Easter 2018

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Well what did I think about today. It’s Holy Saturday. I thought about how people would “see” the Easter Christ. Some I thought would see a Christ exit the tomb much as He entered. For some the same body minus the cuts and bruises. Others would still see the scars and disfigurements of the Cross, a body narrowly escaping death. Still others envision the spiritual and symbolic, they see joy. I wonder how many will look for that resurrected Lord. How many will seek and search to see Him. I know the theology is incorrect. But how many will actively seek those signs of life? How many will put themselves in the Apostles shoes.

Finally I wonder, does anyone see fit the need to help roll that stone from the tomb? No, I am not suggesting that someone helped Christ from the tomb. The Gospel explains the guards preventing that. Who thinks of those guards of the tomb on Easter? Who thinks of those that desperately do not want a risen Christ to be seen? Are the remnants of those who fear the Easter Christ present today? I wonder. Not everyone is celebrating, there is an opponent. Let’s briefly shine a light on that.

Everyone sees Christ’s resurrection differently, some don’t see it at all. (Some deny it, and some fear it. I don’t want to write too long.. .)

The fact is that Jesus was victorious, Christ exited that cave. The stone could not contain Him and neither could those guards employed by those against Him. Jesus conquered death. Jesus was not, and cannot be defeated. Everlasting life cannot die and infinity can not be constrained. Not then, not now, not ever. Jesus Christ has risen, He as truly risen. Alleluia Alleluia (there’s a word you haven’t heard in a while)

Mary Magdalene

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Mary Magdalene approaches the Lords tomb, and she unknowingly encounters the risen Lord. “Woman, why are you weeping ?” the Gardner Jesus asks! She is to tell the disciples of the Lords resurrection, this is her day.

Her name, Mary Magdalene, has its origins in the north Galilean town of Magdale. Mary was Jewish, though the town of her family was gentile. Like the Hebrews wandering through a  desert, she also was suspended between cultures. Culturally , she likely had many of the mannerisms and traditions of the Gentiles, though she also likely identified strongly with her religious background of Judaism. Both identified with, and cast out from both groups. With that type of background, I have to wonder what reception she received from the Pharisee’s?

Their view of the covenant would have cast her as unclean simply through her association with the gentile towns people. I also have to wonder how the chastising by the orthodoxy might have shaped her spiritually. My guess is the ostracized saint would have been humbled, wounded, neglected, and possibly strengthened. That cultural background helps me to visualize some of the demons Jesus cast from her. Through her background I also get a glimpse into the ministry of Jesus, Jesus devoted much time ministering to those regions of Galilee. She is an example of the many wounds He healed throughout the region, and of the many demons He had driven out. Both penitent and liberated through the forgiveness of sin.

Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”

In learning of Mary’s background , her devotion takes on a greater meaning. Her devotion does much to describe Christianity , and it is no wonder she is the one to deliver the message of Jesus resurrection to the other disciples. She is the one that gained so much through Christ that she could never abandon Him. She is a testament to the strength, and dignity gained through Christ. Hers is a passion for Christ, as she knows well the indignity of a life without Christ. She is the one the Lord cast seven demons from, and one can assume during the years she was possessed by her demons  were the years she could not see the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia.
Tell us, Mary, what did you see on the way?
I saw the glory of the risen Christ, I saw his empty tomb.
Alleluia, alleluia.

Standing besides an empty tomb was as frightening as if those devils latched onto her again. Her fear is of that of which she thinks is to come. She fears the return of the dark days of her past, she fears being separated from the grace of God again. She fears being plunged back into darkness and of being driven back into her tomb to die. The agony of Mary of Magdale is not something discussed much.

