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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

EASTER VIGIL (B) APRIL 4, 2015

Gn 1: 1-22; Gn 22: 1-8; Ex 14: 15–15:1; Is 54: 5-14; Is 55:1-11;

Bar 3: 9-15; Ez 36: 16-17a,18-28; Rom 6: 3-11; Mark 16: 1-7

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

PRE-NOTE:

Welcome to the latest email recipients of "First Impressions," the parishioners of St. John the Evangelist/St. Joachim parish in Beacon, NY and Our Lady of Lourdes parish in West Islip, Long Island.



Readers of Mark’s gospel will recognize the women named in his Easter narrative –"Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome." Mark had previously mentioned them watching the death of Jesus from a distance (15:40) and they also had seen where the body of Jesus was laid (15:47).

At Jesus’ crucifixion Mark told us that from noon until three o’clock, when he died, "darkness came over the whole land" (15:33). The women got to the tomb at sunrise. We know the gospel writers aren’t just interested in precise days or time. The time of day, "when the sun had risen," hints that the women are about to experience something new; something they never could have imagined. It is the beginning of a new day. The darkness, which had previously overshadowed humans, is now being pierced by a light only God can provide. Remember too, that during the darkness Jesus cried out in agony asking his Father why he had abandoned him. Light suggests that God has entered the story and has overcome the darkness.

The women presumably set out in darkness. We are no strangers to their journey, for who among us has not had to travel in the dark? Who has not, at one time or another, felt sadness, grief from loss and the dark of pressing questions left unanswered? But darkness does not have the last word; God comes with light, offering us a new beginning.

On their way the women wonder who will roll back the heavy stone covering the tomb. It’s another symbol of the difficult situation which mere human effort cannot overcome. They could not roll back the stone; but God would see to it. Notice that the women "look up" and see that the stone had been removed. Mark suggests this is not merely a physical act of raising one’s eyes. They were about to "see" a revelation of God’s action. In fact, when they look up they see an event that had already taken place. God had already acted and they are about to hear a report of God’s wonderful activity.

It’s the same for us. God has raised Jesus from the dead and tonight, at our vigil, we hear again, through the "young man," the announcement – the Easter proclamation of what God and only God could do.

The women don’t find Jesus, just the young man, "clothed in a white robe." There is no mention of the garment the dead Jesus was wrapped in. That was for the dead; the young man wears a white rope signifying a new life. Is there a connection for us to the white robe we were clothed in at our baptism?

The young man speaks to us of what God has done. He tells the women, "Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here." "Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified," – is a summary of what evil forces had done to Jesus. But God’s transforming power has reversed Jesus’ apparent failure; which is what God can do for Jesus’ disciples. Two of the women had watched the burial and saw where he was laid (15:47). Now the young man in white directs them to look again. "Behold the place where they laid him." The women experienced Jesus’ death and burial; now God has acted. "He has been raised, he is not here." God takes our experience of death and transforms it.

On the cross Jesus asked, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" (15:34). Now Jesus’ question is answered: God had not forsaken him. Through the obstacles Jesus met throughout his ministry, his arrest, the abandonment by those closest to him, his torture and execution. God had not abandoned him. Through it all Jesus stayed obedient and faithful to God. God didn’t desert him in his agony and now we learn God has acted on his behalf, "He has been raised; he is not here."

People I meet in parishes and on retreats can easily name the "dead spots" they experience in their religion: once-full churches are now barely half-full; a whole generation of young adults don’t practice the faith; teenagers have other activities to distract them (soccer on both Saturdays and Sundays); church scandal has further alienated former active members; church school closings, etc. Our church, where we look for life, can feel half dead and on the way to the tomb! We are a community of believers who need God to step in and do something! Move the heavy stone; act in our midst on behalf of the risen Christ!

What happened to the men in the story? Where are those apostles whom Jesus called at the beginning of his ministry? Weren’t they listening to him on the road to Jerusalem? Why didn’t they take his threefold predictions of his suffering and death more seriously? Mark has told us where they are: they have disappeared from the story, symbolized perhaps by the young man who ran away naked in the garden when Jesus was arrested (14:50-52).

Now a new community is going to be created. During his life Jesus had promised that the gospel would be preached to the ends of the earth (30:10). But the apostles and men disciples are not around at the empty tomb to hear the first proclamation of the gospel by the young man. So, he commissions the women to go to proclaim the gospel message to the shattered disciples. After the Last supper Jesus had promised that they would be restored. "After I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee" (14:28). Now the young man tells the women, "He is going before you to Galilee…." The promised new age is already in progress. Mark has told us that Jesus had led his disciples to Jerusalem, a place of endings (10:32). The disciples are now to go to Galilee where they will encounter the risen Lord, be forgiven and restored to discipleship.

If we look back from this vantage point at our own life with Christ we, like those disciples, will surely discover moments when we have failed to take up his cross in service to others. We must acknowledge that our discipleship has been less than stellar. Later, when the disciples are at table with the risen Christ he rebukes them for their "unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised" (18:14). But the rebuke ends there. He then sends them to the whole world to preach.

