wauzeka WIMatthew Kelly then pauses in his text to invite the reader to pray the traditional prayer for the Holy Spirit to “renew the face of the earth.”

I was reflecting on these things while I was driving down the highway. Am I inviting the Holy Spirit to guide my everyday life? I try to do my best and make good choices, but my flesh is weak and my knowledge is limited. I work and hope for the best, but the Holy Spirit has power I ought to be open to and insight I should be more docile to. So I prayed to the Holy Spirit anew. And then a curious thing happened: the thought came mind to call my old friend, Colleen.

It was curious because I had not been previously thinking of her or thinking about calling anyone at all. Yet I wondered, “Is this coming from you, Lord, or is this just me?” I hesitated because I was aware of no reason to call. If she were to ask me what I was up to, or what I wanted to talk about, I would have nothing to say. So, to avoid embarrassment, I constructed some good reason for calling (to thank her and her husband for coming to a party I threw for old friends two weeks ago) before selecting her number on my cellphone.

She answered, and after greetings I asked, “So how are things going?”

Great,” she replied, less than enthusiastically.

“Is that an actually-great, or a sarcastically-great?”

It was the second. That morning, Colleen had quit her job without giving two-weeks notice. She said she had been at the end of her rope at work for some time and had quit in a fashion which precluded her return. She was anxious at losing her health insurance and uncertain about what she would do next. Then I knew the reason for my call. I mentioned that even though these events had come unexpectedly to her, they were no surprise to God. I encouraged her to ask Him to show her–and to lead her–where to go next. By the end of our chat, Colleen’s spirits were noticeably better than before.

I share this story because I cannot tell anyone else’s first-person account as well as my own, and as Pope Paul VI said, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” I may be misrecalling a phrase or two, but I know that my story is true. It reconfirms for me that God intervenes in our world, working miracles big and small, and that God would personally speak to you and me (not just to long-ago saints, or crazy people.)

Encounter on the Road to Emmaus — Luke 24A personal relationship requires two-way communication. Since God desires a personal relationship with every person, we should not be surprised that he would speak to us. When He speaks it is usually subtly, perhaps by a thought or through a friend. He comes discretely, like Jesus came veiled to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and He does not force Himself upon us, just as Jesus “gave the impression that he was going on farther.” God can speak to us through whatever we’re paying attention to if we’re open to listening to Him and welcoming Him.

The apostles and the first disciples were ordinary people, made of the same stuff that we are. They worshiped just like we do, opening God’s Word and encountering Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread, but they also had the expectation that they would see God work mighty deeds in their midst and actively sought to be led by the Holy Spirit. Wouldn’t God want the same for us today?

What sort of things would the Lord like to do through us? In today’s gospel, the two men walking their road away from the holy city were visited that first Easter evening by Jesus incognito. Their encounter with Him restored their Christian faith and brought them back to the early Church in Jerusalem. One thing Jesus would like to do today is to encounter those who are far from His Church using us as His subtle disguise. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to inspire and lead us to invite and draw others to our parish. At worst, they’ll decline, but very possibly their lives could be changed and it could be the neatest thing that happens to you all week.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

First Things First — Divine Mercy Sunday—2nd Sunday of Easter

April 28, 2014

Gospel: John 20:19-31

[Though the doors were locked, where the disciples were,] Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.

What was Jesus’ first order of business on the first Easter Sunday? Demonstrating to his disciples the fact of his resurrection.

What was the next most important thing on Jesus’ list? Commissioning his Church to impart his Divine Mercy to world.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

His Merciful Greetings — 2nd Sunday of Easter—Year C

April 6, 2013

On the evening of the first Easter Sunday, Jesus appears to the disciples in the locked room where they are hiding and says to them, “Peace be with you.” Then he shows them his hands and his side and says to them again, “Peace be with you.” A week later, when his disciples are together and Thomas is with them, Jesus comes and stands in their midst and says, “Peace be with you.” Three times in this Gospel, our Lord Jesus says, “Peace be with you.”

This greeting of Jesus may seem like a small thing, but it is not. Imagine a Jesus who is a radically different person compared to the actual Jesus we know. This imaginary Jesus appears to his disciples, looks at them, and says, “I condemn you all.” This Jesus castigates the apostles for their desertion. He shows his wounded hands to them as a reproach. “I have these wounds because you abandoned me.” Then this Jesus turns to Peter and says, “You denied me. Now I deny you.” I doubt this unforgiving Jesus would come back to encounter Thomas or the other disciples ever again.

