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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easter

"They did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead." Jn 20:9

There is no more important feast in the church calendar than Easter. Today we celebrate the breaking down, the shattering of every barrier between us and God. At the beginning of his journey, Jesus was baptized and heard God's confirmation of his mission. In the middle of Lent Jesus shows himself to his apostles as the new Elijah and the new Moses. Startled, Peter, James and John hear the same voice Jesus heard at his baptism, but this time it is addressed to them. "This is my beloved son. Listen to him," and they do. Though it is difficult and often confusing, the memory of God's voice sustains them and they are able to continue to follow Jesus.

Now at Easter, there is no voice, but there is another Epiphany. The tomb is empty. Even death cannot withstand  the power of God, and although the disciples do not fully understand what has happened, they do have some hope. Perhaps the Lord has risen. Perhaps he will return to them in a form they remember. Perhaps he will go before them to prepare a place for them. They cannot be sure of any of this, but because the tomb is empty, it is all possible, and that is enough.No one can fully understand or appreciate the mystery of the Resurrection. It is beyond our ability to articulate, and our only response is a hopeful silence as we wait for the Lord to tell us more.

The Easter mystery happens every day when we pay attention to life as it unfolds. There are no words to express the gratitude we feel for life, for friends, for the church that walks with us on pilgrimage, and while the institution often loses its way and struggles to hold onto forms and places that no longer move people towards God, we should have no fear. This is life, and it is alright. Although it is often painful and confusing, it is life in God and holds the promise of life forever. This is God's Easter promise, and we will now celebrate for fifty days the mystery of God's unfathomable love. Despite our faults and fears, God cannot stop loving us and wanting to be with us.

Today, listen to the earth, enjoy its rhythm, celebrate its gifts.

How can you make Easter happen everyday?

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Easter Vigil

“'See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground, I give all the green plants for food.' And so it happened." Gen 1: 29-30

The Easter Vigil is the church's attempt to bring together all the mysteries of faith in a single liturgy. Of course, this can't be done, but we have to try. From the new fire, to the Paschal candle, from the reading of the history of salvation to the baptism of new Christians or the renewal of our baptismal vows, the liturgy is like a smorgasbord of the finest spiritual foods that can be overpowering for even the hungriest spiritual heart.

The Eastern church has a simple custom that helps them keep the Easter spirit alive in their hearts. Every time Eastern rite Catholics meet one another during the Easter season they say, "Christ is risen," and the response is, "Truly, he is risen." Offering and receiving this greeting allows a simple religious practice to become a part of daily life. When religious practices and prayers are completely private or reserved for church, the life of faith is limited as well. That Christ lives within and among us as an eternal light is not something to keep to ourselves. Easter's joy is a gift for the whole world.

Today, find a way to make your faith public and joy filled.

Who has impressed you most with the transparency of their faith in daily life?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Good Friday

"Whom are you looking for?" Jn 18:7

Jesus' question to the soldiers, temple guards and Judas is telling. Those who came out at night to capture him were not looking for a Messiah. Neither were they looking for goodness or compassion. They are like police along the side of a major highway clocking the speed of cars whizzing by. Anyone breaking the speed limit is stopped and handed a ticket. No one is exempt, even government officials.

Like speeding drivers, Jesus had broken the law and had to be punished. That he had walked peacefully among the people, reaching out to the broken and abandoned, did not matter. He had claimed an identity for himself that others painted as blasphemy and he had to be stopped. The soldiers and temple guards were just doing their job. Judas, however, knew better, but his greed was such that he denied what he saw and experienced of the living God for the sake of personal gain.

Today's liturgy forces us to ask painful questions. What are we looking for in our faith? Do we want, like the soldiers, an ordered, simple way to fulfill our obligations, or do we want to be transformed into women and men of conviction and action on behalf of all people seeking to know and enter more deeply into God's love. The questions are stark and unforgiving. There is very little gray today. Let our yes be yes or our no be no. Anything else is from the evil one.(Mt 5:37)

Today, say yes to living the Good News despite your hesitations.

What or who helps you embrace the deaths that come to all each day?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Holy Thursday

"Brothers and sisters: I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, 'This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.'” 1 Cor 11: 23-24

Holy Thursday is a wonder filled day of overwhelming fulness and hope. Not only does the Lord wash the feet of his disciples, he also breaks bread with them and reminds them to do the same for one another and for the world. It is all too much for us to absorb.
Depending upon the culture from which we come, it is like having a meal with our closest friends. The table is beautifully set, the foods are simple but elegant, and the gestures touch our hearts in places we often avoid. God is among us breaking down every barrier that separates us not only from one another but from creation itself. There is a fulness and depth to today's scriptures and liturgy that washes away our doubts and despair, and reminds us that the new Covenant is Jesus promises more than we could ever imagine.

