Prayer and Meditation for Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017 — “He is Risen!” The women are the first to believe

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Eugène Burnand: Peter and John Running to the Tomb

Art: Peter and John Running to the Tomb by Eugene Burnaud

The Resurrection of the Lord
The Mass of Easter Day
Lectionary: 42

Reading 1 ACTS 10:34A, 37-43

Peter proceeded to speak and said:
“You know what has happened all over Judea,
beginning in Galilee after the baptism
that John preached,
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power.
He went about doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the devil,
for God was with him.
We are witnesses of all that he did
both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.
They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.
This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible,
not to all the people, but to us,
the witnesses chosen by God in advance,
who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
He commissioned us to preach to the people
and testify that he is the one appointed by God
as judge of the living and the dead.
To him all the prophets bear witness,
that everyone who believes in him
will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23

R. (24) This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
R. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
or:
R. Alleluia.
“The right hand of the LORD has struck with power;
the right hand of the LORD is exalted.
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the LORD.”
R. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
R. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading 2 COL 3:1-4

Brothers and sisters:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.

Or 1 COR 5:6B-8

Brothers and sisters:
Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?
Clear out the old yeast,
so that you may become a fresh batch of dough,
inasmuch as you are unleavened.
For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.
Therefore, let us celebrate the feast,
not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Sequence — Victimae Paschali Laudes

Christians, to the Paschal Victim
Offer your thankful praises!
A Lamb the sheep redeems;
Christ, who only is sinless,
Reconciles sinners to the Father.
Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous:
The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.
Speak, Mary, declaring
What you saw, wayfaring.
“The tomb of Christ, who is living,
The glory of Jesus’ resurrection;
bright angels attesting,
The shroud and napkin resting.
Yes, Christ my hope is arisen;
to Galilee he goes before you.”
Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!
Amen. Alleluia.

Alleluia CF. 1 COR 5:7B-8A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed;
let us feast with joy in the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel JN 20:1-9

On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala 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.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.

OrMT 28:1-10

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning,
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.
And behold, there was a great earthquake;
for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven,
approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.
His appearance was like lightning
and his clothing was white as snow.
The guards were shaken with fear of him
and became like dead men.
Then the angel said to the women in reply,
“Do not be afraid!
I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified.
He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.
Come and see the place where he lay.
Then go quickly and tell his disciples,
‘He has been raised from the dead,
and he is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him.’
Behold, I have told you.”
Then they went away quickly from the tomb,
fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce this to his disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.
They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.
Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.
Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee,
and there they will see me.”

OrLK 24:13-35

At an afternoon or evening Mass.

That very day, the first day of the week,
two of Jesus’ disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going,
he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the eleven and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted
what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.

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Image result for angel speaks to mary magdalene at tomb, art
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Christ and Mary at the Tomb, by Joseph Brickey
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From The Abbot in the Desert

Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Christ is risen, alleluia!  “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.  This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”

Christ is truly risen!  You and I must be witnesses also to these facts:  Jesus lived among us and was killed and really died.  God raised him from the dead!  Jesus is God and Lord of all.

The Acts of the Apostles, from where the first reading is taken, challenges us on this Easter Day:  Be witnesses to the Lord.  The second reading, from the Letter to the Colossians, tells us “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above.”  We humans, even after we believe and are baptized, still find ourselves sinning.  We don’t always seek the things that are above.  The hold of pleasure, of power and of money seems to draw us away from seeking that which is above.

Yet, God continues to seek us out in mercy and love.  This is why the Father sent the Son and why the Holy Spirit constantly is drawing us back to God.  We celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus because Jesus died for us and was raised for us.  We die in our sins but Jesus is always raising us.  Christ is risen.  Alleluia.

The Gospel, from John at this Mass, tells us again the confusion, the surprise, the challenge to faith of those first believers.  In the Gospels, it is the women who are faithful.  They are the ones who stay with Jesus at the Cross and they are the ones who go to the tomb.  The women are the first to believe.  The women are those who recognize the Lord.

Still, in this Gospel of John, we see Peter and John running to the tomb after getting word from Mary of Magdala.  John runs more quickly but does not go in.  He waits for Peter.  Peter goes in and sees various things in the tomb.  That is all that is said about Peter.  John goes is and believes.

