Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Journey!

April 22, 2014 Acts 2: 36-41; Ps 33; Jn 20: 11-18
Dear brothers as we have began to celebrate Easter, the resurrection of our Lord Jesus from death; today the gospel presents us the first account of witnesses to this extraordinary phenomenon that Jesus is alive, that death has no power over Christ. And finally we hear this Good News is been preached for the first time by Mary Magdalene, “I have seen the Lord”. 

In the different accounts of resurrection in St. John’s gospel, we see a gradual progress of faith; a journey of faith in the resurrected Christ, which is different for each persons. John’s account of Resurrection begins with Mary Magdalene going to the tomb early in the morning and found the empty tomb and she thought someone has taken the body of Jesus away. She went and reported this to the disciples.  Then Peter and the other disciples went to the tomb. Peter went in and so the linen. The other disciples also went in, and he saw and believed, yet St. John the evangelist says that they did not know the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their home. This is followed by the account that we heard today; Mary Magdalene comes back again to the tomb and finds the angels and then she saw Jesus himself standing, but she did not recognize him. Then Jesus asks her, “Whom do you seek? This question is interesting that this is the same question that he asked when two disciples of John the Baptist went to see Jesus as Jesus was beginning his ministry and they gradually believed Jesus as the true light, the son of God, the Messiah.

Mary Magdalene, still not knowing that Jesus is speaking to her, asks him whether he has taken the body of Jesus. It was only when Jesus calls her by name, “Mary”, here eyes of faith is opened and she recognizes him as her teacher and master. Fr. Raymond Brown, a renowned theologian, comments that this exchange proves what Jesus had said earlier about himself as Good Shepherd. Jesus the Good Shepherd will call his sheep by name and they will know him.  

Mary’s process of coming to the faith depended upon her personal relationship with the Lord, a personal encounter with Jesus and also her understanding that he knows her and calls her by name. As we find ourselves in this Easter stories, let us look our journey of faith. What is my personal relationship with Jesus? We have known Jesus. We have studied about him. We have argued about him. We have preached about him. But this is not enough. It is important that we recognize him. We should hear him calling our name, each one of us; jinu...joseph...maria...sonia...kelly...etc...

In the Resurrection we encounter the living Lord who loves us personally and shares with us his glory. He gives us “eyes of faith” to recognize him, to see the truth of his resurrection, the victory over sin and death. Let this Easter bring us the grace of being known by the risen Christ, the grace of belief, the grace of being called by our name and we may show by our lives that the Lord has truly risen. And we may proclaim like Mary Magdalene: “I have seen the Lord”… Alleluia… Alleluia....

Bro. Jinu Muthukattil S.M.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Why Easter Matters!

Easter Sunday - Why Easter Matters
Easter is significant because it reveals that love is more powerful than death. Death is what frightens us most. It hems us in and it sets the ultimate limit to everything. If death has the final word, then all the evil in the world wins and there's no hope because there's nothing after death. That's the end. 

But Easter is the declaration that God's love, the love that made the world and sustains it, is more powerful than death. That's a moment of liberation. It means death no longer enslaves us. The first Christians saw that the bursting forth of Christ from the tomb is the shattering of death's bonds.

Even more, the Resurrection is God's great salvation of the world he has made. The God of the Bible doesn't despise matter--just the opposite. God makes everything good. And through the Resurrection, God ratifies, sums up, and valorizes his material creation. Therefore, Jesus' resurrection from the dead is not just about him. It's about all those who will participate in his Mystical Body, the Church, and it's about all of matter. In raising Jesus bodily from the dead, the Father is raising all of matter to new life.

We see this as the Bible comes to its climax in the Book of Revelation. There we discover a New Heaven and a New Earth. Heaven is not just some purely spiritual space that our souls go to after we die. It's a new creation, God ratifying and elevating his whole work. That's the climax of the biblical revelation.

The God who made the world good has now, out of a passion to set it right, saved that world by raising it up to a higher pitch.

The Christian Church gives witness to that great fact. And that's what Easter is about.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Jesus in the Tomb!

Holy Saturday - Jesus Descends Into Hell
Today we commemorate Holy Saturday, the quiet, somber interlude between Good Fridayand Easter Sunday. Instead of sharing my own reflections I'd like to share this ancient homily, written by an anonymous source. It brings to life that stirring line in the Apostle's Creed: "He descended into hell."

What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.

Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam's son.

The Lord goes into them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: "My Lord be with you all." And Christ in reply says to Adam: "And with your spirit." And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying:

"Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.

I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.

I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.

For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as a man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden.

Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image.

See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you.

But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.

The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages."  

Friday, April 18, 2014

Why Cross?

Good Friday - Why Focus on the Cross?
It's somewhat Pollyannish to say, "Christianity is just about the Resurrection, and not the Cross." To say that is to deny the gritty evil in the world. But once you get past childhood and start reading serious books and watching more sophisticated films, you find people desperately wrestling with evil. That's what any serious novel, film, or play is about. Just look at any of Shakespeare's plays--there's always someone engaging profound evil. Therefore, it doesn't make sense to say, "Let's not focus on the Cross; it's too sad, too dark, too evil."

Pressing the issue theologically, what is the Cross? It's God journey into God-forsakenness. God enters into human dysfunction in all of its forms. In the Passion narratives you have cruelty, violence, hatred, injustice, stupidity--all of human dysfunction is on display. And Jesus enters into that, thereby redeeming it.

