There is a lot in a name. A name holds the essence of the person, said the ancient philosophers, and can affect many things. A name can evoke fear: “Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself” (Hermione Granger, Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone). A name can evoke feelings of pride or honor: “She was the bravest person I ever knew” (Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird). A name identifies us: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him ‘Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’)” (Matthew 1:23). A name draws us into community within a family.
The change of a name can hold significant meaning. For centuries and in countless texts, change of a name usually indicates a change in mission, in outlook, in journey; it symbolizes something that is new in the person while acknowledging all that has come before. In Scripture, Jesus changes the name of Simon, a humble fisherman disciple, to Peter because, He says, “on this rock [petrus or Peter] I will build my Church” (Matthew 16:18). The change of Peter’s name changed his mission, his outlook, his journey. He was now the rock on which the Church was to be built, all the while not forgetting who he was as a fisherman along the shores of the Sea of Galilee not long before.
In our Gospel reading for this 7th Sunday of Easter, we hear Jesus pray these words:
“I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world.
They belonged to you, and you gave them to me,
and they have kept your word.
Now they know that everything you gave me is from you,
because the words you gave to me I have given to them,
and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you,
and they have believed that you sent me.
I pray for them.”
Jesus tells the Father that He has revealed His name to those whom He called. He reveals the name of God to the disciples, to all of us throughout the centuries who have called upon His name and have desired to follow after Him. He has revealed, in a sense, God’s very self, in revealing His name, in giving us the words that He has to give to us.
What is it about this name? What is it that has made kings fall to their knees and the most raucous grow silent? What is it about the One who created the heavens and the earth, and who formed us in our mother’s womb? What is it about this name? In revealing the name of God, Jesus reveals God’s true desire: to live in relationship with us. What a beautiful thought! That the Lord of all creation, the all-powerful and ever-living God, desires us to know His NAME. He desire us to know His name that He might teach us about who He is, that we might know Him, and grow closer to Him day by day. He reveals to us His name, so that we might love Him, trust in Him, and keep His commandments. This is not found in the name of Buddha, or in the name of Mohammed, or the name of Bahaullah, but in the name of the One True God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “I AM WHO AM,” the Creator of the world.
The Lord of all creation reveals His name to us. In our modern day, it is hard for us to reveal even the most minute piece of ourselves to anyone else, for fear of judgment, condemnation, to be labelled as a “fanatic,” a “liberal,” a “conservative,” a “broken person,” “unworthy.” In the midst of this, Jesus reveals to us the most intimate thing about God that He can, His name. Let us this day open ourselves to the Father, who reveals His name to us, that we might draw closer to Him. Let us show Him all that we are, all of our sins and failures, and let us allow Him to heal us, to cleanse us, to raise us up to live and love in His name.
Let us pray.
I am scared of revealing myself. I am worried that if I let a piece of myself be seen and known, that I might be ridiculed or that I might be hurt. Father, help me to open up to You, who have revealed Your name, Your very self, to me. Help me to enter into relationship with You, to love You, and to glory in Your presence. Then, help me to draw closer to others that I might join them in the saving work of the Gospel mission.
In the name of Jesus,
In the Name of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
In the Scriptures, the word Hope is used over 200 times. But hope in the Bible is not the same as the word “hope” in our modern English dictionary. We use the word “hope” to describe our wants, desires and dreams. We hope that it will rain… We hope that the weather cools off soon… We hope this soon to be Deacon isn’t longwinded today! But as Christians we have another kind of hope. In fact, we have a better kind of hope. The hope that I speak of is not wishful thinking, rather it is a firm assurance of things to come. Hope is faith in the future tense. When faith looks to the future, it’s called hope.
The reason that we can have full assurance of what is to come, is because of the source of our hope. Our hope comes from the Lord. God alone has the right to promise hope and the power to keep the promise. I would like to take some time today and examine the hope that we possess in Christ and preach on “Hopes of the Christian.”
