Pastoral Sharings: "Easter Sunday"

WeeklyMessage Father Alex McAllister SDS
April 20, 2014
Easter Sunday

Today we celebrate the most important of all the Christian
Feasts, the Resurrection. But this cannot be isolated from
what has gone before. Actually the three great feasts of
Holy Week are all of a piece: Holy Thursday, Good Friday
and Easter Sunday and they should not really be seen in
isolation from each other.

Put together we call them the Pascal Mystery; and so, to be more correct, it is this that is the most important event in the Christian year.

In the liturgy during these last few days we have run the whole gamut of emotions. The mixed feelings of wonder and apprehension at the Last Supper, the dreadful sadness of Good Friday, the complete emptiness of Holy Saturday and the unalloyed joy of Easter Sunday morning.

It is good to be reminded of the feelings that the disciples experienced as they followed Christ in those terrible days. They were totally confused and hardly any of them lasted the course, least of all St Peter. It took till Pentecost before they could, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, find the courage to testify to what had happened.

However, we do know however that among those who remained faithful to the end and stood at the foot of the Cross were Mary, the Mother of Jesus, Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene and St John. Two of these are mentioned in the Gospel for this morning: Mary Magdalene and St John.

Something authenticated by all four Gospels is that Mary Magdalene was there when the tomb was discovered to be empty. The other Gospel writers mention that she was in the company of other women but in John’s Gospel these other women are not mentioned.

This passage presented to us today is very carefully constructed and worth close examination. The traditional understanding is that it was written by the Apostle John who throughout the Gospel calls himself the Beloved Disciple.

The sequence, which involves a lot of running, is that Mary Magdalene arrives and discovers that the stone is rolled away but doesn’t go into the tomb. Instead she runs to get Peter and John. They, in turn, run to the tomb and John wins the race but holds back to let Peter in first. Then John goes in and, as it says, ‘he saw and he believed.’

There is a lot in this about deference and respect. Mary Magdalene defers to the Apostles and gets them to check the tomb out. John holds back and lets Peter in first, presumably also out of respect. But then he pulls the trump card because, according to him, he is the first to believe.

John may not be number one among the Apostles, he is not the rock on which Christ will build his Church, but he has two claims to fame which Peter cannot match. The first is that he stayed by the Cross and is therefore not tainted by any denial of Jesus and the other is that at the empty tomb he was the first to believe.

You might think that writing your own Gospel and making extravagant claims for yourself is not very seemly for an Apostle and you’d probably be right.

But maybe there is something else going on here. What I believe this to be is that John is trying to convince his readers. He is stating that he was there, he saw the empty tomb and, more than this, when he saw it he believed. He presents himself to his readers as a credible witness, someone utterly believable.

He is telling us that at the moment when he was faced with the empty tomb he immediately drew the conclusion that Jesus had risen from the dead and that he believed this instantly and absolutely.

And he is implying that Peter, for all his authority, is not actually as reliable a witness for, after all, he denied Christ three times. John on the other hand was there at the foot of the Cross and into his hands at the very last moment it was to him that Jesus entrusted the care of his mother.

What more honest, believable and trustworthy kind of a chap could you have than this? For all his youth at the time, there he was in the right place doing the right things, remaining faithful and steady and believing.

Here we have a witness that we can have faith in. Here is a Gospel that is true. Here are simple words that we can resonate with, ‘he saw and he believed.’

And if he, this trustworthy John, can see and believe, then even if we ourselves haven’t actually seen then maybe we can still believe. Maybe we can take all this on board and make an act of faith in the Risen Christ.

That’s what John wants from his readers. And that’s the invitation that’s open to us today, on this Easter morning; to believe, to profess our faith in Christ and in his resurrection.

And if we can believe this then we can believe all that flows from it. We can believe in the teaching of the Apostles, we can believe in the efficacy of the sacraments, we can believe in the Church and above all we can believe in eternal life.

These things are the very essence of Christianity; these things are what our faith is all about. And by believing what John is telling us we become true members of Christ’s Mystical Body, his faithful servants in the world of today.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday
John 20:1-9
Gospel Summary

John’s resurrection account is relatively brief and differs significantly from the Synoptic accounts. Mary Magdalene has a prominent role here and the mysterious “other disciple whom Jesus loved” appears again just as he did at the Last Supper. The special attention given to Mary Magdalene suggests that she is a person who embodies the ideal of love that is so evident in the fourth gospel.

Easter Sunday: The Gardens of the Lord
Happy and Holy Easter to you all!  I think that it is absolutely wonderful that so many people, Catholic and non Catholic, have decided to join us in prayer today.  Regardless of the faith tradition we follow, or even if we do not follow any  faith as closely as we should, the Christian cannot miss praying on Easter Sunday. Easter is a profoundly spiritual day.  It is a day of joy, beauty and hope.

