Reflections for the 1st Week of Easter 2011 **
** These homilies were written by Fr. Howard in 2009.
They refer to the daily readings for the 1st Week of Easter 2011.
Some 35 years ago when I was in treatment for the disease of alcoholism we were introduced to the so-called feeling chart. This “chart” is not a big piece of paper or anything like that. It is simply a straight horizontal line drawn on any piece of paper with a mark or something indicating the approximate center of the line. It would look something like this: _______________._______________. Written at the extreme left of the chart was the word pain and at the extreme right end was written euphoria. In between the two extremes were all the other human feelings, good and not so good. The ones we would not want hanging around were to the left of center, the ones we would want in our lives were to the right of center. So on the one side we might have feelings such as guilt, shame, discomfort, sadness, anxiety, tenseness, resentments, misery, discouragement, unforgiveness and extreme pain. On the other side might be feelings such as joy, happiness, elation, fulfillment, completeness, forgiveness, servanthood, caring, compassion, mercy, peacefulness, serenity, and so on. You get the idea, I’m sure. We were asked to keep track of our various daily feelings as we progressed through the treatment program. By the time I left I had arrived at the feeling of euphoria, for, you see, I had risen from the dead!
During the just passed Holy Week and leading to Easter our feelings probably took us all over the feeling chart. Palm Sunday and its hosannas took us to feelings of great joy and euphoria, and minutes later, as the Passion of the Lord according to Mark was read, our feelings changed to sorrow and sadness. Holy Thursday lifted us again to good feelings while Good Friday led to feelings of pain and grief at the crucifixion and death of the Lord. And now on Easter morning we again make our way toward the euphoria on the other end of the chart.
We can see all of this constantly in our spiritual lives. Darkness and sin, the various selfish blocks we put in between our God, our neighbor and ourselves, carry us to the left side, the pain side of the chart. It’s like: There is no joy in Mudville, the mighty Casey has struck out! We all know the feelings on this side of the chart because we are all sinners. All of these negative, pain-type feelings take away our freedom. We are slaves to them.
And, thank the Lord, we all know the good, happy feelings on the other end of the chart. We know what it feels like to be happy, joyous, forgiven, compassionate, caring, peaceful, fulfilled, complete, serene, safe, free, and even euphoric at times. Pain, then, comes from darkness, from doing things my way, from the ways of the world. Euphoria comes from Jesus, the real way, truth and life. There is little doubt in my mind that all of us prefer the euphoric side of the chart, the side of Jesus’ way, truth and life, the side of resurrection and freedom. Will someone please tell me why you and I keep choosing the pain side, the dark side of captivity, on this chart? Let us rather choose the feelings of resurrection.
Mt. 28: 8-15
The same two women who stood at the foot of the cross and witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and the “other Mary,” presumably the mother of James and Joseph (Mt. 28: 56), who kept vigil at his burial, now return again to the tomb. These woman were with Jesus all the way. The angel told them Jesus was not there, that he had risen from the dead. They ran to announce the “good news” – they were the very first evangelists – to the other disciples. Then in Matthew’s Gospel only does Jesus meet the women on their way to spread the Good News.
In yesterday’s homily we spoke of the feeling chart, how it goes on the one side to feelings of the greatest euphoria and to the deepest pain on the other. The Gospel today tells us the women were “fearful yet overjoyed.” Their feelings through all they had gone through are mixed, fearful and overjoyed at the same time. Jesus appears to them and calms their fears and enhances their joy. There are many occasions when we feel fear and joy at the same time, for example at the marriage of one of our children. We are joyful they have found someone they love to share their lives with. At the same time we are fearful for the trials we know will come into their lives. At these times let us remember that Jesus is there for us just as he was there for the two Marys in the Gospel. And, as with them, his presence will tell us that all is OK now that he is there.
J John 20: 11-18
When Peter and John received the news that Jesus had risen from the dead, they ran to the tomb to see for themselves and then returned home not knowing what to think. Our Gospel for today tells us that Mary Magdelene followed them back to the tomb and when they left she remained outside the tomb weeping. Finally she looked into the tomb and saw two angels who ask her why she is weeping. Mary replies that she believes someone has stolen the body of Jesus. The idea that he had risen from the dead still had not soaked in for Mary.
Then she encounters Jesus walking in the garden near the tomb. She thinks he is a gardener and asks him if he might know where the body is to be found. Then Jesus calls her by name and she recognizes him. Her weeping and concern turn into instant joy.