We are invited to follow these women and these apostles and allow their witness to draw us to faith.  Christ is risen!  Our own faith is received from others, either directly from people in our lives, or from reading that which has been written by others.  Wherever we are in our faith, may this day of the Resurrection of Jesus become more real for us and draw us into the mystery of God’s love for us.  Christ is risen.  Alleluia.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

https://christdesert.org/

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The Risen Christ Greets Mary at the Tomb — By Rembrandt

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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16 APRIL, 2017, Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection
ENTERING INTO THE JOY OF THE RESURRECTION
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 10:34.37-43; PS 117:1-2,16-17,22-23; COL 3:1-4 OR 1 COR 5:6-8; JN 20:1-9]

In the responsorial psalm, we pray, “This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.”  Do we really mean what we say?  Can we share that same joy of the Israelites when they were set free from Egypt, or with the early Christians when they encountered the Risen Lord?  If we are to share their joy, we must enter into their experience to be able to truly rejoice with them.  If we cannot, it is because we have no real experience of liberation and deliverance.  Isn’t this true in any event in life?  If we are not part of the story, the history, we cannot feel with those who are rejoicing or mourning.  When we see a tragedy, we will feel with the people who are suffering.  Otherwise, it is just an event.  

So, if we are to connect with the sentiments of the Israelites we must know their context.  They were in slavery, suffering harsh treatment from the Pharaoh.  Through the intervention of Moses and the miracles worked through him by the Lord, they were eventually delivered from the power of the Egyptians.  They were set free from slavery, walked across the waters of the Red Sea dry-shod, and given new life and new purpose.  This was the context of the psalm when they sang the song of thanksgiving and rejoicing. “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.  The Lord’s right hand has triumphed; his right hand raised me up.  I shall not die, I shall live and recount his deeds.”  It was an unimaginable experience of being liberated and redeemed from the slavery of the Egyptians and the powerful Egyptian army.

In the same vein, we must seek to understand the joy of the Church in celebrating Easter, the feast of the resurrection.  Those outside the Church will never understand what is so great about Easter.  For them, Easter is just another day.  This is because they think our faith in the resurrection of Jesus is a myth.  Even among Catholics and Christians, what excitement do we have when we think of Easter?  Are we overjoyed, like the early disciples when the Lord rose from the dead?  Perhaps not as well.   Again, we do not have the context.  We might have the doctrines but we do not have the experience.  We have not seen the Risen Lord.  We have not even seen the Jesus of Nazareth in His ministry, not even His passion and death.  What we do not see, we do not feel.  So, how can we ever rejoice as they did?

Again, we must recapture the context of their experience of the Crucified Lord.  St Peter said, “God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil.”   For the disciples, Jesus was truly a man of God and the anointed One.  They saw His miracles and they were inspired by His teaching.  They were edified by His life and inspired by His love and compassion for others.  His tragic death was totally shocking.  So we can imagine how distraught they were, thinking that Jesus, their political liberator, was killed by the Romans.  All their hopes about the establishment of the kingdom of God as preached by the Lord were crushed.   What was a great hope became a shattered dream!  They were totally disillusioned.

But when they heard that the Lord was risen, it was yet another unthinkable experience.  Again, we can imagine the excitement of the disciples of Jesus.  It began with Mary Magdalene who was in tears after discovering the loss of Jesus’ body.   After which, Peter ran to the tomb with John and the body was not found.  But it was too good to be true that Jesus had been raised.  We read that “till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”  Indeed, it took them some time before they could grasp the fact of the resurrection.  It was too far-fetched and amazing.

Perhaps this is so for most of us as well.   We say that the Lord is risen.  Is this what we are celebrating? Is it true?  Do we really believe?  Are we happy?  Do we feel liberated? Or are we just repeating what others are saying.  If we are, then the signs can tell.  We would be excited about Easter.  We would be ready to announce Jesus as our Risen Lord to the world.  The truth is that, like the women, we are silent because we have not yet seen the Risen Lord.  Our encounter with Him is not a personal encounter.  For many of us, it is just a testimony, part of the scriptures, but “of him, we have not seen!”

In the case of the apostles, upon encountering the Risen Lord, they could not resist telling the whole world about Christ.  “Now we are those witnesses – we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead.”  They had a first-hand encounter of the Risen Lord. Hence, their testimony was convincing because they knew the Risen Lord was the same Jesus of Nazareth, now risen and transfigured.  It was not a concocted story but a personal encounter with Him.   Indeed, they underscored the fact that they ate and drank with Him.  He was not a ghost.  Only a body can eat.  Spirits do not.

