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Reflections on Catholic Faith - March 2008 - Easter Reflections

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March 24, 2008
A Reflection From Easter Sunday
From the Holy Spirit Interactive Website

Dear friends, Easter Blessings.

I preached all of the liturgies of the Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil and two Masses on Easter Sunday. I also led a Saturday morning Liturgy of the Hours for our parish. So you might guess – I’m a little pooped – excuse the French.

I received (and now share) this Easter reflection from a website that I love. I recommend you go to www.holyspiritinteractive.net and sign up for regular emails from them. In the meantime – here is an Easter Reflection. May the Risen Lord wrap you in His glorious loving arms. Deacon Tom.

Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Colossians 3:1-4 or 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8
John 20:1-9

Are you ready to proclaim the Good News about how Jesus has helped you? Or do you hesitate because don't yet understand how the deaths in your life have been resurrected into new life, how the tragedies and other difficulties have led you into triumphs and great blessings?

This was the mental state of the disciples on the first Easter morning, as depicted in the Gospel of John. The attitude of Peter in the reading from Acts is quite a contrast! The disciples now know their calling: They were commissioned to testify and to teach that Jesus is the Savior, and they fully embraced this vocation.

To “testify” means to share the truth based on your own experiences. Peter specifically proclaimed that everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins. Of course! Peter knew first-hand what it's like to need and then receive God's forgiveness.

We will not understand how our sufferings lead us to new life until we start talking about it. The first inklings of insight awaken when we discuss it within our close, holy friendships, like Mary of Magdala did when she ran to Peter and John after discovering the empty tomb. They, in turn, told the other disciples. It was while they were together, in community that Jesus appeared and revealed the full truth to them. Later, with the help of the Holy Spirit, they evangelized the world by sharing their experiences with anyone willing to listen.

Reflect & Discuss:

1. The empty tomb doesn't immediately make sense. What has been confusing to you during your faith journey? What has caused you to feel empty and frightened? Where might Jesus be in this?

2. How have your own experiences of being forgiven enabled you to feel more compassionate toward others? Does that change the way you talk to them about God and church and other spiritual or moral issues?

3. What is the biggest change that Jesus has brought into your life? What were you like before this change? How did God intervene? What were the results? This is your testimony. Practice sharing it by telling the story to your small Christian community.

Questions for the Journey:
Name one person who could benefit from hearing about your faith experiences. What will you do to share your testimony with him or her?

March 17, 2008

I was able to go to Confession – the Sacrament of Reconciliation on Saturday, thanks be to God. A chance for some additional spring-cleaning before entering this week – this Holy Week. Please God, you were able to go – or will make an effort to go for the cleansing… and the graces of this sacrament before Easter. (And as a sidenote – if you believe that other people aren’t doing this – if you ‘intuit’ that most modern people don’t go to Confession – then you have hit on the very problem: we are letting the world-view – the societal view define what religious practice is or should be.

If you feel a twinge of guilt at these words – I recall what a good friend, Fr. John Putka (Professor from the University of Dayton, OH) regularly says, ‘Guilt is a good thing. It is just like pain in our bodies – it is meant to tell us that something isn’t right and needs attention.)

I think this ties with the first reading – God offering ‘freedom’ in the words of Isaiah the prophet… Jesus has come – is coming again this week in the liturgies of the Church… Jesus gives breath (life) to his people… until justice (God’s reign) is established here on earth.

I was scheduled to be a deacon at two later Sunday Masses – but my wife Dee and I decided to also go to the Saturday Vigil Mass so we could worship together and celebrate the beginning of the week. Like so many churches around the country – we sang “All Glory, Laud and Honor” and it touched me to know this period was starting again.

Sunday – I watched an EWTN program with Fr. Benedict Groshelle (sp?) and he talked about meditating on Palm Sunday. About who it was that really participated in the first palm procession. It wasn’t the clergy of the time – heavens no. It certainly wasn’t the political leaders… it was the Anawim… the little ones… they joyously proclaimed the arrival of the Messiah.