God is with us; God is among us; God is waiting for us to turn again with hope renewed to the gifts he has presented to us in all that is. Every time we break bread with others, every time we offer overselves to one another in service, we are reminded of the Last Supper and are challenged to live with the conviction that life has meaning beyond that which we can see or understand.

Today, breathe in the gift of the Eucharist and rejoice.

How can we proclaim the power of Christ washing feet and giving us his own Body and Blood to eat and share?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Judas

"Surely it is not I, Rabbi?" Mt 26:24

The high priests offer Judas thirty pieces of silver, the price of buying a slave in the ancient world, if he will hand Jesus over to them. How awful! Judas sells the Lord as if he were selling a slave, and indeed that is how Jesus presents himself to us. Kneeling down to wash the feet of his disciples, Jesus becomes a non person in his society. Slaves had no political rights. They were the property of those who owned them, and while some of them, no doubt, were well treated, they had no security.

All of this, of course, fits the theology and spirituality of the gospels well. Jesus is a slave for us. He chooses this role not only to position himself as the champion of the poor, but to help his disciples realize that the power they will be given after his resurrection is not the power of money, property and a large family, traditional signs of God's blessing. Rather, they will be servants of all, announcing a freedom beyond political categories not only to Jews, but to all the world. Once again, Jesus turns the world upside down.

Whenever we encounter this paradox in our own lives we are startled, even dismayed. We do everything we think necessary to achieve success, but the result is bittersweet at best. The emptiness of success without the deepening of our relationship with God and others envelopes us. Only when we serve others freely and graciously in order to announce the power of God within and among us is there lasting joy.

Today, pray for nothing except to do God's will.

Have you ever experienced deep joy in serving others without any hope of reward?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Closing our Eyes and Ears to the Truth

"Master, who is it?" Jn 13:15

Peter never fails to fascinate us. In today's gospel, the Lord tells his disciples that one of them will betray him, and Peter, leaning back against the Lord's breast, asks who it is. Even though Judas takes a morsel of bread from Jesus indicating he is the betrayer, the text tells us, "none of those reclining at table realized," about whom he was speaking. How could Peter not know? A possible and appropriate answer in the context of the gospels is that Peter "had eyes and ears" but could neither see nor hear, and almost all of us have met Peter in ourselves and in others.

Too often I have been with families whose children are drinking excessively at a party. Clearly out of control, the young people announce they are going to a bar for a night cap. No one says anything, and by their silence they seem to encourage even more drinking. More important, no one asks about a designated driver, and no one volunteers to be the designated driver. Somehow everyone's eyes and ears are closed, and a very dangerous situation rolls on without intervention. Even as I write I think of those times when I have been in this situation and said nothing, pretending it was not my business or excusing myself because no one seemed to be listening.

Was Peter intimidated by Judas because he had the money? Did he tell himself that he must have misunderstood Jesus about the "morsel" of bread? We could imagine a thousand scenarios, but all of them paint Peter as someone who speaks without listening, making it impossible for him to see or hear what is evident to every listener.

Today, ask the Lord to unstop your ears and uncover your eyes.

Have you ever chosen to say or do nothing in a a situation that is obviously dangerous for others?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Anointing

"We gave him the power to die; he will give us the power to live." St. Augustine, Office of Readings

St Augustine often offers us rich food for thought and prayer. In today's Office of Readings, he insists that we should have no shame over the death of Jesus. Rather, he says, "it should be our greatest hope," since we cannot gain eternal life by our own efforts. Life forever in God is a pure gift, such that we can never fully appreciate or understand. How is it that God would want to live with us forever? It can only be that God sees in us what he has created, not the mess we sometimes make of our lives.

Surely this was true of Mary in today's Gospel. No matter what she thought of herself, her willingness to use expensive oil to anoint Jesus's feet and dry them with her hair was a powerful sign of her gratitude and devotion to Jesus. That Judas would criticize Mary and Jesus' disciples for this act of kindness and love, while understandable, is shallow and self serving. Would it not be better for all of us to see with Mary's eyes the torment of the Lord as he prepares himself for death? Wouldn't it be better for us to look at the poor in the same way? Rather than judge and condemn those with nothing, we need to put ourselves in their shoes and see with Jesus' eyes and heart.

Today, ask God to calm your spirit and open your eyes to all those who suffer.

Who has most impressed you with their faith in the face of suffering and death?