Easter People

There is a liturgical saying concerning the Nativity: ‘The shadow of the cross falls back across the manager’; meaning that Christ was born to die. In fact, the shadow of the cross falls back upon all humanity, because of this very reason for Christ’s incarnation. He died for all of us. However, Catholicism is joyful faith; even on the most solemn liturgical celebrations like Good Friday we can’t help feeling joy and peace underneath our reflective sorrow. During the penitential seasons of Advent and Lenten joy bursts forth on Gaudete and Laetare Sundays. The great Exultet, at the opening of the Easter Vigil, poetically proclaims this understanding of our joy when describing Adam’s fall: ‘O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer![1]

In short, there would be no shadow of the cross if it wasn’t for the light of the resurrection.

This is the third week of the great season of the church that focuses on celebrating the central fact of our faith – Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Venerable Fulton Sheen wrote:

The Cross had asked the questions; the Resurrection had answered them…The Cross had asked: “Why does God permit evil and sin to nail Justice to a tree?” The Resurrection answered: “That sin, having done its worst, might exhaust itself and thus be overcome by Love that is stronger than either sin or death.[2]

Eastertide celebrates this answer to the cross, our ascent towards salvation given to us by our Lord and God. It celebrates unbounded joy and peace because our Lord has done for us what we can never do for ourselves. It celebrates the radiance of divine light in a darkened world. It celebrates Love!

This action, the greatest of gifts that God gives us, opens heaven up to us. It opens our eyes to this truth, our ears to understanding, and our hearts to the Trinity. It also opens our very being to the calling of ministry, a ministry of revelation of this gift. It is our obligation and privilege of proclaiming it to everyone. But a question comes to mind, what does our witness really mean for those we witness to – what does our action do?

Today’s Gospel relates to us the importance of proclaiming the good news – we see the disciples return to from Emmaus to relate their journey with the risen Lord.

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread. While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”[3]

Bringing the Gospel to others, brings Christ. Not a memory but the risen Lord; not a reminiscence but a relationship. One that we have, and God desires to have with everyone. It is our calling to bring the gospel to the world. In a very real way we follow our patron St John the Baptist, we herald the appearance of Lord in our midst. This is what we are called to do at the end of every Mass when we are dismissed, sent forth.

There are four dismissals for the Mass that the Deacon or Priest can use.

– Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.
– Go forth, the Mass is ended.
– Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.
– Go in peace.

Of the four the closest translation for the dismissal used for millennia ‘Ite Misa Est’ is ‘Go forth, the Mass is ended’. A more accurate translation is ‘Go, you are sent’; it is a sending of each of us to continue the Mass in the world by proclaiming the good news, in action and in words.

You might have noticed that I mostly use: ‘Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.’ It is a beautiful command from the Lord to proclaim the good news of the Resurrection; to bring to those around us what has been given to us: joy and peace of salvation and the path to it.

In the first reading we see Peter living this out. Peter brings the gospel to those who killed Jesus. He tells the truth, regardless of what might happen to him. He also brings the forgiveness of Christ. What Christ said on the cross when he cried to His Father ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do[4] is manifested in Peter’s actions and words. “Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer. Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.[5]

Brothers and sisters, as the darkness of the COVID pandemic seems to be brightening a bit. As we look forward to a return to a more normal life let’s not settle for normal; let’s climb higher by fulfilling our calling to go forward and proclaim to the world the good news that this season celebrates. As with Peter so with us, don’t be afraid, be strengthened by the knowledge that Christ has gone before us, is walking next to us and bring him to others.

Our call to witness is an obligation, born out of Love, that we must respond to. Do we continue to just go about living our lives and passing by each other on street withholding the help Christ has commanded to us before His glorious ascension, when He said: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…[6] Or do we, you and I, respond to our Risen Lord’s command and bring Him to others by witnessing to the gift that Easter Celebrates. It is up to us, but it seems to me that this year of darkness, and the isolation and polarization that it has inflicted upon us and all society, should drive us to the light and joy that Christ has offered on Easter almost 2000 years ago. Let’s go out, sent from the Mass and show who we are to those we meet.

We are the Easter people and Alleluia is our song[7]

[1] Exultet
[2] Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Lent and Easter Wisdom, 110
[3] Lk 24:35-36 (NAB)
[4] Lk 23:34 (NAB)
[5] Acts 3:17-19 (NAB)
[6] Mt 28:19-20a (NAB)
[7] Pope St John Paul II, Angeles Nov 30 1986

Living a Life of Prayer

During the Sacred Triduum this year I followed our Lord by meditating on the ‘Our Father’ that He taught His disciples. For two millennia the Our Father has been the prayer par excellence which should be no surprise; after all, our Lord gave it to us and told us to use it:

‘Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.[1]

It was important to Jesus that we learn this prayer and use it. Countless scholars have dissected it and wrote about how perfect it is. But as Jesus shows us during His passion it isn’t just words to recite to our Heavenly Father, but a life-plan on how to live.

