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4th Sunday of Easter - Year B - John 10:11-18

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4th Sunday of Easter - Year B - John 10:11-18

ARTICLE: 4th Sunday in Easter

4th Sunday in Easter

Year: B

Acts 4.7-12; Ps 117 (118); I Jn 3.1-2; Jn 10.11-18

 

 

The Hubble

 

Recently I watched a documentary by name HUBBLE in Vancouver. It was awesome and great. I was just asking myself after the movie isn’t it astounding that God who is almighty should be concerned about us? When we think of how big the universe is, it is even more astounding that we are so important to God. Our solar system with the sun at the center and the eight planets revolving around it, is just one solar system in our galaxy called the Milky Way. The Milky Way may have 100,000 Billion solar systems similar to our own i.e. 100,000 billion suns or more with their own planets. It is 100,000 lights years in diameter. The Milky Way is just one galaxy in the universe which is thought to contain about 8000 million galaxies. It is truly beyond comprehension. We are indeed nothing by comparison but in fact we are more important than all the solar systems, all the galaxies and the entire universe itself because we are God’s beloved. God has a wonderful plan for us, and that plan is Jesus - salvation through the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.

 

The Love of God

 

When we think of how much God has done for us and how much God loves us we are left with only one response, praise and gratitude and love of God. It is part of our very being, to praise and thank and love God. If we forget in the midst of all our activity how important we are in the eyes of God, what a great loss we have suffered. But when we remember God’s love for us and all he has done for us, our only natural response is to love God in return.

 

Loving God

 

The command in the Book of Deuteronomy, which we hear, to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, (Deut 6.4-6) and repeated by Jesus in the Gospel today (Mark 12.29-30), is what we want to do when we see what God has done for us and how God loves us. Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength is the only response to God who loves us so much. We want to love God by praying every day, celebrating Mass here every Sunday, reading the Scriptures and spiritual books, receiving the sacraments, because we will not be happy if we do not love God. In fact we discover that when we love God we become happier because the more time we spend with God the more we receive the life of God and that life uplifts us, heals us, renews us and invigorates us. So in fact we discover that the more we love God the happier we are.

 

Love and the Glimpse of Heaven

 

We discover that the more we love God, the more we get a foretaste and glimpse of heaven here on earth. “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today” (Deut 6.4-6). In fact this Scripture passage was part of the daily prayer of devout Jews at the time of Jesus. Now you know part of the prayers that Jesus said every day as a devout Jew.

 

Everyone is Special to God

 

When we contemplate that God loves everyone as much as he loves us we think of everyone in a new way. Everyone is special to God. The love we know God has for ourselves is also the love God also has for the person beside me, in front of me, behind me, for my neighbor who goes to a different church, for the people I may not particularly like, and the people who may not particularly like me. We are all God’s beloved. And because everyone is so special to God who loves us so much we want to love everyone also. So the second command of Jesus in the Gospel today, where he says that he lays down his life for his sheep (John), which summarizes Commandments four through ten, is not so much a command but the natural thing to do when we realize how much God loves everyone. Everyone is in some way a reflection of God, of the God who loves us, and so we want to love the reflection of God in others.

 

More like God

 

When we love God and love our neighbor as ourselves, what happens? We become more like God. We are filled with the light of God. One person who witnessed people filled with God’s light in a more dramatic way than normal was Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990; he was a British journalist, author and media person) which he has described in his book Something Beautiful for God (pages 41-45) which is an account of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Muggeridge and his film crew were filming the nuns picking up the dying from the streets and bringing them to a home for the dying. Muggeridge wrote, “This Home for the Dying is dimly lit by small windows high up in the walls, and Ken was adamant that filming was quite impossible there. We had only one small light with us, and to get the place adequately lighted in the time at our disposal was quite impossible. It was decided that, nonetheless, Ken should have a go, but by way of insurance he took, as well, some film in an outside courtyard where some of the inmates were sitting in the sun. In the processed film, the part taken inside was bathed in a particularly beautiful soft light, whereas the part taken outside was rather dim and confused…Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying is overflowing with love, as one senses immediately on entering it. This love is luminous, like the haloes artists have seen and made visible round the heads of the saints. I find it not at all surprising that the luminosity should register on a photographic film. “(pages 41…44 is the story of another photographic miracle when a priest brought a patient Holy Communion to the hospital) At the time Muggeridge wrote Something Beautiful for God he was not a Catholic but eleven years later he converted to Catholicism and meeting Mother Teresa was largely responsible for his conversion. When we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves, we are filled with light and miracles happen.

