Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter

Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter
Acts 5:17-26  +  John 3:16-21
April 14, 2021

But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

Today’s Gospel passage tells us neither of Jesus preaching nor of Jesus acting.  Instead, in this passage St. John the Evangelist offers spiritual commentary on the Christian life.  More specifically, the evangelist describes what it means for the Christian’s works to be rooted in Christ, so deeply in fact that it is Christ who acts through the Christian.  To do so, he uses the simple metaphor of light, but in two ways.

On the one hand, to offer a contrast, the evangelist speaks in terms of sinful actions.  He notes that “everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light”.  Clearly, the evangelist is using light as a metaphor for truth.  In common English, when we say that someone fears his actions “coming to light”, we mean that someone fears the truth of his actions becoming known.  Along this line, the evangelist explains that the sinner “does not come toward the light” so that his actions will not become known.  Adam and Eve, after committing the Original Sin, exemplify what the evangelist means here.

On the other hand, the evangelist also refers to the good works done by a Christian:  that is, works done in accord with the will of God the Father, whom St. James in his epistle calls “the Father of lights” [James 1:17].  In the last sentence of today’s Gospel passage, the evangelist notes that “whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”

So how does what the evangelist says about morality shed light on the whole of the spiritual life?  Consider that, to the Romans, Jesus’ crucifixion was punishment for threatening their rule.  To the Jews, Jesus’ crucifixion was ironic justice for a man who claimed to be their Messiah.  But the Beloved Disciple—the only apostle and evangelist to stand at the foot of the Cross—saw infinitely more in the Crucifixion.  He saw light in the darkness of Calvary.  So in turn, each of us needs to see light in the darkness of our sins:  each night when we make an examination of conscience, and in the pew at church before entering the confessional.  That light is Jesus’ Divine Mercy, which poured forth from the side of Jesus on the Cross.

Easter 2-3

Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter

Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter
Acts 4:32-37  +  John 3:7-15
April 13, 2021

The community of believers was of one heart and mind ….

One of the greatest tensions in the spiritual life is between individual concerns and communal needs.  Given our modern secular culture, we tend to the former.

We can be lulled into nurturing our spiritual life as something that’s “just between me and God” or a “me and Jesus relationship”.  A relationship with God certainly lies at the heart of the Christian life, but our lives are not given to us for our sakes alone.

Everything God graciously gives us, including our relationship with Him, is given to us for the sake of others. The graces that God pours into our lives are meant to overflow from our lives into the world through the Church.

The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, the Risen Jesus in the world today.  It is through the Church that we live our spiritual lives:  both in receiving the sacramental graces that build us up, and in giving these graces to others through our vocation.

The Christian’s vocation is the hinge between the individualistic and the communal:  each of us is called to be an individual for the sake of others.  We reflect on this aspect of the Mystical Body of Christ throughout the Easter Season as we prepare for the celebration of Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit descends from Heaven to strengthen the Church, and each of us who are her members, to carry out the saving mission of the Church.

Easter 2-2

Monday of the Second Week of Easter

Monday of the Second Week of Easter
Acts 4:23-31  +  John 3:1-8
April 12, 2021

“Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’”

Today’s Gospel passage shows Jesus teaching Nicodemus a lesson about the Holy Spirit.  The First Reading shows the members of the early Church living this lesson.

The Holy Spirit animates the soul of the Christian, who lives her or his life within the Body of Christ.  Sometimes the Holy Spirit is metaphorically called the soul of the Body of Christ.  This image helps us recognize how completely we are to live within the Church.  This image also helps us see how the Holy Spirit must be the source of our every thought and act.

When the first Christians received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, they surely never imagined themselves experiencing the conflicts that we read about in the Acts of the Apostles.  The Holy Spirit led them where they may not previously have been willing to go.  In our own lives, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to animate our lives.  When we do, the Holy Spirit will  make the virtue of humility easier to live, since both the conflicts and victories in our lives are His.

Easter 2-1

Saturday in the Octave of Easter

Saturday in the Octave of Easter
Acts 4:13-21  +  Mark 16:9-15
April 10, 2021

I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me.

Throughout the Blessed Virgin Mary’s life, humility marked her approach to her Lord.  Humility is not a virtue that one can ever spiritually outgrow.  Whatever graces God gives us, they are given for the unfolding of His plan, which often remains to us a mystery.  Even as we apply these graces in our lives, we must do so with humility, as day by day, another aspect of the mystery of our vocation is shown to us.

Even at the foot of the Cross, Mary prayed in humility.  It was with humility that she rejoiced at the sight of her Son risen from the dead.  Seeing Jesus on that first Easter Sunday, she would not have known exactly how He was preparing His disciples—through the power of the Holy Spirit—to form a Church.  Nor would she have known exactly how Jesus’ words to her from the Cross—“Woman, behold your son”—were about to flower with new meaning, when she became the Mother of the Church on the day of Pentecost.

