May 21: People of Hope

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May 21: People of Hope

Throughout this Easter season the readings have drawn us into the experience of the early church. We have tasted the excitement and zeal of the first Christians. Now, with them, we listen to the words of Saint Peter, who reminds us that when people notice that we are people of hope, we should be ready to explain why. This challenges us. Do others even notice that we are people of hope? In a world often marked by cynicism and hopelessness, do we stand out as people who offer hope and reassurance to others? In today’s Gospel Jesus promises that when he leaves the earth he will not leave us orphaned. Today he promises to send his Advocate, the Spirit of truth who will be with us always. Let us acknowledge the presence of the Holy Spirit and ask the Spirit to make us people of hope.

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May 14: The Way

Today we sense the apostles’ trepidation as they begin to realize that the Lord would soon be leaving them. In their fear, they ask, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” (John 14:5). Jesus tells them that he is the way. The Easter season has been a time of growing in Easter faith so that we, too, may learn to know that Jesus is the way. We can take comfort in the Lord’s promise that he is going to his Father’s house to prepare a place for us, his chosen people who have been called out of darkness into God’s wonderful light. As the paschal candle continues to burn during this holy season, let us remember that in baptism we were given the light of Christ. With Christ our light as the beacon lighting our way, let us march toward the glory of Pentecost.

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The Twenty-third Psalm, today’s responsorial psalm, is arguably the best known of all the psalms. The line that reads “Even though I walk in the dark valley / I fear no evil; for you are at my side / with your rod and your staff / that give me courage” (Psalm 23:4) connects this week’s scriptures to the wonderful story of the road to Emmaus, which we heard last week. The Lord Jesus, our Good Shepherd, is constantly at our side. He calls us each by name, beckoning us into a deeper relationship with him. That call, issued to each of us at the moment of our baptism, carries with it the promise of the Good Shepherd: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

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April 30: On the Road

One central metaphor employed to describe the Christian life is a journey. In today’s second reading, Peter addresses the early Christian community: “Conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning” (1 Peter 1:17). When we think of a journey, we normally think of some kind of movement from point A to point B. The Christian journey, begun in the waters of baptism (point A) has as its ultimate destination eternal life with God in heaven (point B). Unfortunately, we find ourselves on all kinds of detours along the way. Because of sin, we make foolish turns and sometimes seem unable to detect the presence of the Lord. Today’s story of the two disciples on their way to Emmaus illustrates for us the fact that, even when we are dejected or on one of our many detours, the Lord is there, walking right beside us.

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April 16: Rejoice and Be Glad

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad” (Psalm 118:24). Let us remember that these words of today’s responsorial psalm are not only sung from the hearts of those gathered in our parish. They are also sung by the poor in tiny barrios throughout Central and South America. They are sung by those denied religious freedom in our world; these Christians lift their voices in clandestine places of worship. These words are sung by people who have lost loved ones to acts of terrorism and war around the globe. Even in the midst of conflict and division, Christians still come together to declare that poverty, loneliness, violence, and division will never, ever have as much power as the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Indeed, let us rejoice this day and be glad!

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April 9: Seeing Christ Clearly

We start today looking through the portals of Jerusalem, seeing crowds of people, cheering and waving palm branches in the air. The whole atmosphere is one of joy, triumph, and celebration. We can get distracted or enthralled by the scene, and not see clearly the features of Jesus as he enters. But our readings from Isaiah and Paul’s letter to the Philippians clarify his features for us. He is the Suffering Servant, meek and mute before his captors and persecutors; he is the very image of the unseen God, yet will not clutch at equality with God before he endures his final confrontation in humility. Isaiah and Paul help us “behold the Lamb of God” before we hear the story of his final and greatest confrontation. It is important that we see Christ clearly before we hear the account of his passion, for we—his Body through baptism, the church—now bear his face. We must, with him, enter into this time of trial so we can, also with him, enter into his final triumph.

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April 2: Jesus’ Ministry Summarized

The story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead is the single longest story (apart from the Passion) in the Gospel of John. In it we find a summary of most of Jesus’ ministry. We see his very human nature as he is moved by Martha and Mary’s sorrows and as he himself weeps at the tomb of Lazarus. He is the wisdom of God’s Word made flesh as he explains to his followers that the death of Lazarus will serve as a sign of the glory of God. He crowns the miracles he works in John’s Gospel (which began with the most “human” miracle of making new wine at Cana’s wedding) by raising Lazarus from the dead—a “preview,” if you will, of his own death and resurrection to come. This portrait of Jesus reminds us, as we near the end of our Lenten journey, that he is with us, knows us, understands us in every moment of our lives. He knows the joy of our human feasting, he knows the sorrow of our weeping. As we prepare to walk with him through the days of Holy Week, we are filled with faith that—through Christ—God’s glory will be with us in every moment of our lives and—with Christ—in our life everlasting.

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March 26: Children of the Light

The future king, David, in today’s first reading, is an example of a type of character present throughout the Hebrew scriptures. He is the child born out of place (not the eldest or most favored) who ends up receiving the promise of the covenant. The spirit of God’s anointing rushes upon him. In this way, he is similar to the man born blind from today’s Gospel. David’s family and the blind man’s community did not expect the miraculous grace of God’s love to work through them. Perhaps they, too, were “blinded” by the expectations and assumptions of those around them. Yet, after being touched by God, they both came to “see” the presence of God’s will for them. Both became messengers of God’s will. That same Spirit of God’s anointing rushed upon us at our baptism; we were given a candle as a sign of our membership in the Body of Christ, the Light from Light. Our vocation, then, is to fulfill that enlightenment, that anointing, as Ephesians tells us, by living as “children of the light.”

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Especially during the Lenten, Holy Week, and Easter seasons, the prayer texts of the Eastern Church revel in paradoxical images of Christ: the eternal life who is put to death, the host of the supper who is also its meal, the thirsty crucified one with living water streaming from his side. These images flow from the evangelists’ portrayals of Jesus and from his very ministry, during which he often upset or reversed people’s expectations about him or the ways of God. This “reversal” is at play in today’s Gospel, as Jesus speaks to an enemy foreigner who is also a woman beneath his status. In addition he, the thirsting one, shows the woman to be the one truly thirsting. He whose parched lips will say “I thirst” before he dies is the source of life and life-giving water. Lent calls upon us to dwell on how each of us is thirsting for Christ, and it leads us, ultimately, back to the life-giving waters of our baptism into his Body.

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