“Jesus Christ Has Risen Today!” – John 20:1-9†


“Easter Sunday”

Today’s Content:

• Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
• Today in Catholic History
• Joke of the Day
• Today’s Gospel Reading
• Reflection on Today’s Gospel
• New Translation of the Mass
• A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
• Franciscan Formation Reflection
• Reflection on part of the SFO Rule

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

Congratulations to Pope Benedict XVI on his elevation to Bishop of Rome, and Vicar of Christ, six years ago today. May his role as shepherd and teacher of the faithful bring all of us to a greater understanding of Jesus’ love, trust, promises, and magnificently splendid paradise on earth and in heaven.

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We had two tornadoes on Good Friday evening in the St. Louis Area. One missed my home by no more than a mile (literally). It was a pretty scary moment. We were in the basement and I glanced over to see me 11 year old praying the rosary quietly. I felt so good in knowing that he has gained an appreciation for our heavenly mother’s care in his life.

The tornadoes created a large amount of damage, and even damaged “Lambert Field”, our Metropolitan St. Louis airport was not sparred. Aa an example, a transport van with four passengers was literally picked up by the twister and placed on a wall of a parking structure, perched over a fall of several stories. We had no deaths due to the weather, and very few significant injuries. What a miracle in this devastation. Thank You Lord.

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 Today in Catholic History:

† 624 – Death of Mellitus, third Archbishop of Canterbury
† 709 – Death of Wilfrid, English archbishop and saint
† 729 – Death of Egbert[us], English bishop/saint, dies in Iona at age 89
† 858 – Nicolaas I succeeds Benedict III as pope
† 1342 – Pope Benedict XII (b. 1285)
† 1364 – Pope Urbabus V names John V van Virneburg as bishop of Utrecht
† 1581 – Birth of Vincent de Paul, French saint (d. 1660)
† 1622 – Death of Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Swiss friar, martyr, and saint (b. 1577)
† 1910 – German Catholic youth movement Quickborn forms
† 2005 – Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is inaugurated as the 265th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church taking the name Pope Benedict XVI.

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

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Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection is about Mary of Magdala finding that the stone had been removed from Jesus’ tomb.

(NAB John 20:1-9) 1 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. 2 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.” 3 So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. 4 They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; 5 he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. 6 When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, 7 and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. 8 Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. 9 For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

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Today we begin the Easter Season, a 50-day period of meditation on the mystery of Christ’s Resurrection. (Yep, Easter lasts for nearly two more months.) Today’s Gospel reading relates the discovery of the empty tomb. It ends by telling us that Jesus’ friends, His disciples, did not yet understand that Jesus had actually “Rose” from the dead at this point.

The story of the empty tomb can be found in both the Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels, along with John’s, presented today. However, for me, John’s version seems to be a fusion or blending of both Matthew and Luke’s. (Sorry Mark, you had a Resurrection narrative as well, but John seemed to ignore yours.)

I believe John’s narrative details are not necessarily meant to offer proof of Jesus’ Resurrection happening on that “Easter” Sunday morning. After all, he writes with a poetic and revelational “conceptual thought” and writing style in order to make a specific point – – a Van Gough sort of style in creating an image. His unique style of relating detail invites each of us to reflect upon a most amazing grace; a grace founded in a faith in Jesus Christ and in His Resurrection.

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The disciples thought that everything had ended in the tragic events with Jesus’ death. He was dead, wrapped in a burial shroud, and secured in a tomb. It seemed the only thing yet to do was to finish the preparation of His body for final internment.

Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb while, “still dark” to finish preparing the body for a final burial. John’s Gospel has the time as “still dark”. Mark has the sun already raised. And Matthew describes the day as just “dawning,” and Luke’s book refers to the time as being “at daybreak”, an early dawn.

After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.” (Matthew 28:1);

Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb.” (Mark 16:2);

And,

At daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.” (Luke 24:1).

Each of these words or phrases – – “was dawning”, “sun had risen”, “at daybreak”, and “still dark” – – are simply subjective statement’s about the day beginning, probably around 6 AM.

All four Gospels tell us that Jesus’ empty tomb was first discovered by “women”.

Matthew – Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
Mark – Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome
Luke – The women who had come from Galilee with Him
John – Mary of Magdala

John uses the plural “we” in the second part of Mary Magdalene’s announcement to Simon Peter and the other disciples:

They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” (John 20:2).

