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Posted by on Apr 16, 2022

He Is Risen as He Said!

He Is Risen as He Said!

Our celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus, begins with Easter Vigil, beginning on Holy Saturday evening.

The three days leading to Easter are known as the Triduum – literally “Three Days.” The first of those days, Holy Thursday, we celebrate the gift of the Eucharist and the ministry of service and sacrifice. On Good Friday we recognize the tremendous cost of reconciliation which comes when we humans turn away from God. God goes to unbelievable lengths to bring us back – even to becoming one of us and dying rather than deny the message and example he brought to us.

On Holy Saturday, we sit quietly in the face of loss, the emptiness of the absence of ones we have loved. It’s important to take the time this day to experience quiet, especially as we find ourselves hurrying to prepare for Easter celebrations.

Easter Vigil begins our celebration on Saturday evening. The new day has begun, according to traditional Judeo-Christian measuring of time. We gather in darkness and the new fire is kindled. The Easter candle is lighted and its light shared with all present. The deacon sings a hymn of praise for the light that shines undimmed in the darkness. We enter into the darkened church, bringing the Light of Christ with us.

As part of Easter Vigil, we remember the history of God’s relationship with humanity and all of creation. We read and tell the stories. We sing the ancient psalms. We hear the words of the prophets. Only then, when we have remembered our history and the great deeds of our God, do we sing the Gloria and light the room fully.

We hear a reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans and from the writers of the Gospels. Tonight we will hear from St. Luke. They tell of the great good news of the Resurrection, and of the confusion felt by Jesus’ followers as they beheld such an amazingly impossible reality.

New members of our community profess their faith with us as they receive the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. We celebrate our Mass together, then go forth in joy with a final blessing, to share this great gift with all we meet.

The celebration continues Easter morning. Again we gather as a community to celebrate. We hear from the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul, and the writers of the gospels. There are different sets of readings for different times of the day. So much to tell. So much to celebrate. So much to share.

These few days are the most important days in Christianity. If Jesus had simply said, “Forget it. I’m out of here!” when faced with the mighty power of those who opposed him, we would not likely be celebrating his life, death, and resurrection today. These were the events that changed the history of the world, of our understanding of the relationship between God and humans. At Pentecost, with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the witnesses of the Resurrection received the grace and courage to go out fearlessly and share what they had seen. But first they had to see. They had to experience the great mystery.

We today are called to do the same. Experience the mystery. Then go out into our own worlds and live the reality to which we have been witnesses. Christ is Risen. A new day has begun in creation. We are the ones who will make it real for our world today.

Happy Easter. Christ is Risen, He is Truly Risen! Alleluia.

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Posted by on Apr 15, 2022

Good Friday – Time to celebrate?

Good Friday – Time to celebrate?

Good Friday.

Sometimes it seems that the really hard things aren’t good at all. Why call this Good Friday?

The great mystery of life and love is that sometimes the hardest times are the most important. These are the times of growth, times of stretching. This is when we learn to depend totally on others to help us get through. When the others aren’t there for us, the Other who brought us forth into being from the great Dance of Love of the Trinity is there for us. This Other is not really “other” in the usual sense. This is the source of our deepest life and being. It’s in the deepest realms that we learn the truth of what matters. We learn compassion, patience, endurance. We understand the suffering of others in a new and deeper way. We realize that the easy answers of our childhood may not be the final answer. We grow in wisdom as we grow in age. With God’s help, we grow in grace too, that fundamental sharing of divine life.

Jesus didn’t know that he would rise. In this he was a human like any other one of us. But he was a man of great integrity, faithful to the God he called Abba (Dad), and willing to testify to what had been revealed to him about God’s love for us. He went to his death forgiving those who had condemned him, those who crucified him, those who mocked him, and the thief who was dying beside him. Mercifully, he did not have to suffer long. His Father claimed him quickly. His friends claimed his body and buried him, then returned home for the Sabbath rest.

We know the surprise that awaited them on Sunday morning. But for now, let’s take time to experience the great mystery of unknowing. The mystery of trust in a God we cannot see.  The mystery of life and death.

Happy Good Friday!

Readings for Good Friday

Image is of one side of the altar at St. Patrick Church in Spokane, WA – Artist: Harold Balazs

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Posted by on Apr 10, 2022

Recognizing the Lord when He Comes

Recognizing the Lord when He Comes

Holy Week begins. This is the most important week in our entire year as Christians. The mystery of reconciliation of humans and the divine plays out graphically in the events we celebrate this week.

Sunday of Holy Week is known as Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion. Traditionally, we begin our liturgy outside the church building. We gather with palms around our presider and hear the proclamation of the Gospel which tells of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem a few days before his arrest. Following the reading, we process into the building and continue with our liturgy, formally opening this week of prayer and celebration of the mystery in which we participate.

The Gospel reading for the blessing of the palms will be from one of the Synoptic Gospels – the three oldest versions of the events of Jesus’ life – as narrated by Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  In Cycle C (which we celebrate in 2022), it is Luke’s account that we will hear.