If you do not already know it by heart, take the opportunity to learn the prayer Regina Caeli, the traditional Marian prayer of Easter:

V.  Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia. / R. For He whom you did merit to bear, alleluia.

V.  Has risen, as he said, alleluia. / R. Pray for us to God, alleluia.

V.  Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia. / R. For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.

Let us pray. O God, who gave joy to the world through the resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, grant we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Easter 1-6

Friday in the Octave of Easter

Friday in the Octave of Easter
Acts 4:1-12  +  John 21:1-14
April 9, 2021

He revealed Himself in this way.

What does St. John the Evangelist mean when he reports to us that the disciples “dared” not ask Jesus “Who are you?”  After all, the Beloved Disciple had told Peter that this was the Lord.  Today’s Gospel passage suggests some unresolved ambiguity.  While the miracle of catching 153 fish convinced the disciples who He was, there was still some reason for them to ask His identity.  His miracle convinced them, but His appearance did not.

So the Risen Jesus, in His glorified Body, was the same person, yet somehow different.  He had the same two natures—human and divine—yet He was somehow different.  The Resurrection narratives demonstrate some of the ways in which Jesus was different after His rising from the dead:  most famously—as we will hear this coming Sunday—the Risen Lord had a physical body that could pass through solid matter.

The point here is that in His Risen Body, Jesus looks different to His disciples.  He looks different enough to cause some confusion in their minds:  at least enough confusion for them to be tempted to “dare” ask Him “Who are you?”  For ourselves, regarding both our meditation and our speaking to the Lord in prayer, we should ask:  do we expect the Lord to appear to us in some certain way?  How might God want to surprise us in making Himself known to us, and in showing us His love?

Easter 1-5

Divine Mercy Sunday [B]

Divine Mercy Sunday [B]
Acts 4:32-35  +  1 John 5:1-6  +  John 20:19-31
April 11, 2021

“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

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click HERE to hear Scott Hahn’s reflection for this Sunday (2:59)

click HERE to watch Jeff Cavins’ reflection for this Sunday (4:39)

click HERE to read the homily of Monsignor Charles Pope for this Sunday

click HERE to watch the homily of Archbishop Charles Chaput for this Sunday (20:49)

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click HERE to read Pope Francis’ 2017 Regina Cæli address for this Sunday

click HERE to read Pope Benedict’s 2008 Regina Cæli address for this Sunday

click HERE to read St. John Paul II’s 2002 Regina Cæli address for this Sunday

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references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church cited for this Sunday by the Vatican’s Homiletic Directory:

CCC 448, 641-646: appearances of the risen Christ
CCC 1084-1089: sanctifying presence of the risen Christ in the liturgy
CCC 2177-2178, 1342: the Sunday Eucharist
CCC 654-655, 1988: our new birth in the Resurrection of Christ
CCC 976-983, 1441-1442: “I believe in the forgiveness of sins”
CCC 949-953, 1329, 1342, 2624, 2790: communion in spiritual goods

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As today’s Gospel Reading begins, three things have taken place.  Both Peter and John have seen the empty tomb, John has believed in the Resurrection, and Mary Magdalene, to whom Jesus had appeared, has told the apostles of His appearance.  Yet despite all this, “the disciples had locked the doors of the place where they were for fear of the Jews.”

But why were the disciples afraid of the Jews?  Why weren’t they out on the streets, preaching boldly the Good News of the Resurrection, shouting “Alleluia!”?

The story of St. Thomas’ unbelief in today’s Gospel Reading seems to condemn him.  But this passage in fact condemns all of the apostles:  either for not believing in, or not proclaiming their belief in the Risen Jesus.

The Season of Easter—which began last Sunday and lasts for seven weeks—lets us reflect on the Resurrection.  At the same time, we need to ask ourselves what our lives should look like because we believe in the Risen Jesus.

A simple description of the Church in her infancy is given in the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles“The community of believers were of one heart and one mind”:  that is, they possessed the heart and mind of Christ.  “With power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great respect was paid to them all.”

Of course, today’s First Reading is set after the day of Pentecost:  that is, after the Holy Spirit had descended upon the Apostles, gifting them with the graces needed for their work.  The power and the presence of the Holy Spirit is the difference between the First Reading and the disciples at the start of the Gospel Reading.

A simple description of the life of the Christian is given in today’s Second Reading:  “The love of God consists in this:  that we keep his commandments. … It is the Spirit who testifies to this and the Spirit is truth.”  This Holy Spirit is the One who makes it possible to keep the Commandments.  All of the Commandments are commands to love.  God commands us to love our God and our neighbor.  But the events of today’s Gospel Reading give these two great commands focus by considering how God and man forgive.

