Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord
Acts 10:34,37-43  +  Colossians 3:1-4  +  John 20:1-9
April 4, 2021

So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.

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click HERE to read Monsignor Charles Pope’s Easter homily

click HERE to watch Bishop Michael Burbidge’s homily for Easter (6:47)

click HERE to watch Archbishop Alexander Sample’s homily for Easter (12:36)

click HERE to watch Archbishop Charles Chaput’s homily for Easter (17:05)

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click HERE to read the 2019 homily of Pope Francis for Easter

click HERE to read the 2012 homily of Pope Benedict XVI for Easter

click HERE to read the 2000 homily of Pope St. John Paul II for Easter

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

CCC 638-655, 989, 1001-1002: the Resurrection of Christ and our resurrection
CCC 647, 1167-1170, 1243, 1287: Easter, the Lord’s Day
CCC 1212: the Sacraments of Initiation
CCC 1214-1222, 1226-1228, 1234-1245, 1254: Baptism
CCC 1286-1289: Confirmation
CCC 1322-1323: Eucharist

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Easter is not just the single day of Easter Sunday, but a season of seven weeks plus one more day.  The Church celebrates Easter for fifty days so as to be able to ponder thoroughly the mysteries of this holiest season of the Church’s year.  There are three mysteries of our Faith that the Church celebrates throughout the Easter Season.  They are the first three Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary.  We need to see how all three of these are part of a single plan.

The First Glorious Mystery is the proper focus of today:  the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  This mystery is presented by today’s Gospel Reading, where the young apostle John serves as a model of how to ponder.

St. John, who served God as both apostle and evangelist, accomplished all he did because he was the Beloved Disciple.  As an apostle and an evangelist, he was like a zealous Martha.  But before he acted zealously, he was a faithful Mary.  The Beloved Disciple at the Last Supper took the stance that Mary did at the meal in her home, sitting and listening at the feet of the Word made Flesh.

In many churches, we see above the high altar the youngest of the apostles—St. John—at one side of the Cross, and our Blessed Mother on the other.  This is the scene of the Crucifixion that the Church celebrated just days ago.

But on the third day, John ran with Peter to the tomb.  Along with Saint Peter and the beloved disciple, Saint John, we also see the wrappings lying on the ground.  John saw and believed.  With no sign of Jesus and without a word from Jesus, John saw and believed simply because the tomb was empty.  It is ironic that on the greatest feast of the Christian year, Christ doesn’t even appear in the Gospel passage, nor speak a word.  We see only His empty tomb, and hear only silence.

Following His Resurrection on Easter Sunday, Jesus appears several times in His glorified body.  Yet He remained on this earth only for forty days proclaiming the Resurrection in this glorified body.  He remained only forty days because He had in store a different means of proclaiming the Resurrection, by means of a different body:  the Mystical Body of Christ.  What Jesus did in a glorified body for forty days, He would do until the end of time in His Mystical Body.

The Second Glorious Mystery is the Ascension.  The Ascension is the bittersweet transition between two means of Jesus revealing His love for fallen man.  The first means was the physical body that He received from the Blessed Virgin Mary—through the power of the Holy Spirit—at the Annunciation.  The second means was, is, and will be “unto the end of the age” the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ.  All of the Joyful, Luminous, and Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, as well as the first two Glorious Mysteries, make possible the event of Pentecost:  the “birth” of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ.  All of those earlier mysteries are preludes or prologues to the event of Pentecost.  Even the Resurrection that took place on Easter Sunday morning.

The Third Glorious Mystery is the “birth” of the Church at Pentecost.  This is what Jesus died for.  This is what Jesus rose for.  Jesus’ resurrection in a glorified body foreshadows what the Church becomes on the day of Pentecost.

Jesus bears new life when He rises from the dead.  Yet He wants His new life to ours.  The Church—the Mystical Body of Christ—is the means by which we share in the life of the Risen Jesus.  The Church makes it possible for Easter to be not a mere historical event, but an ever-present reality:  in fact, the source of strength and grace each day that we live on this earth.

St. John teaches us to pray during these fifty days of Easter for a great gift.  God has a gift ready for us, the Gift of the Holy Spirit.  That is why we hear every day of Easter from the Acts of the Apostles:  the book that describes the Church at work through the Power of the Holy Spirit.  The descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is the culminating mystery of Easter.  We don’t simply celebrate it on the last day of Easter as an afterthought:  it is the mystery that Jesus leads us towards through His Resurrection.

Resurrection appearances multiple

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday
April 3, 2021

… suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell ….

How ought Christians spend Holy Saturday morning and afternoon?  Is this time simply an extension of the tenor and tone of Good Friday?  What happened to Jesus during the time between His Death and Resurrection?

