Tag Archives: Easter season

Weekday Readings: Third Week of Easter


Monday Acts 6,8-15; John 6,22-29
Tuesday Acts 7,58-8,1; John 6,30=35
Wednesday Acts 8,1-8; John 6,35-40
Thursday Acts 8,26-40; John 6,44-51
Friday Acts 9,1-20; John 6,52-59
Saturday Acts 9,31-42; John 6,60-69

The Mass readings this week continue from the Acts of the Apostles with the story of the Greek-speaking deacon Stephen. His fiery preaching against temple worship and “stiff-necked” Jewish opposition to Jesus results in his death and a persecution that drives Hellenist Christians out of Jerusalem. (Monday and Tuesday) But Stephen’s death, like the death of Jesus, brings new life. The church grows. “The death of Christians is the seed of Christianity.” (Tertullian )

Philip the Deacon, one of those displaced, preaches to the Samaritans north of Jerusalem. Then, led by the Spirit, he converts the Ethiopian eunuch returning home after his pilgrimage to Jerusalem. (Wednesday and Thursday} Following Philip’s activity, Paul, the persecutor, is converted by Jesus himself. (Friday)

Before Paul’s ministry begins, Peter leaves Jerusalem to bless the new Christian communities near the coast; at Joppa he’s told by God to meet the Roman centurion in Caesarea Maritima. The mission to the gentile world begins with that meeting. (Saturday)

Stephen, Philip, Peter and Paul serve God’s mysterious plan. It’s not human planning. The Holy Spirit is at work.

The gospel readings this week are from St.John’s gospel– segments of Jesus’ long discourse on the Bread of Life to the crowd at Capernaum after the miracle of the loaves. (John 6) In the Eucharist we meet the Risen Christ.  He not only feeds us personally, but a growing church is fed.

The Easter Season: a School of Faith

Nicodemus

Nicodemus reminds us that faith doesn’t depend on how sharp our minds are or how many books we’ve read. Faith is God’s gift to us. We are all still in the school of faith.

On Friday of the Second Week of Easter we begin reading from John’s gospel about Jesus multiplying the loaves and fish near the Sea of Galilee. (John 6) There’s a lot of unbelief in the crowd that Jesus feeds, according to John. “Many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him,” . Besides those who radically reject Jesus’ claim to be the bread come down from heaven,  others appear to have little appreciation for this great sign. Commentators suspect this this section of John’s gospel may indicate there were troubles over the Eucharist and over the identity of Jesus in the churches John is writing for.

Most of the gospel readings for the last weeks of the Easter season are taken from the Farewell Discourse in John’s gospel. There too the disciples seem far from perfect. They’re fearful, they seem to understand Jesus so little. He calls them “little children,”  not far removed from the children making their Communion this season.

There are no perfect believers  in the gospels of our Easter season. Plenty of imperfect believers, like us, which tells us that faith is something to pray and struggle for. More importantly, they reveal the goodness of Jesus, who showed the wounds in his hands and his side to Thomas, who never dismissed Nicodemus to the night, who came to table with his disciples and fed them again, who called them “his own” and prayed that they would not fail.

We’re in a school of faith in the Easter season where the Risen Christ speaks to us in signs like water, bread and wine, words that promise a world beyond ours and teach us how to live in our world today.  He is our Teacher and Lord.

Welcoming the Night Visitor

Jesus and NicodemusJ

 

We heard from Thomas, doubting Thomas, on Sunday. The next few days  he’s joined in this week’s readings by Nicodemus, a teacher in Israel, fluent in religious matters, but he comes to Jesus by night. Was it fear, human respect? Yet Jesus meets him at night. (John 3)

Nicodemus questions but doesn’t seem to understand Jesus’ answers. “How can this happen?”  Thomas  isn’t the only skeptic, a lone dissenter. Others are slow to believe too.  There is a recurrent skepticism in us all.

Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea– a member of the Jewish ruling party and another hesitant believer – finally come forward at Jesus’ death.  Joseph asks Pilate for his body. Nicodemus brings an abundance of spices for his burial. Leaving the darkness, they follow Jesus into the light. Here’s how John’s gospel describes them:

“After this, Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. And Pilate permitted it. So he came and took his body.
Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds.
They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom.
Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by. “(John 19, 39-42)

The dark time of death is bathed in glory.  Nicodemus’ store of spices  makes Jesus’ burial a kingly burial. The new tomb in a garden already suggests something wonderful about to happen.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3,17)

“Everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.” Everyone, even reluctant believers  like Joseph and Nicodemus.

This is the Day

cross mono

cross, 4th Century Sarcophagus, Rome

Easter’s over for many people, but it isn’t over. We celebrate Easter for 50 days, from the Easter vigil till the feast of Pentecost. It’s a long day. Over and over we say: “This is the day the Lord has made.”

The reason we celebrate the long day of Easter is because the Lord’s plan takes time to understand.  Jesus spent many days with his disciples, who were  “slow to understand.” So are we.

Cardinal Newman spoke of this long day:

“Let us rejoice in the Day that He has made… the Day of His Power. This is Easter Day. Let us say this again and again to ourselves with fear and great joy. As children say to themselves, ‘This is the spring,’ or ‘This is the sea,’ trying to grasp the thought, and not let it go; as travellers in a foreign land say, ‘This is that great city,’ or ‘This is that famous building,’ knowing it has a long history through centuries, and vexed with themselves that they know so little about it; so let us say, This is the Day of Days, the Royal Day, the Lord’s Day.

