01 April 2018Easter

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Easter Sunday - Cycle B - John 20:1-9

Listen to an Easter parable. The father was in a foul mood. He wanted to attend the Easter Liturgy with his wife and three children. Sunday worship with his family was special for him. He believed in the dictum that teaches that the family that worships together stays together. But he was the new manager of a fast-food restaurant. The owner, anticipating a large crowd, ordered him to work Easter Sunday. He had no choice. Furthermore, he needed the manager's job badly. His children required a lot of food and clothing. He swallowed his disappointment. However, the manager had to concede his employer was correct. The people looking for Easter Sunday breakfast were double the usual number. Before noon he found himself tired. From the crowds coming in the front door, he saw no relief. If anything, he could use a few more counter-clerks. He felt guilty getting bad-tempered with several customers. They had grown impatient at the long wait. He sensed too that his anger arose from his envy that they were free and he was not. Some of them had their children clutching their precious Easter bunnies. The young man, who was next in line, was wearing a gold cross around his neck. He politely said to the manager, "Two orders of scrambled eggs please with a double order of bacon and sausage, whole wheat toast, two fresh orange juices, two large coffees." Then he said, "Please put each breakfast on a separate tray, but give me the check for both." The manager assembled the breakfast order for the pleasant man. He presented the trays to him and said, "$15.53."

The manager was giving the man his change for $20. At that point, the fellow, dressed in workingman's clothes, said, "Please give the change and the second tray to the man behind me." Then he disappeared into the large crowd. It was the last he saw of him. The manager saw the man behind his last customer. He was dressed in old clothing, needed a shave, and was carrying what appeared to be his belongings. They were spilling over from two shopping bags. He looked exhausted. He appeared as though he would be lucky to have the few coins needed for a senior coffee. The manager gave the surprised man the second heaping tray and the change from the $20. He smiled at him. It was his first genuine smile that morning. He whispered his benefactor was the fellow who had just preceded him. The old man looked confused but delighted. His Easter Sunday had been made. For this beggar, the Christ had indeed risen. The good news was very good. He would have a good breakfast. He was tempted to shout ALLELUIA. Wasn't this impulsive gesture of the workingman what the Easter Jesus is really all about? The Christian truckdriver was "walking the talk." The manager recalled the line someone had recently spoken to him: "I can't save the world, but I can send a poor man a pizza." The resurrected Jesus had come to that fast-food shop in the person of the young truckdriver. He was driving an eighteen wheeler. He too was away from his family on Easter.

The manager realized the driver had touched not only the hungry old man down on his luck but also himself. He had transformed his shop into a cathedral. The work day passed quickly after that. He mused on the aphorism that while it is not easy to become an Easter Christian, it sure is easy to start. When he got home tired that night, his three year old embraced him and shouted, "Daddy, daddy, we saw the Easter Jesus in church." As he picked up the child, he kissed her warmly. Then he whispered to her with a large smile, "I saw Him too, Dora." As he got down on his knees for his night prayers, he thanked the risen Jesus for sending both men into his shop that Easter Sunday. For a fleeting moment, he wondered whether the poor man had been the resurrected Jesus Himself. But he dismissed that notion as much too grandiose. But was it? After all, is there not a story that the thirteenth century Francis of Assisi once had been asked for a coin by a beggar? Francis was coming from Easter services. He embraced the beggar warmly, called him "my brother," and gave him several coins. As Francis left the poor man, he turned back to wave. He saw Jesus Himself standing where the beggar had stood. He waved at Francis with a smile. There was a huge bleeding wound in His hand.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
The Solemnity of the Resurrection of the Lord--Easter: The Center of the Arena

It was the year 203. The place was Roman Carthage in North Africa. The scene was the arena. The occasion was a festival in honor of Caesar's birthday. The main actors were two young mothers, 22 year old Perpetua and her servant girl, Felicity. Perpetua's infant son was still nursing. Her greatest suffering was not having her baby with her in the prison. Felicity had given birth two days earlier. This was fortunate for the Romans and a blessing for Felicity. The Romans would not condemn a pregnant woman to death because that would mean killing an innocent child. Felicity wanted to join her mistress and fellow Christians in death. Her prayer was answered when she gave birth in the prison. Perpetua, Felicity and three others had been sentenced to death because they refused to renounce their Christianity. "Can't you say you are something else?" Perpetua's father had pleaded with her. "Look at that pot," Perpetua answered pointing to a vessel in their home. "Can you say that it is not a pot. So also, I am a Christian. I cannot say I am anything else." So she and the others were condemned to death. Christians in Africa and the Middle East are still being put to death for what they believe. I won't go into the grisly details of Perpetua and Felicity's death. Suffice it to say that the blood thirsty crowd got the show it wanted. One detail I will mention, though. After the first assault by a wild animal, Perpetua and Felicity were knocked down onto the arena's sand. Some in the crowd complained that they could not see they action because the girls had been thrown into a corner of the arena. Perpetua got up, dragged herself over to Felicity, and helped her up. The two then stumbled out to the center of the arena on their own so that all could see their giving witness to Christ. What would lead these two young girls to make such a sacrifice?

