Resurrection changes everything. It stunned the disciples. Mary Magdalene, Peter, the disciple whom Jesus loved, the other apostles—they were all surprised, “for they did not understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead” (John 20:9). Keep in mind that Jesus’ disciples did not write letters, or testimonies, or Gospels until years later. What we hear today was written well after they had encountered the risen Lord in one way or another. It was also after they realized that Jesus had prepared them for his resurrection well before they had come to Jerusalem. That first Easter morning, they were not expecting this. This mission that appeared to have ended in failure had been turned upside down. The tomb was empty. Jesus could not be contained in this place for the deceased. He had defeated death. He lives! And because he lives, we who have been baptized into his death live as well. This is why Paul tells the Colossians to seek what is above. This is why Paul tells the Corinthians to throw out the old yeast and bake a fresh batch of dough. Jesus is new yeast and we are new dough. With Christ in us, we shall rise as well. This is our Easter hope. This is our Easter joy.
How does the Easter message change the way you live your life?READ MORE
He had to have heard him. Even on the cross, his last breath just hours away, Jesus heard the criminal next to him when he addressed him, so he must have heard him when he’d said to the other criminal, “We have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes” (Luke 23:41). He makes no pretense of innocence. He makes no excuse for his sentence, so his crime must have been particularly heinous. But now, hours away from death himself, he addresses Jesus with one thing, one thing only: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (23:42). Jesus, who throughout his Passion had acted with boundless compassion (“compassion” literally meaning “to suffer”), praying that Peter’s faith not fail (22:32), praying that disciples not suffer (22:40), healing the high priest’s servant’s ear (22:51), comforting the women who accompanied him (23:28), and asking forgiveness of those who condemned him (23:24), now assures this criminal, this criminal whom he has heard admit that he was condemned justly and sentenced appropriately, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (23:43). What consolation it must give us to know the extent of Jesus’ compassion.
Follow the example of Jesus, how can you be compassionate even while you are suffering?READ MORE
The people who gathered in the temple area that day expected to witness a stoning. The woman had been caught in adultery, so according to Moses, she deserved to be stoned. But instead they end up witnessing a dramatic act of redemption. Jesus outwits the authorities who want to trap him. When no one is left to condemn the woman, Jesus forgives her, releases her, and tell her to sin no more. She had expected to be killed, but instead she is set free. She has been brought back to life. Brought back to life like the Israelites, out of bondage and into the promised land in Moses’ time. Brought out of exile and back home, in Isaiah’s era. Brought back to life like Saint Paul, who had persecuted Christians, but now was “taken possession of by Christ” (Philippians 3:12). We come here today as sinful people. If we were judged by the worst we have done or failed to do, would we not be condemned? Yet we too are touched by God’s grace. In God’s care, in Christ’s hands, we sinners, like the adulterous woman, like the Chosen People, like Saint Paul, are redeemed. We are brought back to life.
Do Jesus’ words give you pause when you are about to cast stones?READ MORE
Reconciliation is a powerful act. It takes a bond that has been broken and makes it whole again. It restores the unity of a relationship, of a family. Today’s Gospel—the parable of the prodigal son—is a beautiful example of reconciliation. The younger son broke his bond with his father and the unity of his family. When he returned home after dissipating his money, his morals, and his dignity, he thought that that bond was too broken for reconciliation. But his father, in welcoming him back without judging him, without even asking what had happened, restored the bond. They were whole again. In the first reading, God reconciled with the Israelites, restoring them to their native land—the promised land—which once again could provide them with sustenance and freedom. Then we hear Saint Paul tell us that God and the world are reconciled through Christ, restoring the relationship that had been broken repeatedly through sin. The example of the prodigal son’s father gives us hope, hope that we are never beyond reconciliation, hope that on matter how broken our relationship, it is always able to be made whole again.
