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Contents: Volume 2 - 2nd Sun. of Easter - 4-23-2017


 

 The 2nd

Sunday

EASTER

2017

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

5. – (Your reflection can be here!)

 

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1.

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2nd Sun. of Easter

Our readings this Second Sunday of Easter give us a glimpse of how things were around the first Easter, at the time of Jesus. We read/hear that before they knew that Jesus was alive that the apostles were behind locked doors in fear of the Jews. We also find out how things changed when Jesus appeared to them and then how the fledgling faith community grew. Where are we, today's believers, in our story of being a follower of Christ?

My grand daughter's week long Easter "break" from school began on Easter Sunday this past week, but my husband's was the week before Easter. So the stay at home ladies decided to sleep in and do some of the fun things that can't go on during school hours or when we do go away on a vacation. It is a relaxed time for sure with more fun and fewer time constraints, certainly different from our normal routine, but not a very different way of life after the dramatic few days of deepening faith that we experienced over the Triduum together. It seems to me much too much like "business as usual".

Our first reading says that for the early community "Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles." Not here! Are we still too "wound up" to have allowed our faith experience to sink deep into our hearts? I was hoping for "a new birth to a living hope". In truth, we still have the majority of the week to go since I do this weekly reflection early in the week before the preceding Sunday, but still.....

I imagine, however, that many households are experiencing the "same old, same old" every day tasks and feelings that we are, without dramatic changes, vacations or not, school or not. Something is wrong about that, or at least it seems wrong to me. We are a family of faith... what is going on... or not going on?

Upon reflection, my answer concerns awareness and intentionality. My thoughts return to an excellent homily this Easter Sunday by my pastor, Fr. Jack Walmesley. He was retelling how a woman demonstrated heron-going faith in extraordinary circumstances after a tragedy occurred in her life. It was basically a formula for all of us for authentic Christian living and moving on. The most poignant part was his profound statement that "God uses the events in our life that could destroy us... to save us".

What is it in your life that threatens to destroy you? Is it boredom or over work? Is it your sullen teenager or an aggressive boss? Is it being too much in demand or feeling forgotten? Is it an illness or an influx of wealth? Is it thinking about a nuclear war or not being able to feed your family? Is it not being listened to because you are too young or too old? Is it the encroachment of too much noise or too much silence? Our world is FULL of unrecognized obstacles that could destroy us as well as reasonable fears and tragedies. The only way to overcome them is to become aware of their power and to rely on one's faith to weather them.

To me, relying on one's faith means keeping it in mind, always. The practice of prayer makes that a possibility; awareness makes it a reality. This week, it is necessary for me to point out where God peeks into and joins in our activities. Otherwise the sameness and my unfulfilled (and often unrealistic) expectations will destroy a growing part of my faith and that of my family.

I do believe in "an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven" for each of us. Jesus made that possible and Jesus is still alive in today's world! Reminding myself, young grand daughter and her mom about how God acts through everyday actions is pretty important. I trust that God will use that to save me, mostly from myself.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Second Sunday of Easter, April 23, 2017

Acts of Apostles 2:42-47; Responsorial Psalm 118; 1st Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31

The readings this Sunday, the second Sunday of Easter, continue the excitement of discovery that Jesus is not dead! From the first rays of light of this first day of the week, we are told the discovery of the empty tomb did nothing to allay doubt that Jesus was alive. Every person, from Mary of Magdala, to the disciple Jesus loved, to Peter, to the two walking home to Emmaus, to the disciples in the upper room, to Thomas who was out looking for a job on that first day of the week --- everyone doubted. Even though Jesus had told them what was going to happen to him in Jerusalem this Passover, they doubted. Resurrection was not a part of their experience, not a part of the history of the Jews. True, the prophets Elijah and Elisha had each revived a son to a widow. True also, the disciples had experienced Jesus reviving the son of the Widow of Naim. Jesus also revived his friend Lazarus even after Lazarus lay three days in a tomb. It was this last miracle that convinced the chief priests, the scribes, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees that Jesus had to be eliminated. But no one had ever witnessed a revivification of a person whose lungs and heart had been pierced with a lance. No one!! For this person to live again was incomprehensible. It meant this person had a new life, one that had gone to the other side of death. Death could never again touch this one who conquered it. Jesus’ life was something new, something never heard of before. The first witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus were women. They came to the tomb to anoint the body of their beloved one according to Jewish burial rituals. There had not been time on Good Friday since sunset was the beginning of the most holy of days of Jewish faith when no work was permitted.

