Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Recognizing Jesus

A meditation on the Mass readings
for Wednesday within the Octave of Easter

(Acts 3:1-10; Luke 24:13-35)

Walking along the road to Emmaus, two of Jesus’ disciples are disheartened. They still do not understand what it all means—Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. All their hope seems to have vanished along with him (see Luke 24:13-35).

Then Jesus himself joins them, and still, they do not truly see—at least initially. As Luke’s Gospel tells us: “Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.”

Sadly, this is all too descriptive of many Christians. Jesus draws near, he walks with us, and tries to show us the way. If we allow him, as the two disciples do in today’s Gospel, he will eventually get through in Word and Sacrament.

But how often do we really do that? So often, it seems to me, we are so intent on our routines, so “busy” with “important” matters, so eager to keep moving along to the next thing, that we leave Jesus there by the side of the road without even noticing him.

I can just imagine him calling out, “Hey guys, wait up!”

Sorry, we say politely, we’re late. We need to be going.

Or, even if we do allow him to join us, doesn’t it seem that all too often, we’re not really “there”? Preoccupied, we just go through the motions—even in the breaking of the bread.

First we do this, then that. Later comes this, that, and the other. We need to hurry, though.

But, what if we simply slowed down a little, and ...

... breathed deeply,
... allowed a little variation in the routine,
... entered into the sound of the gently falling rain and distant thunder,
... watched the evening sun sink beyond the horizon,
... read something without expecting to “get something out of it” or “do something with it”?

What if we noticed the journey rather than focusing on the destination?

What if we observed something without instantly analyzing or critiquing it?

What if we really listened to someone—anyone—without at the same time formulating our own judgment, response, or opinion?

What if we were simply present to the presence of Christ—God among us?

What if we just stood still to let Jesus catch up with us?

What else is so important, anyway?

Yes, as human beings, we need to be fruitfully occupied. But even noble or holy tasks can become ruthless masters. Life is not a series of tasks to be completed or appointments to be kept. Rather, life is about who we bring to those tasks and appointments—and who we leave with as we move from one to another. Hopefully, by the grace of God, who we bring and who we leave with is not quite the same person. There should be a discernible progression. We should become more like Christ—our companion along the Way. And that means spending time with him, for absolutely no other reason than because he is Jesus. Can we allow ourselves to simply “waste time” in the presence of Jesus each day?

Earlier in Luke’s Gospel (10:38-42), Jesus tells the agitated Martha that her attentive sister Mary has chosen the better part. If Martha and Mary had been the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, I imagine Martha would be way out in front of Mary, worried about keeping good time, hollering back at her loitering sister to step it up.

Mary, meanwhile, would be wandering from one side of the path to another, absorbing the wonder of God’s creation all around her. Stopping to watch a butterfly or pick a flower, perhaps, suddenly Jesus would be there. They then walk side by side, leisurely but passionately conversing, totally absorbed in one another, and calling out to Martha, “Hey, wait up!”

Martha, though, simply mutters and quickens her pace.

When I happen to notice Martha in another person, or in myself, I can only pray that our hearts will burn within us (cf. Psalm 39:4; Luke 24:32) for the presence of Christ. May it always be, so that as Jesus draws near and walks with us, our eyes recognize him, and our voices plead, “Stay with us, Lord!”

Monday, April 21, 2014

New birth into a living hope

May grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Blessed be the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ!
By his great mercy he has given us
a new birth into a living hope
through the resurrection
of Jesus Christ from the dead,
and into an inheritance
that is imperishable, undefiled,
and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
who are being protected
by the power of God
through faith for a salvation
ready to be revealed in the last time.

In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.

Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.
--1 Peter 1:2-9, 13-23

Sunday, April 20, 2014

What is your Galilee?


Vatican Basilica
Holy Saturday, 19 April 2014
The Gospel of the resurrection of Jesus Christ begins with the journey of the women to the tomb at dawn on the day after the Sabbath.  They go to the tomb to honour the body of the Lord, but they find it open and empty.  A mighty angel says to them: “Do not be afraid!” (Mt 28:5) and orders them to go and tell the disciples: “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee” (v. 7).  The women quickly depart and on the way Jesus himself meets them and says: “Do not fear; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (v. 10). “Do not be afraid”, “do not fear”:  these are words that encourage us to open our hearts to receive the message.

After the death of the Master, the disciples had scattered; their faith had been utterly shaken, everything seemed over, all their certainties had crumbled and their hopes had died.  But now that message of the women, incredible as it was, came to them like a ray of light in the darkness.  The news spread: Jesus is risen as he said.  And then there was his command to go to Galilee; the women had heard it twice, first from the angel and then from Jesus himself: “Let them go to Galilee; there they will see me”. “Do not fear” and “go to Galilee”.

Galilee is the place where they were first called, where everything began! To return there, to return to the place where they were originally called.  Jesus had walked along the shores of the lake as the fishermen were casting their nets.  He had called them, and they left everything and followed him (cf. Mt 4:18-22).

To return to Galilee means to re-read everything on the basis of the cross and its victory, fearlessly: “do not be afraid”.  To re-read everything – Jesus’ preaching, his miracles, the new community, the excitement and the defections, even the betrayal – to re-read everything starting from the end, which is a new beginning, from this supreme act of love.

