Why does it feel like Lent around here?
This gospel is proclaimed in the Novus Ordo, the Traditional and Byzantine Liturgies. In the Novus Ordo Liturgy today’s Mass can be referred to as Divine Mercy Sunday. The Latin Mass calls today Low Sunday (after the great solemn feast of Easter), or today is called dominica in albis depositis or “the Sunday in which the white clothes are put away”. Yet another way of referring to today is “Quasimodo Sunday”, because of the first words of the entrance antiphon sung for the Latin Mass which uses the words taken from Peter, Quasi modo geniti infantes, Halleluja, rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite (“yearn for the pure spiritual milk as if you were newborn children”).
In all these names, what can we say about this portion of the mystery of the faith in Christian today? If you think about the truth Jesus presented to the Apostles about Himself, it seems that truth is not as convincing as the doubt some put forward as reasonable. I am not quite sure I understand the penchant we have for doubting reasonableness of truth, but doubt exists and I have come to believe that God uses doubt to teach us the meaning of beauty, goodness and truth. Thomas, later revered as a saint and founder of the Church in India, tells us with certitude that the Lord is alive after death on the cross but only after verifying the physicality of the person Jesus when he says, My Lord and my God. He is said by Jesus that he blessed for what he has seen.
In the Byzantine Liturgy the Troparion of St Thomas is sung: While the tomb was sealed You shone forth from it, O Christ our Life, and while the doors remained closed, You stood among your Disciples, O Resurrection of all, and through them You restored a new spirit in us according to your great Mercy.
Today, we are faced with some similar doubts about Jesus, the sacraments and Christian life. Doubt is not new. And, perhaps Saint Thomas did us a favor in recognizing the concrete facts of our faith. Coming to Catholic faith means that we proclaim from whom salvation comes. It means that we are to be missionary so that all people come before the Lord.
One piece of our Catholic life is faith in the Holy Eucharist: faith in the Divine Presence here and now in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Teaching adults about First Holy Communion is difficult –think of the difficulty there is teaching third graders about the Presence of Jesus in Holy Communion. I recall what is called a Eucharistic miracle where a priest doubted the presence of Jesus in the sacred Host and the Lord gave the priest the a sign of Divine Presence by turing the host in heart muscle and the wine into blood.
The English theologian Monsignor Ronald Knox this about the Holy Eucharist: “We have never, as Christians, been truly faithful to Jesus, no matter our denomination. In the end none of us have truly followed those teachings which most characterize Jesus- We have not turned the other cheek. We have not forgiven our enemies. We have not purified our thoughts. We have not seen God in the poor. We have not kept our hearts pure and free from the things of this world. But we have been faithful in one very important way- we have kept the Eucharist going.”
We change the praying of the daily praying of the Angelus to the Regina Caeli for the 50 days of Easter. (That is, from Easter Day through Pentecost Sunday). Please add this prayer, in Latin and English, to your iPhone.
Queen of Heaven
V. Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
R. For He whom you did merit to bear, alleluia.
V. Has risen, as he said, alleluia.
R. Pray for us to God, alleluia.
V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
R. For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.
Let us pray. O God, who gave joy to the world through the resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, grant we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
V. Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia.
R. Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia.
V. Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia.
R. Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.
V. Gaude et laetare, Virgo Maria, alleluia.
R. Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia.
Oremus. Deus, qui per resurrectionem Filii tui, Domini nostri Iesu Christi, mundum laetificare dignatus es: praesta, quaesumus; ut per eius Genetricem Virginem Mariam, perpetuae capiamus gaudia vitae. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Pope Francis preached at the Easter Vigil (2016): “…it is important to shed the light of the Risen Lord upon our problems, and in a certain sense, to “evangelize” them. Let us not allow darkness and fear to distract us and control us; we must cry out to them: the Lord “is not here, but has risen!” (v. 6). He is our greatest joy; he is always at our side and will never let us down.
This is the foundation of our hope, which is not mere optimism, nor a psychological attitude or desire to be courageous. Christian hope is a gift that God gives us if we come out of ourselves and open our hearts to him. This hope does not disappoint us because the Holy Spirit has been poured into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5). The Paraclete does not make everything look appealing. He does not remove evil with a magic wand. But he pours into us the vitality of life, which is not the absence of problems, but the certainty of being loved and always forgiven by Christ, who for us has conquered sin, death and fear. Today is the celebration of our hope, the celebration of this truth: nothing and no one will ever be able to separate us from his love (cf. Rom 8:39).
The Lord is alive and wants to be sought among the living. After having found him, each person is sent out by him to announce the Easter message, to awaken and resurrect hope in hearts burdened by sadness, in those who struggle to find meaning in life. There is so necessary today. However, we must not proclaim ourselves. Rather, as joyful servants of hope, we must announce the Risen One by our lives and by our love; otherwise we will be only an international organization full of followers and good rules, yet incapable of offering the hope for which the world longs.
How can we strengthen our hope? The liturgy of this night offers some guidance. It teaches us to remember the works of God. The readings describe God’s faithfulness, the history of his love towards us. The living word of God is able to involve us in this history of love, nourishing our hope and renewing our joy. The Gospel also reminds us of this: in order to kindle hope in the hearts of the women, the angel tells them: “Remember what [Jesus] told you” (v. 6). Let us not forget his words and his works, otherwise we will lose hope. Let us instead remember the Lord, his goodness and his life-giving words which have touched us. Let us remember them and make them ours, to be sentinels of the morning who know how to help others see the signs of the Risen Lord.
Today’s solemn feast of the Ascension Lord requires us to meditate on its meaning and place in our spiritual life these days leading up to the Pentecost. Here is an excerpt of a homily by Saint Augustine:
As he was about to ascend, he spoke the last words he was to utter on earth. At the moment of going up to heaven, the head commended to our care the members he was leaving on earth, and so departed. No longer will you find Christ speaking on earth; in the future he will speak from heaven. Why will he speak from heaven? Because his members are being trampled underfoot on earth. He spoke to Saul the persecutor from above, saying: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? I have ascended to heaven, but I still remain on the earth. Here at the Father’s right hand I sit, but there I still hunger and thirst and am without shelter’.