There are many things that we can have full assurance thanks to our relationship with Christ. I would like to start in verse 1 and see that as Christians:
- WE HAVE THE HOPE OF A REFUGE – v1
A refuge is a place of shelter, a place of protection, a place that we can run when the storms of life begin to rage. This was exactly what the Lord’s disciples needed at this very moment in their lives. In the previous chapter, Jesus told them that He would soon die. They also learned that one of them (Judas) would betray Christ. Peter was told that he would deny Jesus 3 times before the rooster crowed. Their lives had just taken a devastating turn and their hearts were greatly troubled.
Jesus knew how devastated they were and He was concerned about their “troubled hearts”. He said, “Let not your heart be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me”. He spoke words of comfort to them and He encouraged them to trust in Him.
In this life, we will face times of great trouble. Problems will come and as a result we will possess “troubled hearts”. Maybe you are at that point as we speak. I want to remind you of the hope you possess as a child of God. You have a refuge… When trouble comes…TURN TO JESUS!
Jesus made it clear that His followers would face trouble. But HE also reminds us that HE has the power over any circumstance that we face. John 16:33 “In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world”. If you heart is troubled today… you have a refuge and His name is Jesus!
Not only do we have the hope of a refuge… Jesus tells us in verse 2 that:
- WE HAVE THE HOPE OF A RESIDENCE – v2 “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.”
Though the Disciples were facing the toughest time of their lives, Jesus promised them of a better day and a better place. As His followers, we can cling to that same promise today. We are given a glimpse into that residence in Revelation 21. There we are told of Golden streets, Jasper walls, Gates of pearl and a crystal river. The foundation of that city is made up of precious gemstones.
The beauty of our Heavenly Home is literally indescribable. Our finite minds cannot comprehend the brief glimpse of this place provided in the scriptures. The indescribable beauty of Heaven is summed up in the story of A little girl who was taking an evening walk with her father. Wonderingly, she looked up at the stars and exclaimed; “Oh, Daddy, if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, what must the right side be!” (Source: Charles L. Allen in Home Fires.)
Dear brothers and sisters, you may live in a home that creaks and leaks, rust and rot may have taken its toll, but you can rest assured that there is a home waiting for you on the other side!
Some of you may never own a home of your own in this life, but if you have been born again, YOU HOLD A CLEAR TITLE TO A MANSION! No landlord will ever bother you for the rent. There will be no mortgage to pay and no one will ever foreclose on the home that is waiting for you. The Bible also tells us that we have the hope of rest in the residence that is waiting for us. Revelation 21:4 “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” What is not going to be in that land is just as exciting as what is going to be there!
I am looking forward to that wonderful residence that Jesus has waiting for us in Heaven. Jesus also tells us in verse 1 that:
III. WE HAVE THE HOPE OF REDEMPTION – v2 “I go to prepare a place for you.”
This is one of the most popular passages of scripture in the Bible, but it is also one of the most misunderstood. Jesus was not telling His followers that He was going to “build them a mansion”. He just asserted the fact that the mansions are already there. “In my Father’s house ARE many mansions” We are also told in scripture that when Jesus ascended, He SAT DOWN in His rightful place at the right hand of the Father. Hebrews 1:3 “When he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
When Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place” He was saying I am going to make a way for you. He was referencing the Cross. Our entrance into Heaven was secured by Christ on the Cross at Calvary. He was telling His disciples that HE was going to do what we could not do. Jesus went to Calvary, shed His blood and gave His life as a sacrifice for you and me. Because of His finished work there on the Cross we have the hope of redemption. Without redemption, we would not have hope of the residence or refuge that we have already considered.
– Also, seen in this verse is the fact that:
- WE HAVE THE HOPE OF A RELATIONSHIP – v3 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again.”
This is a very personal promise. Jesus was saying “what I am about to do, I am doing for you”. What He did for Peter, James, John, Andrew, Matthew and the others… HE DID FOR YOU!
– Luke 19:10 Jesus said in Luke 19:10 that He came “to seek and to save that which was lost”.
– Romans 5:8 also tells us that “God commended his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”.