In all four gospels, the resurrection story tells us every one doubts the resurrection -- until Jesus comes to them, until Jesus is experienced. When Peter lost the foot race with John to the tomb, it was John who saw the folded burial cloths and believed and led Peter to understand as well: at that moment they go beyond doubt. They believed even though the mind does not comprehend how this can be. The two walking to Emmaus heard the women’s report, but didn’t believe. When Jesus walked with them, related the Hebrew Scriptures to the Christ, and broke bread they experienced Jesus and lost their doubts. The disciples locked themselves in the upper room, fearful of discovery by Jews and Romans. The locks kept out more than enemies. They locked themselves in, closed themselves against fear of their crucifixion. It’s strange they should cluster together, making it easier for authorities to capture them. Their fear demanded company. They forgot Jesus telling them of his death and his promise of resurrection. Fear gripped them, brought them to their knees, controlled minds, hearts, and emotions. When Jesus came to them without benefit of an open door they believed. But even then Jesus had to prove he was no ghost, no figment of mass hallucination. He showed them the marks of the nails in his hands and the lance’s piercing his heart. They doubted the possibility of resurrection. This Jesus of their dreams, the one who fulfilled their hopes and the hopes of the nation for the Messiah, had been killed. There was no doubt of his death. His body was rendered incapable of being revived. Who could live with those wounds? Who could be revived with such devastating rending of flesh, of heart and lungs pierced through, incapable of breath, unable to pump or retain life blood?

Whoever came back to life after wounds so devastating? This was absolutely new: never before had this happened. Only God could have caused this miracle. This man standing before them lived – Magdala shouted, "My Savior lives! His wounds remained but were not death yielding but signs of death conquered. His was a different life beyond any experienced or imaginable. This had to be the result of God’s finger: this is a new creation. This happens on the first day of the week. In Genesis this is the first day of creation when chaos and disorder are conquered and set aside. This new creation begins with Jesus extending Peace to his disciples. There’s no hint of vengeance in his voice. There is no accusation of betrayal or cowardice. There is only a wish of peace to them.

Why peace? Is peace the absence of conflict? The history of the Christian Community is filled with persecution, martyrdom, and terror. Distrust of Christian values began immediately and continues even now. What sort of peace did Jesus offer? Our world is not at peace. Political scientists tells us we are closer to nuclear war now than at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Political power increasingly comes from conflict, from betrayals, from manipulation of truth, from character assassinations, from pitting enemies against each other, and most clearly from creating issues that divide citizens. In two thousand years, the Christian message has done little to set aside such behavior. It’s common place throughout the world. Has Jesus failed? Why is there no peace among us? In the Middle East, Christians, Jews, and Muslims greet each other with "peace be with you." The response is always "With you also peace." This is the peace called Shalom. It means more than the absence of conflict, contention, or divisiveness. That greeting is a wish, a hope, for fullness of life to the one greeted. That peace is a life filled with promise and possibility. The opposite of this peace is not armed conflict. The opposite is the confinement of the human spirit by fear and uncertainty. Just as the disciples were locked away in the upper room by their fear and uncertainty, so we confine ourselves in choosing smallness of character: we chain ourselves with the fear of the unknown: we think we are threatened by the presence of others’ aggression. Wishing someone peace is to wish that person access to a fulfilling life, to possibilities of growth of character and spirit, to access to energy shedding chains that bind and limit us. This is not about a vital and expanding economy. This is not about great accumulations of wealth. This is not about a controlling and conquering power. This is not about wallowing in exuberant pleasure. This is about our innards: this is about our character. This strikes and meets us where and how we live. It is what makes us to be the person we are.

