The Resurrection of the Lord
April 9, 2023 – Year A
Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43 / Ps 118 / Col 3:1-4 / Jn 20:1-9
by Rev. Jay Biber, Guest Celebrant
Today’s gospel has a great theme, in this season that introduces death to life, light to darkness, good and evil. It goes back to the two great dimensions of what God gives us, and I think I’d like to leave you with the same homework assignment that I left with the folks at the Easter Vigil last night.
These two dimensions of God that we focus on, that come front and center when we celebrate the sacrament of Baptism, are the dimension of God as creator and God as redeemer. We call these the Two Orders – the order of creation and the order of redemption.
At the Vigil Mass, we begin a long series of readings beginning with the creation account from the very first pages of the Book of Genesis. God creates the world, the sky on Day One, the seas and the waters on Day Two, the earth on Day Three, and on Days Four, Five, and Six what fills the sky, the birds and the flying things, what fills the waters, the fish and the sea monsters, and what fills the earth – all that creeps and crawls and all the animals, and at the crown of creation, the human person. That is the six days of creation.
And of course, the seventh day is what we do today. That’s why the commitment is so important to us, because it keeps a rhythm of time that we have a foreshadowing of the eternal Sabbath, remembering that in a sense every Sunday is Easter. We have a foreshadowing of the eternal Sabbath with God – the day without work, they day you pray and play, the day to renew relationships, the day for a foretaste of Heaven.
So God has ordered that for us when we speak of the order of creation. Everyone does not realize that there is an order, a nature of things. We can explore and learn; it’s not like we are cast adrift and have to find our own meaning for everything. There’s a meaning already there.
I learned it as a kid growing up in post-war America. Like many kids, we were not that far removed from the immigrant experience, as all my grandparents were immigrants. You get roughed up a little bit as an immigrant. I remember those stories, especially when you add Catholic into that. But I also remember very early on being given that sense of where I fit in, because the first question in the Catechism class every year was, “Who made you?” And the answer that you had memorized and had drilled into your head was “God made me.” Well, that’s not a bad start.
Think of how many people today haven’t been baptized, haven’t been given that greatest gift, “God made me,” that I’m not a meaningless cipher. I’m not just happening to be there and not knowing if there’s any reason for this. We say that you can tell your friends, “I don’t always act like it and I don’t always think right and part of me rebels against God, and part of me wants God, but He created me in His image and likeness.”
That’s true of all my brothers and sisters, and that’s true of the people I like and the people I don’t like. He created us in His image and likeness, so that the closest you’ll come to God today is the next human being you’ll look at.
And so, there’s an order of creation. That’s what allowed the Church to be the first ones in the West to explore science, because of the belief that God has created an ordered universe and invites us to study that. Therefore, all that does is reveal more of Him. Many of the great Church leaders going back into history have been great scientists – the founder of genetics, the founder of the Big Bang Theory (a priest from Belgium.) There’s an order to things, and the human person has a place. Now, how marvelous is that?
There are so many who have no idea where they fit in, thinking they are on this big map, but there’s no X saying, “You are here.” If you come across folks in those moments, you can begin to say, “You know, I may have something for you.” We believe that we are created for a purpose. It takes a lifetime to find it out and not everything goes right, but there’s a deep joy. That’s the order of creation.
Then of course, we have the order of redemption. Because what you know about yourself, and what you know about every other person who was ever conceived, is that somehow there’s a flaw in there. There’s something that’s begging to be redressed or redeemed, to be purchased back by God. There’s a distance that’s crept in between us and God; we are not living in the human nature for which we were originally designed. We are living in the human condition, after that separation from God came in which we all inherit. We know that about ourselves.
One thing I like about that is that when I know I’m not perfect, I don’t have to kill myself. It’s true of all of us; we all suffer. But we finally discover a beautiful thing, that God did not wait for me to be perfect to love me.
That’s something you may be able to pass onto someone who may be suffering. Put it in your own words; illustrate it with your own story. Get familiar with using these words because this is exactly what happened after the Resurrection. They were pretty clueless; they didn’t understand, but they began to put those words together and gradually took those words to the ends of the earth.
