Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Day the Lord Has Made by Rev. Paul Berghout

The Day the Lord Has Made by Rev. Paul Berghout

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. 1 Corinthians 6B-8

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So, she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, "They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they put him." John 20:1-3

The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. By the LORD has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes. Psalm 118:22-23

John, called the Beloved Disciple, is clearly the hero of Easter morning!

He runs the fastest.

He has superior love and understanding.

Between him and Peter and Mary Magdalene, only John had faith in the Physical Resurrection of Jesus-- He “sees and believes” at the empty tomb without even having a complete grasp of the Scriptures that Jesus had to rise from the dead.

He is an ideal disciple.

The rest of them needed some time.

Don’t we all?  I am reminded of the story one grandma told. “I was teaching my 3-year-old granddaughter, Taylor, how to shoot baskets on her child-sized basketball hoop. After missing three shots in a row, she gave me the ball and said, “Grandma, this thing doesn’t work!”

Yet, despite John’s faith, as some commenters note, the Beloved Disciple has "no narrative impact” because, in John’s Gospel, he does not communicate his discovery to others. His coming to believe affects no other character in the account.

Rather, its Mary Magdalene, who was also a devoted disciple, and who was even delivered from demonic possession by Jesus (Luke 8:2), and she was also at the Cross with John—she has the biggest “narrative impact” although she was also the most clueless on the first Easter morning!

Why is that?

Maybe it is because the clueless in you honors the clueless in me.

An expert on a recent book sums it saying that your cluelessness is usually worth sharing because it can help others feel less alone. You could, maybe, learn to use empathy as a portal to compassion, for other people and for yourself. Little humiliations can bring people together if we let them.

Mary Magdalene’s first misunderstanding was her stubborn persistence that someone had carried Jesus body away.

Next, when the Risen Jesus appears to her, Mary Magdalene does not even recognize Him and thinks that he is a gardener.

Despite her slow start, Christ actually appeared to her first, and then he sends her on a mission to communicate this good news of his resurrection to others.

She makes the first proclamation of Easter faith: "I have seen the Lord." Which speaks of her life-transforming experience.

The message for us this Easter: In the Gospel of John, believing is a process.

Whether one believes nothing yet or has come to a partial understanding, believing is a process of uncovering errors and weaknesses and coming to a deeper, more authentic relationship with Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God.

Who Will Roll Back the Stone?

Who Will Roll Back the Stone?

Evening came, and morning followed—the fourth day. Genesis 1:19

Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God. Athirst is my soul for God, the living God.  When shall I go and behold the face of God?  Psalm 42:2-3

Ikon: The Harrowing of Hell
by Denise Levertov (1923–1997)

Down through the tomb’s inward arch
He has shouldered out into Limbo
to gather them, dazed, from dreamless slumber:
the merciful dead, the prophets,
the innocents just His own age and those
unnumbered others waiting here
unaware, in an endless void He is ending
now, stooping to tug at their hands,
to pull them from their sarcophagi,
dazzled, almost unwilling. Didmas,
neighbor in death, Golgotha dust
still streaked on the dried sweat of his body
no one had washed and anointed, is here,
for sequence is not known in Limbo;
the promise, given from cross to cross
at noon, arches beyond sunset and dawn.
All these He will swiftly lead
to the Paradise road: they are safe.
That done, there must take place that struggle
no human presumes to picture:
living, dying, descending to rescue the just
from shadow, were lesser travails
than this: to break
through earth and stone of the faithless world
back to the cold sepulchre, tearstained
stifling shroud; to break from them
back into breath and heartbeat, and walk
the world again, closed into days and weeks again,
wounds of His anguish open, and Spirit
streaming through every cell of flesh
so that if mortal sight could bear
to perceive it, it would be seen
His mortal flesh was lit from within, now,
and aching for home. He must return,
first, in Divine patience, and know
hunger again, and give
to humble friends the joy
of giving Him food—fish and a honeycomb.

Today, he lays in the tomb but is not resting.  In our Credo, this is the day he “descended in hell” and opens the gates of heaven. We remain “athirst” but there is no Mass.  There is no sacrament.  There is only waiting and watching like Jesus invited Peter, James, and John in the Garden. The invitation remains open to us.  

Holy Saturday may be the day of quiet.  The church bells fell silent at the end of the Holy Thursday Gloria. They will not ring out again until the Vigil Gloria. 

The test for Jesus is over. Lent ends. Sometime soon, God will put us to the test.  Will we have the courage and gumption to answer like Abraham when God calls our name?  “Here I am!” (Genesis 22:1)

While Christ rests in the tomb, we are like the disciples in the garden.  Keeping vigil.  The term comes from the Latin word vigilia, which means "wakefulness," and which came to be used when the faithful stayed awake to pray and do devotional exercises in anticipation of the feast. Such wakefulness means that we are poised for action.