Because of Jesus’ work on the Cross we have the blessed privilege of having a personal relationship with Almighty God. And we don’t have to wait for Heaven for this to occur. You can have a personal relationship with Jesus HERE and NOW! Those that have this relationship will tell you that there is nothing any sweeter than communing with the Savior of the World!
– We are also promised that there is coming a day when Jesus will return for His own. This means that:
- WE HAVE THE HOPE OF A RETURN – v3 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again.”
Jesus told His Disciples that though He may go away for a time, HE WILL COME AGAIN! Jesus has ascended…. He is in Heaven as we speak. But soon and very soon He will split the eastern sky and come for His Children. This is one of the most prominent promises in the Bible. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
As Christians, we are to be “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13)
Jesus is coming back, this is not wishful thinking on our part, this is our hope… this is a firm assurance of things to come. And when Jesus returns there will be a great reunion. Consider:
- WE HAVE THE HOPE OF A REUNION – v3 “I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
There is going to be a reunion one day that is beyond anything we can imagine. All those heroes of the faith that we read about on the pages of God’s Word will be there. (Noah, Moses, Abraham, David, Elijah, John, Peter, Paul etc.)
Some of you have parents waiting for you there. Others have spouses who have already gone on. Some have children in that wonderful land. We all have family and friends that have already stepped out into eternity. We are assured that we will see them again and we long for that blessed reunion.
We are all excited about the beauty of Heaven, we are all excited about the residents of Heaven and we look forward to seeing loved ones who have gone on. But greater than the reunion with our loved ones is the fact that one day we will stand face to face with our Heavenly Father. Revelation 22:3 “The throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: 4 And they shall see his face.”
We will spend eternity in the presence of our Heavenly Father. On top of this fact, we are also longing for the day when our Savior wraps His arms around us and welcomes us to our eternal home. We will see our Savior face to face. We will see the scars on His brow, His hands and His feet. We will be reminded that He is the only reason that we made it to that place. On that day, we will shout for joy and we will humbly bow at His precious feet and we will worship Him for making a way for us to enter that promised land.
There is much hope for those who have been born again but for those who are lost, things are much different. Instead of hope, they are living in despair.
One of the most devastating things you will ever hear in this life is “there is no hope”. I am here to tell you, if you are not a child of God you have NO HOPE! You can claim none of the promises that we have examined today.
But I have good news, THERE IS HOPE FOR YOU, and that hope is only found in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! If you will surrender to Him and accept his offer of eternal life, then you too can have hope!
1) You can have the Hope of a Refuge
2) You can have the hope of a Residence
3) You can have the hope of Redemption
4) You can have the hope of a Return
5) You can have hope of a Reunion
These are just a few of the facts concerning “The Christian’s Hope”. I pray that you have that hope today. If not, pray now with me.
Oh Lord, for too long I have hoped for the wrong things in this life. I now put my hope fully in You. I hope for a refuge when life is rough, for redemption for all my sins, for your return that I may be taken with You, for a reunion with all those who I have loved and lost, and for a residence in Your Heavenly Kingdom. For all my sins Lord I am sorry. Forgive me Lord, forgive me. Create in me a clean heart oh Lord, and fill me with hope everlasting. Amen.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be always acceptable to you O Lord, our God and Our Creator.
What makes a good pastor? This is a question that is often on the mind of those who feel called to follow the path of Priesthood and leadership in the Church. It’s also one that many theologians and authors have attempted to answer in a plethora of books, seminars and university courses. There are so many models that a leader in the faith can follow depending on their views of leadership, their secular occupations or even their political views. However, there is one model of leadership that has stood the test of time and has the seal of Gospel approval; the model found in the Gospel reading for today.
Throughout the Gospels Christ conveys the deep message of the mysteries of God’s love in ways that would have been very real to his listeners in a practical sense and well known to them through a lifetime of hearing the messages of the Hebrew Scriptures; today is no exception with Christ invoking the image of the Shepherd as the model of gospel leadership.