Their witnessing of Christ was not just the fact that He was raised.  More importantly, they also drew out the implications of a criminal condemned to death for claiming to be king, and now raised from the dead by the power of God.  If the Father had vindicated Jesus in the resurrection, He was at the same time, putting His divine seal on all that Jesus had said and done.  This means that the words of Jesus were identical with the Father.  As such, to reject Jesus is to reject the Father.  The conclusion therefore is that Jesus is the one who was appointed by the Father.  St Peter said, “he has ordered us to proclaim this to his people and to tell them that God has appointed him to judge everyone, alive or dead.”

So, how then can we enter into this Easter Experience?  Since we do not have the privilege of encountering the Risen Lord as the early disciples did, our access to Him is via the testimony of the Church.  In the gospel, we read that like John, we must defer to the judgment of the Church, represented by St Peter as the head.  Although John reached the tomb first, he was not the one who announced the resurrection.  It was the task of Peter as the head of the apostolic college.

By believing in their testimony, we too can enter into that experience.  Without faith, we cannot see the Risen Lord.   Faith is the key to entering into the Easter experience.  We must be ready to let go of the intellectual and cultural prejudices of the Jewish leaders. Even Mary Magdalene was not able to see the Lord initially because she was looking for Jesus of Nazareth.  She did not yet have the faith to see the Risen Lord.  We too can allow our limited knowledge and study, ego and pride to prevent us from being open to the reality of the Risen Lord simply because we cannot explain how it was possible.  Intellectuals often cannot encounter Him because they want to reduce God to their own level of understanding instead of admitting that the mysteries of God can only be revealed by God Himself.  Indeed, in conducting retreats, I always find that those who use too much of their intellect often have great difficulty experiencing the power of God at work in their lives.  Only when they humbled themselves before God, was the Lord then able to work in their lives and reveal His love to them through a miracle, a healing, a vision or receiving the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes, it is because our sins hinder us from being receptive to God’s grace.  When we are angry, bitter, resentful and proud, we cannot see the Risen Lord.  Our sins will blind us from the light of the Risen Christ.  This is why St Paul urges us, to “celebrate the feast, then, by getting rid of all the old yeast of evil and wickedness, having only the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”   The yeast of sin darkens our intellect and causes us to look inwards instead of outwards.  Our intellectual pride finds excuses and justifications to reject Christ, lest in accepting Him, we have to give up our sins and the life of slavery to the Evil One.

Following the surrender of our sins, especially of pride, we must follow the way of St John who loved the Lord.  We read that “the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed.”  Real believing does not come from physical seeing but the seeing of the eyes of love.  Intimacy causes one to believe without physical sight.  Indeed, when there is love, no proof is needed.  We take the word of one whom we love for granted without the need to verify.  But when there is no love, we will doubt whatever the person says.   So too, our faith in the Risen Christ is strengthened by love that comes from prayer.

Finally, the experience of the Risen Lord is real when we experience a true liberation from fear, anxiety and sin, which comes from living in Christ.  St Paul wrote, “Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.”   Now, we no longer live for this earth and this life alone but we live for the fullness of life in love and service which is our share in Christ’s resurrection.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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From Last Year:

Updated March 27, 2016 8:16 a.m. ET

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VATICAN CITY—Pope Francis tempered his Easter Sunday message of Christian hope with a denunciation of “blind” terrorism, recalling victims of attacks in Europe, Africa and elsewhere, as well as expressing dismay that people fleeing war or poverty are being denied welcome as European countries squabble over the refugee crisis.

Tens of thousands of people patiently endured long lines, backpack inspections and metal-detecting checks Sunday to enter St. Peter’s Square. Under a brilliant sun, they listened to Francis deliver the traditional noon Easter speech from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.
To their delight, Francis completed a whirl through the square, made colorful with sprays of tulips and other spring flowers, in his open-topped pope-mobile after celebrating Mass on the steps of the basilica. He leaned over barriers to shake hands, as the vehicle ventured past the Vatican’s confines, with his bodyguards jogging alongside on the boulevard.

