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5th Sunday of Easter - Year B - John 15:1-8

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5th Sunday of Easter - Year B - John 15:1-8

ARTICLE: 5th Sunday of Easter Year: B

5th Sunday of Easter

Year: B

Acts 9.26-31; Ps 21(22); 1 Jn 3.18-24; Jn 15.1-8

Do You Know Who I am?

The Los Angeles Times published the story of a commercial airline flight cancellation which resulted in a long line of travelers trying to get bookings on another flight. One man in the line grew increasingly impatient with the slow-moving line. At last, he pushed his way to the front and angrily demanded a first-class ticket on the next available flight. "I’m sorry," said the ticket agent, “First I’ll have to take care of the people who were ahead of you in the line." The irate man then pounded his fist on the ticket counter, saying, "Do you have any idea who I am?" Whereupon, the ticket agent picked up the public address microphone and said, "Attention, please! There is a gentleman at the ticket counter who does not know who he is. If there is anyone in the airport who can identify him, please come to the counter." Hearing this, the man retreated, and the people waiting in line burst into applause. We are like this man. We have forgotten how to wait patiently. In today’s gospel, Jesus invites us to learn his meekness and humility because he compares himself to be the true vine and we are the branches. He does not boast about himself to the supreme, but he says he is one who gives life to us.

Marriage Vows of Convenience

Once I blest a marriage and the couple had come earlier to allow me to slightly change the wordings of the wedding vows. According to them “to love and honor, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, till death do us part” has been replaced by, “for as long as our love shall last.” It sounded pretty, but what are they really saying? “I promise to do whatever I feel like.” This shows that people’s view of commitment is only commitment to themselves, and their view of remaining is only to remain selfish. But that is not remaining and that is not love and that is not friendship. Jesus is calling us to remain in him, to the end! As he promised to remain in us to the end, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mt 28.20)

I am the True Wine

I am the true vine, and my father is the gardener; he cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.... I am the vine, you are the branches. If a person remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

 

You are the Branches

 

I do not think that there is any better image of the Christian life and of what is supposed be like than this. I want to dwell on this image today and on the promise that is made with it, the promise that says: "If a person remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit". I find this image of what it means to be a Christian tremendously reassuring.

 

What We Are and Where We Are

 

There is so much grace in these words for people who are tired out from all their work or discouraged by the fact that they do not feel they are good enough for God or that they have not done enough for Him. The image of Jesus as the vine and ourselves as branches reminds that salvation and wholeness, and indeed all good things that we experience and produce, come not because of what we do, but because of what we are and where we are.

 

Abundant Fruits

 

Even obedience to the Law of God, that obedience which, as we were told in the Book of Deuteronomy leads to abundant prosperity and blessings upon the land, even this necessary obedience is transformed by the image of the vine and the branches from being something that we strive to do by our own power and might and effort to something that God produces in us when we are attached to him as a branch is attached to a vine.

 

The Plant Dying

 

An avid gardener told me one time about a plot he had planted: He had been very careful to select the best seeds, and plant each one at its proper depth. He fertilized and watered the plants, he worked the soil faithfully each week to prevent weeds from encroaching and he sprayed to prevent bugs and blights from afflicting the young plants. The season was a good one - just the right amount of rain and sunshine, and on the vines appeared broad green leaves and in due course the blooms. It looked magnificent. One day he noticed that here and there certain leaves were dying, certain blooms fading. Most of the leaves remained a healthy glossy green, but scattered among them were those turning brown. Why, he wondered, would some die in the midst of all the living? So he investigated.

 

Stepping carefully among the tangled mass of vines he traced the ones on which the leaves and blooms were dying, until he found that they were all connected to a single stem. There, just above the ground, cut-worms had severed the stalk. The entire vine above that point was dying because it was no longer attached to the roots and the stem that had produced it.

 

How We die Spiritually

 

It reminds us that we die spiritually, that we are incapable of producing fruit, when we are not attached to the vine, or when we are not connected to the roots which nourish us. It also reminds us that when we are attached that the fruit that we produce - indeed the prosperity of the land itself, comes to us naturally, as a gift of God.

 

The gardener does the work and the vine he plants carries the sap and all its nutrition to us, and we, because we are in the right place, prosper and produce for the world the fruit that it needs. All of us want to do good things, we want to produce good fruit, but many of us - in trying to do good things, end up feeling burned out, exhausted and even despairing. This particularly happens to many people in the so-called caring professions - to doctors, social workers, nurses, and the like. They do much good - but many get frustrated, angry, and tired, their ability to help others decreases, and some end up giving up entirely on their professions.

 

How We Live Spiritually

 

There are others - others who do as much if not more, others who are full of hope and of life, full of care and love for their neighbours and their world, who never fall prey to this plague, but rather go and on, touching and healing those around them by what they do.