Now, as we are often surrounded by folks who haven’t been baptized, we have an opportunity to speak of the order of redemption. The older folks will remember saving your Green Stamps, putting them in the book, and then redeeming them for a spoon or a Corning Ware dish. This is more sophisticated, but redeem still means “bought back.”
If you’re wondering about your self-esteem, or if you’re wondering if you have any worth or not, or if you’re worth working on, you can say, “I have been redeemed by the precious blood of the Savior.” We are not designed in the blueprint to be able to make it on our own. I like to think He’s designed us with limits so we will need others, and that we will need Him, because that’s the way we’re meant to be.
So this season, I think we have a good story to tell, with all our imperfections and all the ways we miss a mark here and there, to say you know, that order of creation, to meet my maker, to thank Him for the order with which He made things, to thank Him for making me and the order of redemption, to thank Him for putting me back on the right track and offering through the Church the whole toolbox of what it takes to bring me to His feet, to bring me before His face.
I’d like to think that once we begin again as they did in that early century, once we begin to speak those words confidently and humbly again, the first century happens again and then people will say, “You know, I want some of what you have. I like the way you live. Let me explore this life of which you speak.”KEEP READING
Fifth Sunday of Lent
March 26, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Ex 37:12-14 / Ps 130 / Rom 8:8-11 / Jn 11:1-45
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
From today’s Psalm we hear, “I trust in the Lord; my soul trusts in His word (Ps 130: 5-6).” It is a good Lenten practice to ask ourselves, Do I trust God? Do I understand what is meant by divine providence? When my future is uncertain or I am experiencing suffering, darkness, death, or discord in my life, do I trust that He hears and answers my prayers? Today’s gospel clearly affirms that in God’s plan, “[S]uffering and death are not meaningless (Martin 200).”
On Hallow’s forty-day Lenten series, Jonathan Roumie shared a story that illustrates how God, in His providence makes good come from suffering. Fr. Walter Ciszek, a Polish-American Jesuit priest who was doing clandestine missionary work in the USSR, was imprisoned in a Soviet Union labor camp for twenty-three years. While in prison, he struggled with the seeming crushing of his dream to spread the faith. Despair came upon him, until he surrendered to God in the midst of his imprisonment, forced labor, and nutritional and spiritual deprivation.
How did Fr. Ciszek’s Catholic faith enable him to move from despair to helping the other prisoners “find God and attain eternal life (Hallow)?” A key insight was that he came to realize that “God is in all things.” He wrote, “To see His will in all things was to accept each circumstance and situation and let oneself be borne along in perfect confidence and trust. No danger could threaten me, no fear could shake me, except the fear of losing sight of Him. The future, hidden as it was, was hidden in His will and therefore acceptable to me no matter what it might bring.” This quote is from his autobiography, “He Leadeth Me,” which he wrote in peace and comfort in America. His autobiography is accomplishing his dream of spreading the faith much more effectively than if he had not suffered as he did.
Now let’s look at the gospel for a message on trust in divine providence. When Jesus receives word from Mary and Martha that Lazarus is ill, does He go and heal him as Mary and Martha expected their intercession to bring about? No. Listen to the oddness in these two verses. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was ill, He remained for two days in the place where He was (Jn 11:5-6).” Jesus, who is God, loves them and hears their prayer request to heal Lazarus, but does not do it. Why?
Jesus gives us a couple of reasons. After telling the disciples that Lazarus has died, He says, “I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe (Jn 11:15).” At Lazarus’s tomb, He tells His Father that He is praying out loud “that they may believe that you sent me (Jn 11:42).” Jesus delayed so that people would come to believe He was sent by God and has power even over the grave.
Dr. Brant Pitre shares the reflections of three saints on Jesus’ delay. They shine a light on divine providence that Mary and Martha, in the sorrow of the moment, could not see. St. Peter Chrysologus explained it this way: “For Christ, it was more important to conquer death than to cure disease. He showed His friend His love not by healing him but by calling him back from the grave. Instead of a remedy for his illness, He offered him the glory of rising from the dead (Sermon 63:1-2).”