How terrible that would be? But of course, this Jesus is not the real Jesus. (Thanks be to God.) The real Jesus Christ we know says, “Peace be with you.” His words are patient, not angry. His words are loving, not rejecting. His words are merciful, not condemning. His words are from the boundless ocean of divine mercy within him and the mercy of the Lord is eternal. “Peace be with you.” Jesus speaks these words to us today. Let these words of Jesus go deeply within you, and you will always have the peace of Christ.

Al anochecer del primer domingo de Pascua, Jesús se aparece a los discípulos en el cuarto cerrado donde se esconden y les dice: “La paz esté con ustedes”. Luego les muestra sus manos y su costado y les dice otra vez: “La paz esté con ustedes”. Una semana más tarde, cuando sus discípulos están juntos y Tomás está con ellos, Jesús viene y ponte en medio de ellos y dijo: “La paz esté con ustedes.” Tres veces en este Evangelio, el Señor Jesús dice: “La paz esté con ustedes”.

Este saludo de Jesús puede parecer una cosa pequeña, pero no lo es. Imagine un Jesús que es una persona radicalmente diferente en comparación con el real Jesús que conocemos. Este imaginario Jesús se aparece a sus discípulos, los mira y dice: “Condeno todos ustedes.” Este Jesús castiga a los apóstoles por su deserción. Él muestra sus manos heridas a ellos como un reproche. “Tengo estas heridas porque me has abandonado”. Entonces esto Jesús se dirige a Pedro y le dice: “Usted me negó. Ahora yo te negaré”. Dudo que esto Jesús volvería a encontrarse con Tomás y los otros discípulos nunca más.

¡Qué terrible que sería? Pero, por supuesto, este Jesús no es el Jesús real. (Demos gracias a Dios.) El verdadero Jesucristo sabemos dice: “La paz esté con ustedes”. Sus palabras son pacientes, no enojado. Sus palabras son cariñosos, no rechazar. Sus palabras son misericordiosos, no condenar. Sus palabras son del océano infinito de la misericordia divina en su interior, y la misericordia del Señor es eterna. “La paz esté con ustedes”. Jesús dice estas palabras para nosotros hoy. Entonces, permita que estas palabras de Jesús de ir profundamente dentro de usted, y usted siempre tendrá paz de Jesucristo.

The Emmaus Travelers — 3rd Sunday in Easter—Year A

May 7, 2011

Let’s start off with a riddle… Once, a father and his son were driving along in the country together when they got into a terrible car crash. They were both seriously injured and ambulances rushed them to two different hospitals. But when the boy was brought into the Emergency Room, the surgeon on duty saw him and declared, “I can’t operate on him. He’s my son.” How can this be…? The trick of the riddle is that we tend to assume that surgeons will be male. The answer is that the surgeon is the boy’s mother.

There is a similar trick of the mind at work when we hear the story of the two travelers on the road to Emmaus; we always assume that they were two men. It’s not wonder, since virtually every painting of the encounter on the road to Emmaus will show Jesus with two men. For example, look at the relief on the front of our altar. Many people assume that this is a depiction of the Last Supper (but that there are only two apostles shown because we had to crop it down to size.) Actually, this scene is from after His Passion—you can see crosses on the hill in the distance and there are wound marks in Jesus’ hands. What we have here is to two men at the house in Emmaus, shocked to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

The artistic depictions always show two men [the picture on the right being the only possible exception I could find], however the original Greek does not call them “two men,” or even “two disciples.” It only says there were “two of them” and that one of them was a man named Cleopas. As to the name and gender of the other traveler, the gospel text is silent. Perhaps the second person’s identity is left as a mystery so as to invite any of us to imagine ourselves in their place in this story. This may be the extent of what we can know for certain, but there is an interesting clue from another Gospel that suggests more detail.

In Gospel of John, it says that “standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas….” (John 19:25) So we have a Clopas and Cleopas both associated with Jesus. Perhaps these similar names are merely a coincidence, but perhaps Clopas and Cleopas are variations of the same person’s name. If Clopas and Cleopas are one in the same person, then the other traveler on the road was probably his wife, Mary. This Mary was most likely either Jesus’ aunt and the sister of St. Joseph, or one of the cousins of the Blessed Virgin Mary. What we do know for certain is that this Mary stood with Jesus’ mother at the foot of the cross.