Only their confidence that they were part of something that was far more important than everything around them. The crowd mocked them. But their jeers didn't matter. What mattered was the spiritual. Perpetua and Felicity were absolutely convinced in the existence of the spiritual. They had complete confidence that at their baptisms they received the life of Jesus Christ. When they walked to the center of the arena, they walked not to physical death, but to eternal life, the Life of Christ. And He was there, waiting for them. We also are part of this. We are also spiritual beings who have received the Life of Jesus Christ at our baptisms. We are part of so much more than all we see around us. Easter is a time of profound celebration. We celebrate the Life that Jesus restored for us when he destroyed eternal death with his own death on the cross. We celebrate His resurrection. We share in His resurrection. We have the life of God within us. Today is not merely a celebration of something that happened 2000 years ago. This is a celebration of life, eternal life, His eternal life and our eternal lives. Today is a day of renewal. The flowers remind us that the earth is restored to its original beauty. Baptism is celebrated in today's liturgy. We renew our baptismal promises at all the Masses of Easter.

When we do this we are renewing our commitment to Jesus Christ. We are renewing our commitment to the spiritual above us, around us, and within us. We proclaim that we renounce sin. We renounce Satan. We proclaim our belief in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We proclaim our belief that God's life within us is infinitely more important than anything the world has to offer us. We work hard to spread the Kingdom of God. We raise our children not just to be successful adults in the world, but to be children for the Lord. We are in the business of raising children for God. But we are limited by our humanity. We are frail. We easily give in to sin. We cannot give up. He will give us all we need to walk to the center of the arena, to testify to the world that Jesus lives. He made the lame walk, and the dumb talk
And He opened blinded eyes to see
That the sun rises on His time,
yet He knows our deepest desperate need.
And the world waits, while His heart aches,
To realize the dream.
I wonder what life would be like if we let Jesus live through you and me.... © CCLI License # 2368115

ThatThat's from a contemporary Christian song writer with the marvelous name, Big Daddy Weave. I wonder what life would be like if we let Jesus live through you and me. I know my life would be much simpler, far more joyful, and far more meaningful if I just let Jesus take control. I know our lives are overflowing with love whenever we put the Love that Became Flesh in the center of our family. Felicity needed Perpetua. She needed her mistress to help her onto her feet. And Perpetua needed Felicity. She could not give up on her own physical life until she gave her final support to her friend. We need each other. We need the support of our Christian community, our Catholic Community to help each other walk to the center of the arena. Jesus is there in the center of the arena. He is crucified.

 No, wait, he is risen from the dead. He is both saving us and giving us his life. There is a countless number of others there too. Look, there is Perpetua and Felicity, and Ignatius of Antioch, and Maximilian Kolbe and John Paul II. And there's your saintly grandmother, and your Dad who died so young, and there is Fr. John LaTondress, and Johnna and Bailee, and Lisa, and all those who have gone before us united to God. They are there calling us to them. They are calling us to the center of the arena. We pray for the courage to join them. We pray for the courage to shout out to the world, "We are Christians. We are God's people. We live for him. We die for him. We live eternally." Happy and Blessed Easter!

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
The Joke's On Satan
(April 1, 2018)

Bottom line: The joke's on Satan. The empty tomb indicates the turning point of human history Happy Easter! My name is Fr. Phillip Bloom. This is my ninth year as your spiritual father here at St. Mary of the Valley. Special welcome to visitors and students home with your families. I'll have a gift for you to take with you. Along with Easter blessing we have a sad note. This is our first Easter without Sister Barbara. She worked here 41 years. Her death on February 4 was a personal loss: since I arrived in 2009 she has been my right arm, a great support and friend. During Lent we used a booklet I found helpful: Finding Hope When Life Hurts by Joseph Sica. For Easter Fr. Sica tells about a child named Anthony:
"Anthony, a first grader with a brain tumor, was in Miss Hunt's class. The Friday before Easter she gave each student a plastic egg. 'Put a symbol of Easter inside. But don't put your name on it," she said. "On Monday morning, Miss Hunt's desk was filled with Easter eggs. A flower popped out of the first one. Alice said, 'That's my egg.'
"'What a wonderful symbol for Easter. Springtime. Everything coming to life,' the teacher said.
"The second egg was empty. This must be Anthony's, she thought, putting it aside.
"'Miss Hunt' Anthony said, 'That's my egg.'
"'But it's supposed to be a symbol for Easter,' she said.
"'I know,' he explained. 'The tomb was empty on Easter morning.'"
Then Fr. Sica tells what happened to Anthony: "Anthony died after Easter. Miss Hunt's class placed Easter eggs near his casket. And all of them were empty."

