Friday, April 1, 2016

Friday within the Octave of Easter

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

“The one who loves much, does much.”  The actions of Peter on behalf of Jesus in today’s Scriptures witness to this simple test of love.  Love moves the chief apostle in the reading from Acts to confront the Jewish leaders who recently negotiated Jesus’ execution.  In the gospel, love inspires him to rush into the water with clothes on to greet the risen Lord. 

As courageous and spontaneous as Peter’s love for Jesus is, it only shadows Jesus’ love for him and for the rest of us.  St. Paul surely captures the heart of the gospel when he writes: “...God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).  His death has gained for us the forgiveness of sin.  But that is only half of the wonder of God’s love.  His resurrection – the other half – bestows on us life in abundance.

Peter’s actions suggest how we might show our love for Christ.  We too can confront sin by naming it and repenting of it.  There may be people in our lives for whom we harbor resentment.  We must acknowledge our deliberate dislike as sin, pray for healing grace, and make serious effort to approach those people in charity.  Likewise, we should lose no time in meeting the Lord in the Eucharist.  Coming early to pray quietly and to preview the Scripture readings will deepen our encounter with the risen Lord.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Thursday within the Octave of Easter

(Acts 3:11-26; Luke 24:35-48)

A psychologist explains the crucial difference between guilt and shame.  Guilt, he says, is the recognition that one has done something wrong.  Shame, on the other hand, is the judgment that one is a bad person.  Guilt, he would conclude, moves one to reform while shame paralyzes any action.  In the first readings this Easter week from the Acts of the Apostles Peter exhorts the Jews to feel guilty for their part in crucifying Jesus.  But he provides them hope so that they do not fall into the pit of shame.

In today’s passage Peter accuses the Jews of killing Jesus.  “’The author of life,’” he says, ‘”you put to death…’” As a demonstration that Jesus gives life, Peter has healed the paralytic in his name.  Peter then explains that because the Jews acted out of ignorance, they need not feel ashamed.  Rather they can repent of their misdeed so that they too might experience the healing grace of Christ.

Easter provides us with hope of eternal life.  This grace begins now with the new life that comes from repentance and forgiveness.  We experience it as the joy of leaving behind selfishness to walk with the risen Christ in love for others.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Wednesday within the Octave of Easter

(Acts 3:1-10; Lucas 24:13-35)

Twenty-five years ago Christians everywhere marveled at the parable, “Footprints in the Sand.”  The tale tells of a dream which a person has about her life.  It says that the dreamer sees two sets of footprints along most of her life’s trajectory.  She surmises that one set is hers and the other belongs to the Lord whom she has always held as a friend.  At a point of crisis, however, she sees only one set of footprints and worries that the Lord abandoned her in need.  When she asks him why, she learns that he had not abandoned her but had carried her through the trial.  Today’s gospel provides the model for that famous parable.

Two travelers from Jerusalem are bereft with the death and rumored resurrection of Jesus.  Along the road they meet a stranger who elucidates all that is troubling them.  His explanation of the Scriptures makes their hearts burn with love of God.  In a meal at the day’s end they recognize their interlocutor as none other than their risen Lord.

The gospel story helps us appreciate the presence of Christ in both word and sacrament at mass.  We may also understand it as indicating that he accompanies us along the journey of life.  As youth, we find him teaching us to play fairly and to work hard to succeed. In middle age, we meet Jesus forgiving our excesses and strengthening us to carry out his Father’s will.  At life’s end we recognize him as the thread that has held our life together and the hope of an ever more abundant life to come.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tuesday within the Octave of Easter

(Acts 2:36-41; John 20:11-18)

The man underwent a horrific experience.  He was exercising on his bicycle when he was hit by a small truck.  He was left for dead but fortunately his head was not injured.  He was treated for weeks in the hospital and then spent months in rehabilitation.  He is still recuperating his strength but does not feel bitter about what had happened.  He says that throughout the painful experience, he felt a closeness to Christ never before known.  The surprise of being so near to the living Christ is similar to what Mary Magdalene experiences in today’s gospel.

Mary was one of Jesus’ closest friends.  She remained with him throughout his crucifixion on Friday.  She also discovered his empty tomb on Sunday morning.  Now she returns to the burial area hoping to find the dead body of her beloved Lord.  She hears someone calling her by name.  She turns to sees him standing there.  There is no dead body to weep over but a live one to adore. 

We too will meet the risen Christ when we assume Mary’s faithfulness.  We will find him as our strength in our darkest moments.  We may even hear his voice calling us by name.  “Carmelo,” he may say, “do not worry so much.  I will help you.”

Monday, March 28, 2016

Monday within the Octave of Easter

(Acts 2:14.22-33; Matthew 28:8-15)

In today’s gospel the Jewish authorities instruct the soldiers to lie about what had taken place the day of Jesus’ resurrection.  Moreover, it indicates that all the Jews believed the fabrication.  Scholars do not doubt that this report exaggerates the cover-up.  It is part of the often vindictive debate that was taking place between Christians and Jews when the gospel was being written.

Matthew begins his gospel with the story of how King Herod the Great tried to squash the coming of Christ to the world.  The king, frustrated by the Magi’s not returning to Jerusalem, orders all infant boys of the region killed.  Now at the end of the gospel the Jewish leaders try to stop news of the resurrection from spreading to the people.  God will frustrate them as well with Jesus’ appearances to the apostles and their proclamation to the world.

We live in a time of similar religious rivalry.  Muslims on one side and Christians and Jews on the other are wary of one another.  As Pope Francis demonstrated when he washed the feet of three Muslims on Holy Thursday, we must not allow this antipathy to spread.  We should never attribute to all Muslims the evil perpetrated by Muslim extremists.   We need to promote positive relations with Muslims because we are followers of Christ who died to show God’s love for all.