If you examine a topographical map of Israel it becomes quickly apparent that the area around Jerusalem, Bethlehem and many of the places mentioned in the New Testament were very hilly. I imagine that these places were not well suited to a lot of different agricultural occupations and that this is why we often see Christ speaking of vineyards and shepherds as these would have been amongst the most common agrarian occupations in the area. Those who were listening to the message Christ was delivering today would have easily understood what He was talking about because they were things they were seeing in their daily lives.
There is also another level of understanding that the Jews listening to Christ’s message of what constitutes a good pastor would have had. From the very dawn of time the message of Shepherds being leaders used for God’s purposes was a part of Jewish history; Abel, Adam and Eve’s son found favour with God and was a tender of animals, a Shepherd. Later in the Old Testament we are introduced to what the Jews consider their greatest prophetic leader, Moses. He may have started his career as a Prince but when he met God in the burning bush what was he doing? He was tending his father in law Jethro’s sheep and God called him to shepherd the flock of Israel out of Egypt, give them God’s law and lead then through the winding path to the Promised Land. Later again, once Israel is established in the Promised Land we see the rise of the greatest political and spiritual leader the nation ever had, King David. And what was it that David was doing when the Prophet Samuel discovered him and proclaimed him the Kings anointed chosen to replace King Saul? He was a Shepherd tending his father’s sheep. So we see that Israel, and therefor Christ’s listeners, were used to the greatest of leaders being associated with the lowly task of tending to the flock.
I want to pose a question; are there Shepherds amongst us today? In the Gospel account Christ highlights that a good pastor is the one who cares for the sheep; that enters through the gate of God’s Word (the scriptures and Jesus himself). He tells us that the Shepherd will know his sheep by name, he will care for them as individuals and want to know them personally and deeply. And that through this caring attitude the sheep will recognise their shepherd.
In some parts of the world today is what is called Vocations Sunday; the time that throughout the Churches the people pray that God will touch the hearts and souls of those who are suitable to Shepherd God’s flock and that those so touched will be brave enough to respond to that call. Do you offer prayers like this? Technically every Sunday should be a day to focus on fostering the life of those called to be pastors of God’s flock but this special Sunday (sometimes called Good Shepherd Sunday) is a great day for us all to take a little time to pray that God will bring more vocations to our Church, to expand the ranks of the Clergy so that the Christian community throughout the Church can be served as best suits their needs.
Those who know me and know of my own sense of calling and vocation know that I have a love for sharing the Gospel and spreading the message of Christ through word and deed. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be a member of the Order of Preachers, Independent; the Dominican Religious Order of our Church. I see in today’s reading and its focus on vocations a call and a challenge. Christ is saying to us, you know what, not everyone has heard my voice, not everyone knows that I am their Shepherd and protector and they need to know! I want all people, all of God’s Children, to be in the fold, I want them all to receive the gift of Salvation through belief in my name and my saving grace and I want YOU to help me do it.
All of us who were baptised were called to be a part of Christ’s people, we were called to be a part of the Great Army of Witnesses to Christ’s life, death and resurrection and as such we have been anointed and given the power and authority of the Great Royal Priesthood of all Believers. The responsibility to share the word and works of Christ for the salvation not only of ourselves but others rests on all of our Shoulders, not just the clergy, not just those called to serve in vowed religious life, not just on the missionaries called to foreign lands. We all have a responsibility to share what we have been given; faith in Christ.
Now I am sure that you are all getting tired of hearing this message, but because it’s my passion I think that it is one worth repeating (and I do so frequently) and Christ did too, because nearly every week I hear the call to evangelism and mission in the scriptures being read. Now, as I’ve said before, I’m not asking any of you to start standing on the street corner on market day and wave your bible preaching fire and brimstone, I’m not sure that would help anyone but there are so many little ways we can all contribute to spreading the Gospel, and if we all do a little then a lot will happen…as the song goes “From little things big things grow.
