Category Archives: Easter

Stay with us, Lord

For me a highlight of today’s Gospel is the invitation of the disciples on the road to Emmaus:

“Stay with us, it’s nearly evening, and the day is almost over.”
Luke 24:29

 The day has been long, the walk arduous (about 12 kilometers), the sorrow of the crucifixion is slowly being replaced by understanding, and their “new” friend is about to move on.

So they invite Jesus, whom they haven’t recognized, to stop and stay with them.

The final document from the 2007 Latin American and Caribbean bishops conference in Aparecida, Brazil, closes with a prayer reflection on these words. In part they read:

Stay with us, Lord,
keep us company, even though we have not always recognized you.
Stay with us, because all around us the shadows are deepening,
and you are the Light;
discouragement is eating its way into our hearts:
make them burn with the certainty of Easter.
We are tired of the journey,
but you comfort us in the breaking of bread,
so that we are able to proclaim to our brothers and sisters
that you have truly risen
and have entrusted us with the mission
of being witnesses of your resurrection.

Stay, Lord, with those in our societies who are most vulnerable;
remain with the poor and the lowly,
with indigenous peoples and Afro-Americans,
who have not always found space and support
to express the richness of their culture
and the wisdom of their identity.
Remain, Lord, with our children
and with our young people,
who are the hope and the treasure of our Continent,
protect them from so many snares
that attack their innocence and their legitimate hopes.
O Good Shepherd, remain with our elderly and with our sick.
Strengthen them all in faith,
so that they may be your disciples and missionaries!


Fear and the risen Lord

The doors were locked because of their fear…
John 20: 19

 Fear came upon every soul…
and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
Acts 2: 43

 Fear can cripple us, make us impotent, turn us in on ourselves. That’s what happened to the apostles after Jesus was crucified.

They cowered in fear, behind locked doors.

It required the presence of the risen Jesus, offering them peace, to move them out of their grief.

But even that wasn’t enough.

Even when they were together a week later, with Thomas, they still met behind locked doors.

Perhaps they had to confront the fact of the death of Jesus before they could receive life from the risen Jesus. They had to see the wounded savior. As Fr. John Kavanaugh, S.J., beautifully puts it, “Faith must be found as much in the wounds of life as in the glories.”

Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles (2: 42-47) shows us a community that reflects that life in all they so. People could see the wonders and the signs of Life in the apostles.

And “fear came upon every soul.”

Fear again, but perhaps of a different kind.

The New American Bible translation uses the word “awe” instead of fear (even though the Greek word here and in the Gospel – φόβοϛ – is the same).

Is there a fear, an awe, that opens us up, that shows forth the life of the risen Lrod and the risen community?

I think so. That fear, that awe, is the openness to signs and wonders, to seeing life in the midst of death, to letting the little signs of life permeate our souls.

That fear will let us face the fear that paralyzes, for the fear of God, that “awe” opens us to the presence of God in the midst of suffering and death, to the presence of a risen God who calls us to live.

There are signs of that life all around us. But at times we need to recall them, to open our eyes and our hearts, to unlock the doors of fear.

The Gospel concludes with these words:

There were many other signs that Jesus gave in the presence of his disciples… These are recorded that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ , the Son of God, and that through his belief you may have life in his name.

What are the signs that Jesus does for us today – so that we may have life?

What to give

“Silver and gold I have none,
but what I have I give you.”
Acts 3: 6

 Entering the temple to pray, Peter and John encounter a beggar, crippled from his mother’s womb.

He looks at them hoping for some alms, but Peter gives him much more.

 In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk.

Then Peter helps him up, grasping his right hand.

Get up and walk.

I cannot give you money to make life easier for you today, but I can give you the gift of living more fully, standing up. You are no longer a beggar. You are a human being.

And what does the man do?

He entered the temple with them, walking, leaping, and praising God.

I wonder if he did somersaults.

What are we called to do as missionary disciples?

I think Peter teaches us: Give people a hand so that they can stand up on their own and praise God with their lives?