And so it is in our time that the poor, the old folks – the immigrants – the people who have little but their faith to celebrate and sustain them… those who are converts or reverts -- they are the ones going to Confession… they are the ones who eagerly grasp palms and wave them. They have (take) the time to participate in a procession into the church. Today, many of our church leaders don’t have the time or they don’t make the time to do a procession of some consequence into our churches. And of course this passes right into the hearts and minds of many today: “Come on, come on…. This passion narrative Gospel is long enough…. Don’t add anything else!”

Think of the beauty of this Gospel – a holy follower of Jesus – at his feet anointing them with perfumed oil. How about you and me? Will be doing any anointing of the Christ this week? Will we be doing anything to make a fragrant offering to Him who gave his life? Who among us will be looking at the palms and vestments and mindlessly be questioning, “Why do they spend money on such things when they could be giving to the poor?”

The problem with my challenge in this reflection is that I too am partly a Judas. Yet I yearn for the heart and intimacy of the anointing one, Mary. I want to spend this week anointing the Messiah with my praise, my prayers, my hosannas… I want him to hear my words, “All glory, laud and honor, to you Redeemer King.”

Reading I
Is 42:1-7

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
Upon whom I have put my Spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
Not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
A bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
Until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spreads out the earth with its crops,
Who gives breath to its people
and spirit to those who walk on it:
I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
To open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 27:1, 2, 3, 13-14

R (1a) The Lord is my light and my salvation.
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life's refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?

Jn 12:1-11

Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany,
where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.
They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served,
while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him.
Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil
made from genuine aromatic nard
and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair;
the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples,
and the one who would betray him, said,
"Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days' wages
and given to the poor?"
He said this not because he cared about the poor
but because he was a thief and held the money bag
and used to steal the contributions.
So Jesus said, "Leave her alone.
Let her keep this for the day of my burial.
You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me."

The large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came,
not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus,
whom he had raised from the dead.
And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too,
because many of the Jews were turning away
and believing in Jesus because of him.

March 10, 2008

Blessings of this Monday in the Fifth Week of Easter.

Pope St. Gregory the great said these words: “The proof of love is in the works. Where love exists, it works great things. But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist.” Those who sought to silence the Lord Jesus – they nearly won the battle. And for a period of time, the greatest love ever was silenced in the tomb…. But the power behind that Love is the power of Easter – the resurrection which demonstrates that God’s love… the love of Jesus is and was enough to bring about a profound change in each of us… if we but let it do so.

I would like to start this week – perhaps spending a few days on the topic of preparing for the power of Easter.

You might say, ‘Isn’t all of Lent about preparing for Easter?’ Of course the answer is ‘yes’… but in these words, I hope to focus us on seeing the power of Easter – just like the power of the ocean – a presence that continues to come upon the beach – ever freshening it…. ever cleansing it… ever making it new…

There is a song – and if I tell you where I found it – you may feel inclined to dismiss my reflection today. Please don’t. Surprisingly, the song is contained on a Christmas album by John Denver and the Muppets. The title of the sweet, hymn-like song is WHEN THE RIVER MEETS THE SEA. Part of the lyrics include these words:

Patience my brothers, and patience my sons….in that sweet and final hour, truth and justice will be done… Like a baby when it’s sleeping in its loving mother’s arms, what a newborn baby dreams is a mystery… in time he’ll know the answer, in time he’ll understand, when the river meets the Almighty Sea.

Would that I could sing well enough so you could hear the peaceful, hopeful melody and message. I can almost picture slaves of a time gone by singing these words of hope as they walked to the cotton fields where on any given day, there was no hope. God is the Almighty Sea – the One who has the power to make all things well… In Him is the outcome of all things... in Him is our hope and our final rest. In Him are all the answers to all the questions we will ever have… those things that vex or worry us now.

