FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, April 30, 2023
ACTS 2:14A, 36-41 | 1 PETER 2:20B-25 | JOHN 10:1-10
We’ve spent three Sundays reflecting on accounts of the resurrection of Jesus. All three of them took place on a Sunday, connecting them to Christian gathering day, the day we gather for the breaking of the bread. In each appearance Jesus continued to minister. At the tomb he called Mary Magdalene’s name rescuing her from the darkness that held her spirit hostage. Then he showed himself to the disciples who were in hiding in the upper room. Giving them hope when he breathed his Spirit into them giving them the power to forgive sin. He broke Thomas’ disbelief as he invited him to touch the marks of his crucifixion. Finally, he enlightened the two disciples fleeing to Emmaus to the meaning of the scriptures, and opened their eyes to his presence as he broke the bread with them.
This week Jesus reveals himself to us through a descriptive image: “I am the gate for the sheep.” To understand what he’s revealing about himself we have to understand shepherding in the Middle East at his time.
Sheep were raised primarily for their wool not for slaughter. So, shepherds were committed to their care and safety for their entire lives, ten to twelve years. The shepherd named all his sheep, and his sheep would respond to the call of their name. They relied on the shepherd to lead them to grazing pastures and water. He carried a sling shot and a club for protection against wild animals and robbers. The shepherd was with his sheep day and night. He never let them roam unattended. At night he would gather the sheep into communal pens, and to protect the sheep, he would sleep in the entrance to the pen. He would literally become “the gate for the sheep.” A wolf or wild animal would have to walk over the shepherd to get to the sheep.
By defining himself as the “gate” Jesus pledges his undying commitment to us. He’ll walk with us, strengthening, supporting and
protecting us during dark times. He’ll lead us to green pastures where he’ll spread a banquet for us at which he himself is the bread broken and shared. He’ll lead us to those restful, living waters that quench our thirst for eternal life
ANOTHER REFLECTION ON THE DISCIPLES AT EMMAUS
“Supper at Emmaus”
Surely they have seen him somewhere before, this stranger that they picked up on the road to Emmaus. The three of them discussed the recent crucifixion of Jesus, and now he may still be alive after his tomb was found empty. Yet in their hearts, they were not quite sure that Jesus was the son of God and divine. Still, they were unknowing disciples and followed Christ. They had loved him. Now they were walking with this stranger, and all three were talking about the crucifixion. He was explaining scripture to them as they had never before heard it or understood it. “Stay with us!” they pleaded as they reached Emmaus, and he was about to travel on. “The night Is coming.” They said. “We do not know you, but we want you to eat with us. We loved this Jesus, and now there is nothing beyond us but darkness, but when Jesus was alive there was the promise of heaven.”
Margaret Gilbert is a parishioner and published poet. You see her in church regularly. She serves as the cross bearer at the Sunday 4 PM Mass. Thank you, Margaret, for sharing your reflection.
