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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Divine Mercy Sunday

"Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, 'We have seen the Lord.' But he said to them, 'Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.'” Jn 20: 27-29

We wonder about Thomas. Is he "all of us," full of doubts that inhibit our relationship with God and most of the people in our lives? Is he our stubborn younger brother or sister who was spoiled as a baby and still resists change not to his or her liking? Was Jesus annoyed with Thomas for not listening to the other disciples who assured him the Lord had risen?

None of these questions is answered definitively in today's Gospel. What we can be sure of is that Jesus addresses Thomas' doubts and reminds him that others, who will not have the joy of seeing Jesus in the flesh, but who believe anyway, are blessed. That's us, at least most of the time. Born into faith filled families, most of us treasure the gift of faith, practice it and accept both its limitations and its delights. We know that faith is not intended to free us from every trial, hurt and confusion, but we also believe that faith will sustain us even at those times when life makes no sense, or we must endure suffering and loss.

The mercy of God, we learn, is always available to us no matter how often we take faith for granted or turn away from its teachings. With Thomas, we open our eyes to the work of the Lord all around us and realize how blind we have been. Even as we look, God's mercy is at work.

Today, offer mercy like God, freely and without exception.

How have you experienced God's mercy when you were struggling?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Easter Saturday

"It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard." Acts 4:19

When "ordinary" (Act 4:13) people begin to act in ways we don't expect, we look for easy explanations. Perhaps they have been prompted to speak by others, or maybe they have had an experience that will sustain them for a while, but will soon dissipate. That they may have been strengthened by the Holy Spirit is often the last possibility we consider. When we do this we risk ignoring God's work in those from whom we expect nothing, and that is exactly what happened to the Jewish leaders in the Acts of the Apostles.

Full of the Holy Spirit, the disciples of Jesus, despite being warned by the Sanhedrin not to speak about Jesus or claim to speak in his name, cannot be quiet, and because of this expose themselves to danger. In every way the disciples' actions are remarkable. Filled with fear just a few days before the death of Jesus, they are now able to speak and act in ways that demand attention. The Jewish leaders are alarmed and try to silence them, but nothing works.

Easter's promises often do this to us. Convinced finally that God will always be with us, our fear subsides and we find the courage to speak clearly about what God has done in us despite the consequences. The early martyrs, including all the apostles, Thomas Becket, Oscar Romero, Maximilian Kolbe, Edith Stein, Jean Donovan, Maura Clarke and thousands of others bear witness to this reality. When the good news of God's justice and freedom is threatened, especially for "ordinary" people and the poor, we must speak out and accept the consequences.

Today, ask God to free you from the fear that inhibits your ability to speak Good News.

Have you known someone who risked everything to live the gospel?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Easter Friday

"Simon Peter said to them, 'I am going fishing.' They said to him, 'We also will come with you'." Jn 21:3

All the disciples, it seems, try to return to what they know after the death of Jesus. Whether they were discouraged, confused or upset is not clear. Today's gospel tells the story of Peter and his friends "going fishing." Though fishing for sport and relaxation were not really options in the ancient world, Peter's words remind me of times I've gone fishing to clear my mind, relax my spirit and day dream. I often tell people that I go fishing, not catching, not because I never catch a fish, but because sitting quietly on the at the edge of a stream or lake is one of the most relaxing things I can do.

Whatever the case for Peter and his friends, when Jesus appears to them after they had spent the night catching nothing, he enters their lives again in the most ordinary of ways. He has a charcoal fire going on the shore and asks them to bring some of the fish to him so he can prepare breakfast. Then he gives them bread and fish and they cannot help but recognize him as the same Lord who took a few fish and loaves of bread and fed everyone who was hungry. Even though he has been raised up, he reminds his disciples that his mission is the same and so is theirs. They are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick and visit the imprisoned. They need not fear or be confused. Though their ordinary lives will be difficult, they will endure because he is with them. Is it any different for us?

Today, do the ordinary tasks of your life with purpose and hope.

When have you experienced God's presence in the everyday events of your life?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Easter Thursday

"In the same instant you died and were born again; the saving water was both your tomb and your mother." The Jerusalem Catecheses

At the beginning of the 4th century, the church was faced with a huge catechetical task. The Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, and thousands of Romans wanted to be baptized. Whether their motives were pure is beside the point. The church had to catechize adults in large numbers for the first time.

