“Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah.”
We have just celebrated the Resurrection of our Lord on Easter, and in today’s readings Peter is urging us to be certain of what we have experienced. This might seem like something that is easier said than done. It is true that Peter’s experience of Jesus was different than ours, he experienced the Resurrection first hand after all. He physically saw Jesus arrested and witnessed his Resurrection. So how can we be as certain as Peter?
“… this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Peter, in his exhortation, doesn’t want us to forget what caused this wonderful act of redemption. We are still broken and in need of God’s love and mercy, but, just as he was for the Apostle Thomas who needed a sign even after the resurrection, Jesus will be there, especially when we doubt, offering himself for us on a daily basis in the Eucharist. That is our certainty and our faith.
As Mary Magdalene and the other Mary leave the empty tomb to tell the disciples that Jesus is risen, they leave “with fear and great joy”. Fear and joy? This is an odd combination. But when God calls me to something new in my life, I have often responded this way. Moving to a new city? Fear and joy. Starting a new job? Fear and joy. Becoming a parent? Fear and joy.
St. Ignatius teaches us that the deep desires of our heart are God’s desires for us. For me, the experience of fear and great joy is often a sign that I am moving towards my heart’s desire. Margaret Silf writes that these desires “express the movements of my deepest underground streams and currents that spring from God and are known and understood fully only by him.” Sometimes we are called to leave behind something familiar to move towards the joy and fear of a new beginning.
On this Easter Monday, I take some time to consider Mary and Mary’s response to to the realization that their friend is risen from the dead, and that the path God is calling them to will be difficult, transformative, and beautiful. To what is God inviting me during this season of Easter that brings forth in me fear and great joy?
“Seeing,” “hearing,” “knowing,” and “believing” are all key concepts in John’s Gospel. Near the end of his Gospel, John the Evangelist tells us, “Jesus did many other signs that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God; and that through this belief you may have life in his name.”
In John’s Easter Sunday Gospel, Mary of Magdala comes to Simon Peter and to “the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved” (very often identified as John himself), and tells them that the body of Jesus has been taken away from the tomb, and that she has no idea where it is. Peter and John then run to the tomb. John, yielding to Peter’s authority as the leader of the disciples in the Lord’s absence, bends down to look into the tomb, seeing only the burial cloths there, but doesn’t go in. When Peter arrives, he goes in, and finds the tomb empty, except for the burial shroud; but what seems most to impress Peter is that the cloth that had covered the head of Jesus was not on the ground, scattered or torn, but “rolled up in a separate place.”
Where that cloth was placed and how it was neatly rolled up seems to convince Peter that the body of Jesus was not stolen or moved, but that something else happened. And then, we are told, when the other disciple finally followed Peter into the tomb, he “saw and believed.” What will it take for us to believe? What will remove our every doubt? What experience of the power of the Risen Lord does God want us to have this Easter? May our prayer today be that we, too, will come to “see and believe.”
—Fr. Michael A. Vincent, SJ, serves as associate pastor of the Church of the Gesu in University Heights, OH.
As Christians, we spend today waiting. Jesus’ body was laid in the tomb just before the start of the sabbath, which began at sundown on Friday. Imagine the devastation felt by all of his followers, who must have spent an agonizing sabbath, mourning for their friend and teacher. They had witnessed Jesus’ cruel death, and did not fully understand what it meant. The women who travelled with him had to wait until they could anoint his body as was the Jewish custom.
Today, we have the benefit of knowing how this part of the story ends. We know that death does not win; we know that Jesus is triumphant. So today, this day of waiting that sits between the agony of Good Friday and the joy of the Resurrection, we wait in hope. We hope for the new life that Jesus has won for all of us, and we pray that we may follow the Risen Christ in the way we live our lives.
—The Jesuit Prayer team
In “The Divine Milieu”, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin writes about “passive diminishment”, life’s cruel injustices and how we respond to them. The ultimate passive diminishment is death, and the ultimate death is the passion of Jesus. And how does Christ respond? With silence – a divine silence that cries out ever after and conquers evil. Could Christ have made any greater impact had he responded differently?
Did Jesus die for our sins or because we sin? Did he accept the cross to show us that we too can deny evil its victory by drawing on the strength and goodness that permeates within each of us? Is he not inviting us to accept our own cross, our inevitable confrontation with injustice and diminishment? Is he not calling us into an incarnate communion with him that fortifies each of us to, like him, freely respond divinely?
What wondrous love is this!
—Stephen Hutchison founded and leads Revitalization 2000, Inc., a nonprofit organization that emerged from St. Matthew the Apostle Catholic Church to assist its Ignatian-based mission to serve the poor in the surrounding neighborhood of north St. Louis.