In today's Gospel we see the empty tomb: at first a shock for the disciples, especially those closest to Jesus: Peter, John and the holy women Jesus had healed. They thought the worst - not only had their Savior died, but now someone had taken his body. It seems to rub salt in a wound, but it turns out to be the first clue in the greatest detective story ever. The tomb is empty. To unravel this mystery I invite you to read chapter 12 of The Case for Jesus. We have extra copies especially for college students. Dr. Brant Pitre starts by asking: What is the resurrection? Does it just mean that Jesus' soul went to heaven or did his body actually arise? After answering that question he considers the evidence beginning with the empty tomb. I encourage you to read it yourself, give his argument a fair hearing. But I'm not here to argue anyone into the faith. What I ask you do is join me in exploring this mystery: that Jesus who died and was buried rose on the third day, according to the Scriptures. We have 50 days between today and May 20 - Pentecost Sunday. We can't take it all in at once. Keep coming back. Keep coming to Mass.

For today it's enough to simply contemplate the empty tomb. In telling the story of Anthony and the empty Easter eggs, Fr. Sica makes a spiritual application: "Hopefully, Lent has been a time for you to pour out all the harmful, negative ways of thinking that filled your head....I hope you replaced any stockpiles of anger, guilt and resentment with peace, happiness and forgiveness. Most all, may you count God in rather than counting God out, especially when darkness descends." Pour out all that is harmful, negative. St. Paul tells us to get rid of the the old leaven - the yeast of malice. At Passover time Jewish people would scour their homes to remove even particle of yeast and leavened bread. Like them we want to make a new beginning. As Fr. Sica says, get rid of those stockpiles of anger, guilt and resentment. This brings us to the final point. Easter is victory for every person with an open, believing heart. On the other hand, for one person Easter was a total defeat. It's significant that this year Easter falls on April First. Well, the joke's on Satan. He thought his clever lies and relentless rage had won out. When they closed Jesus' grave with a huge stone his triumph seemed complete. He could now forget Jesus forever. But the joke's on Satan. April Fools to him! The empty tomb indicates the turning point of human history.

In aIn a few moments I will ask you to renounce Satan, all his works and all his empty promises - and then embrace the hope only Jesus can give. As our Psalm says, "This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
Easter Sunday, Classic Sunday, April 1, 2018
John 20: 1:9

Gospel Summary
JohnJohn's gospel ends as it began, with the question: where does Jesus dwell? Immediately after his baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan, Jesus noticed two of the Baptist's disciples following him. He said to them, "What are you looking for?" They replied, "Rabbi, where are you staying?" Jesus said to them, "Come, and you will see" (John 1: 38?39). Now at the end after his death and burial, Mary of Magdala goes to the tomb while it is still dark to visit this final earthly dwelling place of Jesus. Seeing that the tomb is empty, she finds Simon Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved, and says to them, "They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they put him.? Peter and the other disciple run to the tomb. Peter enters the tomb first and sees the burial cloths there, and the "cloth that had covered the head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.? The other disciple follows Peter into the tomb; he sees and believes. John adds that they did not yet understand the Scriptures that Jesus had to rise from the dead.

Life Implications
The The climax of the Easter gospel and the essence of its implications for us lie in the statement "he saw and believed". Coming to believe in the Risen Lord is the purpose and the point of the entire gospel: "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name? (John 20: 30?31). John wants us to identify with the two disciples of John the Baptist who ask Jesus, "Where are you staying?? He also wants us to identify with the "beloved disciple? who runs to see where Jesus is so that we, like him, will see and come to believe. The end of John's gospel begins our encounter with the Risen Lord. The "sign? that leads the beloved disciple to believe is the cloth that had covered the head of Jesus. John is the only evangelist who mentions this cloth so we know it is significant in his narrative. The disciple upon seeing it very likely connects its meaning with the head cloth that Moses put aside when he ascended to speak face to face with God (Exodus 34: 33?35). Now the beloved disciple realizes with an intuitive leap of faith that Jesus, one greater than Moses, has ascended to be face to face with God in glory.