The Meaning of Easter
The serpent’s bite was a deadly one.  The venom had worked its way deep into the heart of humanity, doing its gruesome work.  The anti-venom was unavailable till He appeared.  One drop was all that was needed, so potent was this antidote.  Yet it was not like Him to be stingy. The sacrifice of His entire life poured out to the last drop at the foot of the cross – This was the Son’s answer to the Problem of Sin.  

Three days later came the Father’s equally extravagant answer to the Problem of Death.  For Jesus was not simply brought back to life like Lazarus.  That would be resuscitation, the return to normal, mortal life.  Yes, Lazarus ultimately had to go through it all again . . . the dying, the grieving family, the burial.  Jesus did not “come back.”  He passed over, passed through. Death, as St. Paul said, would have no more power over him.

Easter Sunday, Year A—April 20, 2014
Gospel (Read Jn 20:1-9)

On Palm Sunday, the narrative of our Lord’s Passion ended with these words:  “So they [the chief priests and Pharisees] went and secured the tomb by fixing a seal to the stone and setting the guard” (Mt 27:66).  Jesus’ dead Body had been quickly prepared for burial (because the Sabbath sundown approached), and He was laid in the fresh tomb of a rich man.  Then, for His followers, there was silence and utter desolation.  We can only imagine how much “rest” they got on what must have been the longest Sabbath day of their lives.

Today, St. John tells us, “On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark” (Jn 20:1).

Four Immediate Results of the Death of Jesus on the Cross, according to Matthew
Another way to live in the presence of God is to offer ourselves and all our actions to God the Father in union with Jesus crucified. This way of prayer is often called the morning offering. It is more than a prayer; it is really a way of life keeping us in constant touch with God in all our daily thoughts, desires, and actions. Through the morn­ing offering, we walk no longer alone, but in the presence of Christ crucified, whose perfect surrender of His life to His Father we strive to imitate in all our actions.

The Victory of the Cross
Terrorism is nothing new.  It’s probably as old as the human race.

In fact the cradle of civilization, now Iraq, was the home of the most infamous terrorists of antiquity, the Assyrians.  Their goal was to conquer their neighbors in a way that would minimize  initial resistance and subsequent rebellion.  To do this, they knew fear would be their greatest weapon.  Simple threat of death for those who resisted was not enough because many would prefer death to slavery.

Divine Mercy, a Great Mystery of our Faith
Divine Mercy is a great mystery of our faith. The very God of the universe, the Lord God Almighty, has deemed to humble Himself for all of mankind in order to save us from our sins so that we might have everlasting life with Him. We will never find our true purpose, the fullness of joy, or the all-abiding peace and love we seek until we realize our need for Him who unconditionally and freely gives His merciful healing love to all who ask.

The Last Thing Christ Did for Us on the Cross
He had asked His Father to forgive those who crucified Him. He had endured the insults and mocking of onlookers. And he had forgiven the thief crucified with Him, promising Him paradise.

Jesus had been hanging on the Cross for two hours.

But His work was not yet finished. What remained?

John 19:26-27 informs us what it was:

Failing and Falling
There is an old saying that it does not matter how often you fall — it matters how often you get up.

I’m reminded of our failing and falling whenever I walk through the Stations of the Cross, for in the pattern of his passion, Jesus falls three times on his way up the hill of sacrifice.

The three falls of Jesus picture his human weakness, but everything in the story can be pressed for deeper meaning; and the three falls connect with three ways we fail and three times we fall within our frail humanity.

Go Kiss a Crucifix!
Pick up a crucifix, said Pope Francis during his General Audience during Holy Week.  Kiss it and recite this simple prayer:

Thank you, Jesus.  Thank you, Lord.

The Holy Father reminded pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square that Jesus’s Resurrection “isn’t the happy ending of a beautiful fairytale, it isn’t the happy ending of a film.”  Rather, he explained, it’s the result of the loving intervention of God, who wanted to give humanity hope and salvation.

What Does Jesus Mean When He Says He is Coming on the Clouds?
Continuing to look at some of the text from the Passion according to St. Matthew, we come to the trial of Jesus before Caiaphas the high priest.

Having heard false and conflicting testimony from various witnesses, Caiaphas turns to Jesus, and here is where we pick up the text:

It is ironic that the great poet and Epicurean philosopher Lucretius once wrote that “nowhere do I see the halls of Hell.” Adrift in his own materialistic thought, Lucretius had come to the conclusion that religion, as it was in his time and is still counted by some as today, was merely a mechanism of control. In some cases, this is true. However, the real mechanism of control in our lives is sin.  Lucretius could not see the halls of Hell encircling him as he wrote.

“For Worldly Sorrow Brings Death.” A Meditation on the Sad End of Judas and What Might Have Been
As we continue to ponder some of the texts of the Matthean Passion Narrative, we turn to the difficult case of Judas. To many modern readers, Judas is something of a sympathetic character. Some of this is due to our (rather flawed) moral reasoning, reasoning that places exaggerated emphasis on subjective issues (such as intentions, feelings, etc.) and almost no emphasis on the objective morality of the act itself.