 

Practical Conclusion

Once I was travelling by train and I had wonderful friends that day along with me in my compartment. What impressed me during my journey was the way they were treating us with all delicacy and care. Each one would offer what each one brought for the journey. Then came a deserving beggar asking for alms and food. Well, no one was generous, including me who was feeling a bit nervous in the presence of that ‘good’ company to give something to that beggar. To stop my conscience pounding at me, I moved towards the corridor and gave the beggar Rs. 10 for his food. Did I do well? I do not know. I should have the courage to give something to the poor beggar in the presence of the good company of people around me. What actually means love of neighbour? Is that feeling well when all is well around me and among my friends? No. Love of neighbour means perhaps shedding some of my ego and loving everyone unconditionally. Of course this is difficult but God wants just that.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza

Vancouver - Canada

3rd Sunday of Easter - Year B - Luke 24:35-48

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3rd Sunday of Easter - Year B - Luke 24:35-48

ARTICLE: 3rd Sunday of Easter

3rd Sunday of Easter

Year: B

Acts 3.13-15, 17-19; Ps 4; I Jn 2.1-5; Lk 24.35-48

"Don't worry, Miss, I've got you."

Our tendency is to look for Christ in the extraordinary, the spectacular, the breathtaking. Remember in Superman: the Movie when Superman first reveals his superpowers to the world? Lois Lane is dangling from a cable, high atop the Daily Planet building, screaming at the top of her lungs. Just as she begins her long fall to earth, Superman changes into his flashy red, yellow, and blue outfit and swoops up to catch her in midair. "Don't worry, Miss," he assures her, "I've got you." "You've got me," she exclaims. "Who's got you?" Just then the helicopter that has been perched on the edge of the building begins to fall straight toward them and the crowd below. But Superman merely grabs it with his one free arm and gently sets both it and Lois safely back on the landing pad. When he turns to leave, an astonished Lois stammers out the words, "Who ARE you?" "A friend," Superman replies warmly, and as he flies straight up into the air with a sort of half twist. Lois faints.

That's the way we would like for Christ to come to us. And that is why we miss him. Christ reveals himself as he has always revealed himself "through the Word and through the Sacraments," through the study of Scripture and the breaking of Bread. That is why when we need encouragement we go to our Bible or we go to our church because there, Christ is revealed in all his glory.

What If Jesus Appeared to you?

If you were living in Palestine at the time of Jesus and met him what sort of person would you expect him to be? What would he be like to talk to? Did he have a good sense of humor? When Jesus appeared on that Easter Sunday evening in Jerusalem to the group of disciples it was a gentle encounter. They were frightened after his death but he calmed them, “Look at my hands and my feet; yes it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves.” A pretty normal person, don’t you think, someone you could talk to? He wasn’t someone with airs and graces. He was hungry and accepted what food they had, grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes. It was so casual, so normal, so informal and so ordinary! Jesus was a cool person!

Jesus the Man in News

A well-known hymn begins “Reach out and touch the Lord”. If we knew the Lord in person when he was ministering in Palestine we would see how easygoing a person he was, that he had no airs or graces, and that he was easy to talk to. As we read the Gospels we see that he loved other people. He loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus (John 11.5). Several times in John’s Gospel we are told that one of the disciples was a special friend to Jesus, the beloved disciple (John 13.23; 19.26; 20.2; 21.7,20). When Jesus was healing people he touched them (Mark 1.31; 1.41; 5.41; 8.22-26). He allowed the sick to touch him (Mark 6:56). This is what Jesus said of the sinner woman in Luke 7.44-45 to the Pharisee who invited him to his house, “I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in.” What confidence she had in approaching Jesus. How easy Jesus was to approach. No wonder that they said to Jesus in Mark 12.14 “we know that you are an honest man, that you are not afraid of anyone, because human rank means nothing to you…” Class distinctions mean nothing to Jesus. They are figments of our imagination, pride and sinfulness but in the eyes of Jesus class distinctions mean nothing.

He was as human as we are

When we suffer great pain we cry. Jesus too cried when he was hurt. When his cousin and friend Lazarus died we read in John 11.35-36 that Jesus wept. Jesus cried before entering Jerusalem for the last time before his passion because he knew they would not accept him as the Messiah and that the city would be destroyed (Luke 19.41-44).

Jesus the Man Who Enjoyed Life

Jesus certainly knew how to enjoy himself. He attended several dinners: the one given him by Matthew/Levi after he called him (Mat 9.9-10; Mk 2.13-15; Luke 5.27-29); at Zacchaeus’ house (Luke 19.7); and Pharisees invited him to dinner (Luke 7.36; 11.37; 14.1); and there was dinner at Lazarus’ house (John 12.2). At Cana (John 2) Jesus changed between 120 and 180 gallons of water into wine so that the wedding guests could continue to enjoy themselves, and it was wine of the best vintage. (At that time the wedding celebration lasted a week). Jesus wanted people to enjoy community celebrations because they were a foretaste of the banquet of heaven. Obviously Jesus enjoyed such occasions himself because of the description of him, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Luke 7.34)

He was Close to Social Issues

When there is injustice we become angry. Jesus too became angry when he saw injustice. He drove the money-changers out of the temple (Mat 21.12-13). Anger is an emotion we are uncomfortable with because we handle it badly. Anger, like every emotion, is neutral, neither good nor bad. What makes it good or bad is what we do with the emotion. We can sometimes take our frustration with one person out on a different person but when Jesus vented his anger, he never directed it at the wrong person, always at the appropriate person. Jesus never did anything violent against any person. Anger is good when it arises from a suitable cause, when it is properly directed and correctly expressed. Anger has to be expressed in some way and let go, otherwise it eats into the person. Jesus didn’t hold onto anger; he expressed it and let it go. That was a healthy way to live.