The sermons and instructions of St. Cyril of Jerusalem are a marvelous tool in this regard. Written for adults as a way to help them understand and enter the mystery of faith, they are full of evocative images and metaphors. Today, in the office of readings, Cyril reminds his students not to think of the death to which Baptism calls us as a tomb, but as a womb in which we are being readied for new life in Christ. By dying to that which keeps us from God and God's love by plunging into the waters of baptism, we break through the waters of death into new life in Christ.

As the church moves more deeply into the 21st century, we have a similar task. How to help Christians make sense of the virtual world of the Internet, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and so much more? Without a catechesis about the social media, we will fail to help people make sense of the world in which they live and risk becoming a dinosaur. While we know that the church espouses enduring values, unless they are articulated in a way that makes sense to the people of this generation, we will lose them to the glitter of the world.

Today, ask yourself what you are doing to understand your faith more deeply.

How do you think the church ought to use technology to announce the Good News?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Easter Wednesday

"I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you." Acts 3:6

Easter is not just about receiving with joy the promise of eternal life. It is about giving it away. Peter's response to the man crippled from birth is a perfect example of this. Not worried about what he doesn't have, Peter gives what he does have, and this ought to be the model for every believer. Some have the financial ability to help others. Some have time to give. Others can pray, but all of us have to give something.

Several years before my mother died she wanted to talk about her living situation. Because many people has lost their jobs and homes and she was living in a home with two extra small bedrooms she was guilty about having so much while others were suffering. Mom asked whether I thought she should offer the extra bedrooms to some homeless people. Stunned by her generosity, I also reacted strongly against the proposal. A woman of 85 living alone should not open her home to strangers, but what should she do? More important, what should we do, not just with our surplus, but with our substance.

Today, think of your gifts and share them.

Has anyone ever stunned you with their kindness when you expected nothing?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter Tuesday

"Woman, why are you weeping?" Jn 20:13

Encountering Mary Magdalene weeping outside of Jesus' tomb does not surprise us. Grieving is a natural and necessary part of every life, especially as we grow older. As family members and friends die, we feel the deep loss of not having the people upon whom we relied and with whom we journeyed by our side, and Mary Magdalene is no exception.

Twice Mary is asked why she is weeping, and we wonder if she is annoyed or surprised by the question. Doesn't everyone know that her Lord has died?  She answers the angels politely enough by telling them that someone has taken Jesus' body, but only when Jesus calls her by name does Mary lift her head in recognition. Hearing the voice of the one who had turned her life around and taught her the Good News is enough to break through her grief and fill her with hope

Easter is God's promise that the death we fear and wrestle with is not the end. Our life will go on in a form we know not, but which faith assures us will be full of joy and delight. Sensing  God's presence in the midst of our grieving or remembering the faces and lives of those who have gone before us is God's way of reminding us that we will never be alone and that someday we will know this promise in its fullness.

Today, weep for a loss but listen for God's love in the midst of your grief.

How do you imagine heaven?







Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Monday

"Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed." Mt 28:8

An older translation of Matthew 28:8 told us that the two Mary's were "half overjoyed, half fearful,"  as they hurried away from the tomb. Like young people newly admitted to a prestigious college, the two women are full of hope and foreboding at the same time. Their dreams have been fulfilled and now they have to live them.

In fact, this is the challenge every Christian faces when the reality of the Resurrection dawns upon us. Even though there is no reason to be afraid, we tremble. Working harder at being a Christian is not the answer, because we cannot earn salvation. It is a pure gift. Asking to be more grateful each day for God's eternal love is the only appropriate response to the Resurrection, and for most of us it is easier to give than receive.

The purity and unconditional nature of God's gift to us in Jesus' resurrection is too much to absorb. We stand naked before God in our failure and sin, and God loves us more than ever. It is only when we turn away from God in shame that we lose sight of God's love. While God stands before us with open arms and heart inviting us to an eternal embrace, we lower our eyes in the self absorbed fear that our sin is bigger than God's love, and in the process, deny God's healing power.

Today, ask God to remove your fear so you can linger in gratitude.

Have you ever known anyone who took time to be grateful every day?