Although Jesus was not subject to death as every sinner is, Jesus submitted to death.  His sacred Body did not undergo corruption or decay during this time.  However, Jesus was “divided”, so to speak, during the time between His Death and Resurrection.

When a sinner such as you or I dies, the sinner’s body and soul are separated.  The body decays, while the soul heads off towards its eternal reward or punishment.  The souls of those headed for Heaven may have to wayfare through Purgatory.  Yet regardless of where the soul heads after death, it will not be reunited with its body until the end of time.  However, after Jesus’ death, something very different happened.

The Nicene Creed, which the Church usually professes at Sunday Mass, does not mention what Jesus did between His burial and His Resurrection.  But the Apostles’ Creed does affirm that “he descended into hell” (Latin: “infernos”; Hebrew: “Sheol”; Greek: “Hades”).  This is not the place where the damned face eternal punishment.  Instead, the Catechism refers to it simply as “the abode of the dead” [CCC 633].

Even morally good persons who died before Christ’s saving Death were destined for this “abode of the dead”.  Due to the merit of sin, both Original Sin and actual sin, even those who were just in terms of their human moral actions could not enter Heaven.  Only by the grace and merit of Christ’s Passion and Death could anyone enter into the presence of the Trinity in Heaven.

So when Jesus descended into the abode of the dead, He revealed Himself—bearing the wounds of His Passion and Death—to the just.  Those who wished were able to follow Jesus out of that abode and into Heaven.  This saving work that Jesus carried out is traditionally called “the harrowing of Hell”.  This saving work that Jesus performed even as His sacred Body lay in death reminds us of the depth and extent of God’s love.  At the same time, this work is a call to Jesus’ disciples to bear in daily life a love for others that is as deep and extensive.

Lent 6-6

Good Friday

Good Friday
Isaiah 52:13—53:12  +  Hebrews 4:14-16;5:7-9  +  John 18:1—19:42
April 2, 2021

We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; but the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.

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click HERE to read Monsignor Charles Pope’s reflection

click HERE to watch Bishop Thomas Olmsted’s homily (11:44)

click HERE to watch Bishop Michael Burbidge’s homily (5:19)

click HERE to watch Archbishop Alexander Sample’s homily (14:42)

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click HERE to read the 2014 Good Friday address of Pope Francis

click HERE to read the 2009 Good Friday address of Pope Benedict XVI

click HERE to read the 1998 Good Friday address of Pope St. John Paul II

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

CCC 602-618, 1992: the Passion of Christ
CCC 612, 2606, 2741: the prayer of Jesus
CCC 467, 540, 1137: Christ the High Priest
CCC 2825: Christ’s obedience and ours

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What is most striking about the scene in Gethsemane is not the betrayal of Judas, but the wandering of the other apostles.  Only two continued to follow Jesus after his arrest, Peter and John.  They follow Jesus, bound and carried away by the soldiers, at a distance:  their faith is wavering.  We know that before the night is over, Peter denies his Lord and Savior three times.

It is only John, the Beloved Disciple, who continues to journey with Jesus.  It is John who is beneath the cross with our Blessed Mother Mary.  We can be sure that even at the Cross, John, the youngest of the apostles, perhaps in his early twenties at this time, did not fully understand the death of his Master.  He wept for his Lord but could not fully understand what was taking place there on Calvary.

We know that of the apostles, only one did not become a martyr, and that apostle was Saint John.  It was he who had been faithful to the Lord’s Cross, who had shared Our Lord’s death not at the end of his life, but near the beginning.  Throughout the rest of his life as an apostle he prayed deeply about this great gift, this great sacrifice that Christ made.  Throughout the rest of St. John’s life, as he continued to serve others, his mind turned back, year after year, to that Good Friday and the hill of Calvary, where the love and the glory of God were brilliantly revealed.

Through the Eucharist which Christ, at the Last Supper, had given St. John the power to celebrate, John was able to enter into that scene once again, to return to that day which is today, and to that hill of Calvary.

There is no offering of the sacrifice of the Mass on Good Friday.  Yet still we are able to share in the fruits of that sacrifice.  As we enter into Holy Communion with Our Lord, let us turn our minds again to the sacrifice of Calvary, and the love in Christ’s Sacred Heart which allowed Him to offer it for our salvation.

Crucifixion - Massys

Holy Thursday — Mass of the Lord’s Supper

Holy Thursday — Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Exodus 12:1-8,11-14  +  1 Corinthians 11:23-26  +  John 13:1-15
April 1, 2021

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that His Hour had come to pass from this world to the Father.