First-Century Jews and the Paschal Sacrifice: why “Lamb of God” should mean far more to us
For those of us who lack multiple degrees in theology, ancient history, and sacred scripture, diving into exegesis isn’t much different than Aristotle recognizing a Nike “swoop” or President George Washington thinking the Apple Computer logo is just a cute drawing of the favorite fruit of the original owner of his teeth. While idioms and hidden meanings abound in any culture, it’s difficult — or nearly impossible — to extract all of the meaning that is present.

My God, My God. Why Hast Thou Left The Gun And Taken The Cannoli?
Were I to say to any man between the age of 18 to 60, “Leave the gun, take the cannoli,” I would venture to say that 99% of men of a certain age would know exactly what I was talking about.  It is a cultural reference point.

Of course, I am quoting “The Godfather.” Many a dude has memorized almost every line of that movie. It is our mutual cultural reference point. If I say to someone with this cultural reference  “You gotta go to the mattresses,” they would automatically understand that I am encouraging them to fight with everything they have and to bring that fight to the enemy.

A Non-Historical Question about Jesus of Nazareth
Peter Kreeft recently presented an essay on the theme that, in his claim to be God, the historical Jesus of Nazareth could not have been wrong and still been a good man. If not God, he would have had to have been a liar, a lunatic, a guru believing in some form of universal divinity, or a non-historical person, a legend.

Is it enough to be a “Good Person”?
In my experience, some people just don’t want to talk about the big questions – Does God exist? Is Jesus Lord and Savior? What must I do to be saved? – and their dismissal of these kinds of questions almost always appeals to the notion of “good person.” It usually goes something like this:

“If God exists, then all He cares about is whether you’re a good person. Because at the end of the day, all that really matters is being a good person. And I’m a good person, so I don’t really need to worry about anything else.”

The Flip Side of ‘Heaven is for Real’
I’m not one of those twelve million readers who bought the book “Heaven is For Real” and torpedoed it to the New York Times’ Bestseller List. But I did check it out from the library and enjoyed both the story and the accounts of heaven.  “Heaven is for real” is, in fact, only one among the many testimonies of  near death experiences I’ve heard about from both Christians and non-Christians.   With some suspect exceptions, most of the descriptions of heaven are fascinating and inspire me to work hard to aim for the ultimate prize.  But that’s just the good news.

A Prescription for Life Given By Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane
In past years on the blog, I have generally published the schedule of the Lord’s final week according to the Scriptures (on the Monday of Holy Week). Since I have done this in years past, I presume most of you have seen it by now. If you haven’t, you can read it here: A Chronology of Jesus’ Holy Week.

For this year, I thought I might look at some of the moments in the Passion Narrative (this year from St. Matthew) and highlight them.

How Fasting and Prayer Blessed Me this Lent
Lent, what a season! For some it brings dread, for others it is a time to strengthen their walk with God, and still others it is a missed opportunity for renewal altogether. For me, this Lent has been a wonderful and intense time of great growth in my relationship with God. I have learned many things, some I am still trying to find words for. One thing very obvious to me is that my faith and trust in God has greatly increased. This was not so this past December, when not only was I continuing to endure an extremely painful situation in my personal life, but it was also the time when my mother died.

An Open Letter to Evangelicals: “We Need You”
To my evangelical friends,

I admire you. I really do. And you might be surprised that many other Catholics admire you, too.

We admire your knowledge of Scripture and your Bible studies. We admire your zeal for evangelism and missions. We admire your willingness to publicly stand for your faith even when it means you’ll be made fun of or humiliated.

But most of all, we admire your deep love of Jesus. What can possibly matter more?

Coming Home at Easter — It’s Not Just for Catholics
When Lydia Clark, the 22-year-old daughter of a Presbyterian minister, was confirmed during the Easter vigil at Sts. Rose and Clement Church in Warwick, R.I., last year, she was only one of many non-Catholics who have “come home” at least in part because of contact with the Catholics Come Home organization.

Indeed, although the name Catholics Come Home might sound as if the organization focuses solely on former Catholics, that — as Clark’s story indicates — is not the case.

Diversity and Dishonesty
EARLIER this year, a column by a Harvard undergraduate named Sandra Y. L. Korn briefly achieved escape velocity from the Ivy League bubble, thanks to its daring view of how universities should approach academic freedom.

Korn proposed that such freedom was dated and destructive, and that a doctrine of “academic justice” should prevail instead. No more, she wrote, should Harvard permit its faculty to engage in “research promoting or justifying oppression” or produce work tainted by “racism, sexism, and heterosexism.” Instead, academic culture should conform to left-wing ideas of the good, beautiful and true, and decline as a matter of principle “to put up with research that counters our goals.”

Popes Clearly Say Who Can and Can’t Receive Communion
Reading the comments to John’s excellent post about Bishop Paprocki, I sense a kind of amnesia. So, for the record: There is already lots of clarity about communion and pro-abortion politicians.

And, lest we let ourselves off the hook while  scorning those awful no-good pro-aborts, there is also lot of clarity about how maybe many of us  shouldn’t be receiving communion, either.

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