There is one final powerful message that I want to mention before I end and that is sacrifice. In I hope and pray that this week you will take the message of gospel leadership to heart. I pray that you will look into your own life and find those ways that you can be a shepherd to the people around you. Take the times to listen and get to know those you have responsibility for or who are simply “in your life”. If you listen to them, and minister to them where they are in their lives I know that we can all bring more souls to Christ and together be a great band of shepherds leading God’s flock to salvation in Christ.
Today is the feast of Saints Philip and James, Apostles.
During this time between Easter and Pentecost, we continue to see that the Apostles still were unsure of what was happening in their lives. At the Last Supper, Philip continues to pester Jesus about his ministry. “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Of course, he lumps the others Apostles in to this plea, perhaps as a way of strengthening his argument. And we do know from other Gospel passages that they really were not sure of their ultimate mission.
But Jesus says to him,
“Have I been with you for so long a time
and you still do not know me, Philip?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?”
And let’s look at the first reading from Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians. He gives them a version of the Creed, and then lists those to whom Jesus appeared after his death, ending with himself. He says, “I am reminding you…” It’s as if he is reciting known facts in order to strengthen his preaching as well as recapping a message, all the better to strengthen his audience’s understanding.
Similarly, in the Responsorial Psalm, there is a teaching from heaven to all the earth, declaring the glory of God.
For me, this day of Saints Philip and James is like the overture to an opera. Little pieces of the whole, presented as a warm-up to the opening of the curtain and the glorious theatrical production. And isn’t that also what this time between Easter and Pentecost is? Time and again, we are told that certain things happened with Jesus and the Apostles after the Resurrection, but it never really takes hold, the Apostles continue to have doubts and anxieties. We hear themes, we get snippets of the whole, we recognize the very beginnings of the church that Jesus is presenting.
We don’t know much about Philip…some stories in the Gospels, some traditions that he preached in Greece, Syria, and Phrygia, that he was martyred on a cross, upside down, and only recently, that his tomb may have been discovered in Turkey. We know that James, called James the Lesser, became the bishop of Jerusalem and wrote one of the epistles in the New Testament.
But we do know, and especially from today’s Gospel, that eventually all the Apostles and many of the disciples all went out into the world after Pentecost and did what Jesus said: “…whoever believes in me will do the works that I do…”
And we do know that we have thirty-two days before Pentecost. And we do know that during this time, we can gather as many of the tools that we can to do what James says in his epistle, that we may have faith, but we also must have good works.
And so, while we listen to the stories of the overture, we can use them all as review sessions for what we have been, as Christians, chosen to do: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”
Lord, help us in these days of Easter to prepare ourselves for your kingdom. Help us to ask of you the things that we need to complete your mission on earth. And help us to store up in heaven the riches of your word and your blessings. In Jesus’ name.
Last week, during the Mass of Easter Sunday, we learned that Mary Magdalene came to the tomb where Jesus was buried and found it empty. She went and told Simon Peter and John and returned with them to the tomb. After they left, she stayed behind weeping. She looked again into the tomb and saw two angels who asked her why she was weeping. “They have taken my Lord and I don’t know where they laid him. Then, seeing a person whom she thought was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.”
“Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher.
“Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
Mary Magdalene tells the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” and what he told her.
What was their reaction?
They went into a room and locked the door!
Mary was the first person to proclaim the resurrection and she was not believed, even by those who had been told by Jesus what would happen in these times.
What’s with us? Why do we need proof? Why do we always need proof?
Now in this week’s Gospel, Jesus himself comes into the room where the disciples were cowering and says, “Peace be with you” and shows them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced. Jesus makes no mention that we know of about their fear and hiding, but instead breaths the Holy Spirit upon them and exhorts them to their mission as ministers of the Word. In John’s Gospel, this is all quite matter of fact.
So let me ask you, did they all believe at that time? We know that Thomas didn’t since he wasn’t present on that day and since he was a no-nonsense and fatalistic kind of guy anyway. (Remember when Jesus was going to Judea to raise Lazarus, Thomas says “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”) But what about the others? Don’t we all know some people, who, when presented with the facts, say, “Well, maybe it’s true, but probably not…” I’m thinking specifically about some people and current scientific knowledge.
