Category Archives: Easter, Ascension & Pentecost

The Light the Risen Christ

07passi3Pope 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.

The Lord’s going to heaven

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’.

The Ascension of the Lord

The AscensionChrist above all glory seated!
King triumphant, strong to save!
Dying you have death defeated,
Buried, You have spoiled the grave.

You have gone where now is given
What no mortal might could gain,
On the eternal throne of heaven
In Your Father’s power to reign.

There your kingdoms all adore You
Heaven above and earth below;
While the depths of hell before You
Trembling and defeated bow.

We, O Lord, with hearts adoring,
Follow You beyond the sky;
Hear our prayers Your grace imploring,
Lift our souls to You on high!

So when You again in glory
On the clouds of heaven shall shine,
We Your flock may stand before You,
Owned forevermore as Thine.

Hail, all hail! In You confiding,
Jesus, we shall all adore,
In Your Father’s might abiding
With One Spirit evermore.
Amen.

-Aeterne Rex altissime
(5th century) Translated

Good Shepherd Sunday

Good ShepherdOn the 4th Sunday of Easter in the Novus Ordo liturgy the Church reads the gospel of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Here are some words from a sermon by St. Peter Chrysologus:

“We are his people and the sheep of his pasture.” In many passages we are told of the joy with which the Shepherd will come from heaven to recall his wandering sheep to life-giving pastures—sheep who have grown weak and sick through feeding on noxious weeds. “Enter his gates,” says the psalmist, “giving thanks.” Praise is the only way to enter the gates of faith. “Let us enter his courts to the accompaniment of song, declaring his greatness, praising and blessing his holy name.” It is through that name that we are saved, it is at the sound of that name that all in heaven and on earth and beneath the earth shall bend the knee, and every creature confess his love for the Lord his God.

What Thomas reveals

My Lord and My God Ruberval MonteiroOn this Octave Day of Easter we hear the Gospel of Doubting Thomas. For a long time we’ve used the phrase “Doubting Thomas” to portray the Apostle’s lack of belief. But I wonder if it is accurate to say Thomas doubted. And his words are more than a “trust but verify” philosophy.

I think we need to recall the revolutionary action of the Divine Majesty in resurrecting someone from the dead. Certainly we can point to Lazarus’ coming back from clutches of death but with Jesus’ resurrection from the dead there is something new, something truly never seen before: a glorified body. His body totally transfigured in the way it was on Mount Tabor and his wounds still present as a keen memory of the love-act that the Passion is. However, the resurrection from the dead is the gift based on our availability, that is, our complete openness, our yes, to the infinite possibility (meaning, the willingness to consider that there might be another way than the way humans generally conceive of life) which demonstrates that the mind and heart of man and woman may be regenerated by God the Father.

Thomas reveals a depth of person who did not deny but used his reason to verify what the Lord proposed. In freedom, Thomas approaches Jesus, now the Christ, encounters Him in a totally and intimate manner. If you notice, all of the apostles, including Mary Magdalen, had a particular relationship with Christ. For me, therefore, the gospel pericope on Saint Thomas is less about doubt (a complete rejection) than about a recognition of what Jesus said of Himself: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. A doubt is a question that is looking for certitude, for guidance, for true religion. Humans need the tangible to open the door to the mystical. Touching the Lord’s wounds is about the recognition. Here Thomas helps all others including the apostles. His mission is to tell the world about this new in-breaking into the world: God’s breaking death’s grip on humanity.

Pope Francis said today, “Jesus invites us to behold these wounds, to touch them as Thomas did, to heal our lack of belief. Above all, he invites us to enter into the mystery of these wounds, which is the mystery of his merciful love.”

From St. Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on John’s Gospel:

“As always, Christ has to be patient with Thomas when he said he would not believe and with the other disciples too when they thought they were seeing a ghost. Because of his desire to convince the whole world, he most willingly showed them the marks of the nails and the wound in his side; because he wished those who needed such signs as a support for their faith to have no possible reason for doubt, he even took food although he had no need for it.”

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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