Admittedly, it is speculation to say the other traveler was Cleopas’ wife, but if it was, then this Resurrection episode has a much greater poetry. In the Garden of Eden, a husband and wife ate from a tree. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked.” They felt ashamed and afraid. But in the house at Emmaus, a husband and wife ate the Eucharist, the fruit of the tree of the cross. “With that their eyes were opened and they recognized Him.” They felt joyful and unafraid. In Eden, God moved about the garden with the man and the woman. After the resurrection, Jesus walks with us, both men and women, along our road.

But whether that second traveler on the road was a woman or not, it would be a remain mistake to think that only men were important in the early Church. That would be at least as mistaken as thinking that every surgeon is a male. Jesus Christ chose some men to be the Church’s leaders, and much is said about them in the Scriptures, but He chose to spread the good news about Himself through the witness of women as well.

Though we sing of the “Faith of Our Fathers,” the faith of our mothers has been just as important, if not more, through time. Today,  it is oftentimes mom who takes the forefront in fostering faith in the family, in leading her children to Christ and His Church; through bedtime prayers and Bible stories, by bringing them to Mass and to CCD, in seeing to it that they receive the graces of the sacraments. If you feel like you’re alone in witnessing to the faith in your family, I commend you, and Jesus is proud of you.

There is another trick of the mind when it comes to celebrating Mother’s Day. On Mother’s Day we remember our mothers, who gave us birth and nurtured us, who raised us and put up with us, but we tend to forget about the greatest gift, the gift of our faith. At the Easter vigil the Exultet asks: “What good would life have been to us, had Christ not come as our redeemer?” Indeed, what good would life be to us if after our births we had not also been brought to Christ through the witness of holy women. Who were these holy women in your life? At this Mother’s Day Mass, let us remember and pray not only for our mothers in the natural order, but for each of our spiritual mothers as well.

They Ran For Him — Easter Morning

April 24, 2011

When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early Easter morning, she found the stone removed and the body of Jesus gone. She ran to Peter and John, because her love demanded that something must be done. “They have taken the Lord from the tomb,” she said, “and we don’t know where they put him!” So Peter and John went out and ran to the tomb. They both ran, but John ran faster and arrived at the tomb first; not because he loved Jesus more, but because he was younger than Peter.

Some adults run for exercise, but they are the odd exception. Generally, grown-ups just don’t run; except under special circumstances. For instance, my mother doesn’t jog, but she’ll sprint to answer a ringing phone. She loves her friends and doesn’t want to leave them hanging on the line. So, love can make a grown person run.

One time, when I was a boy, I saw my mother run outside in her nightgown and dive into our swimming pool. My mother saved the life of my younger sister, who was floating there facedown.

In all my life, I can only remember ever seeing my father run once. A few years later, during a family walk around a camping resort in my hometown, where we had never walked before, we came upon a tragic emergency. While Mom did CPR, Dad and I ran for the phone at the front office to call for an ambulance. I ran as hard as I could, but Dad was much faster than my ten-year-old legs. I remember seeing his back, his arms rapidly pumping, and thinking to myself, ‘I had no idea he could move that fast.’ And so, from my youth, I’ve known that for the love of another, or in matters of life and death, adults will run. If something is important to them, they’ll run for it.

Mary Magdalene, Peter and John ran to and from an empty tomb out of concern for a dead man’s corpse. So great was their love for Jesus, so great was their admiration for Him, that they ran for Him, even though they thought He had nothing more to offer them. But we are here this morning because Jesus wasn’t dead. He is risen and still active in peoples’ lives today. (To the latter, I am an eyewitness.) He has much to offer to us, our families, our children. But do we run to Him? Do we run to His Church, His sacraments, worship and teachings; or do we run from them? Whether we run is a question of love, and in a world subverted by sin and temptation in so many ways, it’s a matter of life and death. Jesus is risen. So let’s run to Him.

“He Is Not Here” — Easter Vigil

April 23, 2011

When the women came to the tomb they did not find Jesus, but a radiant messenger. He told them, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here.…” The tomb was empty, Jesus was not there.

Jesus was present at the beginning of creation, for through Him all things were made. Going forth from the Father’s mouth, He was at hand on earth throughout the ages, achieving His purposes.

