Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Divine Mercy Sunday

Divine Mercy Sunday
April 7, 2013
Acts 5:12-16; Psalm 118; Revelation 1:9-13, 17-19; John 20:19-31

On the first Easter night, we know the disciples are quietly huddled together behind locked doors because of their fear of the Jews. The author seems to know the location of their gathering, but it is kept quiet to keep the troubles away. Mary Magdalene has already been to the tomb; the same with Peter and John. With news of the empty tomb, I am certain that other women and the disciples went to see for themselves and they cowered together to discuss what happened. They needed time to process what they were feeling and to ask questions about this strange news that Jesus was raised from the dead.

The full effect of the Resurrection was being born. Peter, the Beloved Disciple, and Magdalene realized Jesus was providentially raised by God, but they had not yet learned that Jesus became victorious over death and sin and that his new ministry was one of consolation and encouragement. It would take a while before they understood what this curious event meant for them. It is no surprise that they were fearful because the chaos of the preceding days surely had diminished only slightly. The death of Jesus was still on the minds of friend and foe and the intensity of anger and confusion had not yet abated. The locked door provided necessary protection.

It did not take long for Jesus to return to his friends. Of course, Jesus first returned to visit his mother because what son, having returned from the dead, would not first go to his mom and wipe her tears away? He returns to his friends after sunset when he knows they are gathered together in the room where they shared the Seder meal. He longed to see them again and to let them know that he is glad to be with them once more. Their journey has taken them to incredible places together and he is both happy to see them again and to let them know that their place of friendship with him is secure.

Joy has to be nurtured to grow. We must let it take root by quietly reflecting on how it is evolving. The atmosphere in the room with the locked door changed dramatically within the first week from one of intense fear where all the senses are heightened to ward off any threats to one in which the disciples begin to share their beliefs with others more courageously. The confusing emotions from the Resurrection evolved slowly and steadily.

The disciples wait for Thomas to join them. They undoubtedly wanted him to experience first-hand the return of Jesus, but also they wanted to share their joy with him. The mood in the room was much lighter. They knew Jesus would not be satisfied unless he visited every one of the surviving Twelve again and offered them his continuing friendship. The task of reconciling relationships was beginning. Thomas, we know, reconciled in a majestic way by acknowledging Jesus as his Lord and God.

As Thomas arrived that night and Jesus appeared before them, the door to that room was still locked. When exactly did they no longer feel the need to lock themselves in? After the Passover pilgrimage died down and the many visitors returned home, perhaps the disciples thought they could show themselves in the public square again without forceful fear inhibiting their movements. They did not return to Galilee, but stayed in Jerusalem where they realized their lifetime work was beginning. The boldness they showed in the public arena, risking death and imprisonment, showed their great absence of fear.

We might realize the way our fear paralyzes us, and many of us have the greatest amount of fear in un-reconciled relationships. Learning to trust reduces fear and we don’t want to be the first one to make ourselves vulnerable before our enemy because we have experienced their wrath when we were hoping for goodness. It is understandable, but if we ever want to let Jesus unlock those doors, we have to make ourselves vulnerable before others as he did. The disciples learned that lesson as well when they subjected themselves to harm by the Temple authorities and came out victorious.

We cannot grow in any relationship unless we let ourselves be liberated by the bars we place around us to keep out potential opponents. Some of these locks we can undo ourselves, but it involves listening so we can understand a different perspective other than our own, but some of the locks are rusted and blocked so that no key can fit inside. These are the times we must realize that the only way for us to be free from our prison cell is by letting someone on the outside unlock that door.

Freedom often involves great pain and our release places us in an uncomfortably uncertain position when we realize we have choices to make. We unfortunately want someone else to free us and then tell us what we ought to do next. This is not freedom. Liberation will inspire our souls, brighten our imagination, reclaim the promise of hope, and wake up energized for the most difficult work ahead of us, but we know deep inside that we believe in our goodness and rightness. In the Resurrection, Jesus reminds us that he believes in us. He sees the good we have tried to do and he asks us to continue along the way because he will be there to give us many more resurrections of our soul.  Our immortal soul is aligned with his. Soul to soul, he affirms us and shares his joy that we will be together until the end of the age. Alleluia!

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading:  We continue with the Acts of the Apostles in the Easter octave. Peter and John return to their people after being released from the religious authorities. They prayed to the Lord about their ordeal and as they prayed, the whole house shook. The high priest with the Sadducees had the Apostles jailed but during the night the doors of the prison were opened by the Lord and the Apostles went back to the Temple to teach. As the Apostles were brought forth again during their arrest, they were reminded that they were forbidden to preach. Peter said on behalf of the Apostles that they are to obey God, not men. Gamaliel the Pharisee urged wisdom for the Sanhedrin declaring that if this is of God it cannot be stopped, but if it is of men it will certainly die out. The number of disciples grew. Hellenists complained to the Hebrews that their widows were being neglected. The Twelve decided it was right to select seven reputable men (deacons) to take care of the daily distribution while they continued with prayer and the ministry of the word. Meanwhile the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly. Even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

Gospel: In John, Nicodemus appeared to Jesus at night asking how one could be born again to which Jesus answered, "you must be born from above." As the discourse continues, the Evangelist proclaims, "God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but that the world might be saved through him." He explains that Jesus has come from above and speaks of the things that are from above. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. At a feast of the Passover, Jesus miraculously feeds the hungry crowds as a good shepherd would. He reminds the people that the actions in his earthly life were precursors of the meal that are to share. They are to eat his body and drink his blood. Jesus then departs to the other side of the sea. When a storm picks up, he walked on the turbulent waves and instructed them not to be afraid. He is with them. He has power over the natural and supernatural world.

Saints of the Week

April 11: Stanislaus, bishop and martyr (1030-1079), was born near Krakow, Poland and studied canon law and theology before he renounced his family fortunes and became a priest. Elected bishop, he oppose the bellicose and immoral King Boleslaus II who often oppressed the peasantry. He excommunicated the king who ordered his murder but the soldiers refused to carry it out. The king murdered him by his own hands, but then had to flee into exile.

April 13th: Martin I, pope, (6th century – 655), an Umbrian was elected pope during the Byzantine papacy. One of his earliest acts was to convene the Lateran Council that dealt with the heretical Monothelitism.  Martin was abducted by Emperor Constans II and died in the Crimean peninsula.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Apr 7, 1541. Ignatius was unanimously elected general, but he declined to accept the results.
·      Apr 8, 1762. The French Parliament issued a decree of expulsion of the Jesuits from all their colleges and houses.
·      Apr 9, 1615. The death of William Weston, minister to persecuted Catholics in England and later an author who wrote about his interior life during that period.
·      Apr 10, 1585. At Rome, the death of Pope Gregory XIII, founder of the Gregorian University and the German College, whose memory will ever be cherished as that of one of the Society's greatest benefactors.
·      Apr 11, 1573. Pope Gregory XIII suggested to the Fathers who were assembling for the Third General Congregation that it might be well for them to choose a General of some nationality other than Spanish. Later he expressed his satisfaction that they had elected Everard Mercurian, a Belgian.
·      Apr 12, 1671. Francis Borgia, the 3rd general of the Society, was canonized by Pope Clement X.
·       Apr 13, 1541. Ignatius was elected general in a second election, after having declined the results of the first election several days earlier.