Monday, April 28, 2014

Monday of the Second Week of Easter

(Acts 4:23-31; John 3:1-8)

In Leonard Bernstein’s epic musical Mass, the epistle is sung as a tribute to the “Word of the Lord.”  Addressed to “men of power,” the song exalts what the Acts of the Apostles teaches about the indomitableness of God’s message.  Over the long run, the song says, God’s message of love will conquer the pride, ambition, and contempt of the powerful.

In today’s passage from Acts, Peter and John have just returned from being told by the Jewish Sanhedrin never to speak the name of Jesus again.  The apostles, having openly defied the order, now pray with the Christian community for strength.  Their stance is confirmed as the room shakes with the approval of the people moved by the Holy Spirit.

Although apparently harmless, the Word of God can threaten the selfish interests of the privileged because it speaks with truth to the heart.  We must study it, understand it, and preach it as God’s humble servants called to do His will in a too often careless world. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday within the Octave of Easter

(Acts 4:1-12; John 21:1-14)

In every regular mass this week - actually from Sunday to Sunday - the gospel provides an appearance of the risen Christ.  Although these accounts bear some marks of editorial expansion, they assure readers of the resurrection as an historical fact.  But the nature of the resurrection is transhistorical, which means that it has never been duplicated in history.  Still reliable witnesses testify that they have seen the risen Lord.  Their stories provide an explanation of the empty tomb, the circumstancial evidence for the resurrection.

Today's gospel appearance takes place at the Sea of Tiberias.  It seems strange  that Jesus' disciples would return to their former occupatioon after being commissioned to go forth with the Holy Spirit and forgive sins.  Yet many people who have had profound religious experiences can become almost indifferent to what happened to them.  Jesus, true to his promise during the Last Supper, does not abandon his disciples but comes again to reissue the mandate to preach forgiveness.  This is expressed symbolically as he says, "'Cast your net over the right side...'"

Some still dismiss the resurrection appearances as psychological experiences.  They challenge believers to prove that they happened in reality.  We should respond in two ways.  First, we need to study the accounts with the help of faithful commentators so that we may provide a reasonable explanation of all the details.  Second, and perhaps more decisively, we want to testify to their veracity by showing how they have made our lives more holy.