Jesus was Troubled

Like all of us, Jesus was afraid when faced with something dreadful. We all know about Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane when he asked his Father to let the chalice of his passion pass him by. But in John 12.27 Jesus said, “Now my soul is troubled.” Imagine Jesus saying his soul is troubled! Very human and ordinary, don’t you think? How did Jesus cope when he was troubled? He prayed and then he was uplifted once again so that in the following verse Jesus said, “Father, glorify your name.” If our prayer is working, if we are praying properly, it should also uplift us as it uplifted Jesus.

Jesus under Trial

We suffer many temptations and Jesus also was tempted on many occasions not only in the desert for 40 days. During the Last Supper, in Luke’s version, Jesus says, “You are the men who have stood by me faithfully in my trials” (Luke 22,28). Through Peter, Satan tempted Jesus, when Peter said he must not suffer and die in Jerusalem (Mat 16.21-23; Mark 8.31-33). Jesus reply was “Get behind me Satan.” Jesus was tempted in every way that we are (Heb 4.15).

Jesus’ Humanity

A document of Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes 22, says Jesus “laboured with human hands, thought with a human mind, acted with a human will, and loved with a human heart. Born of Mary the Virgin he truly became one of us and, sin apart, was like us in every way.”

Proof of the Resurrection

All of that brings me back to our Gospel today and the gentle meeting between Jesus and his disciples. They were frightened after his death but he calmed them, “Look at my hands and my feet; yes it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves.” A pretty normal person, don’t you think, someone you could talk to? He was hungry and accepted what food they had, grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes. Reach out and touch the Lord! He is waiting for you. You can tell him everything. You do not have to hide anything. Class distinctions mean nothing to Jesus. Reach out and touch the Lord. “Look at my hands and my feet; yes it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves.”

Back in the Trenches

 

There is a story of a British soldier in the First World War who lost heart for the battle and deserted. Trying to reach the coast for a boat to England that night, he ended up wandering in the pitch black night, hopelessly lost. In the darkness, he came across what he thought was a signpost. It was so dark that he began to climb the post so that he could read it. As he reached the top of the pole, he struck a match to see and found himself looking squarely into the face of Jesus Christ. He realized that, rather than running into a signpost, he had climbed a roadside crucifix. Then he remembered the One who had died for him . . . who had endured . . . who had never turned back. The next morning the soldier was back in the trenches. ("To Illustrate," Preaching Magazine, Jan-Feb 1989.) Maybe that's what you and I need to do in the moments of our distress and darkness, “strike a match in the darkness and look on the face of Jesus Christ.” For Christ is here. He comes to us just as he came to those two disciples on the road to Emmaus even though we may not recognize him. He takes the initiative. He knocks on the door.

 

Practical Conclusion

 

Jesus’ humanity inspires us to become like him. We need to shed all our self importance, pride, egoism and selfishness so that we may be elevated to Christ in his body. This process should help us usher into new life in Jesus.

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Vancouver - Canada

2nd Sunday of Easter - Year B - John 20:19-31

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2nd Sunday of Easter - Year B - John 20:19-31

2nd Sunday of Easter : Year B

2nd Sunday of Easter
Year: B

Acts 4.32-35; Ps 117 (118); I Jn 5.1-6; Jn 20.19-31

 

Moso Bamboo

 

The Moso (Phyllostachys pubescens) is a bamboo plant that grows mostly in China and the Far East. Moso bamboo is the largest of the cold-hardy bamboos, growing to a height of 75 feet with a diameter of eight inches. After the Moso is planted, no visible growth occurs for up to fifty days - even under ideal conditions! Then, as if by magic, it suddenly begins growing to its full height of 75 feet within six weeks. The Moso’s rapid growth is due to the miles of roots (rhizomes) it has developed during those two months of getting ready. Jesus’ parable of the sower invites us to be patient when we fail to achieve instant results from the preaching we do through our exemplary lives of bearing witness to Jesus and his gospel.