This plural word, “we”, might reflect a Jewish tradition of women going to the tomb as a group. Solely for safety reasons, I am sure women did not travel without company throughout the countryside of first century Palestine.

This is notable because in first-century Jewish society women could not serve as legal witnesses. A woman’s role was literally to give birth, (preferably to a male heir), and to take care of all the household activities. In fact, women were considered less tangible than the livestock of the area. There were NO equal rights in first century Palestine!! So, to mention women in this special way was quite broadminded and freethinking in ideology for the time period.

As just stated, in John’s Gospel, the only woman attending the tomb is “Mary of Magdala”. Magdala was a small city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, about three miles north of Tiberias. Mary [Magdalene] arrives at the tomb, and sees the stone removed. In John’s Gospel, she does not go into the tomb (in others, she does), so she does not know with absolute certainty whether are not the tomb is empty. My question is: “Where are the Soldiers?” (I surmise that they ran off with the appearance of the angels and the Risen Jesus Christ.)

Is there a significance of the stone being rolled away from the tomb entrance? Well, for one thing, – – a significant matter of fact – – it was extremely heavy! It would have taken several strong people to roll away such a stone from its place of function, sealing the tomb entrance. It would either have to be a group effort, or of divine origin to move the large stone.

Unlike the Synoptic accounts, John’s Gospel does not describe an appearance of angels at the tomb for the Gospel reading at Mass. (A reference to angels show up in John’s Gospel at John 20:12.) Instead, Mary naturally assumes that Jesus’ body had been removed, stolen. Please realize, at this point she did not consider that Jesus has been raised from the dead. So seeing the stone moved, she ran away from the tomb and back to the disciples, the people she trusted.

Mary Magdalene is the first to report the startling news of the empty tomb! In John’s version, she is not as directed to go tell others by an angel or young man, as is written in all the synoptic accounts.

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.” (Matthew 28:5-7);

“On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, ‘Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.”‘” (Mark 16:5-7);

and

“While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others.” (Luke 24:4,9).

I was once told by a priest friend (Yes, this is not an oxymoron term. Priests can have friends per Canon Law.) of mine about a linkage or comparison between Jesus’ closed tomb and Mary, His mother. As Mary’s virginal womb was closed, so was the tomb closed. Yet Jesus entered the world through her closed womb, and He left the world through the closed tomb.

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Simon Peter, and Jesus’ “beloved disciple” (John, this Gospel writer) raced to the tomb in order to verify Mary’s report of His disappearance. The “beloved disciple” arrives first at the tomb first, but does not enter until after Simon Peter arrives and enters before him. His hesitation paints a vivid picture, as does the detail provided about the burial cloths. Did John wait out of fear, not being the first one going into an unknown event? Or, was John waiting out of respect, knowing that Peter was now the earthly leader, the first Pope?

John states that the special feature about the status of the burial cloths, the way they were found in the tomb, caused the “beloved disciple [John] to believe.”

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.” (John 20:6-8).

I see something in the details of Jesus’ burial clothes placement in the tomb. The burial wraps were discarded without concern. However, the “cloth placed over Jesus’ head at His burial, I believe was His Tallit – – His prayer garment or robe. This special and revered item was carefully, reverently, and meticulously folded (or rolled) and then placed carefully on the hewn rock ledge Jesus’ body was placed upon.

For the pious Jewish person, the Tallit with attached Tzitzit (the four knotted strings; one at each corner), was (and still is today) considered as sacred and uniquely special to them, as the Holy Eucharist is for us Catholics. To the pious Jewish person, it is the “true” physical presence of God’s soul, divinity, and promises – – and not just a representation or symbol.

Perhaps the details of the tomb description, in John’s Gospel, leads one to recognize the grave had not been robbed. Some scholars believe the presence of the burial cloths in the tomb offers essential evidence that Jesus’ body could not have been stolen. Grave robbers would most certainly take the burial cloths along with the body. The wrappings would make it easier to carry the body. The wrappings would keep all the valuables with the body. And, any tomb raider would not waste their time removing all the wrappings, increasing time at the scene and their chance of getting caught.

