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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday
March 31, 2013
Acts 10:34, 37-43; Psalm 118; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-9

To appreciate the full import of the first Easter morning for the disciples, we have to recreate their emotions as they deal with the catastrophe of the Passion of Jesus. They were not expecting his execution and they were in shock to realize their dream ended badly. To place ourselves in their mindset, it may be helpful for us to remember how we felt in the hours after the attack on the U.S. on September 11, 2001. Everything came to a standstill. Air and rail traffic was halted, workers returned home to their families, grief counselors began to emerge into the public, sports activities were cancelled to allow everyone to grieve and comprehend the extent of the tragedy. We began to ask questions, “How did this happen to us and why?” We ask ourselves these probing questions whenever we have a tragedy, such as the deadly shooting of young children in Newtown, Connecticut last fall. Nothing prepares us for untimely tragedy.

The circumstances of the disciples differ from 911 in many ways, but especially in that Jesus gathered with his friends for the Passover meal that celebrates God’s steadfastness and his deliverance from evil and oppression. This was to be a joyous moment. The disciples had their whole lives wrapped up in the being of Jesus and he was unjustly tried and horrendously executed. The good man who taught well, healed compassionately, revealed many miraculous signs of God’s love, and fulfilled Scripture was now dead and buried. All indications pointed to Jesus as the Messiah who would bring about a new kingdom, but his fast-paced death proved to the disciples that he was just an ordinary man. With the dead Jesus, their hopes and dreams were buried deep into the earth. Was everything he taught and stood for all wrong?

Poor Mary Magdalene. As a respectful act, she went to his tomb early in the morning to properly dress his dead body and she ran away to tell Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved the terrible news she uncovered. She did not go into the tomb, but she knew the body of Jesus was removed. Her tearful, howling run through Jerusalem must have been agonizing as she went in search of Peter. All the familiar places were merely a blur to her as she hastened on her way just needing to tell someone of her awful discovery. As a final desecrating insult, she knew someone disrespected his dead body.

Magdalene must have awakened Peter to tell him the news. He must have consoled her, given her something to drink, and waited as she caught her breath so she could calmly relay her observations to him. Peter probably didn’t even have his morning coffee, but he knew innately that something beyond his understanding occurred. With the beloved disciple, they raced across the city as their minds searched for explanations for what had happened. What would they do when they arrived? They were winded, out of breath, emotionally confused, and they hadn’t thought that far ahead, but they had to go see their friend’s tomb for themselves. The tomb was empty.

The beloved disciple graciously permitted Peter to enter the tomb first and Peter’s senses told him that the familiar actions of Jesus were still at work. His burial cloths were neatly arranged, just as Jesus would have folded them as he woke up and readied for the day. If robbers had come in, they would not have neatly laid the cloths out with great care, but this was the customary action of Jesus. Peter’s mind still was unsettled as he began to grapple with the confusing events, but then the beloved disciple entered and he knew for sure that Jesus removed those cloths and laid them aside. He believed that Jesus was no longer dead, even though he did not understand the Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.

It might serve us well to take some time during Easter week to settle ourselves down and reflect upon our what our senses tell us since they are the place where we encounter the risen Jesus. Peter and the beloved disciples used their senses to provide them with data to piece together what happened with their friend. Their senses fed both their heart and mind and then their imagination united them to give meaning to their experience. From all they knew of Jesus, what he taught, how he lived, what he valued and chose, they rightly concluded that God raised Jesus from the dead. Later on Jesus confirmed their right belief when he appeared to them on that first Easter evening. He didn’t wait long to join his friends again.

We delight our children with partially hidden colored eggs and sweet pastel colored chocolates. We want them to enjoy the sensory feel of Easter so they can sense again the newness of springtime life, but we need to feel these senses as adults just the same. As we counter our many blessings against the way we get battered down by life’s tragedies and we witness disappointments and heartaches, we need to think of what is above, not what is on earth. We need to keep our perspective on our life in the risen Lord. We can allow him to share his emotions of joy and victory of the resurrection. He comes to console and care for us so that we know deep down that everything will be all right and that all is gift for us to share. He returns to tell us that he is happy to be with us again because his love won’t let anything separate him from us. He wants us to praise God because he has bridged the divide between humanity and God. God must certainly be rejoicing in heaven over us.

Permit your senses to be heightened so you experience the joy because you are important enough to the Lord that he returns personally for you, personally because of you. His love is always personal. Feel his happiness that he wants to be part of every moment of your day. He has come back for you. Alleluia! He is Risen. Alleulia.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: We follow the Acts of the Apostles in the Easter octave. Peter stands up on Pentecost to proclaim to Jews in Jerusalem that Jesus of Nazareth who they put to death has been vindicated by God and raised to new life. When the Jews realize the significance of their actions, they petition Peter to be baptized in the name of Jesus. Peter and John heal the crippled man at "the Beautiful Gate" at the temple. All who witnessed it recognized that the man used to be the crippled beggar. Peter and John preach to the Jews gathered at Solomon's portico and tell them all that the prophets and scripture say about Jesus. The priests, temple guards, and the Sadducees confront Peter and John and hold them in custody. The religious authorities question their teaching and healing power. The Sanhedrin dismissed them with instructions not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. Peter, John, and the healed man persevere in their boldness. The Sanhedrin wait to see if this is of God or of another source of power.

Gospel: In Matthew, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary meet Jesus on the way and he exhorts them not to be afraid. The chief priests hire soldiers to say, "the disciples came and stole the body of Jesus." In John, Magdalene weeps outside the tomb and thinks Jesus is the gardener, until he speaks to her familiarly. In Luke, two disciples heading towards Emmaus meet Jesus along the way and he opens the scripture for them. As they recount their story to the Eleven, Jesus appears before them, beckons them not to be afraid, and eats with them. In John, six disciples are with Peter as they fish at the Sea of Tiberius. After a frustrating night of fishing, Jesus instructs them to cast their nets wide and they catch 153 large fish. The beloved disciple recognized the man on the beach as the Lord and they rush to meet him. In Mark, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene who told the Eleven about him. Two other disciples on the road returned to speak of their encounter, and then Jesus appears to them while they were at table.

Saints of the Week

No saints are remembered during the Easter octave.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      March 31, 1548: Fr. Anthony Corduba, rector of the College of Salamanca, begged Ignatius to admit him into the Society so as to escape the cardinalate which Charles V intended to procure for him.
·      Apr 1, 1941. The death of Hippolyte Delehaye in Brussels. He was an eminent hagiographer and in charge of the Bollandists from 1912 to 1941.
·      Apr 2, 1767. Charles III ordered the arrest of all the Jesuits in Spain and the confiscation of all their property.
·      Apr 3, 1583. The death of Jeronimo Nadal, one of the original companions of Ignatius who later entrusted him with publishing and distributing the Jesuit Constitutions to the various regions of the early Society.
·      Apr 4, 1534. Peter Faber (Pierre Favre) ordained a deacon in Paris.
·      Apr 5, 1635. The death of Louis Lallemant, writer and spiritual teacher.
·      Apr 6, 1850. The first edition of La Civilta Cattolica appeared. It was the first journal of the restored Society. 

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