 

 

Unless a Grain of Wheat Falls to the Ground

 

One of William Barclay's friends tells this story. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, 1996) In the church where he worshiped, there was a lonely old man, old Thomas. As he had outlived all his friends, hardly anyone knew him. When Thomas died, his only old friend had the feeling that there would be no one else to go to the funeral. So he decided to go, so that there might be someone to follow the old man to his last resting-place. There was no one else, and it was a miserable wet day. The funeral reached the cemetery, and at the gate there was a soldier waiting, an officer, but on his raincoat there were no rank badges. He came to the graveside for the religious ceremony. When the pastor finished his prayers, the officer stepped forward and gave a solemn military salute to Thomas in the closed coffin as if to a dead king. The friend walked away with this soldier, and as they walked, the wind blew the soldier's raincoat open to reveal the shoulder badges of a brigadier general. The general said, "You will perhaps be wondering what I am doing here. Years ago Thomas was my Sunday school teacher. I was a wild lad and a sore trial to him. He never knew what he did for me, but I owe everything I am or will be to old Thomas, and today I had to come to salute him at the end." Thomas did not know what he was doing. No preacher or teacher ever does. Keep sowing the high-yielding seeds of the word of God. This is the GOOD news of today’s gospel for all of us, tenant farmers.

 

 

Fear and Sadness

 

Did you ever have a bad weekend? Just think what kind of weekend the apostles had on that first Easter weekend. They must have been suffering from a severe dose of depression since Good Friday. Jesus was dead. The crowd that welcomed Jesus with palms as he entered Jerusalem turned against him on Good Friday morning calling for the release of Barabbas and the death of Jesus. The apostles, now afraid of the crowd, had shut themselves in for their own protection as we heard in the Gospel (John 20.19). There were ten of them gathered in this state; Judas was no more and Thomas was temporarily absent. Jesus came with his healing, “Peace be with you.” (John 20.19) And how much peace they must have felt within now! As well as shock and doubts. But this meeting with the risen Jesus certainly brought peace to their troubled minds and hearts. That was Easter Sunday evening; the crisis was over, but what a long three days it had been since Friday morning.

 

Doubting Thomas

 

Thomas comes back then and they tell him Jesus is alive, they have seen him. Jesus came in even though the doors were all closed. Thomas thinks this is adding insult to injury. You can imagine what he would have said to them. “You saw his body when it was taken down from the cross. You know he was not breathing. You know there was no blood left in his body, you know his heart had been pierced with the soldier’s lance. You are all raving. It’s getting to you. Get a grip on yourselves!” We heard in our Gospel that Thomas demanded proof, “Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.” (John 20.25)

 

The Division

 

What has happened now? Now there is division among the apostles. Ten know Jesus is alive. The eleventh, Thomas, is stubborn and refuses to believe. Thomas does not have faith yet and he is relying on reason alone but when Thomas will see Jesus in a week he will believe and faith and reason will be perfectly aligned in Thomas. The division among the apostles is like the division in any family between those who have faith and reason in perfect harmony and those whose faith and reason are out. Those with faith and reason in life try to help the others to come to greater faith in Jesus. And they get a negative response from a modern day Thomas who might say something like, “If you force me I won’t go to Mass.” And Thomas, ancient or contemporary, remains in his sad state. If Thomas had been sensitive enough he would surely have noticed that the ten have great peace now, they are not the same as when he left earlier. But Thomas, ancient and modern, considers himself a big, strong, macho man. He has no time for what he thinks is silly sissy stuff. He wants a scientific proof for God and fails to realize that there does not have to be any conflict between faith and science, or between faith and reason. Thomas has yet to learn that faith and reason/logic/science are meant to be in harmony. The following Sunday Jesus came again even though the doors were closed. Again Jesus wished them peace and provided Thomas with the proof that his reason and logic and desire for a scientific answer needed, “Put your finger here: look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.” (John 20.27) Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God.” (John 20.28) Now faith and reason are perfectly aligned in Thomas, faith and science are in synchronization and Thomas has seen Jesus.

 

Growth in Faith

 

Relying only on reason and logic and science alone had closed Thomas’ mind to Jesus’ resurrection. His independence, his pride, his wish to be master of his own life, wanting control of his own destiny instead of allowing faith to be in harmony with reason meant that he wasted a week. He shut Jesus out of his life for one week. All it takes to meet Jesus is to allow our reason/logic to work together with our faith. So let us make that act of faith in God. Surrender into the hands of a loving God. You have nothing to lose but everything to gain.

 

Receiving Grace

 

A beautiful chant about trust in God goes like this, “Trust, surrender, believe, receive.” The last word is “receive.” If you trust, surrender and believe, you will receive. When Thomas saw the risen Jesus on the Sunday after Easter Sunday, he trusted, surrendered and believed. Then he received Jesus. It is the same with each of us. Trust in Jesus, surrender, believe, and you will receive a joy that you will not get from anything or anybody else.

 

Happiness in God

 

Remember what I have said to you previously, if you are not happy it is because you have gone away from God. Thomas had wasted a week. Let us not waste a lifetime. God has adopted you as his son or daughter and our second reading today began, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ has been begotten by God.” (1John 5.1) It is most wonderful privilege. Thomas had wasted a week. Let us not waste a lifetime. If you haven’t yet met the risen Jesus, roll away the stone and meet Jesus. Allow faith to work together in harmony with your reason and logic. Trust, surrender, believe, receive and you will be happy for ever.