A few cents in alms can change things for a few minutes or even a day – and, at times, we need to do that.

But I believe we must also offer the hand of accompanying the poor as they stand up and walk.

Is this not the work of the Church?

César Chávez, the founder of the Farm Workers Union, died on April 23, 1993. He once said

What do we want the Church to do? We don’t ask for more cathedrals. We don’t ask for bigger churches or fine gifts. We ask for its presence with us, beside us, as Christ among us. We ask the Church to sacrifice with the people for social change, for justice, and for love of brother. We don’t ask for words. We ask for deeds. We don’t ask for paternalism. We ask for servanthood.

Will we be servants, at the side of the poor?

Resurrection faith

The Harrowing of Hell Spanish Chapel Santa Maria Novella Florence

The Harrowing of Hell

Good Friday is all too real in a world where violence and sin reign, where the poor suffer. But there words of José Antonio Pagola point to the faith that sustains us:

“At the heart of our faith there is a crucified man whom God has proven right. At the heart of the church there is a victim to whom God has done justice. A crucified life, inspired by and lived in the spirit of Jesus, will not end in failure but in resurrection

“… It is not a senseless venture to live with concern for those who suffer, to reach out to the most needy, to help the helpless; it means journeying to the mystery of a God who will resurrect our lives forever.

“… To follow the crucified one until we share in the resurrection with him is finally to give our lives, our time, our efforts, and perhaps our health for the sake of love.”

José Antonio Pagola, Following in the Footsteps

The fresco of the Harrowing of Hell  is from The Spanish Chapel of Santa Maria Novella, Florence.


The ambiguity of the Ascension

Easter tells us that Jesus is himself the first part of new creation;
his ascension tells us that he is now running it.
N. T. Wright

 The feast of the Ascension of Jesus to heaven is not a very big celebration. Easter and Pentecost seem to make it insignificant.

I wonder if it’s because it’s an ambiguous feast. Jesus is leaving us – again.

In a poem, the sixteenth century Augustinian Friar Luis de Leon expressed this lament:

And you leave your flock, Holy Shepherd,
in this deep and dark valley,
alone and weeping.
And you, bursting the pure air,
go off to immortal security?

A few weeks ago, reading a section of N.T.Wright’s Simply Jesus, I got a new insight into the ascension.

Referring to the public life of Jesus and his resurrection, Wright suggests:

A new power is let loose in the world, the power to remake what was broken, to heal what was diseased, to restore what was lost. The kingdom that Jesus had inaugurated strangely, mysteriously, and partially during his public career through his healings, feastings, and teachings was now unveiled in a totally new dimension.

But what sense is there of Jesus ascending to heaven. We think of heaven as “out there,” above us all, far off.

But Wright reminds us that “heaven is the place from which the world is run. It is the CEO’s office.”

Today, let us remember that Jesus is “in charge,” even though the world is far from being the “Kingdom of God.”

He is already in charge, but all is not yet fulfilled.

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up to heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will return in the same way as you have seen him go there.” (Acts 1: 11)

Get moving, share the Good News; be witnesses to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1: 8)


The poem of Luis de Leon is found in Orar la Historia y el Conflicto by Jesús Manuel Sariego and José María Tojeira (UCA Editores, 1999):

Y dejas Pastor Santo
tu grey en este valle hondo, oscuro,
con soledad y llanto.
¿Y tú rompiendo el puro
aire, te vas al inmortal seguro?

The quotations from N. T. Wright were found in the excerpt from Simply Jesus in the volume The 10 Best Books to Read for Easter, edited by Fr. James Martin, S.J.

Casting out demons

Because our imaginations have been formed by films like “The Exorcist” (which I’ve never seen) and by artistic representations of hell or the last judgment like Michelangelo’s, we have this image of Satan as a positive force that seeks to do evil.

There is some truth to this, as Peter writes in today’s first reading (1 Peter 5:8)

Your opponent the Devil is prowling around
like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour.

But the image of the devil as tormentor and tempter can sometimes lead us to forget that Satan is the accuser or the one who hinders.