These accounts all tell of Jesus coming into the city riding a young donkey. Kings and conquering military heroes of his day rode into cities mounted on great war horses, with banners flying, triumphal music playing, and crowds of grateful (or at least cheering) people to welcome them. Coming into town, riding a steed, and attracting a crowd of cheering people speaks to the Jewish dream of a Messiah in those times, a hero who will rescue the nation from captivity to a conquering nation (Rome). This was the kind of hero long-awaited – the kind many hoped Jesus would be.

Jesus, however, came riding a young donkey. One version says it had never been previously ridden by anyone. This is an important detail. In the prophecies of Zechariah, written almost 500 years earlier, there was a statement that the Messiah would come riding a donkey, just as had princes and leaders from before the period of kings in Israel. This person would be a leader who was humble and would bring peace. He would not be a warrior or a conquering hero. The symbolism of this entry riding on a young donkey would not have been lost on the people welcoming Jesus, nor was it lost on the authorities. In fact, they asked him to tell the people to be quiet and go away. They were quite likely afraid of the potential negative Roman response to the commotion. Jesus’ response was that even if the people went away, the very stones would shout out against the injustice of the social structure.

Another detail of interest in Luke’s telling of the tale is the question of palm branches. In Luke’s version of the story, there is no mention of palm branches or fronds having been waved in greeting or salute to Jesus. Palms are there in the other three gospels, but not in Luke.

In Luke, as in the others, the fact that people lay their cloaks out to make a road and that Jesus sat on cloaks that had been placed on the back of the donkey is noted. A cloak was a very valuable possession in those days. It was an outer garment that served as coat when the weather was cold and as a sleeping bag at night, especially for those who were not inside a building for the night. Ordinary folks were putting their coats on the ground for the donkey and any following closely behind to trod. That’s a pretty major commitment. I’m glad I didn’t have to pick my coat up and sleep in it after having a donkey and a large crowd of people walk over it!

Once inside the walls of Jerusalem, Jesus went to the temple. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell that Jesus disrupted the markets in the temple, chasing out the money-changers and others who were cheating the poor. He spent time teaching there as well, presumably not immediately after shaking everything up! The point is, he was not a quiet, meek, “what-ever” kind of guy. He had a vision and a mission. He was passionate about following the spirit of the Law and living what he had preached in the years leading to this visit to Jerusalem. He was not a person who could be ignored.

The first and second readings on Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion are the same every year, as is the Psalm. Our attention is drawn to the events that followed Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

The first reading is from Isaiah (50:4-7), the Suffering Servant’s declaration of his determination to speak words of hope and encouragement to the people, despite opposition and persecution against him. This is a proclamation of great hope in the face of overwhelmingly negative odds. The prophet declares, “I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.”

Psalm 22 is the one Jesus prayed on the cross. The psalms were much like our traditional “prayers” such as the Hail Mary or Our Father. These were prayers that could be offered any time and at any place by anyone. There’s a psalm for just about every situation in life. “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” A cry for help when in desperate straits, with a conclusion that declares a joyful recognition of the Lord’s power to overcome all – “I will proclaim your name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise you.”

Paul’s letter to the Philippians (2:6-11) includes another ancient hymn. Modern musicians have put it to music for our communities too, celebrating the great mystery of the incarnation. Jesus did not hesitate to become one of us and experience all that we experience, including rejection and death. God raised him up and gave him a name (power and authority) above all others. This is one of the earliest proclamations of our belief – “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

St. Luke’s telling of the Passion and Death of Jesus is the Gospel reading for Cycle C. It is a powerful story that begins with the narrative of the Last Supper and the gift of Jesus’ body and blood for our Eucharistic celebrations. It continues through the agony in the garden, Jesus’ trial, condemnation, carrying of the cross, and execution. His words of forgiveness and his prayers on the cross speak to us. We close with the quiet sorrow of his death and hasty burial in a borrowed tomb.

We are not called to be saddened by all of this. It is to be a source of great hope, but a hope that is so outrageously improbable and powerful that we are in awe of it. We enter this week with quiet hope for our own lives and the world in which we live. We pray for insight and the ability to see the Lord’s presence in all the times and ways he comes into our lives.

This can be a very busy week. There are liturgies and preparations for Easter. Work and school don’t necessarily take the time off. Yet it is a solemn time too. Liturgies for the blessing of the Holy Oils, Holy Thursday and Good Friday services, Easter Vigil, and then the great feast of Easter all await.

How will I mark this time? What things can wait, what need attention? What do I normally neglect that maybe I should spend some time doing?

May these final days of preparation for Easter be ones of peace and quiet joy, as we trust that through all the ups and downs of life, our God is with us, loving and supporting us each step along the way. Hosanna in the Highest.