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The last verse of today’s reading was thought inspiring for me:

For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” (John 20:9)

For John, this verse was probably a general reference to some specific and intended Holy Scripture verses. I can think of two in the New Testament, and several from the Old Testament (there are probably many more):

Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26);

“… that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:4);

For you will not abandon me to Sheol, nor let your faithful servant see the pit.” (Psalm 16:10);

He will revive us after two days; on the third day he will raise us up, to live in his presence.” (Hosea 6:2);

And,

But the LORD sent a large fish, that swallowed Jonah; and he remained in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. From the belly of the fish Jonah said this prayer to the LORD, his God. But I, with resounding praise, will sacrifice to you; What I have vowed I will pay: deliverance is from the LORD.” (Jonah 2:1, 2, 10).

The last verse concludes with a perplexing message, for me at least. Even after having seen the empty tomb and the burial cloths, Jesus’ disciples still did not yet understand about Jesus’ Resurrection. In the passages immediately following this Gospel reading, Mary of Magdala encounters the “Risen” Jesus, yet mistakes Him for a simple gardener. How could she mistake a person, she had grown to love in such a very special and intimate way, for being a stranger? Was His physical presence changed that much? Obviously, she was not yet prepared to meet the “Risen” Lord who revealed Himself to her while she later lingered in the garden near the tomb (cf., John 20:11-18).

Is it significant that ALL the disciples had to deal first with the empty tomb before they could start to understand Holy Scripture’s foretelling that Jesus would die for our sins and then rise on the third day? Is it significant that they ALL disbelieved until after they saw the empty tomb? I cannot answer these questions; Can you?

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John the Evangelist, “the beloved disciple of Jesus”, wrote his Gospel as an eye-witness to the “Word of God” becoming flesh, living among us in human form, and dying and rising, solely for OUR salvation.

John was the only Apostle who stood with Jesus at the foot of the cross. He was the only Apostle who witnessed Jesus’ death on that day we now know as “Good Friday”. John, together with Simon Peter, was the first Apostle to see the empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning.

What did John see in the tomb that led him to believe in the Resurrection of Jesus? It wasn’t a dead body for there wasn’t one. It was the absence of a “dead body” that allowed him to believe. In reality, the presence of Jesus’ dead body would have disproven the Resurrection prophesies. His body being present in the tomb would have made Jesus’ death simply, and no more than a tragic conclusion to a stupendous career as a great teacher, healer, and miracle worker. When John saw the empty tomb he should have certainly recalled Jesus’ prophecies that He would rise again after three days – – “to rebuild His Church in three days” (John 2:19). Through the grace of faith, trust, and love, John realized that no tomb could contain Jesus Christ, Our Savior and life giver.

In the weeks ahead, the Gospel readings from our liturgy – – our Mass – – will show us how the disciples came to believe in Jesus’ Resurrection, over a period of time, through His various appearances to them, individually and in groups. Our Easter faith is based on their witness to both the empty tomb and their continuing relationship with Jesus—in His appearances and in His gift of the Holy Spirit to all of them (and us), individually and personally.

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In summary, today’s Gospel reading relates how the disciples found the tomb empty three days after Jesus’ death. Also related to us, is that they did not yet understand the Holy Scriptures or that Jesus had been truly “raised” from the dead. This understanding of the Scriptures and Jesus’ Resurrection gradually unfolded (grew) for the disciples as they began to experience the “Risen” Lord in His many appearances to them and others.

Similarly, our understanding of Jesus’ Resurrection unfolds (grows) for us throughout our lives and experiences. In the weeks ahead, we will see and come to understand, how the first of His disciples moved from confusion, doubt, and skepticism to one of faith, trust, and hope in Jesus Christ. These first disciples events and experiences can teach each of us how we also might receive this gift, – – this grace, – – of faith, trust, and hope from God.

Reflect on what you know about the events surrounding Jesus’ coming to Jerusalem for the Passover meal, His arrest, His trial, His scourging, His crucifixion, and His Resurrection. Imagine being among Jesus’ first disciples. If you had been there and heard that the stone had been removed from Jesus’ tomb entrance and that Jesus’ body was no longer there, what would you have thought? What did Mary of Magdala, Simon Peter, and the “disciple whom Jesus loved” think had happened to Jesus’ body?

Remember that this experience was the first indication to His disciples, that Jesus had “Risen”. So, just as the first disciples learned over a period of time, we also, throughout this Easter season will learn more about how to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead.

The reality of Jesus’ Resurrection is the prime, central, and essential fact of OUR Catholic faith. The greatest joy we can have is to encounter our living Lord – – Jesus Christ – – in an individual and personal way.

