April 30, 2011
Have I Met the Risen Christ?
Today's Gospel passage begins with the disciples stay behind locked doors in fear.
However, it's already "the evening of that first day of the week." Why does the writer of this Gospel specify that day and the time of the day?
Earlier in this Chapter 20, the disciple whom Jesus loved "saw" the empty tomb and the burial cloths rolled up, "and believed" (Easter Sunday's Gospel, v. 8). Jesus then appeared to Mary of Magdala and told her to go and tell his brothers.
The disciples would probably have heard the story from Simon Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved.
They for sure have heard Mary's witness, "I have seen the Lord" (v. 18).
Yet, they remain behind closed doors, in fear.
At times, other people's words and experience of God may not be enough.
The disciples' fear can only be dispelled by the Risen Christ himself when he enters into their lives, in the midst of their fears and confusion, and give them his peace.
Moreover, this personal encounter gives them joy.
Now, they are ready to be sent by Jesus, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
Today, let's spend some time reflect on our own encounter with the Risen Christ.
Have I met him? Where? In what circumstances? Through whom?
April 23, 2011
My Realm of Death & God's Gift of New Life
When Mary of Magdala came to the tomb, "it was still dark." The physical darkness of nature is the symbol of her spiritual darkness.
Simon Peter and the other disciple also went to the tomb.
"It is as unbelievers that the two disciples turn toward the tomb"  .
They all look for the Risen Christ in the place of death.
In describing the various symbols of death, the writer of the Gospel uses the passive voice to indicate the action of God (the stone "removed," the burial cloths "rolled up"). This is so different with the description of Lazarus when he was raised back to life by Jesus. First, Jesus ordered the stone removed. Then, when Lazarus came out of his tomb, he was "tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth" (John 11:44)  .
And the disciples find the tomb empty.
The disciples had an excuse for going to the tomb because "they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead" (v. 9).
How about me? Am I still looking for the Risen Christ in the realm of death?
By God's grace, while we do not have the privilege of seeing the empty tomb, we have the testimony of the Scripture, God's living Word to us.
 Francis J. Moloney, S.D.B., The Gospel of John, Sacra Pagina series. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1998; p. 519.
 Ibid.; p. 518-520.
Rembrandt's "The Risen Christ appearing to Mary Magdalen"
April 16, 2011
The Power of Human Words
For those of us who will participate in the celebration of the Passion of the Lord, these will be the lines we say during the Gospel:
“This man said, ‘I can destroy the temple of God and within three days rebuild it.’”
“Prophesy for us, Christ: who is it that struck you?”
In response to Pilate's question of who should be released, "Barabbas!”
“Let him be crucified!”
“Let him be crucified!”
“His blood be upon us and upon our children.”
“Hail, King of the Jews!”
“You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, if you are the Son of God, and come down from the cross!”
Human words, as Matthew understood it, speak loudly of their interior life and motives. These are not mere words. They have power.
Then, near the end of Matthew's Passion narratives, we finally hear some positive words from the mouth of the gentiles.
"The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, 'Truly, this was the Son of God!'”
All are human words with the power to build up or to destroy. These words can reject or profess one's faith in God's love.
April 10, 2011
Am I Dead?
In the account of the raising of Lazarus, John makes sure his readers know that Lazarus is really dead.
By the time Jesus arrives at Bethany, Lazarus has been in the tomb for four days. The common Jewish belief at the time was that "at death the soul lingered in the vicinity for the body for three days." This detail emphasizes that Lazarus is "as dead as dead could be." 
Physically, as Martha put it, "by now there will be a stench." Lazarus is dead.
Then, when Lazarus comes out, his hands and feet "tied with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth." He was dead.
Have I ever written myself or somebody else off? Or maybe I consider a fault, a struggle in me or another person as hopeless? There is just no second chance. That is when we allow the power of death to take over.
Sometimes we even write off Jesus' victory over death. The raising of Lazarus affirms us of his power over sin and even death itself.
And he is more than willing to raise us up.
In the case of Lazarus, he did so while risking his own life. He went to Judea knowing what awaited him there. His disciples even tried to stop him, saying, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?” (v. 8)
In fact, by raising Lazarus back to life, Jesus brought down even more wrath from those who opposed him. "From that day on [the Sanhedrin] planned to kill him" (11: 53). In the next chapter, "the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too, because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him" (12: 10-11). Jesus clearly knew what he was risking in raising the dead Lazarus to life.
Jesus knows what he was doing, and the price he must pay. But that was the way he will fulfill the Father's plan for our eternal life.
Why do we still sometimes allow death to keep us in the tomb?
 Diocese of Saginaw, The Little Black Book for Lent 2011; entry for Friday, April 15, 2011.
April 7, 2011
April 2, 2011
The man who is given given sight by Jesus is "blind from birth" (v. 1).
Jesus' opponents, on the contrary, are all able to see.
Unfortunately, they choose blindness.
It is not a sudden decision. First, they even acknowledge that something extraordinary has happened, but "are divided over its divine origin."  With their hang-ups, they then move to discredit Jesus by questioning the man and his parents. In their stubbornness, they first try to question if the man was indeed born blind. Next, they attempt to prove that Jesus' action was sinful.
They become totally blind when in the end, they disassociate themselves from Jesus, considering him a sinner, and stressing that they are "disciples of Moses."
They are intentionally blind because they refuse to see any possibility of goodness in a person who is not one of them, who is different than them, and who does not do things their ways. They are "those who see" who choose to "become blind" (v. 39).
 Francis J. Moloney. The Gospel of the Lord: Reflections of the Gospel Readings - Year A. Homebush, Australia: St. Paul Publications, 1992; p. 93.