Christos anesti! Christ is risen! Alithos anesti! He is risen indeed!
The above is a traditional Easter greeting that Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholics share amongst themselves on Easter Sunday. I first heard this during a homily given by a Franciscan friar, who had, at one time, been a member of the Eastern Rite branch of the Order, and it has remain in my memory ever since.
When I reflect on this greeting, what strikes me is that people are not saying, “Christ had risen,” or “He did rise;” as if they are describing a past event. No, they are proclaiming that “He is risen!” Present tense! Jesus Christ is just as present in our time, as he was when he appeared to his disciples so may years ago! He is with us even now! His light shines on before us, within us; dispelling the darkness that may threaten us, especially in these COVID times.
So reflect on that; draw hope from that. And as we are transformed by the love of Christ; let us share that Light with all we come in contact with! Blaze out into the world, so that the world will hope, will rejoice! “Christ is risen!” He is risen indeed!”
In a couple of days, it will be Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week for many Christian churches throughout the world. It is a week of preparation, of intensifying our prayer life, of focusing our minds on what we are commemorating this week and following weekend. We call to mind that on Good Friday, Jesus Christ willingly suffered and died on the Cross, so that all of us may be freed from the chains of sin. We remember that on Easter morn, Jesus rose from dead, and by that event, we all have been promised eternal life, death no longer has hold of us.
This is what Holy Week should mean for us, but in reality does it? In our country, the marketplace has completely skipped over Good Friday, straight into Easter. Displays of bright colored clothing, Easter eggs, every possible sweet, crowd the store shelves. For many families, plans are going forward for gatherings for Easter Sunday dinners. Now these things are not bad in and of themselves. But we cannot forget what this passing season of Lent was for; what holy period of time we are now entering.
Now, I will be the first to admit, that my own Lenten experience has not been as intense, as focused as I wished it to be when the season started. But in these final days leading up to the Holy Triduum, can I; can all of us make a last intensive push to be ready spiritually for this coming week? Let’s give it “the old college try,” shall we?
I know I have been writing as much in the blog, as I should be. That being said, I going to try writing a post in thirty minutes, at least every other day. Let’s see what path that leads me down. Blessings to you all!
I grew up in the North Shore of Massachusetts. Now, while I was a young boy, my father and one of my uncles’s co-owned a small, wooden outboard motor boat. We would bring it up with us to the Sebago lakes region, where we usually rented adjoining cabins. Now they also used to take the boat out into Lynn Harbor, where they, myself, my brothers and cousins would sometimes go fishing. Now one Saturday, it started out to be a beautiful day. We were just at the entrance of the harbor, almost into the ocean, when suddenly, this squall hit! I mean the waves started getting very big, the boat was bouncing all over the place, as my father and uncle tried to get the boat to an anchorage. After one big bounce, the rear bench we kids were on, suddenly broke, and we were sprawled on the bottom of the boat. What had been an adventure, was turning into something very scary. We finally made it safely to the Nahant town dock. But I will never forget how scared; how really scared I was.
In today’s Gospel, we see the disciples going on ahead of Jesus, by boat on the Sea of Galilee, they also, run into very rough weather, they too were being tossed about by the waves. The fishermen of the group were probably concerned, the landlubbers in the group were probably scared out of their wits. On top of everything else, there is this figure moving towards them through the stormy water, so they think, it’s got to be a ghost, right? Then Jesus calls out “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Now, Peter, wanting proof, asks Jesus to command him to come out and meet him on the water. He probably also wants to show Jesus that he has the right stuff, unlike these landlubbers. And Jesus calls him to come out to him. And he is doing it, up to a point. He suddenly realizes he is walking on water, in the middle of a squall, and he thinks “Holy “bleep!!”; what am I doing out here!!” He begins to sink into waves, and Jesus has to rescue him! So what happened? He had begun to looked at the storm around him, losing sight of Jesus, and giving into his fears! What was it Jesus said to the disciples when they first saw him, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
We are living in frightening times! We see a threat to our health, to our lives that appears invisible, but is very, very real. We see an economy that was once the envy of the world, come crashing down. We have people out there in our community, who are afraid, because they do not know how they will pay bills, buy food, pay rent or mortgage! No matter how much we may deny it, I am willing to bet that everyone one of us feels something of the fear that is abroad in this country, in this world.
“Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Peter ran into trouble because he was not focused on Jesus! We can give into fear, if we are not focused on Jesus Christ, the Son of God! We need to become aware of His Presence in our lives, in every moment. We need to really listen and focus on His Word! We are all called to look to the altar, where we see ordinary bread and wine, that will soon become the Body and Blood of Christ! And we will receive Him, and be strengthened by Him for the times that ahead. The problems may not disappear, they may get better, they may get worst. But we are not alone in our struggles, we not alone with our fear; Jesus is with us in this journey. He will always be with us, supporting us in the midst of whatever storm we are in!
“At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Last Friday, I was coming home from work, going down a walkway from the train platform. I just happened to look down and saw on the ground, two sticks in the form of a cross. I do not know if someone put those sticks together to form a cross; or if the sticks fell together that way. What I can tell you is that the sight stopped me in my tracks.
I must confess that my spiritual life has felt a little dull lately. Practices I have done; have fallen by the wayside. Books I have looked to for spiritual nourishment in the past, have remained unopened. Only at Sunday Mass, do I feel the spark ignite! Yet, at the sight of that little cross, I was inspired to begin to pray. It was only for moment, it was a wonderful moment!
I left the cross as it was; I have no idea if it is still there. I hope it is there for someone else to find.
The following prayer is from St. Francis of Assisi; that he is to have prayed before the San Damiano Cross:
Most high, most glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart. Grant me a right and a perfect charity, feeling, and understanding of you, so that I may be able to accomplish your holy and just commands. Amen!
On this January 6, 2019, many Christians will be in church, celebrating the Epiphany of the Lord. We are celebrating the moment, when three magi, wise men, came from the east and proclaimed to the leaders of Jerusalem that the birth of the Messiah had been revealed to them. They had traveled from a far land, to see with their own eyes, this wonder. Their belief in this revelation was so strong, that they were willing to make this risky journey, guided only by a unique star, to a foreign land. And the Gospel gives no indication that they were disappointed at what they found. Finding a small child, with his peasant mother, in a simple village house; they “did him homage.”
We are all seeking that intimate encounter with Jesus Christ, with our God and Savior. Sometimes, that life journey may take many years; sometimes, the encounter can happen in just an instant. We find that we need to give up our own preconceived images of Christ; let the Holy Spirit guide us on our journey; and be open to what the Scriptures will reveal to us. And above all, open ourselves to the experience, the wonder of the Eucharist; which in a real sense, is food for the journey we are on.
There have been others, who have also been on this journey before, who, by sharing their own experiences, can help guide us on ours. Some of my favorites, Francis and Clare of Assisi, who made living the Gospel of Jesus Christ an intimate part of their lives. Teresa of Avila, founder of monasteries and mystic. Caryll Houselander, laywoman, artist and mystic; who had a vision of Christ in every passenger of a train she was on. Thomas Merton, author, monk, and mystic. Despite being in a monastery, he was always on a journey, seeking our Risen Lord. And finally, I would recommend Sister Wendy Beckett, who recently passed away. Hermit, art historian, media star; she brought a fresh look at art, with both a scholar’s and mystic’s eye.
I am still very much on journey, seeking the Lord. I have sometimes gone off course, sometimes felt like not going any further. But always, I feel that tugging to continue on; something many pilgrims feel, to finish the journey. I still am not sure what I will find; I have faith that when I truly see the Lord, with eyes of faith; I will bow and do him homage.
“Jesus summoned the Twelve, and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.” (Mark 6: 7)
So began a different role for the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. He sent them out to proclaim that a new day was dawning. They went throughout the countryside, calling people to repent, to prepare for the coming of the Kingdom of God. And they healed the sick, and freed many from the demons that possessed them; signs that the power of God was at work in the land.
In today’s Church, we need to recognize that Jesus Christ is calling us to likewise be proclaimers of the Good News. By our words, by our actions, by the example of our very lives; we reveal the love of God at work in our world. When we share how God has healed us, comforted us, guided us along the right path; we proclaim his goodness. When others witness how we care for friend and stranger alike; they see the love of God at work in the world.
This requires that we be continually open to the love of God ourselves. We must continually seek his guidance, his help, especially during times we falter. We are at our best as evangelizers, when we show our struggles, as well as our successes.
So we go forward, as spreaders of the Good News of Jesus Christ. May we bring back a bountiful harvest.