He was mystically with Noah, who saved his family from death by building a ship, just as Jesus built the Church to save us.

He was mystically with Isaac, who, though bound and led to sacrifice, was not to be lost forever.

He was mystically with Moses, who freed God’s people from Pharaoh’s demonic slavery by leading them through miraculous waters.

He was mystically with all the prophets, in proclaiming a law to be written on hearts instead of stones, in promising the gift of a Holy Spirit from Heaven, in suffering at the hands of those who refused to hear wisdom.

He has been in His saints, from the least to the greatest, throughout the centuries to this very night. He is present here in all of us who are ‘living for God in Christ Jesus.’

By the all foreshadowings that proceeded His coming, and by the fruitful witness of all His saints ever since, we can confirm the angel’s words, “he has been raised just as he said.”

Jesus is not there in the empty tomb. He is here,  tonight, with us.

The Glorious Mysteries, Meditations with the Saints

October 27, 2010

The 1st Glorious Mystery:
The Resurrection of Jesus from the Dead

St. John Bosco, an Italian priest, founded a famous school for boys in the mid-1800’s and is the patron saint of students. He is known to have worked many miracles, but one from 1849 stands out. Returning from a journey, he learned that Charles, a 15 year old student, had died. He went immediately to the teenager’s home where the family informed him that Charles had been dead for over 10 hours. The body was laid out in the living room, already dressed for burial.

Fr. Bosco asked everyone to leave except the mother and the aunt. After some time in silent prayer, he cried out: “Charles, rise!” Charles emitted a long sigh, stirred, opened his eyes, stared at his mother and asked, “Why did you dress me like this?” Then, realizing Fr. Bosco was present, he told him how he had cried out for him and how he had been waiting for him. He exclaimed, “Father, I should be in hell!” He told of how a few weeks before he had fallen into serious sin. Then he said he had a “dream” of being on the edge of a huge fiery furnace, and as he was about to be thrown into the flames, a beautiful lady appeared and prevented it. She said, “There is still hope for you, Charles. You have not yet been judged.” Then he heard the voice of Fr. Bosco calling him back.

Charles asked Fr. Bosco to hear his confession. After his confession, the mourners filled the room again, and Fr. Bosco said, “Charles, now that the gates of heaven lie wide open for you, would you rather go there or stay here with us?” A profound silence filled the room. Charles, with tears in his eyes said, “I’d rather go to heaven.” Then he leaned back on the pillows, closed his eyes and breathed his last.

Unless Jesus’ Second Coming happens first, each of us here will die, and rise. As we meditate on Jesus’ resurrection, let us consider how ready we are to meet Him.

The 2nd Glorious Mystery:
The Ascension of Jesus into Heaven.

St. Padre Pio is another Italian priest from not so long ago who also worked remarkable miracles. During WWII, Allied planes flew bombing raids over Italy. Almost all of the centers of the region were subjected to repeated bombardment, but no bombs ravaged the town of San Giovanni Rotondo. Every time the aviators approached that place, they saw a monk flying in the air who prevented them from dropping their bombs. Understandably, reports of this flying friar did not amuse the superior offices.

Bernardo Rosini, a general of the Italian Air Force, recounts this story: “One day, an American commander wanted to lead a squadron of bombers himself to destroy the German arms depository of war material that was located at San Giovanni Rotondo. The commander related that as he approached the target, he and his pilots saw rising in the sky the figure of a friar with his hands held outward. The bombs released of their own accord, falling in the woods, and the planes completely reversed course without any intervention by the pilots.”  

Someone told the commanding general that in a convent at this town, there lived a saintly man. At war’s end, the general wanted to go meet this person. “He was accompanied by several pilots… He went to the convent of the Capuchins. As soon as he crossed the threshold of the sacristy, he found himself in front of several friars, among whom he immediately recognized the one who had ‘stopped’ his planes. Padre Pio went forward to meet him, and putting his hand on his shoulder, he said, `So, you’re the one who wanted to get rid of us all!’”

As we meditate on the Ascension of Jesus, to the right hand of the Father in Heaven, let us pray that He would establish justice and peace, in this country and the whole world, in our time.

The 3rd Glorious Mystery:
The Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost

We usually don’t associate India with Christianity, but that nation has over 24 million Christians.  That’s about as many people as live in Texas, our second largest state. If you were to ask them how the faith reached their land they would point to St. Thomas the Apostle.