My favorite of the three reflections Pitre shared may be from St. Andrew of Crete. He imagined Jesus at Lazarus’s tomb saying, “Lazarus, Come out!…As a friend, I am calling you; as Lord I am commanding you…Come out! Let the stench of your body prove the resurrection. Let the burial linen be undone so that they can recognize the one who was put in the tomb. Come out!…Come out of the tomb….(And here is the clincher….) Teach them how all creation will be enlivened in a moment, when the trumpet’s voice proclaims the resurrection of the dead (Homily 8).” St. Andrew was alluding to 1 Thessalonians 4:16, which tells of an angel blowing a trumpet when Jesus returns on the last day and the dead being raised at its sound. This spiritual truth is sung at the Easter Vigil in the Exultet, “Let the trumpet of salvation sound aloud the mighty King’s triumph!”
The third reflection was from St. John Chrysostom. He points out that, “Many are offended when they see any who are pleasing to God suffering anything terrible…They do not know that those who are especially dear to God have it as their lot to endure such things as is the case with Lazarus, who is a friend of Christ but was also sick (Homilies on John).”
God knows the big picture. We do not. Mary and Martha did not. While they just wanted their brother healed, Jesus wanted to draw more people to Himself by showing that He has power even over death. Through divine providence, Mary and Martha received a gift much greater than what they asked for.
The saints seem to get this, and so they do not fret over their suffering or impending death. St. Pope John Paul II, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Gianna Beretta Molla, and the aforementioned St. John Chrysostom come to mind (Pitre). They could live lives of heroic virtue because they trusted that God’s providence would bring about a greater good out of their suffering and death.
In raising Lazarus from the dead, we see Jesus vastly exceed that for which Mary and Martha prayed. This teaches us to trust that God hears our prayers and sees our tears (remember He wept with them). We have been doing extra fasting, abstinence, prayer, and charity for five weeks, but do we trust that God is doing something with our efforts? If you have not noticed any change or transformation in yourself, it may be that like Mary and Martha you are focused on looking for what you asked for instead of looking for what God chose to do. Ask Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, to reveal what the Father has done and is doing in you.
Here is another true story about providence, and this one is from a friend of mine named HV. He was a 16-year-old when his family had to flee their home country of Vietnam. HV remembers suffocating heat worsened by standing shoulder to shoulder on a boat with other refugees. People began to die around him as they had no water for three days. Ultimately, his family arrived in Virginia Beach. HV had no friends, could not speak English, and struggled with American culture.
Growing up, HV’s parents had prayed the rosary regularly with him and his siblings. His father had even taken him to a seminary to apply for the priesthood. (He was turned down.) Nevertheless, the awfulness of his family’s refugee experience led him to decide that God did not exist. Like Fr. Ciszek, though, HV came to see God in all these things.
His family survived the boat trip and were now living, in HV’s words, “in the greatest country on earth.” He ended up marrying, having children and becoming an engineering manager. He and his wife served the youth in their parish, and he served in the Knights of Columbus. And on September 25, 2021, the man who was turned down by that Vietnamese seminary, was ordained with me and is now a permanent deacon. And, by the way, his easy-going manner and sense of humor made him the class favorite and enviably, my family’s favorite as well. His parent’s prayers were heard, and God made a greater good come about for his family from the evil of war than if it had never happened.
My last sharing is from the Litany of Trust by Sr. Faustina Maria Pia of the Sisters of Life in New York. It was prayed in Hallow’s 40 Day Lenten challenge. She wrote that, “The Lord knows that we don’t have what it takes on our own. He comes to us with great love. He sustains us at all times, even when we are not aware of Him.”
Let’s close with part of the Litany so that you can continue to pray your own form of it these last days of Lent. I invite you to respond in your heart after each petition, Jesus, I trust in You. “That You are with me in my suffering…Jesus, I trust in You. That Your plan is better than anything else…Jesus, I trust in You. That You always hear me, and in Your goodness always respond to me…Jesus, I trust in You. That you give me all the strength I need for what is asked…Jesus I trust in You. That you can deliver me from resentment [and] excessive preoccupation with the past…Jesus, I trust in You. That my life is a gift…Jesus, I trust in You. That I am Your beloved one…Jesus, I trust in You.”
Brothers and sisters, make the saints’ trust in divine providence yours and, with God’s grace, move your Lent from doubt to confidence and from struggle to peacefulness. God is in all our experiences and so our future, no matter what it holds, is the best. Amen.