How is my relationship to God broken? How are my relationships with others in need of reconciliation?READ MORE
We can look at today’s readings in two ways. On the one hand, we can be intimidated by the warnings. Jesus talks of people who have died tragically and unexpectedly. Twice he warns, “But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” (Luke 13:3, 5). Saint Paul warns the Corinthians that many Israelites disobeyed God and were struck down, an example for future generations. On the other hand, we also hear of God’s mercy. God hears the Israelites’ suffering and rescues them, leading them to the promise land. Should we be worried or consoled? The two aspects come together in the parable Jesus tells in today’s Gospel. The owner of the orchard threatens to cut down a barren fig tree because it hadn’t borne fruit for three years. But the gardener pleads for mercy, promising to care for it and feed it for another year. He makes a deal: if it doesn’t bear fruit after another year, it can be cut down. The warning was not empty, but the promise takes precedence. Despite continually failing to bear fruit, the fig tree gets a final chance.
How can you bear fruit, given another chance?READ MORE
When you go to a movie, what do you see first? Trailers, right? Teasers for upcoming movies. Clipped scenes and arresting images designed to intrigue you. What’s going on? What does it mean? Wow! Today’s readings are life a trailer. Look at all the vivid images: an old man looking up at the stars, animals being scarified, birds of prey swooping down among the carcasses, a flaming torch floating between the corpses in the dark of night. Still reeling from all that, now you witness a man’s face morphing as his clothes became dazzling white, two old men back from the dead talking to him, a voice out of the clouds. What’s going on? What does it all mean? Peter, James, and John much have had these questions, not knowing that what they were seeing was a preview of Jesus’ return to the Father in glory. Jesus (in dazzling robes) prepares to fulfill his destiny after God (symbolized by that flaming torch) had fulfilled the covenant made with Abraham (the old man). Like the voice-over in a movie trailer, the voice from the cloud speaks to Peter, James, and John: “This is my chosen Son; listen to him” (Luke 9:35). Coming attractions: Easter and the whole Easter season.
What might the trailer for the rest of your life look like?READ MORE
The Holy Spirit, who came upon Jesus at his baptism, who came upon each of us at our own baptism, plays two major roles in today’s Gospel. First, the Holy Spirit is the one who leads Jesus out into the desert. Jesus’ forty days in the desert recall the Israelites’ journey of forty years. Unlike the Israelites, who grumbled about their hunger, chose to worship other gods, and wished they were back in Egypt, Jesus was able to resist temptation. Which brings us to the other role played by the Holy Spirit, the role that may be overlooked even though it is revealed in the first five words of today’s Gospel: “Filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1). Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus was able to resist every temptation the devil offered. Each temptation was an opportunity for Jesus to use his divine power for his own benefit. This is not why God became human. This is not why Jesus was sent. Just the opposite; he came not to save himself, but to save others. We too received the Holy Spirit. We too are filled with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we too can rely on the Holy Spirit, God’s presence within us, to help us resist temptation.
How are you able to resist temptation?READ MORE
Both Sirach and Luke pack a lot of aphorisms into just a few verses. Each is trying to give moral guidance to his audience, as Jesus is to his disciples. In the Gospel, Jesus reinforces the lessons that we heard the last two Sundays. Recall what he said: Blessed are the poor. Woe to those who have plenty. Love your enemies. Be merciful, as God is merciful. Today Jesus warns us about the human tendency to ignore our own flaws while we point out the faults in our neighbor. Not merciful! “Every tree is known by its own fruit,” he tells us (Luke 6:44). What we produce is dependent upon what we have stored in our heart. We may have a store of goodness, but also store of evil. A splinter, a branch, or maybe a whole beam may be blocking some of that goodness. We must remove this, and compassionately help others remove theirs, in order to bear more and better fruit. Remember, “the fruit of a tree show the care it has had” (Sirach 27:6). We are called to provide that care—to ourselves and to others—so that your fruit and our fruit is better, richer, and more abundant.
What kind of fruit do you bear to the world?READ MORE