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click HERE to read Monsignor Charles Pope’s reflection

click HERE to watch Bishop Thomas Olmsted’s homily (14:40)

click HERE to watch Bishop Michael Burbidge’s homily (8:01)

click HERE to watch Archbishop Alexander Sample’s homily (16:43)

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click HERE to read the 2018 homily of Pope Francis

click HERE to read the 2012 homily of Pope Benedict XVI

click HERE to read the 2003 homily of Pope St. John Paul II

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

CCC 1337-1344: the institution of the Eucharist
CCC 1359-1361: Eucharist as thanksgiving
CCC 610, 1362-1372, 1382, 1436: Eucharist as sacrifice
CCC 1373-1381: the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist
CCC 1384-1401, 2837: Holy Communion
CCC 1402-1405: the Eucharist as the pledge of glory
CCC 611, 1366: institution of the priesthood at the Last Supper

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You might be tempted to think that Jesus, knowing that in just a few hours He was going to be nailed to a cross, would have had more important things on his mind than a meal.  If someone came up to you, and told you that you were going to be killed in less than 24 hours, would you sit down for a meal?  Many people would skip eating all together:  after all, if you really knew that you were going to die in less than 24 hours, why feed your body?  Wouldn’t there be more important things to put first?

But if you would answer “yes, I’d sit down for a meal,” then ask yourself, “Would you sit down for a banquet?”  Would you spend about three out of your remaining 24 hours at a banquet?  That’s what Jesus did.  Of course, to use the word “banquet” is still selling short what Jesus did at the Last Supper.  Yet the Last Supper was a banquet.

The Passover Meal was the ritual meal by which the Jews declared that the sacrifice of their ancestors had been worth it.  If they had to choose for themselves, they would do it all over again.  They would make that choice because freedom from slavery is worth the price that had to be paid, for God had something greater in mind for His Chosen People than slavery.

Some Jews, like Judas Iscariot, thought that that “something greater” was a powerful kingdom on earth.  But Jesus came into this world for something that goes beyond any earthly hopes, plans or desires.

Jesus came into this world to destroy the power of sin and death.  Jesus came into this world to offer freedom from sin, not from Pharaoh.  Jesus came into this world to open up again the gates of Heaven, not the Red Sea.  This is the freedom that Jesus won by dying on the Cross.  But tonight, Jesus institutes the Eucharist.  He establishes the Holy Eucharist in the form of a sacred meal.  In reality, it is a sacrament that allows us to share in the power of the Cross, and makes us present at Calvary.

This Sacrament of the Eucharist is the foretaste of all of the goodness that God has prepared for us.  Jesus gave us this Sacrament on the night before He died as a way of sharing in His promise to deliver us from every form of slavery.  He wills to free us through the Eucharist from every one of our sins, and to lead us from this world into something that is greater and that lasts forever.

Lent 6-4

Wednesday of Holy Week

Wednesday of Holy Week
Isaiah 50:4-9  +  Matthew 26:14-25
March 31, 2021

… from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.

Recent scandals in the Church prompt reflection upon the person of Judas Iscariot.  Why did Jesus choose him to be an apostle?  Didn’t Jesus know that Judas would betray Him?  Or is that precisely why He chose Him?

Divine Providence is difficult to parse.  It’s difficult, and perhaps even pointless, for us to reflect upon Judas from God’s providential point of view.  However, the Church does call us to reflect upon Judas from our own point of view:  that is, as sinners like Judas.

Can each of us imagine hearing Jesus say about oneself:  “It would be better for that man if he had never been born”?  Surely such words only apply to the worst of sinners, such as Judas?  In fact, Jesus did not choose Judas for eternal damnation:  rather, Judas chose that for himself.  Likewise, each of us chooses each of our sins.  It’s in the face of one’s sins that one has a choice to remain in sin, or to turn to Jesus as the one through whom we can find forgiveness.  Even and especially in our sins, Jesus wants us to turn to Him.  Yet we remain free until death to make the choices that we will.

Lent 6-3

Tuesday of Holy Week

Tuesday of Holy Week
Isaiah 49:1-6  +  John 13:21-33,36-38
March 30, 2021

So Judas took the morsel and left at once.  And it was night.

On the last two days of Lent before the Sacred Triduum starts, the Gospel Reading focuses on Judas Iscariot.  Yet while tomorrow’s passage from Matthew looks solely at Judas, today’s passage from John also looks at Peter, another apostle who will betray Jesus.

Jesus is God.  As a divine person, He could at any moment during Holy Week have turned away from the path leading to Calvary.  Even on the afternoon of Good Friday as He hung upon the Cross, He could have miraculously escaped, transporting Himself far away to safety:  indeed, even to Heaven.

All that is to say that Jesus is the primary “actor” in the drama of Holy Week.  The acts that Jesus did or did not carry out during Holy Week determined man’s salvation.  Any other “actor” within this drama is a second-string player.