Hallow App. Lent #Pray40 Part 1: Imitation of Christ. Week 5 Tuesday and Wednesday reflections. March 2023.
Peter Kreeft. Food for the Soul – Reflections on the Mass Readings for Cycle A. Word of Fire 2022.
Fr. Mark Toups. Lenten Companion, A Personal Encounter with the Power of the Gospel. Ascension Publishing 2023.
Fr. Francis Martin & William T. Wright IV. Catholic Commentary of Sacred Scripture. The Gospel of John. Baker Academic, 2015.KEEP READING
Second Sunday of Lent
March 5, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Gn 12:1-4a / Ps 33 / 2 Tm 1:8b-10 / Mt 17:1-9
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Our gospel today talks about the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ on Mount Tabor, or Mount Hebron. Since the fifth century, every August 6 is the Feast of the Transfiguration, and the Second Sunday of Lent each year is also called Transfiguration Sunday.
Because the gospel talks about this great event in the life of Jesus Christ, and His three disciples, Peter, James, and John, were witnesses to it, we can say the main purpose of Christ’s Transfiguration was to prepare the apostles for the events of Holy Week, when Jesus Christ sacrificed, died, and was nailed on the cross because of His great love for each one of us. In other words, He prepared them for His upcoming suffering.
On the mountain, Peter, James and John saw that there was more to Jesus than met the eye. During the Transfiguration, they get a glimpse of the future glory of Jesus’ resurrection.
And like them, we, too, get glimpses of the presence of God in our lives. We get glimpses of God in the love we receive from other people. We get glimpses of God when badly needed help suddenly comes to us from out of nowhere. We get glimpses of God when we look back over our lives, and what we couldn’t understand in the past makes sense now. We see glimpses of God in the beauty of a fine day, a nice beach, a beautiful sunrise or sunset. We see glimpses of God when a passage from the Bible or a homily strikes a chord in our hearts. We get a glimpse of God when we spend time in prayer and experience the loving presence of God in our lives. We get more than just a glimpse of God when we receive the body of Jesus in Holy Communion. The Transfiguration, coming early in Lent, encourages us to continue our Lenten penances, because it reminds us of the glory of Jesus risen from the dead.
When Jesus and the disciples came down the mountain, Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone about the Transfiguration until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. Of course, they didn’t know what He meant. Unknown to them was that the glory of Jesus’ Transfiguration was preparing them to accept the scandal of the cross. They would understand this only afterwards when looking back.
Brothers and Sisters, the good times take us through the bad times. So, when our cross is heavy, or we are tempted to despair about the meaning of life, let us look beyond the pain of the present moment and remember those times when we got glimpses of God, those times when God sent us His consolation. Let us look beyond the pain of life and see the presence of God in our world and the offer of life that God wants to make to each of us. Let us look beyond the illusion of happiness that this life offers to the real happiness that God offers us. Let us look beyond this world to eternal life with God.
In our first reading, we heard Abram being called by God to leave his present place and go to a new country. He was seventy-five when called to leave his old country but had to wait another twenty-five years for the promised son, Isaac, to be born, so that the promise of future descendants could be fulfilled. That was a long wait. It was a long time for him to be continually looking beyond the present to the promise of God. With faith, we can see what we cannot see with our eyes.
On the mountain, Peter, James and John looked beyond the appearance of Jesus and saw His future risen glory. Let us look beyond and see that God is really with us. God has not left us on our own. God is with us.
The Transfiguration of Jesus in our gospel was not just about Jesus. It was a vision of the glorious future to which we are all called. We encounter problems and negativities, and we get hurt going through life. Then we have the choice either to say negative things, or we can choose to remember who we really are: brothers and sisters of Jesus, sons and daughters of God since Baptism, and that the glory of the Transfigured Jesus awaits each of us.
We can choose to think in negative ways, or to remember the encouragement we receive in sacred scripture. In his first letter, John writes, “We are already children of God, but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed. All we know is that, when it is revealed, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He really is. We shall be like Him.”
The glory of the Transfigured Jesus is awaiting each of us, thanks to our Baptism. So then for one who believes, there is no room for negative thinking. We will be tempted to think negatively because of the events that occur to us, but let us not forget our dignity, no matter what happens, and no matter what others think of us or say to us.