But back to the disciples…my guess is that it took Thomas to challenge the Lord, the physical Lord, to come and show him his wounds for some of those disciples to come around. “Show it to me in black and white!” How many of us base our beliefs on evidence, like these disciples?
And here is Thomas. This is a comforting person, in my mind. You always know where you stand with him. In the Gospels, he’s always jumping right in and telling you what he thinks. No beating about the bush.
Proof? I’ll give you proof!
And then he believes. Remember that movie that had the line “show me the money!”? That’s Thomas. And unlike those of us, myself included, who hang back, once he is shown the money, he’s off and running. What a gift that must be, to have all your doubts cast aside and then immediately to go out and get on with the job.
So let me ask you about Mary Magdalene. All she has to hear is Jesus speak her name and she knows what’s up. She proclaims the faith, the risen Lord, and does so fearlessly. In the Gospels, she is mentioned more than many of the Apostles. She was a person of some means, since we are told she is one of the women to provide for Jesus and his disciples. And unlike Thomas, she doesn’t demand anything. She simply sees, believes, and acts.
Why isn’t she one of the bigger names in the Bible? Why isn’t she one of the leaders?
Let’s go back to today’s second reading where Peter is proclaiming the new faith. He is talking about Mary Magdalene. Simple, committed, rejoicing, willing to accept trials, and rejoicing with an indescribable and glorious joy.
And the Responsorial Psalm. Mary has recognized Jesus from the beginning as the cornerstone.
And the first reading from Acts. Who provided all the meals and needs of the Apostles and disciples from the beginning, to the time when they set out to preach the good news? Mary Magdalene.
Thomas and Mary Magdalene.
Which one are we imitating? Which one do we resemble? Is it one or the other? Or is it both? Or neither?
I’ll be glad to have either’s way of thinking, because it is plain to see. Plain both before we believe, and plain after we believe. It is a direction. There’s no middle ground.
As someone once told me, being a Dominican Friar is not a matter of taking it up when you think about it. It’s not a matter of study during the week. It’s not a matter of prayer or meditation. It’s everything you do. There’s no time off.
And I believe that person was telling me that to be a Christian, to believe in the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ, you must live it every moment. Not in big ways, not in momentous acts, not in fiery exhortations, not in anything that looks like some big deal. Just in the simple day to day experience of knowing that we are attaining the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls.
We are true brothers and sisters of Jesus who will go with him to his Father and to our Father. And as brothers and sisters today, we say “Rabbouni!”
Lord, teach us today the simple pleasure of membership in your family. Teach us the true meaning of your death, burial, and resurrection. And make us worthy of the coming of the Paraclete so that we may also be comforters to our earthly brothers and sisters.
First Reading – Acts 10:43A, 37-43
Peter proceeded to speak and said:
“You know what has happened all over Judea,
beginning in Galilee after the baptism
that John preached,
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power.
He went about doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the devil,
for God was with him.
We are witnesses of all that he did
both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.
They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.
This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible,
not to all the people, but to us,
the witnesses chosen by God in advance,
who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
He commissioned us to preach to the people
and testify that he is the one appointed by God
as judge of the living and the dead.
To him all the prophets bear witness,
that everyone who believes in him
will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.“The right hand of the LORD has struck with power;
the right hand of the LORD is exalted.
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the LORD.”
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 5:6B-8
Brothers and sisters:
Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?
Clear out the old yeast,
so that you may become a fresh batch of dough,
inasmuch as you are unleavened.
For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.
Therefore, let us celebrate the feast,
not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Sequence — Victimae Paschali Laudes
Christians, to the Paschal Victim
Offer your thankful praises!
A Lamb the sheep redeems;
Christ, who only is sinless,
Reconciles sinners to the Father.
Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous:
The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.
Speak, Mary, declaring
What you saw, wayfaring.
