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Contents: Volume 2 - Third Sunday of Easter April 15 2018


 

 Third

Sunday

EASTER

2018

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2.--  Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

5. –  (Your reflection can be here!)

 

 

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Easter 3B

In today's Gospel according to Luke, Jesus again appears to the apostles after the two from Emmaus returned to relate their encounter with Jesus. Jesus calms their fears, shows them his hands and feet, and even eats some fish in their presence. He then "opened their minds to understand the Scriptures."

I think in our hearts, we all wish we were there, too, in the Upper Room. We might think something like "if I saw the Risen Christ, I would be able to....." Perhaps that is true, but we will never know because it is not what happened.

Jesus also said to those apostles "You are witnesses of these things." If we think about it, we, too, are witnesses of many things that embolden us to preach "repentance, for the forgiveness of sins" in the name of Jesus. What is it that we have witnessed?

While each of us has a different answer, we all have some things in common. We have witnessed the spread of Christianity from those apostles to us, from Jerusalem to wherever we live, and from way back when to now!!! While the entire history of Christianity has not always been glorious, there have been many who truly glorified God through their belief, their courage, and their witness.

Furthermore, all of us have borne witness to the God of Second Chances in our own lives and in the lives of others, preaching forgiveness in the name of Jesus. We still might waiver a bit now and then, or even stumble and fall, wishing we had that rock solid determination that came from actually seeing the Risen Jesus. Perhaps our faith, little though it may be a times, by believing in Whom we don't see, is just as pleasing to God as the determination of those first witnesses.

I'd like to hold onto that hope. Jesus understood us so well that he showed our first Christian brothers and sisters how physically present he was to them so that we, centuries later, can believe that he is always present to us as well. I pray that we all continue to witness to the life and death and resurrection of the One who understood human nature perfectly that day and each day that we get another chance.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Third Sunday of Easter April 15 2018

Acts 3:13-19; Responsorial Psalm 4; 1st John 2:1-5; Gospel Acclamation Luke 24:32; Luke 24:35-48

The graphics on the cover of most Easter Sunday Bulletins was an open tomb with a graphic of a huge rock rolled away to the left of the tomb entrance. The tomb is empty. That tomb was where Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus wrapped, anointed, and placed the body of Jesus. They were in a hurry so that they could beat sunset. That sunset signaled the start of the final day of the celebration of Passover. That feast celebrated the freeing of the Hebrew tribes from the oppression of Pharaoh. It is about freedom of the human spirit from the oppression of Pharaoh, being led by God into the desert to form a nation – to become a great people influencing billions of people in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Who has not wondered why Scripture doesn’t name the Pharaoh? Clearly even the most uninformed person of an oppressed group knows the name of the person robbing them of dignity and freedom. So why is Pharaoh not named? Most scholars believe it’s because Pharaoh is not only a person, but a culture, a system, a slave master holding denying dignity and worth to persons in bondage. A modern example of this would be Jim Crow laws in the U.S.

For the first Christians, Jesus is the new Moses. The rejection of Jesus by the religious leaders of God’s Chosen People resulted in his execution by the secular state at the request of those leaders. We kill what we cannot understand or appreciate. But the empty tomb no longer confines and hides the savage slavery of any Pharaoh. The emptiness in the tomb raises a loud and joyful shout that even death no longer has power to imprison us. The darkness of death has been shattered by shards of light. It lost its power to frighten us, to weaken us, to suppress our person. The freedom gained by Jesus through the Cross provides richer and deeper opportunities than could ever be provided by a simple overthrow of cultural or social slavery. The bondage that comes to every human life is the specter of death. And at Easter we celebrate its absolute and unconditional defeat of death itself. "Oh, death, where is your sting?" The tomb, that symbol of human limitation and bondage, has forever lost its ability to contain the human spirit. What a wonderful event that frees us from the uncertainty of what happens to us when we die! What a wonderful message us contained in the emptiness of Jesus’ tomb!

But there is more than an empty tomb in our experience this Easter Season. Easter is so expansive that it reminds us of a made for TV commercial – "not only will we send you one set of this wonderful product! If you call within the next fifteen minutes we’ll double your order!" The difference is these readings are not from the brain of a huckster. This Sunday we hear how the followers of Jesus experienced in a physical way the presence of Jesus, the Risen One. Jesus doesn’t appear in the Temple: he doesn’t ascend a mountain in a great cloud of light: he doesn’t stand at a gate to Jerusalem: he doesn’t show up at the praetorium where he was condemned. Only those who followed Jesus are visited by Jesus. And he visits them in community.

All three readings encourage us to repent. Peter tells the Jews that it was their ignorance of the Scriptures and of Jesus’ words and work that caused their failure to believe in Jesus. John writes in our second reading that we should not sin. But if we do sin, if we make mistakes, choose bad over good, we have a lawyer – an advocate – standing for us before the Father. He expiates our sins. That is, Jesus makes us one again with the Father. But we must repent, turn away from that which damages our relationship with God.