I noticed my friend’s bare feet resting, not on her wheelchair supports, but on the cold tile floor. Her health rapidly declining, she had invited friends and family to be present for her anointing. We hadn’t washed her feet, so had we done what Jesus asked us to do?
Had our gentle touches and hugs poured relief over her fears?
Had her weary heart been washed and refreshed by our words of blessing?
Had the isolation of her illness been rinsed away by our presence surrounding her like a river of love?
Jesus tells his disciples to follow his example, but offering to wash another’s feet may be an unusual or unwelcome act in our time. So we must find other ways to pour out kindness and compassion. To dry tears by our presence, and to gently touch another’s weary heart.
How is Jesus asking you to follow his example today?
—Diane Amento Owens is a spiritual director who encourages her directees to see the world through the lens of Ignatian spirituality.
I’ve always thought The Beatles song, Ticket To Ride, fit the story of Judas, as it captures Jesus’ sentiment. Slightly altered lyrics can read:
I think I’m gonna be sad, I think it’s today, yeah.
Judas that’s driving me mad, is going away.
He’s got a ticket to ride, he’s got a ticket, he’s got a ticket to ride,
But he don’t care.
When everything around you appears to be falling apart, your survival instincts kick into full gear and your inclinations turn towards the self. Judas’ world (and the Jewish world) was breaking down politically, socially, religiously, and economically. As the Temple started to collapse, so did his faith. Judas represents a hopeless resignation to a system too big to defeat. So, he bought a “ticket to ride” out of his relationship with Jesus because he failed to recognize God in the flesh. But those who recognized that Christ was in fact reclining with them were given something far greater than 30 pieces of silver. They were given the Kingdom of God.
—Mark Chang is a Theology Teacher and the Director of the New Teacher Induction Program at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, IL.
“But I said, ‘I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.”
How often do we feel abandoned, or that our suffering is just too much? If we truly take to heart the words of Isaiah, that “The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me”, then it seems that even if I might feel like I’ve been abandoned, and my suffering is too great, that the God who knew me before I was born, who also sent his only Son to save the world, will truly be there for me when I am in need.
Jesus continued to trust the will of the Father even in the face of abandonment and betrayal. May we trust in the saving power of Jesus as we continue our journey towards Easter.
In today’s Gospel passage, I find myself standing with Mary of Bethany and watching how she responds to the criticism she receives for her actions. What does she say to Judas? I imagine she is aware that her actions surprise everyone at dinner, and that Judas’s words are not coming from a place of genuine concern for the poor. I imagine Mary standing firm in the knowledge that she is choosing to serve Jesus in the unique way she has been called to do.
How do I react when someone criticizes a decision that is close to my heart? It can be hard to act boldly in the face of opposition. The First Principle and Foundation is one of my favorite prayers for anchoring myself to God in a challenging situation. Ultimately, only I know how God is calling me. I pray for the freedom to center myself on my unique vocation to love, and “direct all that is me toward your praise”.
Liturgists advise priests that on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, when the Passion of the Lord is read as a part of the Liturgy, it is neither the proper time nor place for a lengthy homily. I’ve been advised by people I trust that the Passion is itself a homily, and that very few additional words from me are required during these very lengthy liturgies.
But if I could give a homily on a day when the Passion of the Lord is read in church, I would choose to talk about the Gospel of the First Sunday of Lent, and about how the Passion Narrative brings the account of the temptations of the Lord to a conclusion. In Luke’s version, Luke 4:13 ends – after Jesus doesn’t give in to the three very severe and intense temptations of Satan – with these words: “[Satan] departed from [Jesus] for a time.” In Greek, the word “time” used by Luke is not the ordinary word for plain, old “time”; it is, instead, a word that means “a special time” or “a golden opportunity” or “a moment of crisis”.
And that “time,” that “golden opportunity” for Satan, that “moment of crisis” for Jesus, I believe, is when Jesus is dying on the cross. In Luke’s Passion narrative, passersby and Roman soldiers taunt Jesus, saying, “Let him save himself if he is the Chosen One, the Christ of God.” These words are Satan’s ultimate temptation of the Lord. If Jesus, goaded on by these words, had decided to give in to prove that he was, indeed, the long-awaited Messiah, the true Son of God, he would not have accomplished his mission. So, rather than prove who he is, Jesus simply carried out his mission to die for the redemption of sinners.
—Fr. Michael A. Vincent, SJ, serves as associate pastor of the Church of the Gesu in University Heights, OH.