“The tomb of Christ, who is living,
The glory of Jesus’ resurrection;
bright angels attesting,
The shroud and napkin resting.
Yes, Christ my hope is arisen;
to Galilee he goes before you.”
Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!
Gospel – Matthew28:1-10
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning,
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.
And behold, there was a great earthquake;
for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven,
approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.
His appearance was like lightning
and his clothing was white as snow.
The guards were shaken with fear of him
and became like dead men.
Then the angel said to the women in reply,
“Do not be afraid!
I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified.
He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.
Come and see the place where he lay.
Then go quickly and tell his disciples,
‘He has been raised from the dead,
and he is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him.’
Behold, I have told you.”
Then they went away quickly from the tomb,
fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce this to his disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.
They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.
Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.
Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee,
and there they will see me.”
What is Easter all about? Yes, it is a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus after the gory death on the Cross… BUT what is it COMPLETELY all about? In the secular world, it is a day of the Easter Bunny bringing a basket of goodies and egg hunts; which these things relate to other things taking place around the time of Easter. Think about how Easter takes place in spring, and various plants are beginning to bloom after a long winter; as well as many animals come out of hibernation, and some produce more offspring. It is a day of renewal or rebirth. Some people may see the day of rebirth as a coincidence or scientific thing because the celebration occurs on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox; therefore presenting the case that it obviously is a time of things returning back to life. Essentially all of these things of the secular world are on target with what Easter is REALLY all about. I mentioned that it is a day of renewal or rebirth, BUT the Resurrection is a celebration of spiritual renewal to preach God’s love!
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus preaches about His death and resurrection as being a new beginning, because He tells his followers and the religious leaders many times that the “temple” will be rebuilt three days after it has been destroyed. In the Gospel passage from Matthew for today, we see that Jesus speaks with Mary and Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection, and instructs them to tell the others that He will soon meet them in Galilee. Which then this leads us to the passage from First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, in which Peter instructs the apostles and other followers of Jesus as to what they have been called to do. Peter says, “He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.” Instead of the Resurrection being a “The End” to the ministry of Jesus, it essentially became a renewal because it was now the mission of the apostles to continue the preaching of God’s love.
We see in the Second Reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians that Paul is also preaching about renewal and a fresh start through the image of yeast eventually losing the ability to make dough rise, therefore old yeast has to be replaced with new yeast. He is instructing the Corinthian community that in order to continue to do ministry within the community, a spiritual renewal is necessary.
So, just as Paul is instructing the Corinthians that renewal is necessary, we need to remind ourselves that Easter is a celebration of renewal for us today. We can look at the children enjoying themselves while hunting for eggs and appreciate the plants that have come back to life, but we need to remember that this is a time to renew our spirituality in order to spread the message of Jesus Christ. Everybody needs some renewal in their life… nobody is exempt! Easter is this celebration and reminder to help us grow!
Now unfortunately, recent tragic events have taken place around the world. People are being killed by government leaders in the Middle East, Christians are being persecuted and killed for senseless reasons, and unfortunate military action has become the response to these tragic events. The whole point of Easter is missing from this picture! All of this conflict and persecution are the complete opposite of God’s love. Therefore we need to take the opportunity of renewal and be like Peter; recognizing that we have been commissioned to preach God’s love, with the hope that God’s love will prevail over conflict. It is not an easy task, but one which needs done!
Heavenly Father, as we celebrate the Resurrection, may we be reminded that it is a celebration of spiritual renewal in order for us to spread the Gospel; which is the message of Your love. This we ask through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
Holy Saturday. Sabbatum Sanctum. The day after Good Friday and the day before Easter.
As children, we were taught that on this day, Jesus went down to Hell. It is in the Creed as “He descended into Hell.” As a child myself, this day was one of sadness, fear, and anticipation.
In Sunday School (where we who did not attend a parochial school were forced to go), the nuns depicted this day to us as the time during which Jesus freed all the righteous people who had lived before his time from bondage in darkness and distance from God. We were told that everyone from Adam and Eve was unable to enter heaven because Jesus had not opened it for them.