What led St. Thomas, who at first refused to even believe in the Good News, to travel over 2,500 miles to bring them the Gospel? It was not merely seeing the risen Christ. Jesus knew His disciples would need more to strengthen them then merely their memories of Him. St. Thomas journeyed because the Lord had sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, to fill them with gifts, like wisdom, courage, and zeal.

If we are in the state of grace, God the Holy Spirit dwells in us too, and He wants to empower us with His gifts. As we meditate on the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, let us pray for whatever spiritual gift that we need the most.

The 4th Glorious Mystery:
The Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

No Church, in the East or the West, claims to contain the body of St. Mary. This is because “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” This is because Jesus would not suffer Mary, His sinless, faithful beloved, to undergo corruption.

Death is a consequence of human sin, and without human intervention, as in embalming or mummification, our dead bodies will ordinarily experience its corruption. But, sometimes, the Lord preserves the dead bodies of his saints, to give a sign of their holiness, and to show that death is not all that awaits us.

Among the numerous saints whose incorrupt bodies you can still see today are:  St. John Bosco, St. John Vianney, St. Catherine Laboure (the visionary of the Miraculous Medal), St. Bernadette Soubirous (the visionary of Lourdes), and St. Maria Goretti.

As we meditate on the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, let us pray for purity in our lives.

The 5th Glorious Mystery:
The Coronation of Mary as the Queen of Heaven and Earth

Once, when St. Maximillian Kolbe was a boy, his behavior began trying his mother’s patience. She said in exasperation, “Maximillian, what will become of you?” As St. Maximillian writes, “Later, that night, I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.” St. Maximillian would receive both crowns, as a holy Franciscan brother, and as a victim of the Nazis at Auschwitz, were he took the place of another innocent man who was condemned to die.

Jesus crowns his holy ones. He wills that those who share in His sacrifice should also share in His glory. As we meditate on the Coronation of Mary, let us pray to accept whatever crowns of burden and glory the Lord wants to give to us.

The Child Mary — September 8 – Nativity of Mary

September 8, 2010

Nine months ago we celebrated Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Today we celebrate her birthday. By my estimation, Mary is now about two thousand, twenty-five years old, but if you saw her I’m sure she wouldn’t show her age. How old does Mary seem when you picture her in your mind? I’d bet that you think of her as fully-grown up; like your mom or your teachers. But today’s feast reminds us that she was once your age too.

Mary was little once too, and just because Mary lived a life without sin doesn’t mean that her childhood was a bed of roses. I think adults sometimes forget how hard and stressful things can be when you’re little, but Mary remembers everything perfectly well.

She remembers what it was like to be little like many of you. How she got scared when Nazareth’s big, neighborhood dogs would bark at her. How loud cracks of thunder frightened her at night and made her hide under the covers. She remembers how other girls made fun of her, for being different or weird, and she remembers how she cried. But even when she got sad or scared, Mary knew that she was loved and not alone. Not only did her parents love her, but she was convinced of God’s love, too, and understood that He was never far from her. This consoled Mary and reassured her that everything would be alright.

After our resurrection, when we get glorified bodies like Mary has now, we will have some new abilities. We will be able to go anywhere we want in an instant. And our glorified bodies should allow us to be more than one place at once. (It only makes sense that if saints on earth can bi-locate, then the  saints in Heaven should be able to as well.) And I also suspect that we will be able to change ourselves back and forth to whatever age we choose.

All this is to say that if at any moment you want Mary to be with you for consolation and support, you only need to ask her. Knowing her abundant love, I can’t imagine she would refuse. And when you think of her with you feel free to picture her at your age, even if you’re little. She understands you, loves you, and can relate to your situations more than you know. Like her Son, Mary is always with us, especially when we ask her be.

Gospel Movies

July 1, 2010

Below are five original shorts drawn from the Scriptures. Click the images to watch them.

Teddy Bear Annunciation


The Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary; the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1, with teddy bears.

Robot Jesus at the Watering Hole

 
Jesus meets the woman at the well; the Gosple of John, chapter 4, starring robots.

The Rich Young Rapper

 
A rich young rapper questions Jesus on the subway; a remix of Matthew, chapter 19 and Mark, chapter 10.  

Doubting Thomas

 The resurrected Christ appears to a skeptical disciple in the Gospel of John, chapter 20.

The Importance of the Resurrection


From St. Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 15.