For years, Islamist extremists in social media have listed the Vatican and Rome as potential targets due to hosting the headquarters of the Roman Catholic church and several basilicas. Despite the threats, Francis has kept to his habit of trying to be in close physical contact with ordinary people.

Francis said, for the faithful, Jesus who rose after death by crucifixion “triumphed over evil and sin.” He expressed hope that “will draw us closer to the victims of terrorism, that blind and brutal form of violence.”

At the end of Mass, he chatted briefly with the former king and queen of Belgium, Albert II and Paola, who attended the ceremony.

In his speech, Francis cited recent attacks in Belgium, Turkey, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Iraq.

He called the message of Easter “a message of life for all humanity.”

Easter “invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees – including many children – fleeing from war, hunger, poverty and social injustice,” he said.

As he has done repeatedly, Francis lamented that “all too often, these brothers and sisters of ours meet along the way with death or, in any event, rejection by those who could offer them welcome and assistance.”

Some European countries have erected barbed-wire fences and other barriers to keep out those who continue to arrive on Greek and Italian shores after risky sea voyages on smugglers’ boats. Another strategy has been for some European countries to express a preference for accepting Christian refugees over Muslim ones – which would effectively rule out the vast majority of Syrian refugees.

Most recently, a host of countries along Europe’s main migrant route north of Greece to central Europe have simply closed their borders to refugees, stranding thousands of refugee families at different border points.

Francis also decried the destruction and “contempt for humanitarian law” in Syria, millions of whose people have fled to Europe or to refugee camps closer to their homeland.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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26 MARCH 2016, Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection (Vigil)
DEEPENING OUR FAITH IN THE RESURRECTION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Gen 22:1-18; Ps 15:5, 8-11; Ex 14:15–15; Ex 15 canticle; Isa 54:5-14; Ps 29:2,4-6,11-13; Rom 6:3-11; Ps 117:1-2,16-17,22-23; Lk 24:1-12 ]

Alleluia!  The Lord is Risen.  He is risen indeed!   Do you believe this confession of faith of the early Christians?  Indeed, for us Christians, it is nothing great to believe that Jesus died on Good Friday because even pagans and the world believe.  Few have questioned the crucifixion and the death of Jesus on the cross.   But not many believe that He rose from the dead and is alive.  This is not surprising, considering that even the disciples of Jesus initially could not believe that Jesus had risen.  In the gospel, the proclamation of the resurrection of our Lord was met either with disbelief, skepticism and reservation.  When the women told the apostles their story, it “seemed pure nonsense, and they did not believe them.”  St Peter, as the head of the college of apostles, ran to the tomb, he “bent down and saw the binding cloths but nothing else; he then went back home, amazed at what had happened.”

If they who knew the Lord on earth, worked with Him, talked with Him and yet disbelieved, why should we be surprised that many cannot accept the resurrection of Christ.   Many of our Catholics are not too sure of Jesus’ resurrection because their faith in the resurrection is an intellectual assent to a doctrine but not a conviction of the heart.   St Paul tells us in Romans, “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.” (Rom 10:9f)

Faith in the resurrection cannot be simply an idea, a notion or a doctrine, but it must be faith from the heart.  This explains why the Empty Tomb means nothing much.  It is not a basis for faith.  St Paul proclaimed the resurrection of our Lord without the story of the Empty Tomb.  This shows that faith in the Empty Tomb is not necessary for faith in the resurrection of the Lord.  The early Christians got on very well without the story of the Empty Tomb.  The fact of the empty tomb only declares that the body was not there.  But faith must add to the fact by saying, He is risen.  Faith interprets the missing body as the Lord has been raised from the dead.  Only because of a prior faith in the resurrection could the early Christians use the story of the Empty Tomb meaningfully, not to prove the resurrection but to substantiate their claims of the Risen Lord.  The empty tomb is at most an indicator that the Lord’s body was not there and therefore it was plausible that one of the reasons was that He had risen.  Of course skeptics, as we read in the gospel, suggested that the body was stolen or even claimed that Jesus was taken down from the cross half-dead and then resuscitated and then proclaimed as risen!

How can we know that our faith in the Risen Lord is not an empty faith?  We have not seen the Risen Lord like some of the apostles or the women of Jerusalem did.  What then is the basis of our claim that Jesus is truly risen from the dead?   How can we be so sure of our claims?

