We have also posted
"First Impressions" reflections for The Triduum:
Picture those two disciples running towards the tomb. Their world
had collapsed, their beloved Jesus cruelly killed. Was he just
another failed liberator, whom they had hoped would free them from
the iron fist of the Romans? Some of his country folk hoped so.
Perhaps Peter and John were also among those who placed their hope
for revolution on Jesus. Formerly Luke described an event that
happened as Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem. Despite a
previous prediction of his upcoming passion, the mother of James and
John – speaking on behalf of her sons – requested from Jesus seats
of honor for them when he "entered his kingdom" (Matthew 20:17-28).
See what they were hoping for – power and privilege? As they entered
Jerusalem the crowds’ excitement was at a fever pitch. Finally, the
Messiah had come to set them free! But the high priest and the
Sanhedrin, in collusion with the Romans, quickly crushed their
dreams by crucifying Jesus.
Back to the two: Peter and John ("the other disciple?") rushing
to the tomb. Mary of Magdala, had gone early in the morning and
found it empty. She drew the logical conclusion: "They have taken
the Lord from the tomb and we do not know where they put him." A
sensible response – what else would have explained the empty tomb?
Unless… the totally unexpected and new had taken place. What were
the two, closest to Jesus, thinking as they rushed to the tomb. What
expressions were on their faces? Fear? Confusion? Shock? Hopeful
astonishment? Probably the same expressions that we have on our
faces when, after a stressed time, we look back on what had happened
and draw on a slim thread of hope for the future.
They were running. Away from what? The old and tired? The used-up
and uninspired? Were they running from death’s grip over their
lives? Towards what? God? The unimaginable? A whole new beginning?
They don’t know quite what is ahead of them, all the evidence isn’t
in yet. Sound familiar?
The homiletician, Thomas Long ("Journal for Preachers," Easter
2001) asks: Where are the senior folk in Luke’s account. They were
there in the beginning of his gospel: Anna (2:36) and Simeon (2:25),
Zechariah and Elizabeth (1:7). The elders played significant roles
at the beginning of Luke, but are no where to be found towards the
end – at the resurrection. Is Luke speaking symbolically in his
omission of the important elders in Jesus’ life? Is it because the
elders at the beginning of the gospel represent the former prophetic
tradition and its Temple worship? Do they also sum up the best of
Israel’s faith in a God who made an unbreakable covenant with the
people: that God would not desert them and would fulfill the promise
made to a people in need?
Luke’s story began with a living hope among a faithful people.
Now we are approaching the end of his narrative – but not the end of
the story! A new generation of believers is about to spring up, to
find their hope fulfilled in a most unexpected way: Jesus has risen
from the dead! God has fulfilled the hopes of Israel in a merciful
and surprising way.
I also wonder about the expression on Peter’s face later on. Our
first reading tells us of his preaching on the occasion of the
baptism of the Gentile Cornelius. While Peter was speaking the Holy
Spirit descended on everybody present (Acts 10:44). What a surprise
for Peter! He was being sent as a witness to the resurrection to the
Gentiles who, like the first disciples, were also gifted with the
The gospel has Peter and his companion running to the empty tomb.
Acts finds him preaching Jesus’ resurrection from the dead to
Gentiles. Can you imagine the surprise on Peter’s face in
Cornelius’s home? I would like to be open to God’s surprises in
what, on my own, is an impossible situation.
Have we in the past, or even now, boxed God in? Have we imagined
God to be just a bigger version of ourselves, with our preferences
and agendas? Maybe that’s the past that we, with the two rushing to
the tomb, have to leave behind. We do not know what is up ahead for
us. Perhaps, like the two, we have fears, confusion – and, hope
against hope. At the end of today’s gospel "the other disciple"
enters the place where death had formally ruled, but he "sees and
believes" – even without the completion of the story. Which is what
we are asked to do, in our waiting for God to finish the story of
our lives – "see and believe." We wait and we believe Christ is
raised from the dead and so shall we be. In the meantime, like
Peter, we will go out into the world and see Christ’s risen presence
in the most unexpected places: among people so different from us,
who also show the signs of the Spirit’s presence in their lives.