Sometimes our crises, illnesses, family deaths, economic problems and so forth blind us and bring great fear and even weeping. But if we just think and bring it all to Jesus our concern and fears will turn to joy and serenity. Jesus has called us all by name in Baptism and, like Mary, he will heal our troubled minds if we but turn to him.
L Luke 24: 13-35
So far the readings following the feast of Easter are all conveying pretty much the same message: The wonder and disbelief of all the disciples and the women who witnessed his death on the cross, their sorrow that he is dead and gone, their fears and then their simultaneous joy when they hear he has risen, their continuing wonder and doubt, and their various encounters with the risen Jesus that leads to their extreme joy at having him back, and finally their belief in the resurrection.
Today’s Gospel selection tells the story that happened on the road to Emmaus. The two disciples are leaving Jerusalem on their way to who knows where. They are probably full of feelings of frustration, confusion and perhaps even a bit of anger. The one they thought was the Messiah when they began to follow him had been crucified and buried. One of the two is named Cleopas, a name similar to Klopas, the husband of one of the women at the cross, according to John’s Gospel (19:25). There are some who believe that the two disciples mentioned here on the road to Emmaus are husband and wife.
Later, when they were recounting their story to the other disciples, they said, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” They also told the others that they had recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread, reminiscent of his actions at the Last Supper at the institution of the Eucharist.
We see in this story that Jesus comes to us, is present to us, both through Word and Sacrament. And we see both of these elements in the Liturgy of the Mass. We have access to both Word and Sacrament frequently. It is good to attend daily Mass for a daily measure of Word and Sacrament. If we are unable to do this for one reason or another, the daily reading of the Scriptures or the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours brings Jesus into our hearts in a special way.
L Luke 24: 35-48
Today’s Gospel presents us with a number of things for our reflection and meditation. The disciples believe now that the risen Jesus is a ghost. This somehow seems easier for them to believe than that he has risen from the dead. Jesus allows them to touch him to see for themselves that he is really flesh and bone. He shows them the marks left on his body from the crucifixion. He further tells them that he is hungry and eats some food that they give to him.
This Gospel introduces to the disciples and to us something we all wonder about: the so-called glorified body. The resurrected life of Jesus is a new life involving a glorified body. It is different to the extent that even friends do not recognize it. Mary thought Jesus was the gardener when she saw him walking in the garden. She did not recognize the glorified body. Yet, it is similar to the earthly, mortal body. Even though the glorified body is not limited by space and time, it is still physical. Wounds and marks are still there, but they no longer cause any pain. Jesus showed the disciples the marks of the nails in his hands and feet. This glorified body is still mysterious to us, but Luke in writing about it wants us to know that this same condition someday awaits the faithful. A good Scripture reading on all this is found in St. Luke’s Acts of the Apostles 2: 14-41.
John 21: 1-14
The story of the glorified body continues in today’s Gospel. Jesus shows the disciples that what they see is truly the same Jesus they knew before the resurrection as he appears to them at the Sea of Tiberias.
The disciples had been out all night fishing and had caught nothing. Right after dawn, Jesus came and stood on the shore. He told them where to cast the net and they pulled in a huge number of fish. When this happened, Peter recognized Jesus and shouted out, “It is the Lord!” Jesus then invites the disciples to have some breakfast and distributes to them bread and fish, again reminiscent of the Eucharist and of the miracle of the loaves and fishes. This was the fourth time Jesus appeared to them, if we count the initial appearance to Mary. And this time, “none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew that it was the Lord.”
We have spoken before of the many appearances Jesus has made to all of us in one way or another throughout our lives. Reflect on them today and realize that it was the Lord who accomplished the wonderful things that happened because of these encounters.
M Mark 16: 9-15
The Gospel read for today is from that part of Mark’s Gospel referred to as the Longer Ending, chapter 16, verses 9 to 20. These verses, added to the conclusion of Mark’s Gospel, have traditionally been accepted as a canonical part of the Gospel and were defined as such by the Council of Trent. Early citations of it by the Fathers of the Church indicate that it was composed by the second century, although vocabulary and style indicate it was written by someone other than Mark.
The closing words of this Longer Ending catch our eye as being similar to the ending of the Gospel of Matthew (28:19) and they remind us once more of our duty as disciples to spread the Good News of Jesus. Let us then “rise up” and tell the world around us of the Risen Savior Jesus Christ, our Lord and Redeemer.