Jesus no longer dwells in a tomb; he is alive and has gone to dwell with the Father as he had promised. In the following episodes John then relates how the community of disciples comes to believe that Jesus has also kept his promise to return to be with them through the Spirit (John 14: 3?18). It is now possible through faith to dwell where Jesus dwells, in God. Was the head cloth that the beloved disciple saw proof that Jesus rose from the dead and had ascended to the Father in glory? Of course not. However, for him it was a sign like the other signs of the gospel that could lead to belief. A sign that leads to faith or to a deeper faith in the Risen Lord is unique for each of us: the head cloth led the beloved disciple to believe, but not Peter. For one of us, it may be hearing the gospel or homily on Easter Sunday. For another it may be the experience of seeing a spring flower or listening to Mahler's "Resurrection Symphony.? What is needed on our part is unconditional commitment and openness in seeking truth: "Whoever lives the truth comes to the light?? (John 3: 21). Each of us is called to believe and to become a beloved disciple. Each of us is called to dwell where Jesus dwells and to have life in his name. For this gift of God's love we are grateful, and in this faith we can celebrate Easter with hope and joy. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.

The Easter Vigil, Modern/> Sunday, April 1, 2018
Lectionary 41

The The Easter Vigil mass is the greatest liturgy of the year and is both the culmination of and the point of departure for the entire year that precedes and follows it. As such the way in which the Church proclaims the Scriptures at the Vigil is of great importance, since at this pivotal moment new catechumens and candidates are presented with an integrated teaching of the faith, and those in attendance who are already initiated into the sacramental life of the Church are reminded of their belief and its biblical origins. The Easter Vigil has always been rich in Scripture, including at one time no fewer than fourteen readings. In every form it had from its earliest days the Easter Vigil always fashioned its readings into a beautiful pedagogy that led the Christian faithful to hear, ponder, and respond to a sequence of Scriptures that illustrated the history of our salvation. The present Vigil expresses this movement of worship and catechesis over the course of a total of nine readings, which may be reduced to five "where grave pastoral circumstances demand it." The Vigil readings start with the first chapter of Genesis (Gen 1:1?2:2). The Easter Vigil thus ?begins at the beginning? and establishes the creation of all existence as the cornerstone of God's relationship with his people. This lesson in turn leads into the theme of covenant, which begins to be addressed in the story of the binding of Isaac, told in the second reading of the Vigil, also taken from the book of Genesis (Gen 22:1-18).

The covenant made with Abraham is next confirmed and vindicated once more in the Vigil's third reading, which recounts the exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt (Exo 14:15-15:1). No fewer than four readings from the prophetic books of the Old Testament grace the Vigil mass following the exodus account, and they carry the story of salvation forward across many centuries of the history of Israel. These prophetic readings remind us that God reveals himself not only in words but in deeds as well?actions anticipating God's ultimate "deed" of raising Jesus from the dead. Capping the Easter Vigil's scriptural catechesis, the two last readings are taken from the New Testament (from Saint Paul and one of the gospels) and they set forth the primal moment of the Vigil in dramatic fashion: the church which has been shrouded in darkness for much of the liturgy is now bathed in light, a soaring triple alleluia is sung in anticipation of the Good News, and the message of the re-capitulation of all creation is announced in the gospel.

Having retraced the history of salvation, the Easter Vigil liturgy reveals to its participants a profound biblical instruction concerning creation, revelation, and redemption, themes which are not only a powerful part of Jewish scriptural piety but which form a basis for Christian theology and spirituality. Those sharing in the Vigil are invited to relive the seminal moments in the past when God shaped the lives of his people; the arc of Easter catechesis then leads them into the rites of baptism and the Eucharist that follow the Vigil readings and which are their natural fulfillment. From start to finish every word and gesture of the Easter Vigil liturgy is stepped in meaning. The nine readings which together form its biblical core impart lessons which steer the hearers of the scriptures on the way of salvation, preparing them to encounter the risen Lord, to recognize him, and to embrace him with the fullness of Paschal joy. Alleluia?happy Easter! Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Easter Sunday

In this solemn liturgy we celebrate the highlight of the liturgical year which is this Vigil marking the anniversary of the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We have spent the last six weeks preparing for this great day with penance and fasting and calling to mind the sufferings Christ bore for us as he undertook the Way of the Cross. And naturally enough, the longer the preparation the greater the feast and the more profound the joy we experience. The scripture readings take us through some highlights from the history of Israel with special emphasis on Moses leading the rescue of the Chosen People from slavery in Egypt.