The great English author G. K. Chesterton once wrote about the false forgiveness that man often offers:  “it seems to me that you only pardon the sins that you don’t really think sinful.  You only forgive criminals when they commit what you don’t regard as crimes, but rather as conventions.  So you tolerate a conventional duel, just as you tolerate a conventional divorce.  You forgive because there isn’t anything to be forgiven.”  By contrast, Chesterton in another work described Christian forgiveness:  “Charity means pardoning the unpardonable, or it is no virtue at all.”

The world has problems, and each of us who lives in the world has problems.  There is a lot in our lives to distract us, to tempt us to think that the sin and evil around us and within us is nothing of importance.  But the Holy Spirit whom we wait for during these fifty days of Easter leads us to face our own difficulties and the difficulties of the world squarely, looking them in the eye through the light of Christ.

When Christ appeared to the apostles, what did He say to convince them who He was?  Did He work a miracle?  No.  He showed them the wounds in His side, hands, and feet:  the battle scars from His fight with death.

Christ, the victor over death, shows us the evidence of His Divine Mercy.  He invites us to share in the strength of His Body and Blood, and invites us to share fully in the life of His Holy Spirit.  Yet these invitations serve a larger purpose.  God wills that each of us might courageously proclaim the Good News about the Risen Jesus.  But our proclamation must begin with our extending Jesus’ Divine Mercy to our debtors as willingly as we have accepted Divine Mercy for our own debts.

Thursday in the Octave of Easter

Thursday in the Octave of Easter
Acts 3:11-26  +  Luke 24:35-48
April 8, 2021

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.

It is only in “the breaking of the bread” that the disciples come to know Jesus, and it is only in this that they become more than disciples.  Only in the Eucharist do we share in the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, and become members of Christ’s Body.  This is the goal of our lives as Christians:  not merely to learn about Jesus, but to enter into His life and saving mission.

On the day of the Resurrection, Jesus is preparing the apostles for the day of His Ascension.  After He leaves the earth, it will be up to them to act in His name.  First, they must preach penance for the remission of sins, and then suffer inevitably for standing up for what is true.

In all of this, the waves of impact from the news of the Resurrection continue to spread throughout the world that God created, bringing peace to His people on earth and glory to God in the highest.  Throughout history and throughout our own lives, it is our calling to continue to be faithful witness to the news of the Resurrection.  Yet only Christ’s Holy Spirit can sustain us in offering ourselves for such witness.  So for this calling we pray during the Easter season for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in abundance.

Easter 1-4

Wednesday in the Octave of Easter

Wednesday in the Octave of Easter
Acts 3:1-10  +  Luke 24:13-35
April 7, 2021

But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”

Easter Monday we heard the chief priests and the elders respond to the news of the Resurrection by covering their tracks with lies.  Yesterday, we heard Mary Magdalen respond to Our Risen Lord when He called her by her name.  She cried out, “Teacher!”  Yet we are called to recognize in Christ much more than simply a teacher.

Today we hear of more events which took place on the day of the Resurrection.  The word “disciple” means “one who learns”, and the two disciples of today’s Gospel passage are obviously devoted to learning.  Undoubtedly they asked themselves what all these amazing events could mean.

We are told that Jesus joins them in their journey, though the disciples, like Mary Magdalen, do not recognize who He is.  Jesus preaches to them the meaning of the Scriptures, which help them learn.  These Scriptures help them learn the meaning of what had happened over the previous few days.  But still, they do not recognize Jesus.

Only in “the breaking of the bread” do they come to know Jesus, and only in the Eucharist do we Christians become more than disciples.  Only by sharing in the Sacrifice of Christ’s Body and Blood can we begin to imitate Him in our lives as He wills.

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter
Acts 2:36-41  +  John 20:11-18
April 6, 2021

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.

On the day of Pentecost, Peter boldly proclaims to the Jewish people:  “Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”  The response of these Jews is pretty easy to guess.  Acts tells us that “when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other Apostles, ‘What are we to do…?’”  You can almost imagine what they, in their fear, expect Peter to reply.

But Peter delivers to them Good News:  “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the Name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Acts then tells us that there were two groups in that crowd:  there were those who accepted this Good News—some 3,000 persons—and there were those who did not accept this Good News.

Here is the first lesson of the Church’s life and saving mission.  Unfortunately, it’s a difficult lesson to put into practice.  We need to choose to be in that first crowd, the crowd of 3,000.  We need to accept the Good News about the love that God wants to give us.  This is the love that Jesus, from the Cross and in the Holy Eucharist, is dying to give us.

Easter 1-2