One of my favorite passages from the Book of Revelation (12: 10b) is found in Thursday’s Evening Prayer:

For the accuser of our brothers is cast out
who night and day accused them before the Lord.

I am not exactly sure what this means, but to me it suggests that the power of God, his loving mercy, outwits the power of the Accuser to think that we are beyond God’s loving mercy, that we are identified by our sinfulness.

But the image of the devil as the one who hinders us touches me even more.

The Hinderer keeps us from being what God wants us to be, from being God’s people, a people of love and hope. The Hinderer keeps us paralyzed with fear, with a sense of powerlessness.

I think Pope Francis, in an early Twit, spoke to this point:

We ought not fear the Evil One when he tells us that we cannot do anything to confront violence, injustice, and sin.

The forces of evil do not have the final word. They are not all-powerful.

Rather, as disciples of Christ, as Jesus says in today’s Gospel (Mark 16: 17):

in my Name, you will cast out demons

What are the demons that need to be cast out of our lives, of our world?

I would suggest that they are the demons of Satan the Hinderer who concentrates on the evil, who makes us feel powerless in the face of injustice and violence, who takes away our hope.

But the message of Jesus is that He, the Risen One, has trampled down evil, gives us a vision of justice and peace to spur us onward, and gives us hope.

And so, we can – with His love – cast out demons as begin to live as children of God.

Stinking sheep

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday when we contemplate Christ the Good Shepherd.


Yet, sheep stink, at least two friends have confirmed.

We have this image of cuddly lambs – but sheep stink.

In the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, Pope Francis said that the church needs “shepherds living ‘with the smell of the sheep,’ shepherds in the midst of their flock…”


You shall know the real shepherds by their smell and by their willingness to live with the smells of their flocks.

I know what this means when I give a ride to a campesino whose clothes give off an odor of sweat from working under the hot sun in his cornfield, when I sit next to a woman who smells of the smoke from the wood fire where she has spent many hours making tortillas and preparing meals. At times it’s difficult.

Today is the day of prayer for religious vocations. Do our priests and our bishops smell like their sheep? Do we who work in the church know that “odor of poverty”?

I know that many women religious live with the smell of their sheep, working among the poorest in the US and throughout the world. The Little Brothers and Sisters of Jesus and other followers of Charles de Foucauld smell of their sheep, as they live and work among the poor. I know priests here who spend their days out in the remote villages.

What I find most encouraging about Pope Francis is his concern as Archbishop of Buenos Aires to send priests to the villas miserias, the slums, as well as his personal willingness to connect with the poor and marginalized.

It’s a challenge – and not all are called to this. But if we really want to follow the Good Shepherd, all of us probably need to be out among the poor, at least some time each week.

If we do not know the “odor of poverty,” can we expect to share the “odor of sanctity”?



One word in today’s Gospel, the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus at the sea of Tiberias (John 21: 1-19), struck me.


Jesus addresses the seven apostles who have gone back fishing as children.

I checked numerous translations of the Greek παιδία – children. Almost all the English translations render this as “children” though the Jerusalem Bible uses “friends,” and the French La Bible de Jérusalem uses “les enfants.

Two Spanish translations use “muchachos,” which also means children, though I hear it more often used in Honduras for young people, “guys.” A friend said he translates “muchachos” as “boys.”

But the most intriguing translation is from Msgr. Knox: “lads” – so very British.

Jesus is calling his disciples “kids.”

Are we like kids in our relationship with Jesus, going about our daily tasks, not thinking about him, intent on what we want to do, unaware of his presence and unable to recognize him?

Peter has to face this directly when Jesus questions him.

“Do you love me [ἀγαπᾶς με]more than these?” asks Jesus. And twice Peter responds, “You know Lord, that I’m your friend [φιλῶ σε].”

Then Jesus asks him, “Are you my friend?” Peter, exasperated, answers, “Yes Lord, you know that.”

At the end of the scene, Jesus invites Peter: “Follow me.”

Don’t follow your old occupation, but follow in my path, my way that brings life – even though you will suffer.