We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him. As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6

Our vigil ends when we know the answer to the question:  "Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?" Mark 16:3. Sit in patient hope knowing that “He will walk the world again.”

Friday, March 30, 2018

My Servant Shall Prosper

My Servant Shall Prosper

See, my servant shall prosper, he shall be raised high and greatly exalted. Even as many were amazed at him so marred was his look beyond human semblance and his appearance beyond that of the sons of man so shall he startle many nations, because of him kings shall stand speechless; for those who have not been told shall see, those who have not heard shall ponder it. Isaiah 52:13-15

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So, let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.  Hebrews 4:15-16

After this, Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. And Pilate permitted it. So, he came and took his body. Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom. Now in the place where he had been crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So, they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by.  John 19:38-42

Look:  Look!  The lamb is coming.  Yet look, too, at our own sins.  For it is on our account that my Lord bears insults. 

How could Isaiah have known with such clarity the suffering and triumph that was to come? In three suffering servant oracles, he tells time and again what will unfold in 700 years.  Think of that interval.  Our country is only 240 years old. Could anyone in 1776 have predicted the standing that these 13 humble colonies would have in 2018 let alone any one person who lives here?

How could the prophet Micah know that the Lord will get his repayment?
The nations will see and will be put to shame,
in spite of all their strength;
They will put their hands over their mouths;
Their ears will become deaf. Micah 16:7

The notes that introduce Isaiah’s book in the NABRE summarize today’s final Sorrowful Mystery.

The vision of the Lord enthroned in glory stamped an indelible character in Isaiah’s ministry and provided the key to the understanding of his message. The majesty, holiness, and beauty of the Lord took possession of his spirit and, at the same time, he gained a new awareness of human pettiness and sinfulness. The enormous abyss between God’s sovereign holiness and human sinfulness overwhelmed the prophet. Only the purifying coal of the seraphim could cleanse his lips and prepare him for acceptance of the call: “Here I am, send me!”

Isaiah and Jesus – by their words and deeds -- always called us back to a reliance on God’s promises and away from vain attempts to find secular security in our merely human plans and intrigues.  Only through that divine intervention can we rise above our faults that Jesus died for on this sad day.

This story is not one that ends in sorrow.  The gravity of the story also foreshadows the message of redemption.  The seeds of hope are springing up in the persons of Joseph and Nicodemus.  While the friends have fled, these two men display the change that Jesus wants us to embody because of his sacrifice.  No longer are they ashamed to be seen publicly and voluntarily carrying out their corporal and spiritual duties of mercy.

On this “God” Friday, March 30, 2018, listen and meditate on the readings while playing Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion in the background. 

Are you ready after these weeks of Lent and the Triduum, to be sent like Jesus and Mary, like Joseph and Nicodemus to perform your acts of love?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

“He Loves His Own to the End” by Beth DeCristofaro

“He Loves His Own to the End” by Beth DeCristofaro

"This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the LORD, as a perpetual institution." (Exodus 12:14)

Brothers and sisters: I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over (said) …  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-24, 26)

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. (John 13:1)

How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
        (Psalm 116:12-13)

We have walked with Jesus through Lent much like the Chosen Twelve.  They were and we are querulous, jealous, forgetful of our pledges, misunderstanding of the signs we witness, returning again and again to our personal woes and distractions.  But walking on, turning again and again to ask “what do you mean by this Lord” and “I’ll be with you to the end, Lord.”  We try and we hang in just as they did.

The Jewish Passover begins tomorrow evening when Jews celebrate God’s  redemption of His people from slavery in Egypt.  We begin our pass-over by sharing with Jesus the Nazorean through the holy supper table, through the agony of betrayal and murder during his self sacrifice.  We culminate our journey at Jesus the Christ’s Resurrection and triumph of life over death.  We are invited to share in the cross at this holy meal again and again For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.  We relive the Cross by dying to ourselves, dying to the choices rooted in temporal rewards, hoping in the presence of God when mortal life is too hard to bear.  He loves us to the end.

Msgr. John McIlhon wrote “Jesus embraced the discipline of the cross so that human nature might be restored to its original purpose and plan.  Christ was sent to draw us to the Father.    It is not enough to long for a new center in one’s life.  If repentance is the decision to arrange one’s life around a new (Jesus) center, then conversion, with its discipline, is the day-by-day process whereby patterns of living are rearranged and the aspirations of baptism become a reality.” [i] Lent has been an opportunity to make this passage to the new center.  The disciplines of Lent, the disciplines of conversion, can continue to center us in Jesus who loves us to the end.

Practice the discipline of being on the lookout today for moments in which Jesus invites you to partake in the feast of his body and blood by what you encounter and who enters your environment.  By our actions and responses what do we say to Him?

At the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, what will you intend as you accept the cross bearing his body and blood through the taste of bread and wine?

[i] From “Give us This Day Daily Prayer for Today’s Catholic”, March 2018, Liturgical Press, pp. 314-315.