Reflections for the 2nd Week of Easter 2011**
** These homilies were written by Fr. Howard in 2009 and 2010.
They refer to the daily readings for the 2nd Week of Easter 2011.
Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday
John 20: 19-31
“Peace be with you.”
How many times Jesus uses this greeting when meeting his disciples and through them to you and me. It is easy to see that Jesus wishes us to be a people of peace.
Peace in the Old Testament is a tangible thing and indicates an ease of mind and tranquility as well as material prosperity. It is also used as a greeting or a blessing. These same meanings are also to be found in the New Testament but here something more is added. In the New Testament it is clear that “peace” finds its ultimate expression in an intimate relationship with God that is made possible by the redemptive efforts of Jesus. Jesus is declared to be the embodiment of peace bringing to us the eternally permanent reconciliation between God and humankind.
Thomas Aquinas defines peace in two Latin words: tranquilitas ordinis = the tranquility of order. Here everything is in its place. Everything is as it should be. There is no chaos or disorder to be found. There is serenity where there is peace. Deep down in our hearts we all want this peace and it can be ours only through the Divine Mercy of Jesus our Redeemer, as we saw in the above paragraph.
We are also indebted to Pope John Paul II for his teaching on peace, further defining it for us. He tells us in his Message to the World on the World Day of Peace in January 2003, that there are four pillars of peace without which peace cannot be found to exist. A pillar is a support, something that helps something else to stand and without which it will fall. These four pillars for peace are truth, justice, love, and freedom.
When we consider these four pillars of peace, we see why it is so difficult to have peace in society at large and among the nations of the world. Peace is possible, but it obviously is going to take a lot of work to obtain it.
Perhaps we can begin our quest of peace in our families by all being honest and truthful with each other. I am sometimes surprised at learning how much lying goes on in families. All of the family members have a right to life and the pursuit of happiness, to dignity and respect. They have a right to be helped by the other members of the family, each doing what they can do to help the other. It goes without saying that family members are to love one another, that they affirm and praise each other for the good they do and to be able to confront without judgment when needed. All should be free to be themselves, to use their gifts and talents given to them by God and not to be forced to be something they are not. Family members are to forgive one another when one hurts the other.
Jesus, help us to truly seek peace in our families and our corner of the world. Help us to find it and help us to spread it to those we meet.
Monday of the Second Week of Easter
M John 3: 1-8
“What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above. ‘”
Jesus further tells us in today’s Gospel that we cannot “see” the kingdom of God unless we are born from above. To “see” here means to experience and understand, and the kingdom of God, as we have said before, is not a place but a state of being or a condition in which we find ourselves. Nicodemus took the phrase “born again” in the literal, physical sense and ends up in absurdity. Jesus is speaking in the spiritual sense. We enter the kingdom by the new life promised by Jesus and through Baptism. There is a chasm between the physical and the spiritual that can only be bridged by Jesus.
In my understanding of this, I am born again when I discover first that I cannot do life all alone, that by myself I can do nothing; and, secondly, that Jesus is the way I must seek, the truth I must learn to appreciate, and the life that he gives me in abundance is the life of joy, happiness, and peace.
Jesus, help this to happen and keep happening in our lives.
Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter
John 14: 6-14
“I am the way and the truth and the life.”
My Commentary on the Scriptures reminds us that “life” has been a constant thread throughout the Gospel, and the granting of eternal life is the root mission of Jesus. Jesus came to bring us abundant life. Life is being or existence. Here on earth, it is only for a time. And we would like it to be a happy time, a fruitful time, a time during which we can love and be loved and make a difference through our being or existence.
Jesus knows this and in today’s Gospel he tells us how to accomplish it. We come to the realization that he is the way to this happy and meaningful life. He has come to give us directions on how to choose this life for ourselves. And if we do it, we are, as they say, winners. Since I discovered and embraced this truth, my life has been happy and fruitful beyond my every hope. There was a time in my life when I didn’t even dream my adult life could be as happy as it is right now. And it continues to get better! I’m certainly no saint, but I do try and that is all God wants us to do.
Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter
M John 3: 16-21
“Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned.”
The word “belief” in our Gospel reading for today does not necessarily mean an intellectual agreement with doctrine. Rather it means surrendering to and being open to the way, truth, and life of Jesus. Those who do surrender and who are open to Jesus’ values are going to find an easier and happier journey through life. Those who do not believe are not going to find the answers to their desire for a happy life they would otherwise discover in Jesus. Condemnation here seems to mean that those who do not surrender to Jesus will encounter many problems they would not otherwise have.
Many of us, if not all of us, have tried to run our lives our own way and have found life lacking in what we truly desired. I have said many times in these homilies that my two great discoveries in life are that I can do nothing without Jesus (the parable of the vine and branches) and that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, not I (John 14). I am thankful, and I am sure others are, too, for having made these discoveries.
Thursday of the Second Week of Easter
John 3: 31-36
I read a little story about helicopters recently that I imagine is true, and I would like to share it with you. Also, I have often wished I had a helicopter and could fly it. They can go just about anywhere and land anywhere. Neat! But that is pie in the sky. Anyhow, the story I read pointed out how complex a machine the helicopter is and went on to say that despite its complexity the whole thing depends on that whirly blade or rotor that keeps it in the air and moving. The story said that these rotors are held in place by one simple hexagonal nut. And the name given to that nut is “the Jesus nut.”
Jesus, the one who comes from above, the one who speaks the words of God, is also the one who holds our lives together and permits us to “fly.”
Jesus, thank you again for your presence in my life!
Friday of the Second Week or Easter
M John 6: 1-15
Today’s Gospel, although it is in a different chapter from yesterday’s Gospel, still reinforces what was said yesterday.
Jesus is the one who holds our lives together. But we have to let him into our lives, we have to surrender our will and lives to him. We have to put Jesus in control. Then, as he multiplied the loaves and fishes in today’s Gospel to feed the people, he will multiply my gifts and talents to meet the challenges that come as a result of my serving his people. It seems like we can always be a source of help to other people if we are willing to put Jesus in control. I recently felt totally inadequate in trying to help a couple who needed help badly. Somehow, I am still not sure how, Jesus came to the rescue and the story had a favorable, if not completely satisfactory, ending.
It’s amazing what can happen when we put Jesus in control of things.
Saturday of the Second Week of Easter
M John 6: 16-21
Just because I surrender my life to God, just because I put him in the center of my life, doesn’t mean there will be no storms or crises in my life. Despite our surrendering to him, we will still have many fears, illnesses, crises, grief and hurts in our lives. The good part of all this is: If I surrender all of this to him instead of trying to carry it all alone, I will find the load easier to bear. We do much better in life with Jesus than we do without him. Man, I’ve proved that to myself a million times!
“It is I; do not be afraid.” Powerful words, indeed.