- Published in Church Reflections
THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, April 23, 2023
ACTS 2:14, 22-33 | 1 PETER 1:17-21 | LUKE 24:13-35
In his study of the origins of the Eucharist in the Gospel of Luke entitled “Dining in the Kingdom of God,” Fr. Eugene LaVerdiere, SSS, asked a rhetorical question regarding the disciples at Emmaus: “Why didn’t the disciples recognize Jesus?” His answer shook me up. “Because they didn’t recognize him in the first place.” I had always presumed that after the resurrection Jesus had a new body that was different from ours; that’s why nobody recognized him. But then, just think about it, when he appeared to the disciples in the Upper Room he had to show them the wounds of his crucifixion to prove to them who he was. At the tomb, Mary turned her gaze from the empty tomb and saw a man standing near her. She thought he was the gardener. It was only when he spoke her name that Mary recognized him. These two disciples fleeing from Jerusalem were carrying their own wounds. The voice of their master had been forever silenced. Their faith in Jesus the Messiah had been shattered. Any hope they had of a new kingdom had evaporated. They were downcast and were rehashing the events of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion when he walked up to them. He didn’t call their name as he did with Mary at the tomb. He didn’t show his wounds as he did to Thomas and the group in the Upper Room to prove who he was. This account of Jesus’ resurrection appearance is quite different from the others. Jesus asked these disciples to share with him what they had been debating, which they did. His response to their account was somewhat off-putting. “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe what the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then he did what he always did with them; he taught them. He shed a new light on everything they already knew. They knew the scriptures. They knew the five books of Moses. They knew all the Messianic prophecies by heart. Every Jewish boy learned them in Hebrew School. But as they walked along with him teaching them everything was beginning to make sense. The sun was setting by the time they came to Emmaus. They were still hungry for his words. They couldn’t let him go on. They invited him to stay with them. A strange thing happened when they sat down to eat. Jesus assumed the role of the host. “He took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them.” Then it happened. “Their eyes were opened and they recognized him but he vanished from their sight.” What Jesus did with them that night was what he had done innumerable times with them. He taught them, and then broke the bread of fellowship with them but they never realized that he would one day be breaking himself for them. Today was the first time that they really listened to him. It was the first time they let his words revive their hearts. They allowed his words to bring light into their darkness. Their hearts were broken until they heard him speak; now they burned with the fire of new life. On the road to Emmaus they came to understand the breaking of the bread. He was present to them that day, when they, as true disciples, sat at his feet listening to him. He would continue to be with them, when as true disciples, they broke themselves for each other as he had done for them
- Published in Church Reflections
SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER, April 16, 2023
ACTS 2:42-47, | 1 PETER 1:3-9 | JOHN 20:19-31
ast Sunday we stood before the empty tomb with Mary of Magdala in the pre -dawn darkness. We saw Peter and John arrive. We noted the confusion on Peter’s face. We saw John in awe, his eyes filling with tears.
This Sunday we’re in a locked room with many men and women, all of them disciples.
They’re speaking in hushed, fearful tones. A few of the women stifle a yelp when they see it, but no one speaks. The silence of death still has its grip on the room.
Then they hear it, one word, one beautiful word. Shalom. A gentle, embracing, rocking-back-and-forth Shalom. Still no one speaks. He lets the word move through the room as he quietly extends his hands. They see the wounds as he stretches out a loving gesture of welcome. Their eyes follow his hand as he pulls back his tunic revealing the wound on his side. The wound that bled water and blood. He’s the crucified Jesus. They recognize him! Jesus, wounded. Jesus, alive. Jesus, come to raise them from the dead. They begin to breathe again. Many of them cry. Some shout his name. Again, he says Shalom.
He moves from one to the other breathing into each of them the breath of his own life, his Spirit. He anoints them with such power that they can forgive sins. When he departs as mysteriously as he appeared, the room rocks with the blare of their voices.
As he approaches the door, Thomas hears the commotion inside. He knocks loudly the secret knock they had agreed upon. As they pull open the door, he hears everyone speaking at the same time. “We’ve seen the Lord!” But Thomas’ spirit is too beaten down, too lifeless to share the celebration. He can’t hear. He’s deaf to the good news. Until the following Sunday.
This time no one is missing when he comes. Everyone hears him speak the word, shalom. He reveals his side and stretches out his hands to Thomas. “Thomas, touch my wounds.” The moment he touches the wounds the Spirit flows through him – he sees. He hears. He recognizes the voice of his Lord and his God!
This is our story, the story of our gathering. The story of our fear and disbelief. The story of our healing. The story of our anointing. We must never stop telling the story. We’ve been anointed to share the good news.