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“Catholic Collect for Easter Sunday”

God our Father,
by raising Christ your Son
you conquered the power of death
and opened for us the way to eternal life.
Let our celebration today raise us up
and renew our lives by the Spirit that is within us.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL)

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

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New Translation of the Mass

In November of 2011, with the start of the new Liturgical year and Advent, there will be a few noticeable changes in the Mass. It will still be the same ritual for celebrating the Eucharist. The Mass will still have the same parts, the same patterns, and the same flow as it has had for the past several decades. It is only the translation of the Latin that is changing.

 The new translation seeks to correspond much more closely to the exact words and sentence structure of the Latin text. At times, this results in a good and faithful rendering of the original meaning. At other times it produces a rather awkward text in English which is difficult to proclaim and difficult to understand. Most of those problems affect the texts which priests will proclaim rather than the texts that belong to the congregation as a whole. It is to the congregation’s texts that I will address with each blog, in a repetitive basis until the start of Advent.

In the words of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, #11, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of Christian life. Anything we can do to understand our liturgy more deeply will draw us closer to God.

The Glory to God (Gloria) has been significantly changed, with more words and many lines rearranged.

The Gloria

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people of good will.
We praise you,
we bless you,
we adore you,
we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory,
Lord God, heavenly King,
O God, almighty Father.
Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son,
Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us;
you take away the sins of the world,
receive our prayer;
you are seated at the right hand of
the father,
have mercy on us.
For you alone are the Holy One.
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the Glory of God the Father.
Amen.

 Material from “Changing How We Pray”, by Rev. Lawrence E. Mick

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen (1577-1622)

If a poor man needed some clothing, Fidelis would often give the man the clothes right off his back. Complete generosity to others characterized this saint’s life.

Born in 1577, Mark Rey (Fidelis was his religious name) became a lawyer who constantly upheld the causes of the poor and oppressed people. Nicknamed “the poor man’s lawyer,” Fidelis soon grew disgusted with the corruption and injustice he saw among his colleagues. He left his law career to become a priest, joining his brother George as a member of the Capuchin Order. His wealth was divided between needy seminarians and the poor.

As a follower of Francis, Fidelis continued his devotion to the weak and needy. Once, during a severe epidemic in a city where he was guardian of a friary, Fidelis cared for and cured many sick soldiers.

He was appointed head of a group of Capuchins sent to preach against the Calvinists and Zwinglians in Switzerland. Almost certain violence threatened. Those who observed the mission felt that success was more attributable to the prayer of Fidelis during the night than to his sermons and instructions.

He was accused of opposing the peasants’ national aspirations for independence from Austria. While he was preaching at Seewis, to which he had gone against the advice of his friends, a gun was fired at him, but he escaped unharmed. A Protestant offered to shelter Fidelis, but he declined, saying his life was in God’s hands. On the road back, he was set upon by a group of armed men and killed.

He was canonizefd in 1746. Fifteen yers later, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, which was established in 1622, recognized him as its first martyr.

Comment:

Fidelis’s constant prayer was that he be kept completely faithful to God and not give in to any lukewarmness or apathy. He was often heard to exclaim, “Woe to me if I should prove myself but a halfhearted soldier in the service of my thorn-crowned Captain.” His prayer against apathy, and his concern for the poor and weak make him a saint whose example is valuable today. The modern Church is calling us to follow the example of “the poor man’s lawyer” by sharing ourselves and our talents with those less fortunate and by working for justice in the world.

Quote:

“Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel, or, in other words, of the Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation” (“Justice in the World,” Synod of Bishops, 1971).

Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From http://www.americancatholic.org website)

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

The TAU

How do I view the TAU? What significance does it contain for me?
How can the TAU be a focus of MY prayers for meditation and contemplation?
In what ways do I explain to others the meaning and purpose of the TAU in the life of SFO members?
What is the symbolism of the shape of the tau when related to the “habit” Francis adopted for his way of life (which the Franciscan Friars still use today)?

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 24 & 25 of 26:

24. To foster communion among members, the council should organize regular and frequent meetings of the community as well as meeting with other Franciscan groups, especially with youth groups. It should adopt appropriate means for growth in Franciscan and ecclesial life and encourage everyone to a life of fraternity. The communion continues with deceased brothers and sisters through prayer for them.

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25. Regarding expenses necessary for the life of the fraternity and the needs of worship, of the apostolate, and of charity, all the brothers and sisters should offer a contribution according to their means. Local fraternities should contribute toward the expenses of the higher fraternity councils.

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