Last weekend, my sister graduated from her master’s program at Marquette University, and I insisted on coming down to Milwaukee for the celebration. As I guess is common at large universities, the ceremony took place in two parts: part one, held at the Bradley Center in the morning, was a ceremony for everyone, while part two, held after a break for lunch, was where the University split into its various colleges and did the actual reading of the names. “Most of my classmates are only going to the afternoon part,” my sister told me, “but I want to go to the morning part because they’ve got a graduation speaker that sounds really interesting.” She didn’t have to do much convincing to get me to come along. Since both my sister and I studied abroad in separate South American countries, and both of us were aware of the works of the School of the Americas, just knowing that Sister Margaret “Peggy” O’Neill, S.C. had worked for years in El Salvador was enough to get me interested, too.
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)
As I mentioned in a recent post on the CTA 20/30 blog, Good Pope John XXIII is a special saint to me. As I was a lapsed Catholic adrift in a spiritual Nowhere Land, the Italian pope with a big belly and an even bigger heart taught me the much of the good that is to be found in our faith tradition. So it was something of a no-brainer for me to decide to visit the newly rededicated St. John XXIII (until today Blessed Pope John XXIII) parish in South Fort Myers to join the celebratory mass.
Both this parish and its patron saint embody that crucial component of Christian conduct: a sense of community. St. John welcomed the world with open arms, reaching out to Jews, Orthodox Christians, Protestants, even those “godless” communists. He was not posturing; the pope’s actions showed that he really saw the people of the world as his brothers and sisters.
St. John XXIII parish does much to live up to this commission. There is a dynamic pastor, numerous ministries and, most importantly, an enthusiastic congregation.
It is in fellowship with others that we as Christians have the chance to live out our faith. The First Reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, tells us that the Church first establishes itself and performs its “many wonders and signs” (2:43) through communal living, sharing possessions, caring for the sick and needy of the community, and joining each other at the table (vv. 44-46).
Thomas the apostle provides us with an example of belief emerging from community in the Gospel reading. When he was away from the other disciples, Thomas is, as most of us would be, skeptical when he learned of the resurrection (John 20:25). But notice that Jesus does not go out to find Thomas to validate himself. He waits until Thomas returns, giving the apostle the opportunity to see and believe among other believes. It is at that moment that he makes that great confession of Christ’s divinity, “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28)
As the Second Reading tells us, we believe even though we have not seen Jesus (1 Peter 1:8). But that does not happen on its own. We must see the image of God in every person that we encounter if we are to truly live in union with God. And we can’t do that by staying home every day. Even hermits communicate the Good News with others from time to time.
Vigil: Genesis 1:1 – 2:2; Psalm 104:1-2, 5-6, 10, 12-14, 24, 25; Psalm 33:4-7, 12-13, 20, 22; Genesis 22:1-18; Psalm 16:5, 8-11; Exodus 14:15 – 15:1; Exodus 15:1-6, 17-18; Isaiah 54:5-14; Psalm 30:2, 4-6, 11-13; Isaiah 55:1-11; Isaiah 12:2-6; Baruch 3:9-15, 32 – 4:4; Psalm 19:8-11; Ezekiel 36:16-28; Psalm 42:3, 5, 43:3-4; Psalm 51:12-15, 18-19; Romans 6:3-11; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Matthew 28:1-10
Sunday: Acts 10:34, 37-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Colossians 3:1-4; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; John 20:1-9
“All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!” – Isaiah 55:1
Truth be told, I had a packed weekend that included three egg hunts, a birthday party and a day trip across the state to see the family, so I think I can get a dispensation for writing my Easter reflection on the following Wednesday.
Besides, Easter is supposed to be a 50-day long celebration, and that has taken on a particular meaning for me. It was around Easter of last year that my wife told me that she wanted to part ways. As I wrote in the aftermath of that, it was the joy of the resurrection that was sustaining me.
A year later, I believe that I am through the worst of it. I still have my house, my kids (albeit for less time) and my faith. My pastor even asked me to be part of the leadership team for a new divorce support group.
So I am happy to say that the Resurrection remains a focal point for me. I feel the Spirit when the lights turn on at the vigil mass as we sing “Alleluia!” for the first time in a month and a half. I move forward without knowing what lies ahead, but with the knowledge that the Jesus who defeated death itself will carry me through whatever comes my way.
Exult, all creation around God’s throne!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!
In high school, we took a theology class called “Jesus of History, Christ of Faith.” Early in the semester, we had to write a paragraph about who we thought Jesus was and what we thought he came to do.
I wrote a few sentences. It was something standard, boilerplate. Jesus was sent by the Father. He saved us from our sins by his blood. He won our place in heaven for us.
I finished the exercise. I passed it up to the front of the row. As I did, I remember thinking ever so briefly: “Wait. Do I even know what any of this actually means? Why did it feel so dull and flat when I wrote it?” Continue reading
“Great and glorious God, my Lord Jesus Christ! I implore thee to enlighten me and to disperse the darkness of my soul! Give me true faith and firm hope and a perfect charity! Grant me, O Lord, to know thee so well that in all things I may act by thy light, and in accordance with thy holy will!” – St. Francis of Assisi
This year was the first time that I observed Easter in the purpose for which it was intended: a 50-day celebration of Jesus’ sucker-punch into the face of death; a 50-day party at the end of a three-day test match that ended with the score, Jesus 1, Death 0. The joy that comes with a true Easter has carried me through one of the most difficult times of my life.
After we attended Easter service, my husband was speculating about what it might have been like for Mary Magdalene to go out and try to tell the rest of the world what she had discovered at the grave of Jesus. I told him about my copy of The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, which might shed a little more insight. He read it aloud as we drove to my aunt and uncle’s for Easter brunch, adding his own commentary along the way. At one point, Jesus is quoted as saying:
“Impose no law other than that which I have witnessed. Do not add more laws to those given in the Torah, lest you become bound by them.”
Ivan paused and said, “It’s no wonder this book was banned from the Bible!”
I want to make it very clear that I do believe that Jesus was the Divine Son of God, but I’m a little concerned that institutional Christianity has made the sideshow into the main stage. At my CLC meeting this week, our leader began with an understanding of the Resurrection that I’ve heard countless times: “This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for,” he said, “Without the Resurrection, our faith is a sham.” I get it, but I’m done picking up what he’s putting down. Throughout the whole meeting we talked about the Resurrection, and I couldn’t come up with even one thought to share.