St. Dorothy Catholic Community Orlando/Winter Park, Florida
Easter Sunday, 2021
Acts 10:34A, 37-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Easter Sunday - Apr 4, 2021
Today we consider the mystery at the heart of the Christian faith. It is simple but extraordinary and powerful. It was so mind-blowing that even the disciples and the apostles Jesus told it would happen didn’t believe it until they saw him. It shattered all their concepts of life. In the whole history of humanity death was the greatest fear, the curse to wish or inflict on your worst enemies. It was conquered. “Christ is Risen,” says it all. We can no longer live the same way now that death has been defeated in Christ.
In today’s First Reading St. Peter reminds us that the Risen Christ only revealed himself to those who believed in him.
Only those who believed in him were then blessed by meeting and eating and drinking with the Risen Lord.
He reminds us that “everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name”: on the day of our Baptism we had an encounter with the Risen Lord that transformed us into children pleasing to Our Heavenly Creator, and God continues to reveal himself to those who believe.
An encounter with the Risen Christ in faith is always a salvific and transforming experience.
In today’s Second Reading St. Paul reminds us that an outlook of faith keeps our eyes fixed on the things of above.
When we gaze above in faith, we know the Risen Christ stands at the right hand of His Father and intercedes for us.
If we don’t see him it is because our faith is not strong enough and we need to beg for more.
The bishop of Rome, Francis describes a certain class of Christians in Evangelii Gaudium who seem to live a permanent Lent: they have not had an experience of Jesus and his love, and, therefore, the Gospel brings them no joy.
The Resurrection banishes vanity from our lives and changes our perspective.
In today’s Gospel, we see that the Resurrection didn’t sink in for the disciples until they witnessed the results themselves. It leaves us in hopeful suspense because death no longer had the last word.
The disciples had all the facts. Christ could raise the dead. Martha saw his brother Lazarus raised after three days in the tomb. The mourners of the dead little girl’s daughter mocked Jesus when he said she was sleeping, and then he “woke” her up.
Even Mary thought today that the body had been stolen. The disciples walking to Emmaus had all the facts. After the Transfiguration, Jesus told Peter not to tell anyone until he was raised from the dead and kept repeating that he would be raised from the dead on the third day.
The disciples were clueless. We can’t blame them. Even today there are a lot of disciples of Christ who are clueless. All the facts are at hand, but they lack faith, and so they live as if eternal life is a fairy tale.
We have many more signs that they did: the Church has testified to the Resurrection for over two thousand years, and many of her children have gone to the grave believing that someday they would rise, just as Jesus did.
Like John in today’s Gospel let’s look at the signs of Jesus’ resurrection–an empty tomb, a suspiciously well-folded head wrapping–and simply believe.
When members of the Eastern Church (including the Orthodox) wish someone a Happy Easter they do it with an affirmation of faith: “Christ is Risen.” The customary response is “He is Truly.”
One day an Orthodox bishop in the Soviet Union was asked to present the Christian position in a debate on religion.
After letting the fervent Communist opposing him have the first word, a long discourse explaining that God didn’t exist, much less the Son of God, and extolling the virtues of Communism, it was the bishop’s turn to head to the podium.
The bishop simply said, “Christ is Risen.”
The audience, some out of faith, many out of habit, responded: “He is Truly Risen.”
“Thank you,” replied the patriarch, and returned to his seat.
Nothing more needed to be said.
In Evangelii Gaudium Francis said, “There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved”.
If we want this season to be more than relishing in the accomplishments of being faithful to our Lenten resolutions for a few weeks we must find this lasting joy.
Joy doesn’t mean an absence of suffering; rather, it means a “personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved.”
Take a look in the mirror this week and make sure Lent’s over in your life.
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
Psalms 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9
First John 2:1-5
3rd Sunday of Easter - April 19, 2021
Jesus' favorite word after his resurrection is "peace." It is almost always the first word on his lips when he appears to his apostles, as in the passage we just listened to: "Peace be with you."
When we celebrate Mass, we may hear these same words, spoken to us in the here-and-now of our lives. Jesus didn't give this peace before his resurrection, but afterwards he does give it, and he gives it because we need it.