The second reading today also gives us an insight into what God has destined for us. It says, “He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to His own design, and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began.…” God’s grace was granted to us before the beginning of time. Imagine: Since the beginning of time, God had you in His plan and had His grace planned for you. Since the beginning of time, God planned to transform us through His son, Jesus.
The disciples who experienced Jesus’ Transfiguration had to come down the mountain and return to normality, but they remembered the Transfiguration. Like them, we live in normality, but we believe, and know, that God has destined great things for us. We say the Transfiguration prepared the disciples for the scandal of the cross. Celebrating Jesus’ Transfiguration early in Lent reminds us of what comes after the cross, because it reminds us of the glory of Jesus risen from the dead. In our worst moments of pain, may we not think negatively, but remember the encouragement we receive in sacred scripture, and that God has destined the glory of the Transfiguration for each of us in the next life.KEEP READING
Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 6, 2022 — Year C
Readings: 2 Mc 7:1-2, 9-14 / Ps 17 / 2 Thes 2:16-3:5 / Lk 20:27-38
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
Many years ago, in a different parish, I gathered with a handful of adults to talk about the creed. That was the first time I learned that some people mistakenly think the “resurrection of the body” that we profess at the end of the Apostle’s creed is Jesus’. In fact, we are professing that our bodies will be raised on the last day.
Bishop Barron was reflecting on this miracle in his book, To Light a Fire on the Earth, and he referenced C.S. Lewis. C.S. Lewis dedicated a book to miracles, and in it he argued that of all the world’s great religions, only Christianity depended on miracles for its authenticity. He wrote, “The mind that asks for a non-miraculous Christianity is a mind in the process of relapsing from Christianity into mere religion (Barron 138).” Preeminent among all those miracles was Jesus’ resurrection. The resurrection of our bodies is at the heart of today’s readings.
In today’s gospel Jesus is countering the Sadducees’ disbelief in this. The Sadducees try to show that this belief is comical by asking which of the widow’s seven husbands is her husband in the afterlife (Lk 20:33). Jesus, by the Sadducees’ admission, gave a solid answer. First, He points out that after our resurrection, things will be different. We will no longer need to marry or to be married. In Moses’ time, a brother was to marry his dead brother’s wife to ensure she had children, and his brother’s name would carry on. But in heaven, there is no need for having children and therefore no need for marriage (Gadenz 340). Second, Jesus quotes from the book of Exodus, because it is one of the five books the Sadducees consider inspired by God. (He meets them where they are and then tries to build a bridge from there to the fullness of the truth.) He points out that Moses called God the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and says, “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive (Lk 20: 37-38).”
Some things don’t change, and four hundred years later St. Augustine wrote, “On no point does the Christian faith encounter more opposition than on the resurrection of the body (CCC 996).” And as for today, many believe they will live on spiritually, but regarding our mortal bodies coming back to life too, maybe not so much. Jehovah’s Witnesses are one such example. However, bodily resurrection is a core teaching of our faith, and we need to believe it and be able to share it with non-believers.
Let’s start with God’s word “which is useful for teaching (2 Tim 3:16).” In the first reading from 2nd Maccabees, a mother and her seven sons refuse to violate God’s law even when threatened with death, not even after watching how painfully the others died before the executioner got around to them. Why did they endure such suffering? The second brother said this, “The King of the world will raise us up to live again forever,” and the third brother added that he hoped to receive his hands again from God (2 Mac 7: 9, 11).” Clearly, they believed that this life is fleeting, but there will be another and it is eternal, with their body, and without any suffering (Rev 21:4).
Peter Kreeft, in his personal reflection on today’s readings, points out that in the second reading, St. Paul articulates how the eight martyrs in Maccabees could find the courage and strength to do what they did (Kreeft 632). Paul wrote, “May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through His grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word (2 Thes 2:16).” It was in “good hope and through [God’s] grace” that the seven brothers and their mother were able to stay faithful to the end. Sounds good, but what is the “good hope” Paul mentions that we receive through grace?
The “good hope” is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1817).” In other words, we hope in the resurrection from the dead, of which Christ was the first (1 Cor 15:12-14). And here is the good news. “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you (Rom 8:11).”