Here are links to sample a couple of versions of the song from the Philippians that St. Paul shared with us.
In English, from Ken Canedo
In Spanish, from Pedro Rubalcava

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Posted by on May 1, 2017

A Surprise Gift from the Lord

A Surprise Gift from the Lord

It happened again the other day. I had gone to the grocery store after dinner to get flour, yeast, and a couple of other things so I could start baking early the next morning. It was time to make the Hot Cross Buns for Holy Week and Easter. I make a very large batch of them in a house that is typically on the cool side, so it can be an all-day process to get the yeast growing fast enough to form and bake the rolls before bedtime.

At any rate, as I was coming out of the store, I crossed the parking lot with my cart of groceries and  man approached with a smile. He had just been rebuffed by another woman, but he seemed unfazed by her rebuff. I figured he was going to ask for a handout. It would have been totally consistent with his clothing and general style of approach. It commonly happens in that particular parking lot. I braced myself for his request and prepared to demur.

Rather than ask for money, however, he asked if he could ask me a question. Keeping my distance and continuing towards my car, I told him he could ask, but I didn’t know if I would answer. He again smiled and simply asked if he could give me something. He was carrying five or six long plant leaves similar to palm fronds, but from a different species of plants. When I accepted his offer, he happily began folding and twisting, and turning one of the leaves.

By this point I was nearly to the car. As he busily worked, I opened the trunk and put the bags of groceries inside. (I’d gotten more than I had anticipated — I often remember more things we need once I get to the store.) As I closed the trunk he smiled and said, “Now for the magic.” Holding his creation in one hand, he firmly pressed down on the top of it and twisted it more closely together with the other. Then he took a second leaf and wrapped it quickly beneath the first, tying it by using his teeth to hold it tightly as he worked. When he finished, he stood up straight, bowed slightly, and offered me a  flower. I smiled my delight and thanked him, exclaiming, “It’s beautiful.” He happily returned my smile and headed off across the parking lot, head held high, with hands that I now realized were wrapped in protective swaths of white bandage material, looking for someone else willing to accept a gift of beauty in the night from a stranger.

And I knew that I had once again met the Lord in the most unexpected of places and times.

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Posted by on Mar 26, 2016

A Surprise Gift from the Lord

A Few Minutes to Pray

Winter Sun on the Central Coast 2.1.16Holy Saturday can become one of the busiest days of the year, especially for those preparing for church services or hosting Easter dinner. Finding a moment to stop and pray is not easy. There are rehearsals for those playing a part at Easter Vigil or other Easter services. There are last minute Easter basket details to handle. The floors need sweeping. The furniture is dusty. The windows have splotches that testify to recent rains. Shirts to iron, shoes to shine, etc., etc., etc.

Yet Holy Saturday is really a time that is supposed to be holy: a time to stop, reflect on what we have just experienced with Christ and his early family and friends, and wonder how it all applies to our lives here and now. A time to step out of time and space and enter into (or remain within) the realm of the Sacred, the Holy, the Other.

We Christians are not always conscious of the reality that God and God’s presence/activity exist outside the confines of time and space. We mistakenly think that what we celebrate took place two thousand years ago and we simply remember in historical, or maybe collective, terms the events and the people to whom these things happened. In reality, for God everything is NOW. There is no past, present, or future. When we enter into the mysteries of the life, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Pascal Mystery, those mysteries are not history. They are happening in our lives as well. Our Jewish sisters and brothers will say, “Our ancesters walked through the Red Sea and our feet are wet.” They understand that the events they remember in story and ritual are truly real today as well. This reality is equally true for us.

Today we remember that day when all seemed lost for Jesus’ mother Mary, for his friends Peter, James, John and the other disciples, for Mary of Magdala and the other women who traveled with Jesus. Jesus had been publicly tortured to death as a traitor to the Empire, a political enemy of the state. His death was that reserved for the worst of criminals, those seen as fomenting revolution. It was meant as a warning to any who would attempt to change the status quo, the way things are/were. His family and friends recognized the warning and were crushed with sadness and fear, on top of the emptiness we all feel when someone we love has died. It was the Sabbath. They couldn’t even go to the tomb to care for his body properly. They simply had to wait and pray, try to make some sense of the past three years of their lives with him, and console each other as best they could.

We know the rest of the story — the events of the next morning changed history. God intervened, raising Jesus up on the third day, the day on which God came to the rescue of the faithful one. As a result, it’s easy for us to forget what this day, the day in-between, is about, easy to get busy rushing around to prepare to celebrate. They didn’t have a clue what was coming.

But we have entered into the mystery. We have celebratedPalm Sunday with cries of Hosanna and waving of palm branches. We rejoiced on Holy Thursday, celebrating the institution of the Eucharist. We have heard the passion narrative, prayed for all the peoples of the world, and venerated the cross on Good Friday. We are still in the midst of the mystery. It is not over yet. This is a time of quiet hope and awe in the face of loss and the unknown. It’s a time to experience our solidarity with those who suffer today because they are disciples of this Jesus, the crucified one. Time for quiet and prayer.

It’s a beautiful day here on California’s Central Coast. I’m going to leave the floors unswept, the furniture undusted, the weeds growing happily in all the flower beds, and go for a walk with my Lord alongside the ocean.

Holy Saturday blessings to all.

 

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