- Published in Church Reflections
EASTER SUNDAY, April 09, 2023
ACTS 10:34A, 37-43 | COLOSSIANS 3:1-4 | JOHN 20:1-9
It was that unique time before dawn, that very still, very quiet darkness. Sometimes, it’s eerie. Sometimes, it’s awesome. Mary was part of the darkness. Her mind was filled with the images, the cross, the blood, the suffering. Something was so wrong. The stone covering the tomb entrance had been pushed aside. The tomb was open. It was empty. She ran back to the group, frantic. “They’ve taken the Lord from the tomb and we don’t know where they put him.” John and Peter followed her back to the tomb. They all ran. Peter trailed behind.
Why did they follow her back to his tomb? Jesus had been plotted against and killed. They were his followers. They knew there were plots against them. They were hiding in a tomb of their own, but there was something compelling in Mary’s frightened declaration. They left their tomb, and followed Mary to his.
John and Simon Peter ran together for a bit, but John was so much younger. He quickly moved ahead. He was already peering into the tomb when Simon Peter arrived. Out of deference he didn’t enter.
Simon Peter squatted down and entered. Like adetective, he studied what little was in there. The tiny room was just big enough to fit in. The bedlike shelf where the body had laid was clear except for the shroud and two linen bands that had bound Jesus’ hands and feet. They were folded up at one end of the shelf. The cloth that had covered his head was rolled up at the opposite end. There were no signs of pilfering here, no signs of desecration. Whatever happened here was methodical and peaceful. He put his hand to his mouth and wondered.
John came in behind him. Something happened to him the second he entered. He felt he had entered a sacred chamber. Tears welled up in his eyes. Something happened here, something beyond logic. The old man and the young man were silent.
They left the tomb and returned to the city in silence. Mary remained behind weeping as she stood before the empty tomb.
This is the story we tell, today. We have to wait another seven days before we hear the other things that happened that day – that Easter Sunday. Why are we made to wait?
We need time to discern who we are. Are we Mary, overwhelmed by the darkness that never seems to go away? Are we Simon Peter, still not sure about it all? Are we John seeing heaven for the first time?
We need time to realize that the dawn has come. We need time to believe in the impossible. We need time to see a new heaven and a new earth.
- Published in Church Reflections
PALM SUNDAY, April 02, 2023
MATTHEW 21:1-11 | PHILLIPIANS 2:6-11 | MATTHEW 26:14-27:66
It’s Palm Sunday.
Jesus has been secretly planning his entrance into Jerusalem. Right now, he wanted to stay under the radar of the religious leaders. He made secret arrangements to procure a donkey and her colt. He was planning a prophetic act. He was going to dramatize the messianic prophecy of Zechariah. “Behold, your king comes to you, meek, and riding on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”
It was Passover time. Jerusalem would be bursting with pilgrims. Some estimations put the number to as many as two million. His prophetic entrance into the Holy City would serve as a public announcement; Jesus was the Messiah. The crowds picked up on it immediately. Some people spread their cloaks on the road while others strewed branches along the road just as their ancestors did when Judas Maccabeus entered Jerusalem in triumph after his defeat of Antiochus Epiphanes.
The crowds preceding and following Jesus shouted messianic acclamations: “Hosanna (save us) to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
The residents of Jerusalem were shocked to see the multitude. Asking who this was coming into the city on a donkey, they we told, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth!”
Jesus went straight into the temple and performed a second prophetic act; he drove out the money changers and the people selling animals for ritual sacrifice. Quoting the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah he shouted at them, “My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves!” The area Jesus cleansed was the court of the Gentiles, the only place reserved for non-Jews. His prophetic act called all people to God’s house, Jew and Gentile alike.
It was official, and without any doubt; Jesus was revealing himself as the Messiah. His announcement was what the religious leadership wanted to hear. It gave them grounds to pursue his execution. But they were alarmed at his popularity.
We’ll follow Jesus throughout this week. We’ll see him making secret arrangements to celebrate Passover. We’ll see him wash the feet of the apostles. We’ll pray with him in the garden, witness his arrest and stand at the foot of his cross. We’ll go to the tomb and wait for the sun to rise.
- Published in Church Reflections