Christ's peace is the antidote to most endemic diseases of modern, secular society: stress, depression, and anxiety. We have all been affected by those diseases. As our friendship with the resurrected Lord grows deeper, we are gradually healed of those diseases, because he brings us his three-fold peace.
First, peace for our mind. When we look at his wounds, which he still bears in his glorified body, we know for certain that his forgiveness is everlasting; once he forgives our sins, we are truly forgiven; our conscience can be at rest.
Second, peace for our heart. When we see the spike marks in his hands and feet, we know for certain that we are loved with an undying, unconditional, personal, determined love - Christ's love.
Third, peace for our soul. Christ is alive, and he is ruling and expanding an everlasting Kingdom, and he has invited each one of us to help him do that by building up the Church.
We have work to do that matters, that is worthwhile, that will satisfy our thirst for meaning. The peace of the resurrected Christ is what we really need. The Psalmist put it well: "As soon as I lie down, I fall peacefully asleep, for you alone, O LORD, bring security to my dwelling.
Christ's resurrection enables us to grow in this triple peace because in the middle of this stormy, turbulent world, it gives us a firm anchor: our hope for life everlasting. This has been exemplified through the centuries by the saints, and in a special way by the martyrs.
St Ammon and his four companions were martyred back in the third century. They were Roman soldiers at the service of the Roman governor of the great city of Alexandria, in Egypt. Their martyrdom happened during the wave of persecution started by the emperor Decius, who forced all Christians to worship Roman gods under pain of death.
Ammon and his companions, who were secretly Christians themselves, were on duty during a trial of prisoners accused of being Christians. The judge's interrogation was harsh and intimidating, and at least one poor Christian seemed to be wavering. The five soldiers saw what was happening and were afraid that their brother in Christ was going to deny his faith, thus putting at risk his eternal salvation. So they began to make encouraging signs to him, gesturing, nodding, bulging their eyes - anything they could do without putting themselves into too much danger.
But their efforts were so energetic that the judge couldn't help but notice. And when he inquired as to what was going on, the five soldiers broke ranks and declared themselves Christians.
This disturbed the Roman officials and caused quite a ruckus, but it also renewed the courage of the prisoners. In the end, both the prisoners and the Christian soldiers stayed faithful to Christ, suffering martyrdom instead of denying their Lord. The stormy persecution didn't steal their interior peace and lead them astray, because their anchor was firmly attached to the risen Lord.
We all want to experience this peace more deeply - peace of mind, heart, and soul. And Christ wants the same thing - that's why he suffered, died, and rose. But if that's so, why do we still find ourselves so easily overrun by stress, anxiety, and discouragement? Many obstacles can inhibit the flow of Christ's peace in our lives.
The most obvious one is evil or as some call, sin..
In today’s second reading St John puts it clearly: "Those who say, 'I know him,' but do not keep his commandments are liars, and the truth is not in them."
Sometimes we fall into evil/sin out of weakness. Those falls are easy to confess and repent of. But other times we allow subtle habits of evil/sin to take root in our lives.
For example, we refuse to accept some part of Church teaching on faith or morals which is based on the teachings of Jesus directly. Sure, we find plenty of reasons to justify this resistance - all the arguments we hear on social media and the printed or televised news, for instance. But at heart, to reject church teaching on faith and morals which is based on the teachings of Jesus), is to reject Christ's saving truth. It's like telling God that we trust him a little bit, in some things, but we trust social media and the printed or televised news, more in other things.
Subtle habits of evil/sin can also take other forms: like slacking off in our life responsibilities - just doing enough to get by, but not really giving our best; or wasting inordinate amounts of time on hobbies, entertainment, or gossip.
Evil/Sinful habits can also take not-so-subtle forms, as financial corruption, prejudice of race, creed, color, sexual orientation and political orientation statistics make clear. If we are not experiencing the peace of Christ's resurrected life a little bit more each season, maybe we need to do some spring cleaning in our souls.
For that, the best disinfectant or sanitizer is a serious private/personal confession to God where we admit our evils/sins and truly make atonement for them. As Christ renews his hope in us during this Mass, let's renew our hope in him too, and ask for the grace to receive his peace as individuals and as a nation.