Jesus follows this offer of shalom with the power to forgive sins. Sin is what binds us to smallness, to what diminishes our dignity and worth. Forgiving sin means to unbind, to loosen the chains that confine us, that limit us. Sins are forgiven when the sinner understands his sin. The sinner craves forgiveness when he realizes his wrongheaded life choices. Then he knows sin as chains and locks. This begins only with a desire to be freed. It is this desire we discover when we are called by God to the empty tomb, the sign of death defeated, of chains broken. But we should not allow ourselves to be confused by God’s mercy. Humans are created free to choose. Anyone who chooses to remain chained by sin chooses to be bound.

On this Sunday of Doubting Thomas, we are reminded of God’s coming to us. This Sunday is designated Divine Mercy Sunday. This is how God deals with us. He is merciful, always looking for opportunities to reach us, to change us, to make us whole. This is not God feeling sorry for us. It is God entering into an exchange with us. His love is given to us and we have only to return a life lived in belief, in freedom of the children of God.

The doubting Thomas in the upper room is us. We don’t know if Thomas actually touched the nail wounds or the open side of the Raised Jesus. We do know he realized in that encounter that Jesus is God. He doesn’t know how or even why. He just knows Jesus is God. This is the end of John’s gospel. When it begins, it begins with John the Baptist speaking about the Son of God. As the gospel ends, John identifies through the mouth of Thomas the Doubter, that Jesus is divine. This makes all the difference in the world. Though the world is a mess, though nations war and kill each other, though violence, greed, avarice, unbridled pleasure seeking, theft, and abuse are rampant – we are still cling to the resurrection of the Lord and know he is God with us. He is not only risen: he is with us and for us. We’ve got to unlock our hearts, our minds, and our emotions to the Lord among us and accept the peace he extends. What binds us? What chains us to smallness? What keeps us closed in on ourselves? We recall Moses’ encounter with the burning bush in the high desert. "Who are you?" Moses asks. "I am who is with you in everything, in every way, in all moments," the presence in the bush replies. God is with us but does not force us: he offers us insight, hope, and unbounded energy. God gives so we as individuals and community of faithful believers can grow into the greatest possibility for each of us. That is the exchange we have with God: God gives us his energetic love and we apply it to our hearts, minds, feelings, and to our hands in the works we do. This has to do with our spirits, our character. God grows us through our choices and our efforts. God grows us! We become with his help all we can be in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. This has so little to do with success in the world. But even worldly success that is lasting and enduring comes only from depth of character that reveals the dignity and worth God gave us as gift when we were conceived. The Christian doesn’t pursue success, but seeks in his life the God who created us and continues to create us. We grow from doubt to faith: from darkness to light: from dying and death to living and life. This derives from the wonderful mercy of the God who loves us each and every one. There is no person not loved by God – not the child whose body washes up on a lonely beach, not the disfigured person cared for by Mother Teresa, not the tyrant who wastes his life for his own purposes, not even the most ordinary of us. God loves each of us with his enduring love. We are each worth the price of resurrection which comes only through suffering and death. That is God’s mercy, his gift to us. What are we to return to the Lord for all he has done for us?

The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles indicates what happens when we come to belief. Our lives change. The ways of the world -- competition, accumulation, domination, and pursuit of fame and pleasure -- lose out to living as the community who knows the Risen Lord. This Sunday of Divine Mercy is a time to renew our faith: this is the time to reimagine our lives. In our Holy Week remembering we’ve encountered God in the person of Jesus now the Christ: this is the time to cut off the chains that bind us: this is the time to embrace the freedom as we are set free from death and dishonor. Our Easter Joy, our rebirth as children of God and brother to the Risen Jesus Christ, should make us leap like the young lambs of spring.

All are doubters, some frequently, some seldom, some all the time. When we meet Jesus on the street, at our work station, at the park, at the cinema, at our meals, then we can meet him with his wounds a badge of honor. In those meetings we live a resurrected life with the Lord. May the Light of Christ illumine our eyes to see him, our ears to hear him, our touch to feel him present. May it be so.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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JESUS’ EASTER GIFT: 2ND SUNDAY OF EASTER A

‘Jesus breathed on them and said: "Receive the Holy Spirit" ‘(Jn 20:22)