The reading from Acts and the reading from Luke’s gospel tell us that understanding what God has done for us takes time. Peter teaches the Jews that God has a long history of drawing humanity to himself. Peter begins with the patriarchs – with Abraham, with Isaac and Jacob. He speaks of the prophets and of wisdom writings including the psalms. God from the beginning planned to send his son whom we would put to death because we couldn’t understand the great love and compassion God has for us. We must repent of our sense of unworthiness and lack of importance. We are each important to God. It’s very difficult for us to accept that God loves us unconditionally. We just aren’t worthy of such love and compassion. When we repent of the ways in which we fail to believe in God’s love we deny the Christ. We’ve got to let go of our pride and turn away from our sin of denial and idolatry. It is our ignorance and lack of understanding of God’s love and compassion that brings us to condemn to death the one sent by God to lead us. Who can believe God loves us so much?

Luke’s gospel parallel’s Peter’s preaching. Jesus appears in the upper room. The two who met Jesus on their way home to Emmaus have returned and are in the room telling the disciples of their encounter. Jesus comes to them there and gives them peace. Peace is what comes to us when we are at one with God. Peace is what is within our spirits when our sin is forgiven and our guilt and regret is taken from us. Peace is what comes to us when we allow ourselves to be loved and treated with undeserved compassion by the Father. Peace comes to us when we repent. Jesus opens the disciple’s minds and they understand what has been written in the Hebrew Scriptures. He reviews the Law of Moses, he recalls the words of the prophets, and opens to them the wisdom of the psalms. The people are led to understand that the Messiah had to suffer and die and be raised on the third day. Jesus tells them they must preach repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations.

These are wonderful thoughts, wonderful instructions leading us to hoping in the Lord for the forgiveness of our sins. In Jesus’ words we find hope for living at peace with each other and with all creation. But there is more to these readings that we often overlook.

When we think of Jesus and our relationship with him, we may imagine him standing at the pearly gates waiting for us to die and meet him there at the entrance to paradise. In the resurrection of Jesus we have hope for our own resurrection once we finish our life’s journey. If we believe we’re supposed to hang in there until we die – hopeful that we’re caught in a state of grace and so join the saints in paradise where we will….. Yes, where we will what? Is paradise a place of fluffy clouds, long white robes, harps, and trumpets? We don’t really know, do we? But in Jesus we have a couple of clues. His raised up body is physical. He can be touched – "Thomas bring here your finger and trace the path of the nails in my hands. Bring here your hand and put it in my side." Jesus eats. In the story this Sunday he takes a piece of baked fish and eats it in front of his disciples. A ghost doesn’t eat. In another story Jesus is in Galilee after the Resurrection. The apostles are waiting around for they know not what. Peter goes fishing – returning to his old job. The others join him. But they catch nothing all night. They see a familiar figure on the shore line and recognize Jesus. He tells them to put out their nets again on the right side of their boat. The catch is so abundant that their net is breaking. In the meantime, Jesus has started a cooking fire and is making bread and takes fish they’ve caught and cooks it over the fire. They all eat. We shouldn’t overlook look that except for meeting Mary Magdalene in the garden of the tomb and Paul on his way to Damascus all apparitions are to a community of believers.

Jesus is alive. He has a real body. He walks with them, talks with them, teaches them, cooks for them. That’s the message these Sundays of Easter. Jesus is with us. Recall the stories: Mary Magdalene meets him in the garden, mistaking him for the gardener. Jesus tells her not to touch him – yet. He has not yet returned to the Father. Two disciples are walking home to Emmaus, confused by the stories of the women’s apparition at the tomb. They walk with Jesus, speak with him, break bread with him. The disciples on that first day of the week are gathered in the locked upper room. They are scared out of their wits they will be executed as well. Jesus comes among them and speaks with them and eats some fish. In another story Jesus walks on the shore while the apostles went fishing. He cooks, he bakes bread, he invites them to breakfast. Jesus is with them in routines of daily life and in places of fear and stress. He is alive. He is with us.

It’s easy to focus on the empty tomb and think only of Jesus ascended to the Father. Only those who followed Jesus witness his resurrection. Not all the people see him only those who believe in him. Those who see him were prepared to see by the Scriptures. They are sensitized to his presence; they see him, they touch him, they hear him, they eat with him. But they have been prepared by the Scriptures and by their life experiences. They must have repented of their ignorance and denials. They recognize him and he offers his peace.

Do we look for Jesus walking with us as we head home? Do we think to experience him at our jobs? Do we expect to find him in our homes and our neighborhoods? He is raised: he is alive: he is with us now! If we listen to his word, if we share a meal with him, if we serve others we will know Jesus is with us now just as surely as he was with the apostles and disciples in the fifty days of that first Easter. When we think about hearing his Words: when we think about sharing a meal with him: when we serve others we’ll be struck that these three actions are how we come together as his followers. We hear his words in the liturgy of the Word. We share a Eucharistic meal in the second part of worship. And we serve others when we greet them, when we share our abundance with them, when we teach, when we visit them in their sickness or in their captivity. We serve them when we celebrate their lives as we commit their bodies to the earth. The corporal works of mercy are how we bring the Lord into the world and the lives of all who live there. So YES! Jesus is alive and walks among us. Let us open our eyes and see him: let us open our ears and hear him: let us open our hearts to his commandments to love everyone as we love ourselves and discover him in the poor, the marginalized, the captives, those with illness. That will bring us to loving God above all things. May it be so! Remember always: He is Alive!