We learn of her when she is set free of her demons. We meet her when Jesus enters into her life, there is no biblical dialogue of her darkness when she is separated from the grace of God. We hear of her passion for the Lord. It is evident as she stands by the cross, and when she anoints him with a pricey ointment, and when she bathes His feet with her tears and dries them with her hair. Her passion for Christ is well documented, but as she stands at an empty tomb we are reminded of her fear. Her agonizing fear is that she might have to return to the darkness her savior rescued her from. We should hear the panic in her voice when she screams Where is my Lord, where have you taken him. It is through her panic that we can understand her joy. It is through her darkness that we see His shining light. The contrasts of Mary Magdalene should not be forgotten. She has crawled through the darkness, and has bathed in the light.

Mary’s contrasts is what makes her relevant today. She is truly human and has witnessed the mud of this earth. In her journey she is able to guide others from darkness to light, she knows the path because she has traveled it herself. Her name, Magdalene, is synonymous with sin and suffering and pain. Her name Mary evokes Mother of God, and that speaks of redemption and salvation. Mary Mother of God, the virgin who listens to an angels voice. “Hail Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with thee!” She gives birth at the nativity and salvation enters the world. The Mary  Magdalene brings forth new life too, the angels listen to her tears of labor crying for her Lord. The angels ask “Woman, why are you weeping” and she replies “They have taken my Lord.” The gardener asks “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Then He calls her by name, “Mary!” and suddenly she recognizes Him, the risen LORD!

 

 

Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene
Lectionary: 603

SGS 3:1-4b

2 cor 5:14-17

Ps 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

Jn 20:1-2, 11-18

 

 

Pentecost.

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Locked in an upper room. Winds howling, angry mobs clamoring below. Fearful agony, and that room becomes a tomb. The winds shift and then enters a Holy Spirit, the Spirit of promise. Their fear is set on fire and turns to passion. They burst forth from that room to preach to the ends of the earth. The image of that room as a tomb cannot escape me, and neither can the thought of the disciples leaving that room. Crossing the threshold from death to life. A Church is born. The tomb of Christ, the orthodox priest exits with candles ablaze. Christ, the light of the world. That same image is of the disciples leaving the upper room. Tongues of Fire, Christ enters their souls and they become beacons. The Nativity, they are born a Church. The Crucifixion, the angry mobs and they defeat death. They defeat it through the Holy Spirit, a baptism of sorts, and water is often a sign of that Spirit. Remember the baptism of our LORD? The water, and the dove that emerged from the heavens. There is that bird Noah sent out too. The wind, the water, the bird and the fire. The Holy Spirit. The breath of life. The priest breaths across the baptismal waters. The Almighty breathes into a lump of clay. The priest speaks into a chalice. The breath of the Lord enters the disciples. Life.

The fear in the upper room, can anyone hear their pleading? Oh God save us! They called out in anguish, and He listened. Their call was answered, just as the LORD promised. But they needed to ask, to be receptive. They needed that passion so that out of fear could emerge love. The love of God. He time, fifty days, a time of devotion and reflection. A seed planted and that seed must die if it is to bear any fruit. The ground is broken, and a bud emerges. The Church. It grows and the birds nest in its branches, the faith the size of a mustard seed. A tree watered by the stream grows mighty indeed. The Holy Spirit.

The tree that emerges, the one that breaks through the ground. The seed that died. What is the purpose of that tree? It is to bear fruit, and if it does not it is fed to the fire. The disciples mission as they cross the threshold of the upper room? It is to bear fruit, to preach the good news and to deliver a bountiful harvest to the LORD. It is about the mission they were given, and they are guided by that spirit of Christ. They will be known as Christians. At first they spoke many languages, a confusion and lost, but now united by one spirit. United, universalis, Catholic. Neither Jew nor gentile, Roman or Greek, or Syrian; but Christian, Catholic united under one God. One God in three persons. The Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Pentecost.

a little prayer

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Its no secret, to those who have their eyes and ears open, that the spirit of this season is awaiting “the Spirit.” From Ascension to Pentecost is a prayer for that Advocate Jesus Christ promised He would send. The readings from the Acts of the Apostles are full of examples that those disciples truly received that Holy Spirit. It is evident in their actions, their speech, and what they ae able to accomplish. Tests they had failed prior to the Passion, they now pass with ease. They find themselves in situations similar those Jesus Himself was in, but now there is no denial of their Savior, they behave as He did. They become images of Christ. Paul, today, finds himself facing those that accused Jesus. Those accusers challenge his preaching Christ, just as they filed charges against the LORD Himself.