Easter means a great deal more than Easter bunnies, Easter eggs and Easter parades. As outward signs of joy and hope they have a place. But they only skim the surface of what Easter truly means, at least for Christians. The English poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, speaks of the meaning of Easter as being what must happen to us, because of what happened to Jesus. 'Let him easter in us,' the poet writes, 'be a dayspring [a dawn] to the dimness of us ...' The poet's message, expressed more simply, plainly, bluntly, is that the Risen Lord must rise in us - in our minds, attitudes, hearts and actions - if Easter is to happen to us. So much so that Sister Joan Chittister suggests that our celebration of Easter puts before us a 'momentous question': 'Will we ourselves,’ she asks, ‘touched by Jesus now rise and do things differently?' She spells out what this might mean:

... we must be prepared to be surprised by God in strange places, in ways we never thought we'd see and through the words of those we never thought we'd hear. … It presumes that we will reach out to the other - to the ... immigrants and the blacks, to the strangers, the prisoners and the poor - in order to divine [discover] what visions to see with them, what cries to cry for them, what stones to move from the front of their graves.

The Word of God today spells out HOW Jesus both can and does easter in us. Particularly telling are these words of Jesus to his followers, words which go with his gift. They are the words: 'RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT.' Recalling them today reminds us that the Risen Lord is with us now and until the end of time, in the form and person of the Holy Spirit.

This is an important aspect of our Easter Faith, one we declare every Sunday when we state In the Creed: ‘I believe in the Holy Spirit.' But if asked to explain what we mean, perhaps we would become tongue-tied. Part of our difficulty is that we cannot imagine or picture the Holy Spirit as easily as we can put a face on the Father and the Son. We all know fathers and mothers and their children, and this helps us to think of God as Father and Mother, and to think of Jesus as God's Son. But we simply cannot put a face on the Holy Spirit.

But the Holy Spirit is just as real, and some images may help us realize that. The Hebrew word for 'spirit' means 'wind 'or 'breath' and occurs 378 times in the Old Testament alone. So in sharing his own Spirit with them, Jesus first breathes on his gathered apostles. Earlier he said that like the wind the Spirit of God 'blows where it wills' (John 3:8). In fact, all his teaching on the Spirit suggests that like the wind the Spirit of God [Love itself] moves things along, warms them into life, drives them into action, and changes situations for the better. In a beautiful song Andrew Lloyd Webber puts it this way: ‘Love, it changes everything.’

We do not experience the Spirit of God directly but in its effects on us. So much so that we can say that the Holy Spirit is the power of God and the love of God at work in our lives. To speak this way is to speak of grace. The grace that is the Holy Spirit gets things done in God's way - in us personally, in our Church, and in our world. All through the Acts of the Apostles (that book of New Testament book we read throughout Easter), Luke highlights the Holy Spirit as the chief apostle, the divine apostle behind the human apostles. The Spirit keeps prompting them, guiding them, energizing them, restraining them, reassuring them, and comforting them. Again and again they sense the Spirit saying to them: 'Do this’, 'Do that', 'Go here', 'Go there', etc., etc.

What a gift, what a wonderful gift! The very same Spirit of God who formed Jesus in the womb of Mary his mother, the very same Spirit of God who empowered him at Baptism to go about doing good and healing all sorts of wounded and troubled people, the very same Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead, has been shared with you and with me! So that yesterday, today and tomorrow we can be the comforting and healing presence of Jesus to all kinds of people!

This Easter gift of Jesus to his followers ought, then, fill us with that same peace and joy, that same exuberance and enthusiasm that led St Augustine to shout out loud: 'We are an Easter people and Alleluia [praise God] is our song!'

Just imagine! Jesus Christ keeps coming to us in the power of the Holy Spirit, his other self, to change us for the better, and to send us out to make a better world!

Simply amazing! Absolutely awesome!

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Year A,B,C: 2nd Sunday of Easter.

"Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe."

Thomas’ problem is one we all have – he speaks beyond his knowledge; he judges before he has considered; he condemns what he has not understood. Which of us has not done that?

I once lived with a saintly old Jesuit. You’ll be pleased to know that we still have one or two. In his late eighties, he was incapable of even the simplest work, so he was sent to the noviceship to be a good influence on the wild young men that we once were.