 

Practical Conclusion

 

We need to break out of our tombs. Jesus teaches us that we need to die in order to live. Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains single. We notice death everyday in our own bodies as they become old and tired. But when we live by the Spirit of Christ Resurrected we also notice that it is being resurrected again and again through him.

 

Rudolf V. D’Souza

Vancouver - Canada

 

 

ARTICLE: EASTER SUNDAY

EASTER SUNDAY

Mark 16:1-8

THE ANGEL ANNOUNCED, “HE’S ALIVE!”

Once again we must admire the women who followed Jesus. They were there at the cross. They were the last ones in the garden when Joseph and Nicodemus placed Jesus’ body in the tomb. And early on Sunday morning, they were the first ones heading back to the tomb. They were carrying additional spices to anoint the corpse of Christ. They’re biggest concern was how they were going to roll the huge stone away from the opening of the tomb.

But they were totally surprised to arrive and find the stone was already rolled away. These brave women went into the tomb. Jesus wasn’t there, but they saw a young man dressed in white. This is a description the Bible often uses for angels. Of course, the women were confused and terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I know you’re looking for Jesus. He isn’t here. He has risen! Then the angel gave them two sets of instructions. These are the same instructions we should follow today.

  1. He said, “Come see!”

He invited them to examine the tomb and look for the evidence. The tomb was empty, but it was full of significance. In John’s account, we’re told the strips of cloth that had covered the body of Jesus were stacked up along with the sheet covering His body. These women had to be wondering if this was a dream. They had seen the torture and crucifixion of Jesus. They watched as His body was removed from the cross and placed in the tomb. They knew He was dead. But they were confronted with an empty tomb.

 

  1. He said, “Go tell!”

The angel told the women to go tell the disciples that Jesus was alive and He would meet them in Galilee. However, notice their reaction in verse eight. It says trembling and bewildered they fled: They didn’t tell anyone because they were afraid. I can’t really blame them. They were in shock. A little while later Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and she delivered the message.

We’ve been given the same command to “go tell” the world that Jesus is alive. How often have we been guilty of the initial behavior of the women? Like them, we are too afraid to share the Good News.

THE DISCIPLES DOUBTED THE REPORTS

Meanwhile the eleven disciples (twelve minus Judas), we hiding behind closed doors weeping and mourning. Mary and the women come running in, “Jesus is alive.” The Bible says they didn’t believe her.

Mark mentions that later two other people show up claiming they had seen Jesus alive. In Luke 24 we read the story of Jesus appearing to two disciples who were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a distance of eleven miles. They didn’t recognize Jesus. I would have loved to have been on that original walk to Emmaus, because the Bible says Jesus started with Moses (that’s Exodus) and took them all the way through the Old Testament telling how all the scriptures predicted the Messiah would suffer and die. When they finally arrived at their house, they invited their companion to join them for dinner. Jesus, who was the guest, became the host, because the Bible says when He broke the bread, their eyes were opened and they recognized it was Jesus. Then He, poof!, just disappeared. They were so excited they turned around and traveled eleven miles back to tell the disciples. I imagine they ran this time. Out of breath, I can hear one of them telling Peter, “We saw the Lord! He’s alive!” Mary probably chimed in, “See I told you!” But it says the disciples still didn’t believe.

What do we learn?

Resurrection is the best news we have because it transcends all our joys, wealth, health, happiness of this world. What we actually need is to fill this empty heart with the joy of the Resurrection. We need a solid understanding why Jesus rose from the dead. The answer is He loves us and wants us to be with him where he is in the House of the Father. We came from there and we have to return to Him. Do dear parishioners, let us live this great truth of the Resurrection in our daily lives, when we are sick, lonely, defeated, challenged, in pain, in sorrow, in utter desperation we need to look for answers in the truth of the Resurrection. This truth will not disappoint us because Jesus underwent all that we are undergoing right now, but he rose from the dead to give us the good news of Peace. God bless.

 

Have a wonderful Easter

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Vancouver - Canada

Mark 16:1-8

THE ANGEL ANNOUNCED, “HE’S ALIVE!”

Once again we must admire the women who followed Jesus. They were there at the cross. They were the last ones in the garden when Joseph and Nicodemus placed Jesus’ body in the tomb. And early on Sunday morning, they were the first ones heading back to the tomb. They were carrying additional spices to anoint the corpse of Christ. They’re biggest concern was how they were going to roll the huge stone away from the opening of the tomb.

But they were totally surprised to arrive and find the stone was already rolled away. These brave women went into the tomb. Jesus wasn’t there, but they saw a young man dressed in white. This is a description the Bible often uses for angels. Of course, the women were confused and terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I know you’re looking for Jesus. He isn’t here. He has risen! Then the angel gave them two sets of instructions. These are the same instructions we should follow today.