King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea
on a visit to Festus.
Since they spent several days there,
Festus referred Paul’s case to the king, saying,
“There is a man here left in custody by Felix.
When I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and the elders of the Jews
brought charges against him and demanded his condemnation.
I answered them that it was not Roman practice
to hand over an accused person before he has faced his accusers
and had the opportunity to defend himself against their charge.

The words recorded of these accusations are nearly identical to those cast against Jesus. Paul certainly knows the potential outcome of such charges as he was once one who levied those accusations against others. He was the one who orchestrated the stoning of Saint Stephen. He knew with certainty the treatment Christians received. Discrimination, persecution, and death. To be accused as Christ was to be executed as Christ was. They knew that. There was no doubt. But they preached the good news of Jesus Christ. They preached with the full knowledge that they would be put to death. They preached with the full knowledge that they would be executed as He was. They knew that their preaching placed them on the path towards crucifixion, and many of them faced that fate. But they continued. They continued because they knew that the way of Christ was a way towards life. A contradiction, but not to them. They knew the difference. They received the Holy Spirit promised, and their Acts are certain proof. That is the Spirit we pray for now. Come Holy Spirit.

To receive that Spirit requires that one be open to, to be aware of it. It requires a desire, passion. Passion is a word used in scripture, and the Passion of our LORD begins with a prayer in the garden. That prayer is the one between Father and Son where He pleads that the cup of suffering be taken from him, and where He pleads that “thine will be done.” A cry for strength, a prayer. The passion continues on the cross with the words “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.” The same Spirit Christians call upon today. To receive it though we must be passionate about it. We must desire it, and call out to it. That is prayer. Come Holy Spirit.

Acts 25:13b-21

Jn 21:15-19

a ramble and a prayer on the seventh sunday of easter

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…I will ramble on I promise, but these are a few thoughts I wanted to quick jot down. Now I begin to turn my thoughts to prayer , the prayer at the last supper, at the stoning of Saint Stephen, and those of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. But that ramble is not quite ready…

The prayer I begin my ramble on is Jesus’s High Priestly Prayer Jn 17:20-26. It is His conversation with the Father on behalf of us, His disciples. I think of what it says, certainly. I also ponder it as conversation, and its conversation on the behalf of others. The point is that prayer is a conversation. For us, it is the conversation between the human and the divine. A conversation between creation and creator. Think of the conversation between Saint Stephen and the LORD Acts 7:55-60 . First Stephen sees the Father and Son in Heaven, and then he asks that they receive his spirit. He talks to the divine as humans converse to one another. Secondly he pleads his persecutors are forgiven. It is not the structure of the words that count, it is the sincerity of the conversation.That’s prayer.

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying:
“Holy Father, I pray not only for them,
but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one,
as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
that they also may be in us,
that the world may believe that you sent me.

Jesus ‘s prayer is a bit more lengthy, and even a tad more formal, but it remains a conversation. It is a conversation between a Father and His Son. It is an explanation, and also a petition. We are brought into the conversation. Sitting in a pew, I hear this petition. Its words are vaguely familiar. Not its words, but its structure? A prayer said on my behalf, I have heard it before. But where? Then it dawns on me, I hear it during the liturgy. Precisely I hear it at the Liturgy of the Eucharist . It is the Priest pleading on my behalf that the Divine accept this flawed humans gifts, and that Jesus descend into the Bread and Wine. The priest, in the person of Christ , pleads on my behalf.

In the entirety of these readings, what is it that I see? I see the paten and the chalice raised up in prayer. I see Stephen raise it up in his suffering, I see Jesus raise it up in His passion, and I see the Priest raise it up for me.