Today we celebrate Easter. With God’s grace we have left behind,
or are trying to leave behind, our old ways of thinking and acting,
our presumptions and our prejudices. Jesus is risen from the dead
and our life will never be the same. Sometimes, because of present
uncertainties and trials, we tend to look back over our shoulder to
formal ways and simpler times. At these times God’s word strengthens
us to keep our eyes on the present and look forward to the future,
trusting in the promises God holds for us.
The disciples rushing to the tomb could never expect what God had
in store for the them. They had to wait for God to take the next
step. Later, in the upper room, the risen Christ will appear to the
two, huddled with the rest of the disciples,. But not yet. What will
happen next is completely beyond their timing and schedule.
Don’t most of the deepest life experiences, come as a surprise: a
loved one gives us a warm hug; the word of forgiveness comes
completely undeserved; the stranger helps us; we find Christ in the
face of the poor; our teacher praises us; a simple family meal with
loved ones is a feast. And so on. Where does all that come from? By
chance? Not for the person who "sees and believes" the presence of
the risen Christ coming in surprising ways.
for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD
not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.
Resurrection! God’s greatest surprise and what a great hope God
gives us. If anyone doubts the idea of resurrection, one has only to
look to nature. Pope Francis states, "Clearly, creation itself is a
sign of God’s boundless love for us. Consequently, the gifts of
nature can themselves lead us to contemplate God" (10/31/16,
Sweden). Spend some time with nature today and remember tomorrow,
April 22, is Earth Day.
Earth Day Network’s theme for this year is "Protect Our Species."
On their website, they write, "Nature’s gifts to our planet are the
millions of species that we know and love, and many more that remain
to be discovered. Unfortunately, human beings have irrevocably upset
the balance of nature and, as a result, the world is facing the
greatest rate of extinction since we lost the dinosaurs more than 60
million years ago. But unlike the fate of the dinosaurs, the rapid
extinction of species in our world today is the result of human
activity. The unprecedented global destruction and rapid reduction
of plant and wildlife populations are directly linked to causes
driven by human activity: climate change, deforestation, habitat
loss, trafficking and poaching, unsustainable agriculture, pollution
and pesticides to name a few. The impacts are far reaching. . . The
good news is that the rate of extinctions can still be slowed, and
many of our declining, threatened and endangered species can still
recover if we work together now to build a united global movement of
consumers, voters, educators, faith leaders, and scientists to
demand immediate action." To learn more what you can do, go to:
In his encyclical, Laudato Si, Pope Francis laments that
lack of good stewardship of the earth affects the poor the hardest
and he writes, "The protection of God’s gift of creation cannot be
separated from a sound human and social ecology. Indeed, "genuine
care for our relationship with nature is inseparable from
fraternity, justice and keeping faith with others" (Laudato Si,
70). We are fortunate to have one of our previous rectors, Msgr.
Michael Shugrue, facilitate an opening discussion of Laudato Si
on May 14th at 7PM in St. Monica building. This
introduction will be continued with an in-depth six-week study in
the fall of this year. Each session is a stand-alone; please RSVP to
Happy Easter, everyone! Let’s do our part to keep the hope of
resurrection visible in nature.
Director of Social
Holy Name of Jesus
Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for
persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted
in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
the other disciple [the one whom Jesus loved] also went in,
one who had arrived at the tomb first,
he saw and believed."
With the "beloved disciple" we have been loved with a love that
death cannot overcome. We have come to believe in the permanence of
that love and trust that ,neither sin nor even death, will separate
us from it. We believe we are being held fast by that love–we have
eternal life now, into death and beyond death.
So we ask ourselves:
- Have I had any recent concrete experience of Christ’s love
- How has that affected my outlook in times of loss and
POSTCARDS TO DEATH
to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an
inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form
it is carried out." ---Pope
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison
system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and
addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them
to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them
you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith
Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might
consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
- Wade Cole #0082151 (On death row since 6/14/94)
- Marcus Robinson #0348505 (8/5/94)
- Alden Harden #0166056 (8/12/94)
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC
For more information on the Catholic position on the death
penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:
Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the
is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday
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If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group,
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Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies
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4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those
wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the
Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent
weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above
you and blessings on your preaching,
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert the
Great Priory of Texas
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