  1. He said, “Come see!”

He invited them to examine the tomb and look for the evidence. The tomb was empty, but it was full of significance. In John’s account, we’re told the strips of cloth that had covered the body of Jesus were stacked up along with the sheet covering His body. These women had to be wondering if this was a dream. They had seen the torture and crucifixion of Jesus. They watched as His body was removed from the cross and placed in the tomb. They knew He was dead. But they were confronted with an empty tomb.

 

  1. He said, “Go tell!”

The angel told the women to go tell the disciples that Jesus was alive and He would meet them in Galilee. However, notice their reaction in verse eight. It says trembling and bewildered they fled: They didn’t tell anyone because they were afraid. I can’t really blame them. They were in shock. A little while later Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and she delivered the message.

We’ve been given the same command to “go tell” the world that Jesus is alive. How often have we been guilty of the initial behavior of the women? Like them, we are too afraid to share the Good News.

THE DISCIPLES DOUBTED THE REPORTS

Meanwhile the eleven disciples (twelve minus Judas), we hiding behind closed doors weeping and mourning. Mary and the women come running in, “Jesus is alive.” The Bible says they didn’t believe her.

Mark mentions that later two other people show up claiming they had seen Jesus alive. In Luke 24 we read the story of Jesus appearing to two disciples who were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a distance of eleven miles. They didn’t recognize Jesus. I would have loved to have been on that original walk to Emmaus, because the Bible says Jesus started with Moses (that’s Exodus) and took them all the way through the Old Testament telling how all the scriptures predicted the Messiah would suffer and die. When they finally arrived at their house, they invited their companion to join them for dinner. Jesus, who was the guest, became the host, because the Bible says when He broke the bread, their eyes were opened and they recognized it was Jesus. Then He, poof!, just disappeared. They were so excited they turned around and traveled eleven miles back to tell the disciples. I imagine they ran this time. Out of breath, I can hear one of them telling Peter, “We saw the Lord! He’s alive!” Mary probably chimed in, “See I told you!” But it says the disciples still didn’t believe.

What do we learn?

Resurrection is the best news we have because it transcends all our joys, wealth, health, happiness of this world. What we actually need is to fill this empty heart with the joy of the Resurrection. We need a solid understanding why Jesus rose from the dead. The answer is He loves us and wants us to be with him where he is in the House of the Father. We came from there and we have to return to Him. Do dear parishioners, let us live this great truth of the Resurrection in our daily lives, when we are sick, lonely, defeated, challenged, in pain, in sorrow, in utter desperation we need to look for answers in the truth of the Resurrection. This truth will not disappoint us because Jesus underwent all that we are undergoing right now, but he rose from the dead to give us the good news of Peace. God bless.

 

Have a wonderful Easter

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Vancouver - Canada

www.LivingFlame.ca

Easter - Year B - Mark 16:1-8

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Easter - Year B - Mark 16:1-8

ARTICLE: GOOD FRIDAY Year: B

GOOD FRIDAY

Year: B

Is 52.13-53.12; Ps 30(31); Heb 1.14-16; 5.7-9; Jn 18.1-19.42

 

She Was Just 22

 

Alin was just 22 years old. She was full of life, beautiful and talented. Fate sealed her life at this age. She was diagnosed with brain cancer. The torture began. She was determined to beat this horrible sickness. She was full of hope and at times hopes against hope, maintaining her composure and calm. To be precise she suffered for 4 years until she was very badly ill and doctors had given up hopes. But she was as always hopeful that she will be alright and will resume her college studies. I went to meet her just after my papa’s first death anniversary on 25th January 2011. I was till then struggling to come to terms with my papa’s sudden death last year. When I met this girl with this horrible cross, I had no words to console her. But she was still hopeful with her eyes beaming with light and serenity. At one point she asked me to put my hand on her head for prayers. My hands shivered with fear and I asked the Lord for help. Then she told me, ‘do you think father, the Lord has abandoned me?’ I was dumb; no word came to my lips. I closed my eyes and just remained in silence. When I left her home I said to her, ‘May the Lord take care of you’. She died in June this year (2011). A thought came to my mind when I saw the photographs of her funeral: “My God, My Lord, why? Why this innocent girl had to die?

 

Behold the Man

 

After Jesus is brutally scourged, Pilate, hoping that the assembled mob will be placated by the sight of the chastised Jesus, places him on display and declares “Ecce Homo.” “Behold the Man.” The scourging has rendered Jesus into a blood-covered mess. There would be blood dripping from dozens, perhaps even hundreds of wounds, and flaps of skin would be hanging from his lacerated and bruised body.

 
Man without a Face

 

Jesus would have been a horrid sight to behold. As Isaiah prophesied, “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.” Indeed, Pilate was banking on Jesus’ appearance; he was hoping that beholding the sight of Jesus would move the mob to pity and get sufficient reasons to release him.