He loved it. He said that he was now too old to be anything except love and to do anything except pray. But what we all found most remarkable was that he was a man of complete hope and trustfulness. Whatever occurred, he found the good in it. Whoever he met, he found the good in them also. In his belief – though he would never have put it this way – God lives in and through every little piece of His creation and in every moment of recorded time. He did not have a negative bone in his body.

But if I am honest, he was also a man whose goodness could annoy. He seemed – to my mind - just a little bit too full of himself, too full of how happy he was in life, too full of enjoyment of the good things in life and (especially for me as a young man with my own struggles in that area) just a little too fond of the company of women.

We asked him about it – he said there had been times in his life when he had been cynical, but he was too old for that now. He said that people always died from the feet upwards and, since cynicism is the lowest part of a person, that is always the first to go. [Sadly, I think he was rather better at sanctity than anatomy.] But, truth to tell, we also found that odd. Not just odd in the sense of unusual, though his grace was certainly unusual, but moreso because we knew that, during the Second World War, he had spent four terrible years in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp – and had been one of the very few who had survived. He rarely spoke about it – we believed because he found it hard to speak with charity about those who had tortured him and killed his friends. But on those occasions when he did, he always did so to describe some moment of humour, of goodness, of love. So perhaps it was not, in fact, so odd. He did, after all, survive. And, having survived, every moment came to him like the personal blessing of God; and every person came to him like a new vessel of the Holy Spirit.

Well, one day just a few months ago, in a moment of complete idleness, I put his name into ‘Google’. A few choices came up, I picked on one at random and this is what I read: (I thought of correcting the English for your sensitive eyes, but then I changed my mind – better you hear the story as it is told by a man – a man called Len Abbie - who was there at time)….

"When we were captured, Squadron Leader Padre Rorke took his uniform off and changed for an airman’s, for he seemed pretty wised up, they did separate senior officers from other ranks. The Padre said his place was amongst the men and indeed he slept in our billets. I saw him, when a prisoner, take a rifle off a Japanese guard who was beating hell out of an English prisoner. The Padre took the rifle, stood to attention, bowed to the guard and handed him the rifle back. The guard stood flabbergasted. Raised his rifle to hit the Padre, stopped. Then said "Muchigo" (come with me). He took the Padre to the guardhouse. This was at Yar Mari camp, Surabaya where there were at least 3,000 prisoners mostly Dutch. Rumours spread round the camp like wildfire. They will shoot him, they will beat him up. About 3 hours later Padre returned to his hut with a packet of Japanese fags and a bag of fruit. The interpreter said the camp commandant, a Major in the Emperor of Nippon’s Imperial Forces was a true Bushido and admired the courage of the Padre. From that day some of the guards even saluted him. At Malang camp when we were made to witness the execution of four prisoners I said to Padre Rorke "Where is your God now? He let that happen". He replied "What you witnessed this day was not God’s work but man’s".

Reading that made me go back and read again his own little book, Greatness of Heart, Sermons in a Prison Camp.

His text is Romans 9: 31-39 "With God on our side, who can be against us?"

"In Camp II at Pakan Baroe in Sumatra, more or less on the Equator, and unpleasant, I used to preach every Sunday to all and sundry, all races and faiths. Men in adversity instinctively seek God, sometimes unknowingly. It was some time in July and the Collect that day said "Oh God, your Providence rules all things with unfailing wisdom, take away all that harms us and give us all that is for our good".

Alongside the spot where I used to preach there were two long bamboo huts, dignified with the name Hospital, in which lay dozens of men, mostly young, wasting away with all manner of tropical diseases and never enough to eat, and scant medicines. They lay side by side on wooden platform, with no mattresses and often no blankets. Hygiene was primitive. Down the centre were about ten camp beds, where lay the men next to die. They were put there because it was easier to minister to them but they knew they were not going to live. I buried them nearly every evening."

So, I now think I was wrong about Pat. If I had but known it at the time, he had his reasons to enjoy life. He had seen the alternative.

I thought of him today when I read these readings because old Pat Rorke is one of the very few people I know who would not have made Thomas’ mistake. He would have met his fellow disciples with love and heard their words with trust. He might have had his doubts, but he would have gone forward enthusiastically into God’s future.

Let us pray that we may be given the grace to do likewise.

Paul O'Reilly <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John
 


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