"Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ." The Easter season is resplendent with the joy of eternal life. Jesus conquered death through his resurrection and promises all believers a share in this miraculous triumph. The gates of heaven have been opened for us by the great sacrifice of our Savior. All good things lie in wait for us who know "the only true God" and his Son, Jesus Christ.
When we gather together in our communities of faith, it's easy to remember all of this. We share common beliefs and practices with those friends, family members, and neighbors who attend our church. But carrying the joy of Easter with us out into the "world" can be more of a challenge. Once we step outside the safe confines of our parish or home, we encounter those who do not know the true God. We work with, study with, encounter, or gather with many people who have forgotten, abandoned, or never even known Jesus. Sometimes this can make us hesitant to share our joy, or even apologetic for our beliefs. But of course we are called to be witnesses of what we believe, not cowards who hide it frompublic view.READ MORE
"If you love me you will keep my commandments." It's really as simple as that. We are only paying lip service to the Lord if we externally declare ourselves to be Christians but don't follow through on a life that confirms it.
In our modern culture, we often think of love as a feeling or a kind of devotion. It is thus all too common to separate love from appropriate action. Perhaps we reassure ourselves that we love Jesus because we believe that he is the Son of God and our personal Savior. But these thoughts--or even any grateful or pleasant feelings that come along with them--are not the fullest manifestation of real love. Rather, as Jesus tells us directly in today's Gospel, "Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me."READ MORE
The beauty of Easter lies in the beauty of the varied images that Jesus shows when he talks to his disciples already resurrected. Last Sunday the Gospel told us how important it is to enter through the door that is Christ. Now, Jesus himself clearly shows us who he is: "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (Jn 14, 6). We know God in the measure of our personal encounter with His Son Jesus. Our conversion comes according to this meeting. The revelation of who God is began in the Incarnation of Jesus and this Incarnation continues through us as we practice justice, love, compassion and reconciliation among those around us.READ MORE
"Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture." Jesus uses the image of a gate today to help us understand how we are to relate to him. He is our path to "pasture," in other words, to the peace and prosperity that we long for. He shows us the way to find all that we need right there before us.
Some people, however, may think that it's better to avoid the trouble of finding the gate and thus choose to enter another way instead. But Jesus says, "Whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber." Although this is all cast in the gentle terms of an analogy about sheep, the message is actually rather stern. Jesus is telling us that if we don't follow him, we are taking the wrong course of action. He is not suggesting a kind of relativistic principle that says, "Following me is one of many good options." No. He is telling us that in order to "have life and have it more abundantly," we must follow the path that goes by way of Christ.READ MORE
"Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him." The disciples on the road to Emmaus had already heard reports about Jesus' resurrection. It was at the forefront of their minds, but in spite of this, they did not recognize Jesus when he stood right before them. Why not? Perhaps because they weren't looking for him. Maybe they didn't really believe that he was alive. Or it could be that his appearance was not the same as it had been before. Whatever the case, it's very interesting to learn that it was actually while celebrating the Eucharist that these men finally realized who was right there with them! "He was made known to them in the breaking of bread."READ MORE
"Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them,'Peace be with you.'" This greeting from the resurrected Christ must have been a profound one for the disciples.They were living behind locked doors "for fear of the Jews," which really meant for fear of their own lives. They had seen what happened to Jesus and didn't want to face the same fate. Imagine the paralysis of this fear, keeping them locked inside a prison of their own making.But even the walls and the locks could not keep Jesus out! He came "although the doors were locked" and brought them a message of peace. And then their fear turned to gladness for they "rejoiced when they saw the Lord."READ MORE
"Then they went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed." The two Marys were in for a surprise. They had come, as usual, to do the ritual anointing of their dead friend's body. But on their arrival, not only was there an earthquake, there was also an angel whose "appearance was like lightning" and whose "clothing was white as snow."The brave guards were so scared they "became like dead men," but the women managed to stay on their feet and hear the words of the angel. Guess what! Jesus isn't here. He's been raised from the dead. Now go share the good news!No wonder these women were feeling a mixture of emotions!They were frightened by these incredible supernatural events, but overjoyed that Jesus was alive again.READ MORE
"Peter said to him in reply, 'Though all may have their faith in you shaken, mine will never be.'" Peter thought pretty highly of his faith. On the eve of Christ's death he professed, in essence, that he was more committed to Jesus than anyone else. And yet, we know how the story turns out: when put to the test in the moment that mattered, Peter "began to curse and to swear, 'I do not know the man.'"
On this Palm Sunday, we hear many stories of betrayal. The crowds , who once hailed Jesus with "hosannas," will soon be chanting, "Let him be crucified!" Judas, who was counted among the closest companions of the Lord, turns him over to the chief priests for thirty pieces of silver. And Peter falls short in the moment of truth, and then "went out and began to weep bitterly."READ MORE
"The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth." His heart had started to beat again, breaking the somber silence of the tomb. His lungs were breathing the air once more. The blood had begun to flow through his veins f or the first time in four days. Lazarus rose from the grave, a living paradox: literally a dead man walking. Having done nothing by his own power, he once again knew life: a new life. This resurrection at the hands of Christ was an undeniable testimony to a power even greater than death.READ MORE
"Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him." The prevailing theology of Jesus' time led people to believe that any kind of disability was a punishment from God. So Jesus' disciples assumed that the man born blind suffered that affliction because of someone's sin: either his parents' or his own. But Jesus sets the record straight. Not only did he reject the idea that the blindness was a punishment for sin; he also went so far as to suggest that this very trial was an opportunity for God's glory to be revealed.
And sure enough, it was. Jesus worked a miracle of healing for the man who followed his directions and "came back able to see." So it was that the "works of God" became "visible" through a man who was blind! But, ironically, not everyone had the eyes to see the miracle. The Gospel tells us that "there was a division among them" as they debated whether this remarkable healing was really an act of God.READ MORE
"But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth." Are we true worshippers? Do we praise and honor God the Father in the way Jesus described to the Samaritan woman at the well? It seems that this woman was caught up in logistics about WHERE to worship more than HOW to worship. Her people worshiped in one place, the Jews in another. She was puzzled by this and, even though she could see that Jesus was a prophet, she challenged him because she thought perhaps he wasn't a true worshipper of God. The Lord's response to her was to shift the focus away from a particular physical location for honoring God. In essence, he told her that what mattered was that we worship God by being filled with his Spirit, "the Spirit of truth, [who] will guide you to all truth," as Jesus will say later in John's Gospel (16:13). This woman, whose life was marked by such a sad string of broken relationships, had been missing the point.READ MORE
"When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid." Peter, James, and John already knew Jesus. They had been following him, learning from him, watching him for quite some time. But what took place before their eyes at the Transfiguration was unlike anything they had yet witnessed. This was not just a miracle or a message: this was a supernatural vision. When Jesus' face suddenly "shone like the sun" and two ancient prophets appeared and spoke, and a heavenly voice announced the true identity of their friend and teacher, these three disciples nearly fainted in fear. It must have been too glorious, too strange, too astonishing to handle.
But Jesus "came and touched them" to rouse them from their prostration. He told them, "Rise, and do not be afraid." What a beautiful moment. The Lord realized that his friends were overwhelmed. He had compassion on their meager ability to comprehend what was really going on. He allowed them to participate in this moment of revelation to help them understand who he was, but he still understood who THEY were--imperfect human beings who could not be expected to completely understand the ways of God.READ MORE