 

I believe it is because they are connected to the source of hope, to the source of life, to the source of care and love, for their neighbours and their world. The cup of water to those who thirst, the word of assurance to those who are in doubt, the comforting hug to those who are in pain, the gift to those who do not know if they are loved, and the deed of kindness to the one who is in need, all these things are things that God wants us to do, they are part of what Jesus calls the fruit of being in him. They are also the evidence and the badge of the Christian life, proof that we are who we say we are.

 

What is the Fruit like?

 

Let me remind you of what fruit is. Fruit is the excess, the overflow of the life that a plant has taken into itself. The more life that a plant takes into itself the more life it produces.

 

When there is an abundance of sunshine to fuel photosynthesis, and when there is adequate water and nutrient in the soil to be passed up the trunk and into the branches those branches thrive, and grow, and produce, and grow again. The plant and its branches don't have to force themselves to grow, they do not have to make a resolution to bring forth sweeter and more succulent fruit, nor do they need to remind themselves to be more abundant in their production. They simply need to be in the right place, the place that the gardener has prepared for it, the place where the conditions for growth and fruit bearing are to be found.

 

We are Planted by God

 

For us the right place to be is in the vine that has been planted by God and which is tended by God - the vine which we call Christ. My friends, each one of us here today, as people who profess that Jesus is our Lord and believe in our hearts that he rose from the dead, are part of the vine of Christ. We are able to produce tremendous quantities of fruit, conditions are perfect for our growth - because God himself tends us and ensures that those conditions are perfect.

 

Two Tasks

 

All we need do to be fruitful is remain a part of the vine, and perform the simple tasks that every branch performs as a means of maintaining a fruitful life in the vine. Basically there are only two tasks that we need to do, just as there are only two tasks that a branch in a vine does.

 

First - the branch, through its twigs and leaves, receives energy from the sun to fuel its growth. The leaves, by the miraculous process of photosynthesis, convert light into plant energy which helps to drive the system that produces fruit as its end result.

 

Secondly - the branch, through its connections to the stem of the plant receives moisture and nutrients from the soil, it receives the life giving sap that makes its grow.

 

I realize that this description lacks a little in botanical terms, but in theological terms it reminds us of all that we need to do to be pleasing to God.

 

First - the branch receives energy from the sun through its leaves.

 

So we too receive energy when we unfold ourselves before God and accept from him the light he offers to us in his Word, both the written word of scripture, and the living word of Jesus Christ. I am sure you have all noticed how plants track the sun, how they focus on it, how they lean towards its light and turn towards where ever it is. Owners of houseplants know this very well.

 

If they do not want a plant with a permanent lean to it, they must periodically turn the pot it is in so that it begins to lean in the opposite direction, and hopefully, if they catch it at the right time in its leaning, it remains in a nice upright position.

 

They also know that if you take a plant and you lock in a cupboard for even one day its leaves pale and droop and it begins to die.

 

Exposure to God

 

We need in the same way to be exposed to the word of God, we need daily contact with the light it sheds, we need to hold his teachings in our minds and in our hearts so that we might draw from them the strength and energy we need. When we do that - when we lean out to receive God's word, when we absorb his words like the plant absorbs the sunlight, then a miracle occurs in us - God's word gives us part of what we need for life and the production of life.

 

Psalm One says it very well: Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and on whose law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.

 

Rooted in Christ

 

Secondly - the branch is connected to the stem or trunk, receiving from it the nutrients and moisture that it needs. The branch is - for want of a better word, in communion with the vine and through that communion it is able to produce fruit. The same truth applies to us. All the light in the world, all the reading of God's word and meditation upon the gospel of Jesus, will not avail us much unless we are connected to him.

 

The connection, my friends, is established by God; and it is maintained by us through the way of faith and prayer, the way of trust and worship, the way of willingness to receive from God by making ourselves available to God as part of Christ's living body, the church.

 

These things both keep us in the vine and feed us - that we might produce fruit. When Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and you are branches", he also said - "no branch can bear fruit by itself, it must remain in the vine". We remain in the vine and produce fruit when we desire a relationship with God that goes beyond being content with having parking privileges only.

 

Practical Conclusions

 

We remain part of the vine - when we are willing to obey the commandments that Jesus has given us, - when we are willing to love each other and to love God, - when we are willing to forgive each other and trust God to forgive us, - when we are willing to be seen with the rest of the branches in the vine.

 

We remain a part of the vine and produce fruit when we commune with God - when we are willing to pray to him and listen for his answers, - when we are willing to worship him even if it takes us away from our Sunday dinner and the latest baseball, hockey or Cricket game for a few minutes, - when we are willing to trust in him even when we think that he is not doing enough.

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza

Vancouver - Canada

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