His ultimate lesson to His disciples, and us, on how to pray was at the end of His earthly journey. He witnessed the importance of His prayer to those with Him, against Him, and of course all His followers down to us and on. Our Lord’s Passion is His living example of the Our Father.

Our Father, Who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name.
Jesus talks to His Father. His dialog at the Garden of Gethsemane during his agony: And he said, “Abba, Father…”[2]. His dialog with His Father on the Cross, in front of his executioners and onlookers: ‘And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “E’lo-i, E’lo-i, la’ma sabach-tha’ni?” which means, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”’[3] He shows the importance of continual dialog with the Father. It is important in our life as it roots us in the solid gift of Love and strengthens us for whatever comes our way.

Thy Kingdom come. Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
Jesus accepts the will of His Father, and in doing so the Father’s Kingdom comes to earth. At the Garden of Gethsemane, when He wishes events would be other than they are, but He says to His Father: ‘…Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou wilt.”’[4]

When, at last He completed His Father’s plan, from the Cross: ‘Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.’[5] As with our Lord, so with us; our fullness as a human will be realized in heaven. As we journey on this earth we both try to grow to that fullness as well as bring a glimpse of the heavenly here. The only way for us to do this is to submit to the will of He who knows all.

Give us this day our daily bread.
On Holy Thursday our Lord gives us our daily bread as He institutes the Eucharist and those who will give it to the flock, the priesthood: ‘And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.’[6]

The Lord offers us His body to the work of bringing us to the kingdom and a little of the kingdom to earth. This communion brings us closest to Christ, and Christ, in turn nourishes us, strengthens us. He said as much: ‘He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.[7]

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Hung on the cross the Lord turns His mercy towards His killers: ‘And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”’[8]  Then Christ, nailed to the Cross, forgives the good thief who asks for forgiveness: ‘And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”’[9]

Later, after His resurrection, on the shore of Sea of Tiberias Jesus forgives Peter’s denials: ‘When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”’[10]

True love requires us to love all, not just those who are friends and especially those who mean us evil. Communion with Christ should remove any distinction between people when it comes to our witness of love.

And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
His resurrection, the assurance that God will not leave us alone; that God will never leave us to our own devices or the designs of the prince of earth. We see Christ, again on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias tell his apostles ‘”Follow me.”[11]

Brothers and sisters, this living lesson by our Lord on the power of prayer gives us the strength to persevere in our own prayer life. It is never too late to start and always timely to correct. Let’s use the Our Father as a model of how to move from vocal prayer to mental prayer to action prayer.
[1] Mt 6:9-13
[2] Mk 14:36
[3] Mk 15:34
[4] Mk 14:36
[5] Lk 23:46
[6] Mk 14:22-24
[7] Jn 6:56
[8] Lk 23:34
[9] Lk 23:43
[10] Jn 21:15-17
[11] Jn 21-19

The Greatest Music

The Greatest Music

This day is the great day. Today, Easter Sunday, our Lord has risen from the dead. Today, death has died. Today, Jesus Christ rises from hell to the melodic sounds of rejoicing Angel Choirs. Their melody is interwoven with awe, glory, joy, majesty, and love.  If we humans could hear their beautiful hymn we would be overcome with rapture about our faith.

But there are other hymns being sung this day. Today, we echo the angel choirs with our own melodies of rejoicing. Our faith has been rewarded and indeed we have been given the chance at redemption. Death, defeated by Jesus has lost control of us. We can step away from death as we walk the path Our Lord has shown us, is walking with us.  Our hymn of loving triumph and hopeful joy explodes from us in our prayers, our actions, our love.

But, maybe the most powerful hymn sung this day is from the most unlikely source. Today, the loudest hymn is the howling rage that blows from Hell. Today, Satan has lost control of mankind. Today, he no longer enslaves us with death unless we let him. Today, his pride has been imploded by his realization that he is not the controller of destiny, that he has no power and that we have what he doesn’t; a chance of redemptive salvation. His existence is one of extreme frustration and as much as he denies it, he is forced to acknowledge his existence is from God, a God who will not allow him to ruin so many others.

Brothers and sisters, all these hymns together make one choral masterpiece. They make the greatest polyphony to the glory of God. Thanks be to God that he has chosen us to be part of Christ’s choir.

Make Easter ring in our ears and hearts, pour forth from our minds and voices every day going forward. Let us make our own, in our own beautiful voice and lives, these ancient words:

O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages.” (St. John Chrysostom, Easter Homily)

And Satan’s melody howls even louder!

Christus resurrexit! Vere resurrexit!