Some of you may be wondering then, what happens immediately after death? Here is what the Church teaches. “In death, [which is] the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in His almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus’ resurrection (CCC 997).”
Sacred scripture and sacred tradition speak so often of our bodily resurrection that, if we are not careful, we nod in agreement but fail to stop and, like Mary, ponder it in our heart (Lk 2:19). Obviously, the author of 2nd Maccabees pondered it, and six hundred years before Jesus was born, the prophet Ezekiel did. His words on the resurrection are prayed in the Liturgy of the Hours, “You shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and make you come up out of them, my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may come to life… (Ez 37: 13-14).” God placed His Spirit in us at baptism. Thus, the hope of our bodily resurrection is solemnly symbolized by the white pall we place on the casket, reminding us of a loved one placing a white garment on our body when we were baptized.
A friend and Holy Name of Mary parishioner named John, experienced in a powerful way this past week this connection between baptism, death, and resurrection. Ten minutes after receiving Holy Communion, John felt a pain in his chest which then traveled up to his shoulder and down his arm. His arm went limp, and his hand clenched involuntarily. They took him to the ER. A nurse walked in and said, “They call me Princess and I’m here to get you started on your way.” This was very unsettling to John because he is fond of calling himself “Prince John” in light of becoming a brother of our most high king through baptism. John said he had this discomforting awareness during all this that his soul was up there and his body down here. Our priests anointed him and prayed for him. The tests were all negative and John walked out of the hospital feeling greatly moved by all this. He said, “I cannot stop thinking about it.” In other words, John was pondering it in his heart. God has called him to a deeper awareness of the mystery of the resurrection and through John’s story all of us too.
Here are a few closing thoughts. Our bodies are sacred. They are not disposable shells for our immortal soul. This is very evident at a Mass of Christian burial. We reverence the deceased’s body, either in a casket or an urn, by praying at their side, and if in a casket, kissing their forehead. Once the casket is closed, we place a radiant white pall over it, sprinkling holy water upon the urn or casket, moving the casket or urn to the foot of the altar and placing the paschal candle near them just as it was at their baptism. We incense the casket or urn in the sign of the cross, tenderly placing our hand upon the casket, or putting our hand on our heart while looking at the urn, as we come forward for Holy Communion.
From birth to death our bodies smile, laugh, cry, sing, hug, kiss, learn, sin, love, forgive, bring new life into the world, and are anointed with oil and blessed. It stands to reason that all this beauty and wonder of our body, that God took on in Jesus, would be just as immortal as the soul that animates it. For, as Jesus said, “I am the life and the resurrection…In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. (Jn 11:25; 14:2-3).” Amen.
Citations for Further Study
Easter Sunday – The Resurrection of the Lord
April 17, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43 / Ps 118 / Col 3:1-4 / Jn 20:1-9
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
In the old Jewish culture, women were considered to be unreliable in what they said, and therefore, they were not accepted as witnesses in a court or tribunal. So we can suppose that no Jew ever expected a woman to be the first witness of the risen Lord. But Jesus, always on the side of the oppressed, chose Mary Magdalene to preach the good news of His resurrection.
Some would say that the Lord intended a woman to be the first to become aware of His resurrection, so that the news could be spread easily to the people. But the seventh century theologian, Isidore of Seville, observed that just as a woman (Eve) first tasted death, so a woman (Mary Magdalene) first saw life. Just as a woman is responsible for the fall of man, so a woman is the first to witness the dawn of salvation. Beautiful!
But because of the magnitude of the mystery of the resurrection, Christ revealed it in a gradual way. First, the stone at the door of the tomb was seen rolled away. Second, they saw the remaining linen cloths. And third, the women were addressed by two angels, before the resurrected Lord was actually seen by the disciples.
One thing we can be sure of, if Christ had not been resurrected, we would not have heard of the apostles. We learn that when Christ was crucified on the cross, the disciples went into hiding, fearing that they would suffer the same death on the cross. The mystery of the Resurrection and nothing else motivated the apostles to come out again and boldly preach about Christ and the Gospel to all people.