The Church fathers liked to say, "What has not been assumed has not been saved." Jesus assumes the human condition in all of its dysfunction, going all the way down, so to say. And it's only for that reason he can bring us all the way up.

The Resurrection without the Cross is superficial, just as the Cross without the Resurrection is despair. It's the play between the two that matters.

Fr. Robert Barron

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Holy Thursday - The Initiation
Christianity is a revolutionary religion. It turns everything upside down, reversing the values and expectations of a sinful world. Throughout his life and ministry, Jesus tried to inaugurate people into this new world that he called the Kingdom of God.

The nature of this Kingdom became especially apparent as Jesus gathered with his disciples in the upper room, a place of heightened awareness. There he did something extraordinary.

Jesus took off his outer garments, tied a towel around his waist, poured water in a basin, and washed the feet of his disciples. He performed an act that was so humble, so lowly, that it was considered beneath the dignity even of a slave.

We catch the novelty and shock of it in Peter's response: "Master, are you going to wash my feet?" This is just too much for him; it is such a violation of the world that he had come to accept, a world in which masters were masters, slaves were slaves, where the dignified and important were waited upon while the lowly did the serving. In that world there was a clear demarcation between up and down, worthy and unworthy, clean and unclean.

Jesus is putting his followers through a sort of initiation rite. Unless they pass this test, unless they begin to see the world in a new way, they will not get into the Kingdom. And this is why Jesus says to Peter, "Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me."

In the vision of the old world, one's life comes to its high point at a moment of honor, praise, glory, or recognition, at a moment when one's distinction and superiority over others is most evident. The old world is predicated on the great divisions between master and slave, superior and subordinate, rich and poor, powerful and powerless, included and excluded. Most of our energy goes into maintaining these distinctions, or trying to get from one side to the other, or keeping certain people on the far side of the divide.

But in the vision of the Kingdom of God, the climactic moment comes when one is the lowliest servant of the other: yes, even despised, reviled, spat upon, and handed over to death. It is only when we have passed through this startling initiation that we are ready for the full manifestation of the Kingdom.

"You call me 'teacher' and 'master' and rightly so," Jesus says, "for indeed I am. If I therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet."

Fr. Robert Barron

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Path of Dispossession!

Lent Day 43 - The Path of Dispossession
They are some of the harshest, most shocking words that Jesus speaks in the Gospels: "Anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple." 

Why do these words sound so counter-intuitive? Because ever since we were children, the culture has drilled the reverse into us. You're not happy because you don't have all the things you want to have. You will be happy only when you have so much money, or so big a house, or so much respect. You might not be happy now, but some day you might be if you acquire the right things.

And what follows from this? Life becomes a constant quest to get, to attain possessions. Remember the foolish rich man from Jesus' parable, the one who filled his barns with all his possessions. Because he had no more room, he decided to tear his barns down and build bigger ones. Jesus calls him a fool because--and I want you to repeat this to yourself as you read it--you have everything you need right now, right in front of you, to be happy.

I know it's completely counter-intuitive. We say, "No, that's not right at all; I'm very unhappy, but I'm trying to become happy, and I know I will be a lot happier when I get (fill in the blank)." But I want you to repeat this in your mind: "If I say, 'I'll be happy when,' I won't be happy when."

What makes us truly happy? Forgetting our ego and its needs and desires, opening our eyes, minds, and hearts, and letting reality in. What makes us happy is always right in front of us, because what makes us happy is love, willing the good of the other.

Next time you're unhappy, here's what you do: you love. When you're feeling miserable, write a note to someone who is lonely; make cookies for your kids; visit the nursing home; donate some money to a charity; sign up to help with an after-school program; say a prayer for someone who's in trouble.

Love is not a feeling. It's an act of the will, and it's a great act of dispossession. This is the wonderfully liberating path of holiness that Jesus wants us to walk. He wants joy for us. But the path to joy is the path of detaching ourselves from getting and acquiring.

Fr. Robert Barron

Flowers in the Desert!

Lent Day 42 - Flowers in the Desert

We began these daily Lent reflections by noting how Lent takes us into a spiritual desert. Biblical people knew all about the desert: Abraham has to cross it to get to the promised land; Moses and the Israelite people have to go through it to get home; Joseph is sent into Egypt and prison before he is ready for his mission; John the Baptist is a voice crying in the desert; Paul goes into the desert of Arabia after meeting the Lord on the road to Damascus. Even Jesus himself spends forty days and nights in the desert before commencing his ministry--the template on which Lent is based.

What does the desert symbolize? A number of things: confrontation with our own sin so as to see our dark side; a deep realization of our dependency upon God; an ordering of our priorities in life; a simplification, a getting back to basics. It means any and all of these things.

However, the desert also symbolizes waiting in anticipation. Desert wanderers are compelled to wait, in a time and place where very little life seems to be on offer, in hope of better things to come.

And it's precisely in such hopeful deserts that flowers bloom. Moses becomes a great leader; Abraham is the father of many nations; Joseph becomes the savior of his people; John the Baptist is the forerunner of the Messiah; Paul is the apostle to the Gentiles-all of this flowering was made possible by the desert.

So as we near the end of Lent, the end of our desert waiting, and move toward the Holy Triduum, let's prepare for new flowers to bloom.

Fr. Robert Barron