You can imagine what went through my mind thinking about this day. The nuns in my parish did not always do a good job of explaining what was going on this day and how it affected people in hell. So we kids made up lots of interesting stories. I always thought back to the hymns that sang about our longing for Christ to save us from our sins and the “sins of the world.”
Still, what were those people doing in hell before Jesus came to free them? We were assured that they did not suffer the same fate as sinners, who were tormented by the devil and the fires of hell. Eternal hellfire. That was a pretty scary concept.
It was only later as a youth that I found out about the “harrowing of hell.” Growing up in rural Maryland, I knew what a harrow was. To me, it was always a disc harrow, a bunch of metal discs in a row used to break up clods of dirt after ploughing. And so Jesus used this instrument to open up the soil of hell to let the dead ascend, finally, into heaven. Of course, this was always done in a dark, murky atmosphere suitable to that part of hell that wasn’t on fire.
Holy Saturday…that was quite a fearsome day!
Back then, in the 1950’s, we either didn’t have Easter Vigil as we do today, or my parents never took us to it. Easter Sunday was always THE day for us and Mass was always THE most important ceremony of the year. So from Good Friday to Easter Sunday was a time of agitation.
Of course, the agitation and anticipation was all about the Easter Baskets with colored hard-boiled eggs, candy, and especially jelly beans. And the fact that the solemnity of Lent was at last gone, and maybe the nuns would let up on us…
What must have been going through the minds of the Apostles and the women disciples? I never heard this discussed growing up, but in my adult life, it became one of the things I thought about on Holy Saturday. We know it as anticipation. They experienced it as the utter destruction of their whole world.
Their Teacher was tortured and died a horrible death on a cross. Now what?
For all of the Apostles but John, there must have been intense shame. They had all deserted their Teacher and his mother and had gone into hiding. Imagine their feelings on this day.
What we know today was all taught to them, so there should have been no surprise. But we can say that from the distance of two millennia and the evidence of the empty tomb. This group of grieving souls had none of that.
“But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:31
Written many years after Holy Saturday.
Although all of this was presented to them by Jesus, they really didn’t know what was happening.
They weren’t anticipating Easter eggs, baskets, jelly beans, the solemn joy of the Easter Sunday Mass.
They were deserted, bereft, scared, ashamed, and deeply sorrowful.
We get some or all of these feelings at times of crisis in our own lives. I’ve had them during and after a crisis, and believe me, the sinking feeling in my stomach is quite real and quite frightening.
But wait. We were told the Gospel stories so that we might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God. The disciples thought they had nothing. We have the Word. They had despair. We have triumphant anticipation.
It’s probably a good thing we were never taken to the Vigil. I can’t imagine I’d have done well sitting through all those readings. Seven readings, six psalms, an Epistle, the Gospel…it just goes on forever, doesn’t it?
“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child.”
Now I know that the Vigil is actually the most calming lullaby God could ever sing to me. It tells our whole story, from the beginning of time to the Resurrection. Everyone is created, everyone goes through bad times, everyone sees glimmers of hope, everyone in some way gets through the troubles, everyone can pray these words from one of those psalms:
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
You are clothed with majesty and glory,
robed in light as with a cloak.
Because we know that while now we may shed tears, dawn will bring incomparable gladness.
We have Holy Saturday to teach us how to live through all our times of despair and fear. We have salvation history in all those readings, we have the stories of a small group of terrified disciples who on Sunday will experience that incomparable gladness. We have the anticipation we remember as children and the delight we see in our own children’s eyes on Sunday. And we have the words of John, the disciple who stayed with his Teacher through all the horror and who was told to care for the Blessed Mother:
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
We have come through the dark nights of our souls and we will be able, finally to say Alleluia.
Lord, help us to remember that your son suffered, died, and was buried for our sakes. Help us to remember that even as we face crisis and trouble, the next day will bring incomparable gladness if we trust in you. Help us to remember that Easter comes after Holy Saturday.