 
Crucify Him

 

But the sight of Jesus does not bring out the compassion of the crowd, but incites them to call for Jesus’ blood. The sight of blood and suffering does not satisfy them. It startles them to demand more blood and more suffering. Seeing Jesus, they cry “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate’s ploy of trying to play on the crowd’s sympathy backfires.

 
The Last Attempt Pilate’s last attempt to spare Jesus’ from the cross is an appeal to the crowd’s patriotism. Pilate knew all too well how the Jews despised the Romans and greatly desired their freedom. So he brings Jesus out, enthrones Him on the judge’s bench, and declares “Ecce Rex vester,” “Behold your King.” The crowd is given a choice, just like they had a choice between Jesus and Barabbas. They can embrace Jesus as their King, or they can embrace Caesar. And again, they cry “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!... We have no king but Caesar.”

 
No Sympathy

 

Whenever Pilate says “Behold”, whether he knows it or not, whether he believes it or not, he is declaring a truth about Jesus. Moved by jealousy, hatred, and blood lust, the crowd denies the truths proclaimed by Pilate. They deny Jesus’ humanity showing no sympathy for an innocent man, yet they embrace Barabbas, being sympathetic to a murderous thug.

 

Embrace the Pagan

 

In denying Jesus’ Kingship, the crowds embrace a pagan ruler who declares himself to be not only a king, but insists that he is also divine. In rejecting Jesus, they reject the dignity of what it means to be human and made in God’s image, they reject one of their own, they reject their identity as the Chosen People, they reject the promise of a King of David’s line, and they reject God as their true Ruler. Jealousy, hatred, and blood lust lead to the crowd rejecting all that it means to be Jewish.

What is Truth?

 

It is ironic that the very man who asks “What is truth?” proclaims the truth every time he says “Behold.” Likewise, it is ironic that the very people who have been entrusted with God’s truths deny them in response to Pilate proclaiming “Behold.” But He Who is Truth also says “Behold.” From the cross, Jesus addresses His mother saying “Woman, behold, your son.” Then He addresses St John saying “Behold, your mother.” Here Jesus is not just stating truths, He is creating truths. The beloved disciple is not related to Mary at all according to the flesh, but Jesus creates a spiritual relationship between them.

 
Indeed, if we are among Jesus' beloved disciples, isn't Mary as much our mother as she is John's mother? And if we are spiritual sons and daughters of Mary, then Jesus is our Brother. It is as if Pilate's “Behold the Man” becomes “Behold our Brother.”

 
Members of God’s Family

 

Through Jesus, we enter into a new relationship with God, not just being His people, not just subjects of his Kingdom, not just being his friends, but becoming members of God's own family. Such is the power of Jesus saying “Behold” from the cross. And such is the power of Jesus' suffering and death.

 

The Final Word

 

Indeed, Jesus' suffering and death mark the end of all suffering and death. Because of Jesus' suffering and death, the sufferings we endure and the deaths we shall undergo no longer have the final word. Now, sufferings united to Jesus' cross bring glory and death brings forth life eternal for those who truly love Jesus. Jesus has the final word, and that word is Behold.

 
He will Wipe every Tear

 

As we read in the book of Revelation, “[Jesus] will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away. The one who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new’”.

Practical Conclusion

So as we approach the cross tonight and give homage to the display of what Jesus has done for us, let us “Behold the Man”, let us “Behold our King”, let us behold the Truth, and let us behold his love, for his love makes all things new.

 

We need to behold with our eyes the miseries of this world; poverty, sickness, violence, natural calamities, war and other many ways that people of God suffer. They are crucified daily and shed their blood and tears for their loved ones. There is no turning away from the Cross in our daily lives, as Jesus told his disciples that those who would like to follow him must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow him. This is very true indeed; we are never free from crosses in our lives.

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Vancouver - Canada

ARTICLE: Holy Thursday Year: B

Holy Thursday

Year: B

Ex 12.1-8, 11-14; Ps 115 (116); I Cor 11.23-26; Jn 13.1-15

 

“Jesus Christ gave a Lasting Memorial”

One of his Catholic disciples asked the controversial god-man Osho Rajneesh about the difference between Buddha the founder of Buddhism and Jesus Christ. He told a story to distinguish between Buddha and Christ. When Buddha was on his death bed, his disciple Anand asked him for a memorial and Buddha gave him a Jasmine flower. But as the flower dried up, the memory of Buddha also dwindled. But Jesus Christ instituted a lasting memorial without anybody’s asking for it by offering his body and blood in the form of bread and wine and commanding his disciples to share his divinity by repeating the ceremony. So Jesus continues to live in his followers while Buddha lives only in history books. On Holy Thursday we are reflecting on the importance of the institution of the Holy Eucharist and priesthood. Osho Rajneesh claimed himself to be another incarnation of God who attained “enlightenment” at 29 when he was a professor of Hindu philosophy in Jabalpur University in India. He had thousands of followers for his controversial “liberation through sex theology” based on Hindu, Buddhist and Christian theology

“You don't Recognize me, do you?”