The Resurrection of the Lord is the foundation of our faith. As St. Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith is vain. If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is just made up and you still remain in darkness and sin. But this is the truth – that Christ is risen from the dead and is the first fruits of them that slept.” (1 Cor 15:14, 17, 20)
The resurrection of Christ also guarantees our own resurrection. At Lazarus’s tomb, Christ assured Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall live.” (Jn 11:25-26) At the end of time, Christ will raise us from the dead. Even now, we who believe in Him are already beginning to share real life with the Lord.
So, what is the challenge of the mystery of the Resurrection to us today? The great mystery of the Lord’s Resurrection calls us to live as Easter people. But how can we do this? First, we will live happily, confidently, and full of hope. The Resurrection of Christ should give us strength and encouragement to face all the problems, pain, and suffering of the world. As He said to the women on the way to the tomb, we are now told, “Fear not.” The problems and pain of this life will remain, but we who have faith will also remain confident in God’s help.
Let us always remember that there is Easter after Good Friday. There is life and peace after the storms of life. We believe, with a vision of the life to come after this world.
St. Paul is the first to encourage us, “Since you were raised up with Christ, seek the things in heaven, where Christ sits at the right hand of God. Think of the things that are heavenly, not the things that are earthly.” And the things of Heaven are none other than the virtues of the Gospel: love, peace, truth, justice, and fairness. These must be our desire, because they belong to God and will give us true happiness, not material things and not physical feelings.KEEP READING
Second Sunday of Lent
March 13, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Gn 15:5-12, 17-18 / Ps 27 / Phil 3:17 – 4:1 / Lk 9:28b-36
by Rev. Mr. Barry Welch, Guest Homilist
I happened upon a YouTube video of an old bluegrass gospel song called Angel Band. It reminded me of my dad, Buddy. Buddy died a couple of years ago. It’s a great song, but I think it’s the memory and really the presence of my dad that sparked my emotions while I was listening to it.
Oh come, angel band,
Come and around me stand.
Oh, bear me away on your snow-white wings
To my immortal home.
Oh, bear me away on your snow-white wings
To my immortal home.
I just wanted to make sure you know the song and what it meant. We’re from Southwest Virginia.
Later that morning, on my drive to the church at Resurrection where I work, I called my mom, which I do pretty regularly on my drive, just to catch up and see how she’s doing and how she’s feeling. I told her about the song, and she knew it really well and remembered that my dad liked it.
It’s been over two years, and yet that morning she was cleaning out the drawer to the nightstand. She experienced a flood of memories sparked by the items that he had stored there – lapel pins, watches, belt buckles, and his pocketknives – things that he had thought enough of to keep. I told her that I would love to have a pocketknife, but I don’t want one of the ones that’s still in the cellophane like a showcase pocketknife: I want one that he carried in his pocket and used and loved.
Later on, I arrived at the church, grabbed a glass of water and a protein bar, plugged in my laptop, and headed for the comfy chair in the corner of my office. I noticed that behind that chair was Buddy’s guitar. It’s a guitar that I gave him at my wedding in 1994, and now it has been returned to me. A guitar, a simple song, a pocketknife – there’s nothing particularly special about any of them, in and of themselves. And yet, they contain so much power, so much meaning for me. I ask myself, why is that? Why do these objects have so much meaning?
I believe that each one of us possesses a spiritual power, an essence, a soul, and when someone occupies space in this realm, in this world, on this Earth in our lives, they leave little bits of that on things that they touch, things that they love. That’s one reason that we find it so hard to go through their stuff when they’re gone. The room, the car, the bed, and the clothes – it’s almost like they’re still there. We can smell them, we can feel them; we can feel their essence, and we desire so strongly that they return and occupy this space again. But if that happened, wouldn’t it be great if they weren’t in heart failure, if they didn’t have cancer, or diabetes, or pain in their knees and hips, and their memory was intact?
Well, brothers and sisters, that is the promise. That is our hope. That is the result of the new and eternal covenant – not ratified by offerings of bulls and goats, and rams and birds, but by the blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. That is the pathway generated by His suffering, death, and resurrection.
But the apostles didn’t know that yet. They had rallied around this amazing man; they had followed Him and witnessed His power to heal and drive out demons, even to raise one from the dead. And the Jews had been in this covenantal relationship with God for centuries, thousands of years, but they never could quite hold up their end of the agreement. So, they ended up at various times in slavery, and in exile, and occupied by foreign powers.