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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DISHING OUT HELL OR HEAVEN: 3rd SUNDAY EASTER B

The famous French Philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, once said: "Hell is other people." Judging on hellish things done to others, this is sometimes all too true. Just consider some of the stories reported in the media in recent times. A young Indian woman about to start her career as a medical doctor in Delhi went out with her boyfriend to see a movie. On their way home in the bus they were e set upon by a group of three men, who brutally assaulted and murdered her, and then tried to hide her body. Her fate left those many people who esteemed and loved her broken-hearted. But the perpetrators and even their lawyers pretended they were innocent because, they said, any decent girl would not be out after dark. In the USA a young unarmed man ran away from a policeman who chased him and shot him dead with a spray of bullets. In Kenya 142 students, mainly Christians, were gunned down on a university campus north of Nairobi by Islamic militants. In Australia a young teacher let herself into her high school one Sunday afternoon to prepare her next class, but was stalked by someone known to her. Her assailant shot her dead, and then transported and burnt her body in bushland some miles away. In just a few days time she was meant to marry the love of her life. There’s also the ongoing offence and hurt of wage theft, with too many employers paying their employees only two-thirds or less of the award wage.

But if hell is sometimes other people, so too is heaven. The good news is that many people constantly and repeatedly bring comfort, joy, reassurance, peace and contentment to others. On TV not long ago Nana Mouskouri at 80, wowed her listeners with her beautiful signature song "The White Rose of Athens". An autistic boy wandered away from home into forest land near a weir and went missing for five days. But many people gave up their Easter holidays to join the police in the search. Finally, cold and hungry and sitting on the side of a precipice, he was spotted from the air and rescued. In the recent bush fires in Tathra and Cobden, Australia, strangers from hundreds of miles away arrived with food, clothing, and furniture for those who had lost all their possessions.

Just a few days back you and I were remembering the sufferings and death of Jesus our Saviour. As we looked on his crucified body with sorrow, love and gratitude, we came face to face with the dark side of human nature that led his enemies to give him hell, by torturing and humiliating him, and then killing him on the rough wood of a cross. On that black day in Jerusalem, the capacity of human beings to hate, hurt and harm one another went completely out of control.

Good Friday left us wondering over and over again: Why was this good man, this innocent man, this man with so much honesty and integrity, so much humanity and compassion, so much warmth and generosity, so much affection and kindness, violated, humiliated, tortured and murdered?

The motives which led his enemies to persecute and destroy him are those which have always influenced human beings to hurt and harm one another - arrogance and pride, power-seeking and ambition, envy and jealousy, anger and fear, hatred and revenge. Good Friday reminded us of the dark and hellish side of human nature and of its associated evils.

Fortunately, however, this is not the whole truth. For if we experience so much evil we also experience an abundance of goodness, a taste of heaven on earth. The crops keep producing food for our tables. The summer heat gives way to cooling autumn breezes. Most diseases are now curable. Tyrants are sometimes overthrown. Social reforms like pensions for the needy are here to stay. Conflicts end in reconciliation. Shaky marriages get patched up. Love survives misunderstandings, thoughtlessness, and indifference. Wars come to an end. Enemies become friends. We forgive others and are forgiven. Just as our Risen Lord has promised today that: "... repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations...!" In a word, there is goodness everywhere, more goodness than evil. In all such traces of heaven, the light of Easter, the influence of the Risen Christ, keeps shining brightly upon us.

Yet one mighty struggle goes on between good and evil, between hellish and heavenly influences. It goes on in the material universe, in human societies, and within our own personalities. Evil even seems stronger than good. But it has not yet finally triumphed. Though too often it seems to be in danger of being crushed, it manages to survive, and even to win many victories. The words of Mahatma Gandhi, Father of Independent India, are so true: "When I despair I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but, in the end, they always fall." Words of our Easter Vigil express the same truth in an equally appealing way: "The power of this holy [Easter] night dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy. It casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly pride."

Our continuing celebration of the resurrection of Jesus reminds us that evil will not have the last say ether in us or our world. It leaves us in no doubt about the ultimate triumph of goodness, not only in ourselves but everywhere around us. Jesus was buried at sunset, to all appearances a victim and a failure. But on the third day the sun came up on him alive and powerful, influential and victorious. It will be the same for us who continue to celebrate Easter by renouncing and rejecting everything dark and evil in our lives, and by renewing our determination to always walk with Jesus in his light.

So, dear People of God, what’s it to be? What will we dish out to others? Will we give them hell on earth, or with the grace of God, will we give them and keep giving them, slices of heaven?

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John
 


 

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