It iIt is no mistake that the Last Supper coincides with the Passover Feast. In Judaism the Passover Meal each year replicated the meal that God instructed his people to eat just as they were about to be led by Moses out of Egypt. And their passage through the Red Sea is viewed by Christians as a prefigurement of Baptism. Our ceremony tonight began with the lighting of the Easter Fire and the carrying through the darkness of the Easter Candle. The Old Testament readings were proclaimed while the lighting in the Church was subdued. Only when we sang the Gloria were the altar candles lit and the main lights of the Church switched on. These things all emphasise our understanding that the Risen Christ is the true Light of the World. We understand that God only revealed himself gradually to his Chosen People; slowly and methodically he led them to understand first, in the time of Abraham, that he was the one, true God. Later on, he rescued them from slavery in Egypt and then during their wanderings in the desert he introduced them to his laws.

Over the next few centuries he sent Prophets to his people who called them again and again back to fidelity to the ways of the Lord. All of this can be seen as a gradual enlightenment of his Chosen People. As time goes on God reveals to them more and more of the real picture. But finally, in the person of Jesus Christ, his Son, he definitively reveals the full truth of man's position in relation to God and teaches them the fullness of the Gospel. It is as if what was once merely a glimmer has now been revealed in a blaze of light. Two weeks ago, we celebrated the feast of St Patrick. You may remember the story of how, in defiance of the King, St Patrick lit the Easter Fire on the Hill of Slane which is situated opposite to the Hill of Tara where the King and his Druid priests had assembled in darkness for their own celebrations. The Druids urged the King to let them extinguish this Easter Fire and punish Patrick lest his new faith spread through the land. Despite their attempts to extinguish the Easter Fire, Patrick, under divine protection, kept it burning brightly. The flame of faith then spread slowly and surely through the whole island of Ireland.

It is said that St Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland, but science today tells us that since the Ice Age there never were any actual snakes in Ireland. The snakes that are most likely being referred to are those sinful Druid priests who were sowing hatred against the Christian faith. It was those spiritual snakes that were most effectively driven out by St Patrick. It is a wonderful thing to realise that the conversion of Ireland began with St Patrick igniting the Easter Fire, thus bringing light to a whole country which till that point had been in thrall to the powers of darkness. We know that the Jews generally buried the bodies of their dead with great care. Don't forget that their ancestors had been slaves of the Pharaohs in Egypt and so they knew all about the extremely elaborate burial customs of the Egyptians.

They knew that a body could be smeared with pungent oils and then wrapped in cloth which over time would become a mummy. They didn't do things as elaborately as the Egyptians which is why no mummies have been dug up in Palestine, but they certainly used oil and cloth wrappings to give the body a dignified burial. Because of the imminent Passover Feast, when no work was permitted, the body of Jesus could not be prepared properly for burial; this is why the women had to wait until the Sabbath had finished before they could anoint the body of Jesus. This explains why Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of Jesus and Salome went to the tomb very early in the morning. They wanted to begin this anointing before the body started to decay. But, of course, they find the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. An angel tells them not to worry because Jesus has risen from the dead. He instructs them to tell Peter and says that they will see Jesus in Galilee just as he had foretold. We know that we cannot come to faith in Christ and in the fact of his resurrection unless God gives us the gift of faith. As it says in John 6:44 ?No one can come to me unless the Father draws him.'

The Jewish priests and the Pharisees had spent their whole lives studying the scriptures, which we know foretell the coming of Jesus, and yet they could not believe in him. Even the disciples who had followed Jesus around for three years found it difficult to believe in the fact of his resurrection. Once he was dead most of them thought that the whole Jesus enterprise was now over. But these women, who were probably illiterate, were the first to understand what had happened. God, by means of the angel, revealed to them that Jesus had risen from the dead. They were the first to believe surely because they were the ones who loved Jesus the most. Their anxiety to be at the tomb at the earliest possible moment to carry out the rituals appropriate for the dead is a sign of their deep love and concern for him. This is how God works in the world. He rewards those who perform acts of love with an ever-deeper faith in his Son Jesus. The more love we show to Jesus and to our neighbour the stronger our faith will be. The long weeks of Lent are over. Easter has arrived. Christ is risen. The time for celebration is here. Let us enjoy it and may our joy be a reflection of a faith deepened and a love increased.
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