So too with us, at this Eucharist. We began our celebration conscious of our sins and failings as disciples. Then we heard the gospel mandate to the women and to us, to tell the good news to others. The women have seen the empty tomb. Christ is present to us and the world in a new way. They are told to go to Galilee, the place where Jesus began his mission. But more. The Galileans were a marginated people, considered half-pagans by the "religious pure bloods" in Jerusalem. The disciples will continue what Jesus did in his ministry, reach out to those on the edges.

Paul reminds us we have been baptized into Christ’s death. "We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death...." Just as Christ was raised, so have we been raised into "newness of life." Mark’s gospel is ending with the disciples being sent back to Galilee to start all over again with a new beginning – "newness of life." We can be witnesses to the resurrection by accepting the new, resurrected life Christ offers us, putting aside previous guilt and selfishness and helping others experience the freedom that comes with belief in the resurrection.

---Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040415.cfm

QUOTABLE


Easter is God’s class action suit against sin and death

—James A. Forbes, quoted in, "The Living Pulpit," April-May, 2005, Page 45.
 

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

Come and See!

Each Easter Sunday and Christmas Day, the Urbi et Orbi ("To the City [of Rome] and to the World") address and blessing are given from the central loggia of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, at noontime and are broadcast worldwide through the European Broadcasting Union and other linkups, including the internet. Tune in today to hear the Pope’s message for 2015. Below are excerpts from Pope Francis’ inspiring message for Easter Sunday 2014:

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, a Happy and Holy Easter!

The Church throughout the world echoes the angel’s message to the women: "Do not be afraid! I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised… Come, see the place where he lay" (Mt 28:5-6). This is the culmination of the Gospel, it is the Good News par excellence: Jesus, who was crucified, is risen! This event is the basis of our faith and our hope. If Christ were not raised, Christianity would lose its very meaning; the whole mission of the Church would lose its impulse, for this is the point from which it first set out and continues to set out ever anew. The message which Christians bring to the world is this: Jesus, Love incarnate, died on the cross for our sins, but God the Father raised him and made him the Lord of life and death. In Jesus, love has triumphed over hatred, mercy over sinfulness, goodness over evil, truth over falsehood, life over death.

That is why we tell everyone: "Come and see!" In every human situation, marked by frailty, sin and death, the Good News is no mere matter of words, but a testimony to unconditional and faithful love: it is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast… "Come and see!": Love is more powerful, love gives life, love makes hope blossom in the wilderness.

With this joyful certainty in our hearts, today we turn to you, risen Lord! Help us to seek you and to find you, to realize that we have a Father and are not orphans; that we can love and adore you. Help us to overcome the scourge of hunger, aggravated by conflicts and by the immense wastefulness for which we are often responsible. Enable us to protect the vulnerable, especially children, women and the elderly, who are at times exploited and abandoned…Comfort all those who cannot celebrate this Easter with their loved ones because they have been unjustly torn from their affections, like the many persons, priests and laity, who in various parts of the world have been kidnapped. Comfort those who have left their own lands to migrate to places offering hope for a better future and the possibility of living their lives in dignity and, not infrequently, of freely professing their faith. We ask you, Lord Jesus, to put an end to all war and every conflict, whether great or small, ancient or recent...Lord, we pray to you for all the peoples of the earth: you who have conquered death, grant us your life, grant us your peace! Dear brothers and sisters, Happy Easter!"

---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Coordinator of Social Justice Ministries Sacred Heart Cathedral--Raleigh, N.C.

FAITH BOOK

Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.

From today’s Gospel reading:

Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week,

[the women] came to the tomb.

Reflection:

Apparently, when the women began their journey to the tomb, it was dark. We are no strangers to their journey, for who among us has not had to travel in the dark? Who has not felt sadness, grief from loss or the dark of pressing questions left unanswered? But darkness does not have the last word. God comes with light, offering us a new beginning.

So we ask ourselves:

  • Can we name a darkness in our lives now?
  • What can we do, or where can we go to get help in that darkness?

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

"The use of the death penalty cannot really be mended. It should be ended."
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick

Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

  • Frank Chambers #0071799 (On death row since 3/10/94)
  • William Barnes #0020590 (3/10/94)
  • Jeffrey Kandies #0221506 (4/20/94)

----Central Prison 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh 27699-4285

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the webpage of the Catholic Mobilizing Network: http://www.catholicsmobilizing.org/

DONATIONS

"First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at jboll@opsouth.org.

If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

St. Albert Priory 3150 Vince Hagan Drive Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage to make an online donation: http://preacherexchange.com/donations.htm

ANNOUNCEMENTS

1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:

  • Individual CDs for each Liturgical Year, A, B or C
  • One combined CD for "Liturgical Years A, B and C."

If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.

You can order the CDs by going to our webpage: www.preacherexchange.com and clicking on the "First Impressions" CD link on the left.

(These CDs have been updated twice in the last five years.)

2. "Homilías Dominicales" —These Spanish reflections on the Sunday and daily scriptures are written by Dominican sisters and friars. If you or a friend would like to receive these reflections drop a note to fr. John Boll, O.P. at Jboll@opsouth.org Or jboll@preacherexchange.org.

3. Our webpage: http://www.preacherexchange.com

Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilias Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.

4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.


Thank you and blessings on your preaching,

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

St. Albert Priory

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

frjude@judeop.org

972-438-1626

 


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