I love you as a parent loves her children, but I want more from you. I want your wholehearted love, the love of agape which comes from following me – even to the Cross. For having passed through death on the Cross, the Lord Jesus offers us the risen life.

Yes, in many ways we are kids in our faith; but Jesus wants us to be more, to have a fuller life.

A fuller life comes from willing to let ourselves be led by Jesus – wherever that may lead us. It led Peter to a Cross and only God knows where it will lead us.

Slightly revised at 5:30 pm.

Rejoice at being dishonored

The closing of today’s first lectionary reading (Acts 5: 34-42) fascinates and challenges me.

The apostles had been arrested, released from prison by an angel, arrested again and brought before the Sanhedrin who had them whipped and released, warning them not to preach again about Jesus.

How do they react? (Acts 5: 41)

So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.
(New American Bible)

The apostles went out from the Council rejoicing that they were considered worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of the Name.
(Christian Community Bible)

They, however, went out from the presence of the Assembly celebrating, because they had been reckoned worthy to suffer disgrace for the name.           (The Kingdom New Testament)

“Worthy to be dishonored” is probably the most literal translation.

How often do I do things to be recognized or to avoid being dishonored by others! I’d like to suggest that the fear of being dishonored, of being looked down upon, is one of the greatest hindrances to following Christ, to standing up for what we believe in.

Yet the apostles rejoiced in this.

And then what do they do? They keep preaching Jesus as the Messiah in the Temple and in people’s homes. They are unstoppable.

Even today there are people like the apostles who maintain a profound interior peace – a true joy – in the face of persecution, in the face of death threats. The most obvious example is the martyred archbishop of San Salvador, Monseñor Oscar Romero. But there are others whom I have met, some priests and pastoral workers in Latin America. I especially think of Sister Pat Farrell, a friend, who ministered in a war zone in El Salvador and has continued to show that peace in her leadership with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

But it is something we all can do.

Today I ran across this quote from Vincent Van Gogh, in a Facebook post by Fran Rossi Szpylczyn, that expresses, in a secular way, how to respond to voices that tell us that we cannot or should not do something

If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.

And so, if we hear a voice telling us not to stand up for Christ, for the Kingdom of God, for justice, love, and peace, we ought to do it anyway.

Let nothing, no one, not even the forces of Evil stop us.

As Pope Francis said:

We ought not to fear the Evil One when he tells us that we cannot do anything against violence, injustice, and sin.


the Greek for Acts 5: 41 is:

οἱ μὲν οὖν ἐπορεύοντο χαίροντες ἀπὸ προσώπου τοῦ συνεδρίου ὅτι κατηξιώθησαν ὑπὲρ τοῦ ὀνόματος ἀτιμασθῆναι·

What do we share?

As people of faith, what do we share?

Some would say we share a belief in a God, who is three in one, in Jesus, the Son God made flesh who was good news and died and rose to give us life and salvation, and in the Spirit of Love.

But in today’s second reading from the Book of Revelation, we have these words of the author:

John, your brother
who is in fellowship with you
in affliction, the reign,
and relentless persistence
in Jesus.
Revelation 1:9
my translation

We are sisters and brothers in Jesus.

We are called to share each others’ distress, afflictions and pains.

We share the Reign of God, a Kingdom “of truth and life, … of justice, love, and peace,” according to the preface of the feast of Christ the King.

We share relentless persistence, steadfast hope, endurance.

The Greek is much richer than any translation I have seen. John calls himself συγκοινωκός, one who shares koinonia, fellowship/communion/community, with.

It’s not mere sharing; it’s participating with others in their distress: feeling the pain of others as our own.

It’s participating in the Reign of God, which is among us in anticipation of what we hope to experience with God.

It’s participating in hope. I like much more the translation “endurance” or “relentless persistence” because they speak of what I see among the poor I work with. Despite all the poverty and suffering, there are people who keep up the struggle for life and love.

And so today, full of Easter joy, we are called not only to share with others our faith, but to share in their lives of pain, hope, and the Kingdom of God.