Firstly, faith in the resurrection is more than a matter of saying, “Alleluia, Jesus is Lord or Jesus is Risen!” The proof of our faith in the resurrection is that we have overcome the fear of death ourselves.  Death is always the last enemy of man.  Death cripples us from living our life fully.  The fear of death hinders us from giving our lives, our possessions and things to the poor.   When we fear death, we dare not live adventurously and fully.   The fear of death prevents us from doing many things in life, whether it is the death of our loved ones or ourselves.

The fear of death of course is that instrument by which the Evil One leads us to commit sin.  We sin only because of fear of death.  St Paul says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23)  Because of sin, we become indifferent to God and our fellowmen.  We no longer feel the presence of God and lose our goal and final destiny in life.  Because of sin, we no longer feel for others and we are blind to the truth.  Because of sin, we live for ourselves and as we live for ourselves, life becomes empty and meaningless, leading to nihilism.

Hence, the proof of our faith in the resurrection is that we are ready to enter into the tomb with Him and rise to a new life, as St Paul says.   “If in union with Christ we have imitated his death, we shall also imitate him in his resurrection. We must realise that our former selves have been crucified with him to destroy this sinful body and to free us from the slavery of sin. When a Christian dies, of course, he has finished with sin.”   Only when we have decided that sin causes us to be more miserable and makes us slaves like the Israelites in Egypt, then we will be ready to give up our sins.

Secondly, faith in the resurrection means that we are ready to witness for Jesus as the women did.  Even though the women’s testimony was met with disbelief and skepticism, it did not stop them from announcing the Good News that Jesus is risen.   What about us?  Are we ready to confess the resurrection with our lips as Paul urges us?  Are we ready to stand up for Jesus even when the world ridicules our faith and cast aspersions on us?  In the face of critics and opposition to our belief in Christ and the gospel, are we ready to take risks in defending Jesus and our faith in Him, that He is risen and He is our Lord and saviour of the world?   Abraham, the Father of faith, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, for God.  He was ready to take risks when the Lord called him out of the land of Ur to the Promised Land.

If we find our faith still weak and not sufficient to confess with our lips and believe in our hearts that Jesus is risen, what must we do?

We need to follow the example of Abraham our father in faith in surrendering ourselves to the promises of God.  Abraham trusted in God fully and did what he was told to do, even to the point of sacrificing his only son.   He knew that obedience to the will of God is the sure way of finding life.  Thus, again and again, in obedience to the will of God, he surrendered his entire self to Him.  We too must follow him and be ready to say “yes” at all times to His holy will in all things.  With Abraham, we can trust in divine providence, knowing that because He is still with us in our midst, He will provide us with what is necessary to arrive at our goal and to accomplish His divine plan of which we are all participants in our own ways.

Secondly, to strengthen our faith, we need to rely on the testimonies of those who have seen the Lord.  In the early Church, the early Christians relied on the testimonies of the apostles when they claimed that they saw the risen Lord.  Testimonies are important in strengthening faith.  We still have such testimonies in our day when people witness to the power of God at work in their lives, much like the works of wonders the Lord worked when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea.  Indeed, the miracles that the Lord worked during the time of the Israelites are still being worked today because the Lord we believe in is a living God, not a God of history but in history.  In truth, many of us lack faith in the resurrected Lord because, like the Israelites, we have been forgetful of the many events when God showed forth the power of His arm and His divine mercy in our lives.  The angels told the women, “Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee: that the Son of Man had to be handed over into the power of sinful men and be crucified, and rise again on the third day?”  When we recall the love of God in sacrificing His only Son for our salvation, we should be moved to repentance and love.   So great and merciful is our God that He who spared the only son of Abraham, Isaac, did not spare His own begotten Son because of His great love for us.

Thirdly, to strengthen our faith in the Risen Lord, we need to develop a personal relationship with Him.   Faith in God and in Christ, in the final analysis, is based on a personal relationship, not an intellectual assent to a doctrine.  If the women and John could look at the empty tomb and come to the conclusion in faith that “he is not here, he is risen”; it was because they loved the Lord intensely.  They had intimacy with the Lord and knew Him from their hearts.  The rest, including Peter, operated from the level of the head and could only arrive at amazement or puzzlement at what happened.  Logical love for the Lord will not bring about deep faith because God has “hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent” and revealed them to mere children.  (Mt 11:25)

So today, let us renew and deepen our faith in the resurrection of our Lord.  Let us remove that stone of sin, of pride and blindness to the truth from the tomb so that the rays of the Risen Lord can shine upon us and set us free from fear, from sin and from eternal death.  In faith, relying on the testimonies of the early Church, let us say with joy, Alleluia!  He is Risen indeed!

Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Easter Homily
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The story is told of a child who began to read the Gospels. Like billions before her. She quickly became charmed by Jesus. Suddenly, she ran out of her room crying hysterically. She ran into the arms of her alarmed mother. She cried: “They killed him. They killed him.” Her mother comforted her and then whispered to her, “now go back and finish the story.”

Unlike that child, we know the rest of the story. Our hearts rejoice as we hear how the story finished — not with defeat and death, but with victory and new life. “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.” Similar good news is proclaimed in our first reading: “… They put [Jesus] to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised up on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” No wonder the Church exults in the opening words of the Easter Proclamation which we heard last night during the Easter Vigil: “Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels! Exult, all creation around God’s throne! Jesus Christ our King, is risen!”

The Easter Good News is, in fact, the core or center of the Gospel: Jesus Christ has died and now lives! His “love to the end” in the end has triumphed. In my homilies during the first two days of the Easter Triduum — on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, — I repeatedly used that phrase: “love to the end.” I pointed out that each of the celebrations during the Easter Triduum, from Holy Thursday through Easter Day, has a particular emphasis, but that all of them together form one prolonged celebration of the central mystery of our faith: the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. As you and I have been reliving Christ’s Dying and Rising in these days of the Easter Triduum, we see so clearly revealed before us the love Christ has for each of us — for each member of the human family, a love forever faithful and enduring, truly “love to the end;” not only to the end of Christ’s earthly life, but love continuing on, because today we proclaim that Christ is the Risen Lord, and, therefore, His love remains to the end of time into eternity.

Christ’s “love to the end” in the end has triumphed. Because He has triumphed over sin and death, He gives us newness of life. This celebration of Easter pulsates with this gift: a radical newness! Nothing is the same again! Sin will never have the final victory nor will human death! As we pray over and over throughout the Easter season and indeed throughout the year: “Dying, You destroyed our death, rising You restored our life, Lord Jesus, come in glory!”

This “newness of life,” the result of Christ’s “love to the end,” is made visible for us through symbols. We see before us in the sanctuary the newly blessed Paschal Candle, whose flame symbolizes Christ the Light. Yes, Christ is our Light, going before us to lead us in our pilgrimage through life, dispelling the darkness of sin and death, warming us in our loneliness and difficulties, guiding us in our uncertainty and fears.

This “newness of life,” the result of Christ’s “love to the end,” is likewise made visible through the symbol of water. Soon, you will be sprinkled with water, which I blessed last night during the Easter Vigil. This water symbolizes Christ our Life, who strengthens us to live daily according to His Gospel and the teachings of the Church His Body of which we are members.

This “newness of life,” the result of Christ’s “love to the end,” is also made visible in the reality of the Eucharist, both sacrament and sacrifice, the Eucharist we celebrate with such faith and joy today, whereby in our midst the dying and rising of Christ is made present, whereby Christ’s Real Presence continues among us in the Blessed Sacrament. In the Eucharist, Christ’s “love to the end” is revealed in a unique way and He remains to be our nourishment on the journey that ends at our Father’s House.

We are observing the Holy Year of the Great Jubilee, recalling in a special way the 2000th anniversary of Christ’s Birth in Bethlehem. He was born in order to become, by His dying and rising, the One Saviour of the world, our Saviour! Today, as we renew our commitment to live in close union with the Risen Lord Jesus, let us ask the Lord to deepen His life within us and to make us His witnesses of Easter joy and hope. Let us promise our Risen Saviour and Lord that we will follow Him, our Light and our Life, everyday and invite others to come to Him by the witness of our lives — our family, our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends — everyone we meet! With Christ the Risen One, let us make all things new — with the joy and hope He gives! With Christ the Risen One, Let us be Easter People! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

By Bishop Paul S. Loverde, Bishop of Arlington and Northern Virginia

Arlington Catholic Herald

Source http://catholicherald.com/stories/Bishop-Loverdes-Easter-Sunday-Homily,4794

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One Response to “Prayer and Meditation for Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017 — “He is Risen!” The women are the first to believe”

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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