SUNDAY of the Second Week of Easter
“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” This was a favorite greeting of Jesus; to wish his disciples peace. Jesus wishes the same thing for each of us.
What exactly is this thing called peace? First of all, it is far more than the absence of violence or war or fighting of any kind. Thomas Aquinas, the great theologian and philosopher of the Church, defined peace in two Latin words: Tranquillitas ordinis. It sounds almost the same when translated into English: the tranquility of order. Everything is in its place. There is no chaos or disorder to be found. Everything is as it was meant to be. There is serenity, calmness. Deep down in our hearts this peace is something we all desire.
Pope John Paul II, of happy memory, reminded us in one of his writings that humanity needs now more than ever to rediscover the path to this peace, overwhelmed as it is by selfishness, greed, hatred and the thirst for power. He suggested that “to reach peace we must teach peace.” Peace is possible.
Pope John XXIII in his now famous Encyclical Pacem in Terris (Peace on earth), written in 1963 at the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, lists four pillars of peace without which peace cannot exist. These four pillars of peace are: truth, justice, love, and freedom. Pope John Paul II took the liberty to suggest a fifth pillar: forgiveness.
There is not space in this format to go into a detailed explanation of each of these pillars. Simply know and realize that they are necessary also in our lives if we want to have that peace we all desire and if we want to be bearers of this peace to others.
Reflect today on these five pillars of peace and their presence or absence in our own lives. And may the peace that Christ desires for all of us be truly ours.
MONDAY of the Second Week of Easter
Nicodemus was confused when Jesus told him he had to be reborn if he wanted to see the Kingdom of God. How could he, a grown man, return to his mother’s womb for another birth? There are many people today that find this very confusing language.
And there are many today who are quite familiar with being born again because it has happened to them. I believe those who are involved in the Charismatic movement are familiar with being born again in the Spirit. Those who follow the 12 Step program in any of its many facets are very familiar with being born again.
The idea is part of the 12th Steps which begins: “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps ……” The spiritual awakening is described as a personality change, which is exactly what it means to be reborn in the context in which we are speaking. This spiritual awakening is a guarantee to those who follow zealously the 12 Steps. Likewise, anyone who follows God’s commandments will be reborn, and will undergo a personality change. Ordinarily, this spiritual awakening, this being born again, does not happen all at once, but rather over a long period of time, even for a lifetime. It continues until death stops it.
What is it that has taken place in your life that has produced this `being born again’ experience? Baptism is one answer to that question. Any other answers for you?
TUESDAY of the Second Week of Easter
The Scriptures reveal Nicodemus as being a Pharisee. I believe I also read where he was a scribe. No matter! Whatever he was, he was impressed with Jesus and you get the idea that he really did love Jesus. Remember, he is the one who finally went to Pilate after the death of Christ on the cross, and asked for Jesus’ body, which he then buried in a new tomb.
We can look at Nicodemus also as one who really listened to Jesus. He asked questions of Jesus and he truly listened to the answers. This is something for us to reflect on in our own lives. Sometimes we ask questions of the Lord and then go off and do it our way anyhow. We have said before that we love God, Jesus, with our whole mind, soul, strength and being by listening to him intently, with all our attention, when he speaks.
Let us ask ourselves today whether or not we are truly listening to Jesus and then acting upon what we hear.
WEDNESDAY of the Second Week of Easter
“The light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.”
I have a relatively small room at Franciscan Retreats. It is, I would guess, about 20 feet long and maybe 15 or 16 feet wide. And in this space there are 4 lamps, two fluorescent lights on the ceiling, and a large flashlight on top of the dresser in case the electricity goes off. Obviously, I like light! I don’t like to sit around in a dark room. Who does? I only turn the lights off when the sun is out brightly or I am going to sleep. So physically, I am a person of the light.
Why, then, do I spiritually sometimes prefer the darkness of sin? Spiritually I really like and want the light too. Why then do I sometimes choose the darkness of sin? I really wish I knew the answer to that question. But the same thing happened to St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans, 7: 15-25. Here he writes: “What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.” Later on he exclaims: Who is going to get me out of this predicament? His answer in verse 25: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” It is Jesus who sets us free.
Maybe take the time to read and reflect on this passage from the Letter to the Romans today. And let us ask the Lord Jesus for his continued help in doing, choosing, what it is that he wants me to do.
THURSDAY of the Second Week of Easter
“He (God) does not ration his gift of the Spirit.”
The Second World War ended in 1945, the year that I entered the Minor Seminary for High School. I was a young boy in Cleveland, Ohio during that terrible and frightening war. Every now and then conversation will lead me to reminisce about my life at home during that war: about the blackouts we used to have; about my Dad’s experiences as an Air Raid Warden. I remember watching the B-17s being made at the bomber plant out by the Cleveland Airport, and how they would practice their landings and takeoffs before going over to England. They would fly over our house at the rate of one a minute all day long.
And I remember rationing. When Mom would ask me to go to the store, I would have the money in one pocket and the ration stamps in the other. We could only purchase so much butter, sugar, coffee, meat, etc., and there were special ration stamps for each of these items. Trying to keep it all straight was quite a chore.
The Gospel for today tells us we don’t have to carry ration stamps for God’s grace or for any of his other gifts. God does not ration the gifts of the Spirit. We can have as much as we desire, as much as we need. And if in some particular case I need all the help I can get, it is there waiting for me.
Jesus tells us, “ask and you shall receive, knock and it will be opened.” This reminds me of the title of an old hymn: What A Friend We Have In Jesus.
FRIDAY of the Second Week of Easter
Today’s Gospel selection is St. John’s version of the miracle of the loaves and fishes. We have noted before in these homilies that this is the only miracle story found in all four Gospels and that it is found twice in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. That makes a grand total of six times this miracle is read in the Gospels. It is a miracle story that tells us that God cares for the needs of his people. We spoke of God’s helping hand in our time of need in yesterday’s Gospel and this Gospel is an example of that.
Miracles happen all the time to all of us. God’s care produces results no matter what seems to stand in the way. It is not hit and miss. Take a little of your prayer time today to recall some of the miracles of your own life. They are so good to think about and at the same time they remind us of God’s love and care for all of us.
SATURDAY of the Second Week of Easter
Today’s Gospel selection repeats the message of the Gospels for Thursday and Friday: God’s love and concern for us all. Sometimes the Gospel selections get into a certain pattern and stay there for three, four, five days. The first phrase I learned in Latin class applies here: Repetitio est mater studiorum. = Repetition is the mother of studies. Repeating a thing over and over and over again will make it finally stick, hopefully.
In the Gospel today, the disciples are caught in a storm while at sea in their boat. They are afraid the storm is going to swamp their boat and, if that wasn’t enough, they all of a sudden saw Jesus walking on the stormy sea and approaching their boat. This also frightened them. As they were about to take him into the boat, they reached the shore safely. No need to fear! Jesus was watching over them. How often he watches over us during the day! If we only knew!
Thank you, Lord, for all your love and care.