“This is the Day on which Christ arose from the dead; the Day which brought us salvation. It is a Day which has made us greater than we know. It is our Day of rest, the true Sabbath. Christ entered into His rest, and so do we. It brings us, in figure, through the grave and gate of death to our season of refreshment in Abraham’s bosom. We have had enough of weariness, and dreariness, and listlessness…

“May we grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, season after season, year after year, till He takes to Himself, first one, then another, in the order He thinks fit, to be separated from each other for a little while, to be united together for ever, in the kingdom of His Father and our Father, His God and our God.”
John Henry Newman, “Difficulty of Realizing Sacred Privileges,”

Welcome to the Easter Season

www.usccb.org   (Readings for the Easter Season)

Weekday Readings for Easter Week

Monday: Acts 2:14, Octave of Easter22-23; Matthew 28,8-15
Tuesday: Acts 2, 36-41; John 20,11-18
Wednesday: Acts 3,1-19; Luke 24, 13-35
Thursday: Acts 3,11-36 Luke 24, 35-48
Friday Acts 4,1-12 John 21,1-14
Saturday Acts 4, 13-21 Mark 16,9-15

The weekday readings at Mass for the next 7 weeks of the Easter season come mainly from the Acts of the Apostles and the gospel of John. Read the introductions and commentaries to these books in the New American Bible, available  at the US Bishops’ site. (www.usccb.org )

The Acts of the Apostles, which continues St. Luke’s Gospel, is an important reading in the Easter season because it describes how God’s promise of salvation to Israel was brought to the world under the guidance of the Holy Sprit.  Acts describes the beginnings of our church and also offers insight into how our church develops today.

From its Jewish Christian origins in Jerusalem the church gradually incorporated the gentiles, non-Jews, and steadily spread throughout the Roman world, eventually reaching Rome itself. The church today is growing globally. Its early growth described in the Acts of the Apostles can help us understand its growth in our time.

 

 

My Peace I Leave You

The gospel readings for the remainder of the Easter season are from the Farewell Discourse of Jesus from John’s gospel. (Chapters 13-17) At Passover, Jesus’ hour arrives when “he had to pass from this world to his Father.” (John 13,1) The mystery of his death and resurrection is here.

At his announcement, uncertainty and questions disturb his disciples. They’ve known and loved him intimately; now he tells them he’s leaving, for awhile, and they will no longer see him, for awhile. They seem to hear only the word “death.” During the farewell discourse, the disciples, like Mary Magdalene in the garden, try to cling to him. “Do not cling to me. I have not ascended to my father and your father, to my God and your God.”

They’ll be living in the “in-between-time.” They wont see him again as they’ve known him physically; nor will they see him in glory, unless it’s the glory reflected from his cross. Jesus promises not to leave them orphans, but he won’t be with them as he was with them before in the flesh. He will be with them as God is with them.

The “in-between-time” is the time of the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth, who will teach them all things. Jesus too will be present, but in sacramental signs and words and deeds they remember.

The “in-between-time” is our time too. Like the disciples, we want to see, to touch, to know more, to have what’s promised us fulfilled. But this is the “in-between-time.”

In today’s gospel, Jesus promises his disciples the gift of peace. He calls it his peace, a particular kind of peace, a believer’s peace, peace for the “in-between-time” when we don’t see yet and the mystery of the cross only hints at glory.

Jesus’ words appear in the prayer we hear before Communion at Mass. “Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, ‘Peace I leave you, my peace I give you.’ Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your church, and grant her peace and unity in accordance with your will. “

We sin against this peace by cynicism, lack of patience, weak faith– sins of the “in-between-time.” We wish this peace to each other; we pray that God grant us this peace as we receive the Eucharist.

Gift of the Easter Season

We think of the easter season from Easter to  the Ascension of Jesus into heaven as a period when little happens, but St. Leo the Great thinks otherwise.

“Those days which intervened between the Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension did not pass by in uneventful leisure, but great mysteries were ratified in them and deep truths were revealed.
In those days the fear of death was removed with all its terrors, and the immortality not only of the soul but also of the flesh was established. In those days the Holy Ghost is poured upon all the Apostles through the Lord’s breathing upon them, and to the blessed Apostle Peter, set above the rest, the keys of the kingdom are entrusted and the care of the Lord’s flock.
It was during that time that the Lord joined the two disciples as a companion on the way, and, to sweep away all the clouds of our uncertainty, reproached them for the slowness of their timid and trembling hearts. Their enlightened hearts catch the flame of faith, and lukewarm as they have been, they are made to burn while the Lord unfolds the Scriptures. In the breaking of bread also their eyes are opened as they eat with him. How much more blessed is that opening of their eyes, to the glorification of their nature, than the time when our first parents’ eyes were opened to the disastrous consequences of their transgression.
Dearly beloved, through all this time which elapsed between the Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension, God’s Providence had this in view, to teach his own people and impress upon their eyes and their hearts that the Lord Jesus Christ had risen, risen as truly as he had been born and had suffered and died. Hence the most blessed Apostles and all the disciples, who had been both bewildered at his death on the cross and backward in believing his Resurrection, were so strengthened by the clearness of the truth that when the Lord entered the heights of heaven, not only were they affected with no sadness, but were even filled with great joy.”