Why, then, do the Gospel Readings today and tomorrow focus more upon those who betrayed Jesus than on Our Savior Himself?  The answer is that the Church is calling you to recognize yourself in Judas and Peter.

In the sinful persons of Judas and Peter we witness two different types of betrayal:  Judas by deed, Peter by word; Judas with a kiss, Peter by turning his back.  Judas cries, “Hail, Rabbi!”, while Peter cries, “I do not know the man!”

There are many different ways in our lives by which we betray Jesus.  But there is only one way for the chasm between our sins and God’s love to be bridged, and that is Jesus’ self-sacrifice upon the Cross.

Lent 6-2

Monday of Holy Week

Monday of Holy Week
Isaiah 42:1-7  +  John 12:1-11
March 29, 2021

Here is my servant whom I uphold, / my chosen one with whom I am pleased ….

The Old Testament’s Book of the Prophet Isaiah contains four brief passages called “servant songs”.  Isaiah never names the servant who is described.  But in the earliest years of the Church, these servant songs were sung in praise of Christ, who fulfilled during Holy Week what they proclaim.

The First Reading on Monday of Holy Week presents the first of these four servant songs.  We might imagine God the Father speaking these words of His only-begotten Son, whom He sent from the paradise of Heaven into our world of sin and death.

Jesus is a servant.  All the words that Jesus speaks and all that He does and bears this week reveals Him as a servant.  Yet He’s a servant in a two-fold way, and we ought at the beginning of Holy Week reflect upon both of these.

Whom is Jesus serving through the sacred events of Holy Week?  Secondly, He is serving us.  All that He speaks, does, and suffers is for us:  to bring us salvation.

First, however, Jesus is serving His heavenly Father.  During Holy Week it’s easy for us to lose sight of God the Father.  Our view can become myopic, focused simply upon Jesus saving us.  But in saving us from the power of sin and death, Jesus is preparing us for new life.  This new life is given to us even during our earthly days through the gifts, the fruits, and the grace of the Holy Spirit.  But this new life in this world is only a foretaste of eternal life with our Father in Heaven.  Jesus is serving His Father during Holy Week because God the Father longs for each us to enter into His company.

Lent 6-1

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent

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Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Ezekiel 37:21-28  +  John 11:45-56
March 27, 2021

So from that day on they planned to kill him.

This morning’s Gospel Reading bears a sense of anxious anticipation.  Its final verse leaves us on the edge of our pew:  “They looked for Jesus and said to one another as they were in the temple area, ‘What do you think?  That he will not come to the feast?’”

Just a few verses before, St. John the Evangelist explains the reason for the heightened sense of anxiety:  “So from that day on they planned to kill him.”  The motive for this plan of the chief priests and Pharisees is the focus of this morning’s three readings.

Both this morning’s First Reading and Responsorial Psalm come from books of Old Testament prophets:  the First Reading, from Ezekiel; and the Psalm, from Jeremiah.  Both look to Israel’s future, when a shepherd king would reign over a united Israel.  The Responsorial is very strong in describing this shepherd

Yet the language of king is only implied, although in two ways.  First, Ezekiel prophesies about Israel being restored to one kingdom.  However, second and more intriguingly, Ezekiel prophesies that “there shall be one prince for them all”:  not one “king”, but one “prince”.  Twice in the verses that follow, Ezekiel identities David as this prince.  Through the prophet the Lord declares:  “My servant David shall be prince over them, and there shall be one shepherd for them all”; in the Holy Land, Israel shall dwell “with my servant David their prince forever.”

Everything that Ezekiel and Jeremiah prophesy about this shepherd king is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.  More specifically, Jesus fulfills His earthly mission as Christ the King upon the Cross on Good Friday.  Jesus is drawing close to “His hour”.  Through the New Passover—the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass—we are able to enter into Jesus’ life and saving mission.

Lent 5-6

Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent

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Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Jeremiah 20:10-13  +  John 10:31-42
March 26, 2021

“If I do not perform my Father’s works, put no faith in me.”

Some disagree with the saying, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, claiming that a little is better than none.  They do not see that those having the little often self-righteously and proudly conclude they know it all.

The Pharisees, purported Scripture scholars and experts in the Mosaic Law, fell into this latter category.  When Christ revealed Himself to them as the Messiah, though they had well documented knowledge of the miracles He had performed, they immediately rejected the evidence, accused Him of blasphemy and prepared to stone Him.

What rendered them more dangerous than their intellectual presumption, and perhaps their fear of losing authority and position, was their faithlessness, their lack of God’s light and love.  In this, Christ Jesus is their opposite, and this opposition to the Pharisees is what each of us must imitate:  knowing that in God, we have everything we are, and that all we are, God calls us to give:  for the sake of others, and for the greater glory of God.

Lent 5-5