For each of us, too, there is a “Galilee” at the origin of our journey with Jesus.  “To go to Galilee” means something beautiful, it means rediscovering our baptism as a living fountainhead, drawing new energy from the sources of our faith and our Christian experience.  To return to Galilee means above all to return to that blazing light with which God’s grace touched me at the start of the journey.  From that flame I can light a fire for today and every day, and bring heat and light to my brothers and sisters.  That flame ignites a humble joy, a joy which sorrow and distress cannot dismay, a good, gentle joy.

In the life of every Christian, after baptism there is also another “Galilee”, a more existential “Galilee”: the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who called me to follow him and to share in his mission.  In this sense, returning to Galilee means treasuring in my heart the living memory of that call, when Jesus passed my way, gazed at me with mercy and asked me to follow him. To return there means reviving the memory of that moment when his eyes met mine, the moment when he made me realize that he loved me.

Today, tonight, each of us can ask: What is my Galilee?  I need to remind myself, to go back and remember.  Where is my Galilee?  Do I remember it?  Have I forgotten it?  Seek and you will find it! There the Lord is waiting for you.  Have I gone off on roads and paths which made me forget it?  Lord, help me: tell me what my Galilee is; for you know that I want to return there to encounter you and to let myself be embraced by your mercy. Do not be afraid, do not fear, return to Galilee!

The Gospel is very clear: we need to go back there, to see Jesus risen, and to become witnesses of his resurrection.  This is not to go back in time; it is not a kind of nostalgia.  It is returning to our first love, in order to receive the fire which Jesus has kindled in the world and to bring that fire to all people, to the very ends of the earth.  Go back to Galilee, without fear!

“Galilee of the Gentiles” (Mt 4:15; Is 8:23)!  Horizon of the Risen Lord, horizon of the Church; intense desire of encounter…  Let us be on our way!

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Light and Life

"The first day of the week was dawning."
Matthew 28:1

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 18, 2014

O Cruor Sanguinis

Listen to this beautiful chant by our own Br. John Mark:


O cruor sanguinis, qui in alto sonuisti,
cum omnia elementa se implicuerunt
in lamentabilem vocem cum tremor,
quia sanguis cratoris sui illa tetiget.
Unge nos de languoribus nostris.

O earth stained by his blood,
you cried out to heaven
as all your elements turned in upon themselves
and with a voice so sad and with fear shaking,
because the blood of their creator did fall
and touch them all.
O comfort us.
O comfort us in our sorrows.
St. Hildegard von Bingen
English translation by Fr. Harry Hagan, O.S.B.
Chant by Br. John Mark Falkenhain, O.S.B.
Saint Meinrad Archabbey ©2014

An invitation to the feast

"Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word and I shall be healed."

A few thoughts as we keep vigil outside the tomb for the glorious dawn of Resurrection. …

As I have read and pondered the Passion narratives and Gospel texts this Holy Week, one sentence uttered by Jesus has struck me in particular fashion:

My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples” (Matthew 26:18, with Jesus instructing his disciples about what to say to the owner of the building in which they will prepare the Passover meal).
This is an invitation by Jesus not only to his disciples 2,000 years ago, but to each one of us today. He personally calls each of us to the messianic banquet of heaven, the perpetual feast which he instituted on earth, and which we celebrate here and now with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). As the Book of Revelation concludes near the end of the Bible: “Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the lamb” (Revelation 19:9).

This is a great mystery, the likes of which cannot be entered into without humility and awareness of our fallen but redeemed human nature. By God’s grace, the ancient Israelites were delivered from slavery in Egypt as the hand of death “passed over” the homes of those whose doorposts were smeared with the blood of a sacrificed lamb (cf. Exodus 12). This, as God himself decreed, became the annual Jewish feast of Passover, a memorial of thanksgiving and praise for divine deliverance from all that slavery represents (evil, darkness, and death), as well as petition for future salvation.

In the Christian tradition, Jesus, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) fulfills what Passover prefigured. His passion, death, and resurrection took place in Jerusalem during the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread. His blood shed on the cross--like that of the first Passover lamb--delivers us from the slavery of sin and leads us to goodness, light, and life. For this reason, at the Last Supper, “Jesus gave the Jewish Passover its definitive meaning. Jesus’ passing over to his father by his death and Resurrection, the new Passover, is anticipated in the Supper and celebrated in the Eucharist, which fulfills the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final Passover of the Church in the glory of the kingdom” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1340).

This is why, as Catholics, we celebrate the Eucharist. For “on the night he was handed over, [Jesus] took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26; cf. Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20).

In the final analysis, as one Body in Christ—the Lamb of God—we “pass over” from sin to redemption, from the darkness of the tomb on Holy Saturday to the light of Resurrection on Easter Sunday, from death to eternal life. Our participation in the Eucharist perpetuates the messianic banquet of heaven which Christ initiated on earth and which will be fully, finally, and forever realized in the life to come.

So, as the passage above from Matthew 26 illustrates, Jesus invites us as he did the first disciples:

My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.

Jesus wants to enter the house of your heart, each and every day of your life. He says to you the words he directed to the tax collector Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree: “I must stay at your house” (Luke 19:5). In fact, he insists: “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

Like Zacchaeus, then, let us quickly receive Jesus with joy (Luke 19:6). Let us “come to the feast” (cf. Matthew 22:2-10; Luke 14:15-24). And as the Body of Christ, who gave himself up for us out of love, let us live in sincerity and truth—always keeping in mind that Jesus loves his own in the world and loves them to the end” (cf. John 13:1).

And let us become what we receive.

Ecce homo