There is an old legend about Da Vinci's painting of the Last Supper. In all of his paintings he tried to find someone to pose that fit the face of the particular character he was painting. Out of hundreds of possibilities he chose a young 19-year old to portray Jesus. It took him six months to paint the face of Jesus. Seven years later Da Vinci started hunting for just the right face for Judas. Where could he find one that would portray that image? He looked high and low. Down in a dark Roman dungeon he found a wretched, unkempt prisoner to strike the perfect pose. The prisoner was released to his care and when the portrait of Judas was complete the prisoner said to the great artist, "You don't recognize me, do you? I am the man you painted seven years ago as the face of Christ. O God, I have fallen so low."

The Last Supper

Tonight we enter into the most sacred holy days of our shared Christian tradition. From Thursday night to Sunday morning we are invited into the drama that is one of the mainstays of the world, one of the recurring themes of the universe. We are invited to watch it from the sidelines, or to stand up and enter into it ourselves – as much or as little as we can handle right now, this year, at this point in our lives.

And that drama is this. It has four parts.

Non-resistance

Many of us go through our lives somewhat – or entirely – resistant. We resist things that are different, we resist new concepts, new food, new people, new places. We like what we know, we like our traditions, we like what is familiar and solid and dependable – and that’s fine. We can like, we can have preference, that’s fine. But when we resist as a knee jerk reaction instead of taking a moment to weigh and decide for ourselves if perhaps change is warranted in this particular situation – then we’re not being smart, we’re just being stubborn. We’re being… resistant.

Maundy Thursday invites us to embrace what is real, even if we don’t particularly like it. Depending on the gospel story, this is either the time that Jesus ate the Passover meal, and his final meal with his friends which we remember each time we have communion, or it is the time that Jesus, the teacher, bent down to his knees and acted as the slave and washed the feet of his disciples. Both stories required something of their first listeners, and of the people who figured in the stories themselves.

During dinner, Jesus had things that were difficult to say and difficult to hear, but they needed to be said. His disciples needed to remember, and they needed to accept.

Washing the Feet

Ordering his disciples to allow him to wash their feet was also hard for them to handle – it really was servant’s work, and they were appalled and humiliated on his behalf that Jesus would act in such a way. But that was his point, of which they were so resistant: Loving one another really is the most important thing, and that is how other people will recognize us – by our love. Still, it was hard for them to hear, and hard for them to do.

But that is Maundy Thursday, the first part of the drama. Non-resistance, or acceptance if you like.

Death Everywhere

All things die. All things end. This is a basic and fundamental truth of our Universe that we don’t particularly approve of. Instead we tell ourselves fairy tales of fountains of youth, and then we go and use Oil of Olay. We use euphemisms for death, like passed away, passed on, in a better place. But it’s not just people that die, it’s ideas, too, and civilizations, relationships, towns, religions, and vacuum cleaners. Things die. Things end. Life; and parts of life, draw to a close, and part of why it is so very, very, hard to deal with is because we haven’t yet accepted that it is part of the way the world works, independent of morality. Good people die, bad people die. Death is not a punishment for the wicked, nor is the death of a civilization or relationship or city punishment for sins. Things simply don’t last forever, and everything in this world comes to an end.

This is the second part of the drama we’re invited into. The first part is non-resistance, which is really helpful to master first, because the second part is death.

The Vigil

The third part is ritualized in the Easter Vigil, and it has no snappy name, except to say that it is the time between death and rebirth. It is the winter of the cycle where things seem to be dormant, and yet life continues on. And we are asked to continue to live, even when it feels like our hearts have been torn out. We are asked to continue paying the bills, even though our worlds will never be the same. We still have to eat and sleep and function, and we do, even though something important has just died, and we probably weren’t quite ready for it.

That is the third part of the drama – dormancy, might be a good way to think of it. So the first part is non-resistance, the second is death, and the third is dormancy.

Back to Life

This is the fourth part of the drama – the end, which will always ever circle back to the beginning again. And that is, rebirth in Christ and through Christ. We celebrate it on Easter Sunday, and every Sunday. It is the utter joy of something fresh and new, something vital and vigorous, like a sapling, or a baby, a new home, or a new hike, a new lease on life, or a new love… or a new hope for something better this time.

Practical Conclusion

The Last Supper is the solemn occasion Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist. Eucharist reveals that our salvation begins with God, not ourselves. God offers Himself to man in Christ first. At the same time, as the summit of Christian spirituality, the Eucharist is man's supreme, grace-enabled, freely given offering of himself back to God through Jesus Christ, our high priest, by the power of the Holy Spirit. The union or intimate, personal fellowship between God and man realized through God's gift of Himself to man and man's faithful response, we call communion.

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Vancouver - Canada