That is the power of Holy Week – that is the power of Easter…

… reminding us that we must participate in the ups and downs of life just as Jesus participated in a roller coaster of human joy and disappointment and complete surrender…. seeming glory and a joyous feeling when a world waves palm branches…. to the hope found in the readings of next Monday which tell of the chosen One in whom God is well-pleased… and Mary, the sister of Lazarus who anoints the very feet of Christ with oil and uses her hair to dry them….Then a sinister Gospel where Jesus predicts a betrayer in His circle… followed by the beauty of The Lord’s Supper – the birth of Catholic priesthood and the birth of the Eucharist… That heart-rending day of the Lord’s passion and the eerie stillness of the time between Good Friday and the Easter Vigil…

These are the ups and downs… the emotions and expectations and pain and joy which are completely satisfied and which demonstrate the power of the Lord in his crushing defeat of death… the power of God to bring about order and wholeness coming forth from the tomb. You and I voice this ‘hope’ in the very words we pray after Mass each morning when we pray to Mary the Light of Hope. What is it that we say? “Let there be revealed once more in the history of the world, the infinite saving power of the redemption: the power of merciful love.

All of this happens next week…. We are invited to the week we are in now to prepare ourselves… to meditate… to enter into the complex emotions: seeming joy followed by betrayal… pain and then death…

All of these followed by a magnificent and glorified body which can be in different places at the same time… a body that can travel into locked rooms… a body destined for eternal praise and union with God the Father for eternity.

All of this will come about because of the Eucharist – of which Pope Benedict said, “ The purpose of the Eucharist is the transformation of those who receive it in authentic communion. And so the end is unity, that peace which we, as separate individuals who live beside one another or in conflict with one another, become with Christ and in him, as one organism of self-giving, to live in view of the resurrection and the new world.

Dan. 13:41c-62
The assembly condemned Susanna to death. But Susanna cried aloud: “O eternal God, you know what is hidden and are aware of all things before they come to be: you know that they have testified falsely against me. Here I am about to die, though I have done none of the things with which these wicked men have charged me.”

The Lord heard her prayer. As she was being led to execution,
God stirred up the holy spirit of a young boy named Daniel,
and he cried aloud: “I will have no part in the death of this woman.”
All the people turned and asked him, “What is this you are saying?”
He stood in their midst and continued, “Are you such fools, O children of Israel! To condemn a woman of Israel without examination
and without clear evidence?
Return to court, for they have testified falsely against her.”
Then all the people returned in haste. To Daniel the elders said,
“Come, sit with us and inform us, since God has given you the prestige of old age.” But he replied, “Separate these two far from each other that I may examine them.” After they were separated one from the other, he called one of them and said: “How you have grown evil with age! Now have your past sins come to term: passing unjust sentences, condemning the innocent, and freeing the guilty, although the Lord says, ‘The innocent and the just you shall not put to death.’
Now, then, if you were a witness, tell me under what tree you saw them together.” “Under a mastic tree,” he answered. Daniel replied, “Your fine lie has cost you your head, for the angel of God shall receive the sentence from him and split you in two.” Putting him to one side, he ordered the other one to be brought. Daniel said to him, “Offspring of Canaan, not of Judah, beauty has seduced you, lust has subverted your conscience. This is how you acted with the daughters of Israel, and in their fear they yielded to you; but a daughter of Judah did not tolerate your wickedness. Now, then, tell me under what tree you surprised them together.” “Under an oak,” he said. Daniel replied, “Your fine lie has cost you also your head,” for the angel of God waits with a sword to cut you in two so as to make an end of you both.”

The whole assembly cried aloud, blessing God who saves those who hope in him. They rose up against the two elders, for by their own words Daniel had convicted them of perjury. According to the law of Moses, they inflicted on them the penalty they had plotted to impose on their neighbor: they put them to death. Thus was innocent blood spared that day.

Responsorial Psalm
23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
R. (4ab) Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose; Beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul.

R. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side. He guides me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff that give me courage.
R. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side.
You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

R. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side.
Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come.

R. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side.

Jn 8:1-11
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery
and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him.
Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

© 2006-2009 Deacon Tom Online

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