The apostles were pretty sure that Jesus is the Messiah and that He was going to end all that, but what they were not so sure about was His methods. He had just told them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and on the third day raised. He also told them, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Yeah, that’s great, Jesus, but how are you going to defeat the Romans? They were still arguing about who was to sit at His right hand when the Kingdom came. Jesus very patiently was teaching and demonstrating, trying to prepare them for the strife and the difficulty that lay ahead, but they just didn’t comprehend His meaning. So, before turning south for that final journey to Jerusalem, Jesus decided to give them some encouragement, give them some hope, something that they could draw on when the times turned darkest. He wanted to give them a real glimpse of the glory that awaits on the other side.
He took His closest friends, and He went up a mountain. Remember that in scriptures, whenever we go up a mountain, we are getting closer to God. He went up a mountain and when He got up there, the first thing He did was pray. He prayed. Jesus always prayed before something big was about to happen. That is a good example for us. While He was praying, His body was transfigured, became glowing and brilliant white, and in order to accentuate the supernatural impact of this event, He was in conversation with the two great heroes of the Jews, Moses and Elijah, also in their glory – Moses representing the law, Elijah representing the prophets, and Jesus the realization and fulfillment of them both.
Peter, James, and John did not have our hindsight on the Resurrection. They didn’t understand, and they wanted to put up tents. They wanted to remain on the mountaintop; they wanted to remain in that glorious moment. Don’t we all? But Jesus knew there was still a lot of hard work to be done to accomplish His exodus in Jerusalem. He will lead an exodus that takes us away from our slavery and to sin and death and to the new promised land – an eternal Heaven with Him.
A couple of days before Buddy died, he and I had a phone conversation about his ailments. He liked to talk about his ailments. And then somehow, we got to talking about Heaven. He was not Catholic and didn’t really understand our faith too deeply, but I told him about our Catholic faith regarding our bodies, and that our Apostles Creed ends with the belief in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. And he said (this was the last time I got to talk to him), “I believe that too, Barry.” Well, I’ll hold onto your pocketknife, Buddy.KEEP READING
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
August 15, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Rv 11:19a, 12:1-6a, 10ab / Ps 45 / 1 Cor 15:20-27 / Lk 1:39-56
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There is an old story about a workman on scaffolding high above the nave of a cathedral. He looked down and saw a woman praying before a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As a joke, the workman whispered, “Woman, this is Jesus.” But the woman ignored him.
So the workman whispered again more loudly, “Woman, this is Jesus.” But the woman still ignored him.
Finally, he said aloud, “Woman, don’t you hear me? This is Jesus.”
At this point the woman looked at the crucifix and said, “Be still now, Jesus; I’m talking to your mother.” (more…)KEEP READING
Third Sunday of Easter
April 18, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Acts 3:13-15, 17-19 / Ps 4 / 1 Jn 2:1-5a / Lk 24:35-48
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
On the day that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead, He appeared to two of His followers walking on the road to Emmaus. These two men, as Saint Luke the Evangelist related to us in today’s gospel, recounted what had taken place on the way and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
What was their story? Just like all of the disciples, they were so sad while they were walking on the road, because their friend, their teacher, and their Lord was crucified and died. The risen Jesus walked along with them, but they failed to recognize Him. (more…)KEEP READING
The Resurrection of the Lord
April 4, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43 / Ps 118 / Col 3:1-4 / Jn 20:1-9
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
Today we celebrate the glorious resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ! The tomb is empty! Jesus has destroyed death, and He has gone to Galilee. That’s the story we hear in the gospels.
Last night, at the Easter Vigil, we had nine readings. Father Sal explained to us that the first seven are actually a love story – the love story between God and His people. (more…)KEEP READING
Third Sunday of Lent
March 7, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Ex 20:1-17 / Ps 19 / 1 Cor 1:22-25 / Jn 2:13-25
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
A story is told about two altar servers who, one Sunday morning, while waiting for the Mass to begin, noticed that the priest was wearing a vestment in a color that was out of the ordinary. One of them said, “It is quite unusual that Father is wearing a pink robe today.” The other corrected him, saying, “It’s rose, not pink.” “How do you know?” the first asked. He answered, “Because Jesus ROSE from the dead; he didn’t PINK from it.” (more…)KEEP READING