The Resurrection is not ‘just some miracle from the past’

Easter Sunday: Gospel – Luke 24:1-12 (Vigil); John 20:1-9

“If it were simply that somebody was once brought back to life, and no more than that, in what way should this concern us?”

With this pointed question, Benedict XVI called us to deepen our understanding of the Resurrection of the Lord – and what it means for us, our lives, and our eternal destiny.

Christ is truly risen in the flesh, not to resume earthly life as we know it, but to take up a transcendent life in His glorified Body:

If we may borrow the language of the theory of evolution, it is the greatest ‘mutation,’ absolutely the most crucial leap into a totally new dimension that there has ever been in the long history of life and its development: a leap into a completely new order which does concern us, and concerns the whole of history…

The Resurrection was like an explosion of light, an explosion of love which…ushered in a new dimension of being, a new dimension of life in which, in a transformed way, matter too was integrated and through which a new world emerges.

It is clear that this event is not just some miracle from the past, the occurrence of which could be ultimately a matter of indifference to us…

We have been caught up into this supernatural reality through Baptism. Incorporated into Christ, each baptized person is capable of “finding oneself within the vastness of God,” sharing in the intimacy of God’s own life:

The great explosion of the Resurrection has seized us in Baptism so as to draw us on. Thus we are associated with a new dimension of life into which, amid the tribulations of our day, we are already in some way introduced.

To live one’s own life as a continual entry into this open space: this is the meaning of being baptized, of being Christian. This is the joy of the Easter Vigil.

The Resurrection is not a thing of the past; the Resurrection has reached us and seized us. We grasp hold of it, we grasp hold of the risen Lord, and we know that He holds us firmly even when our hands grow weak.

Easter Vigil Homily of April 15, 2006.

Question for reflection: How am I changed by encountering the Risen Christ?

Engaging the Gospel – Mark 10:2-16

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 10:2-16

Jesus proclaims the indissolubility of marriage

“God Himself is the author of marriage,” as the Catechism reminds us (paragraph 1603).

“Since God created [the human race] man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man” (1604).

Sadly, when sin came into the world, this harmony was disrupted: “as a break with God, the first sin had for its first consequence the rupture of the original communion between man and woman” (1607). “To heal the wounds of sin, man and woman need the help” of God’s grace. “Without His help, man and woman cannot achieve the union of their lives for which God created them in the beginning” (1608).

Jesus comes “to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin,” and thereby “He himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God…This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ’s cross, the source of all Christian life” (1615).

To learn more about God’s design for the family, see Love Is Our Mission, a guide prepared for the recent World Meeting of Families. Also, for practical helps, visit www.foryourmarriage.org, an initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Spiritual value of work

No matter what kind of work we do – whether inside or outside the home – our daily duties have a spiritual dimension.

The Church offers us a rich theology of work, what St John Paul II calls a “gospel of work,” that may revolutionize how we see our workaday lives. In Laborem Exercens, JPII explains that we are in fact collaborating with God’s work of both creation and redemption.

“The Church finds in the very first pages of the Book of Genesis the source of her conviction that work is a fundamental dimension of human existence on earth.” God created us in His image and gave us the task of earthly stewardship. “In carrying out this mandate, man, every human being, reflects the very action of the Creator of the universe” (4).

This truth took on special resonance when God became man in Jesus, and worked in St Joseph’s carpentry shop. Jesus “belongs to the ‘working world’…He looks with love upon human work and the different forms that it takes, seeing in each one of these forms a particular facet of man’s likeness with God, the Creator and Father” (26).

And the “sweat and toil” of our work likewise give us a share in Christ’s work:

This work of salvation came about through suffering and death on a Cross. By enduring the toil of work in union with Christ crucified for us, man in a way collaborates with the Son of God for the redemption of humanity. He shows himself a true disciple of Christ by carrying the cross in his turn every day in the activity that he is called upon to perform. The Christian finds in human work a small part of the Cross of Christ and accepts it in the same spirit of redemption in which Christ accepted His Cross for us (27).

Engaging the Gospel – John 6:1-15

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – John 6:1-15

Jesus’ miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fish not only fed the vast crowd, but it far exceeded their desires. This miracle, prefiguring Jesus’ offering of Himself in the Eucharist, illustrates that God’s generosity is boundless.

Indeed, God’s generosity is at the very root of creation itself:

St. Bonaventure explains that God created all things ‘not to increase His glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it,’ for God has no other reason for creating than His love and goodness.

And as St Thomas Aquinas wrote,

Creatures came into existence when the key of love opened His hand.

— Catechism paragraph 293.

Hence creation is not the result of “any necessity whatever, nor of blind fate or chance,” for it “proceeds from God’s free will; He wanted to make His creatures share in His being, wisdom, and goodness” (295).

The magnitude of creation is taken up into every celebration of the Eucharist:

The Eucharist, the sacrament of our salvation accomplished by Christ on the cross, is also a sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for the work of creation. In the Eucharistic sacrifice the whole of creation loved by God is presented to the Father through the death and the Resurrection of Christ…

The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father…the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all His benefits, for all that He has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all ‘thanksgiving’

The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of praise by which the Church sings the glory of God in the name of all creation.

— paragraphs 1359-61.

Question for reflection: How have I experienced the superabundant generosity of God?

 

Engaging the Gospel – Third Sunday of Advent

(Year B) Gospel – John 1:6-8, 19-28

When cross-examined by the priests, Levites, and Pharisees, St. John the Baptist stands firm, declaring that he prepares the way of the Lord. His clear realization of his own identity as Christ’s forerunner, rooted firmly in God’s plan, is instructive for us.

Contrary to what the world tells us, our worth is not dependent on the opinions of others; rather, our true identity is bound up in God, our Creator and our ultimate end. We are each created by God, “in a plan of sheer goodness,” in order to “share in His own blessed life” (Catechism paragraph 1).

“It is in Christ,” the Eternal Son of the Father, that we are “created in the image and likeness of the Creator.” Although we have defaced this image through sin, “it is in Christ, Redeemer and Savior,” that our “original beauty” is restored and “ennobled by the grace of God” (1701).

It is this wondrous gift of Christ that we will celebrate in a heightened way at Christmas.

“The Word became flesh for us in order to save us by reconciling us with God” (457), “so that thus we might know God’s love” (458), “to be our model of holiness” (459) and “to make us partakers of the divine nature” (460).

All human beings have “the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone.” We are each “called by grace to a covenant” with God, “to offer Him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in [our] stead” (357).

Question for reflection: How do I define myself?

Thanksgiving

The term “Eucharist” is derived from the Greek for “thanksgiving.” This form of prayer reaches its apex in the celebration of the Eucharist, in which we participate in Christ’s offering of Himself to the Father, in a salvific work that encompasses the entire cosmos.

As the Catechism explains, “in the work of salvation, Christ sets creation free from sin and death to consecrate it anew and make it return to the Father, for His glory.”

Because Christ is the Head and we are the members of His Body, we too are integrally involved in this action. When we make our own offerings at Mass – of our time, resources, and most of all ourselves – all are taken up and absorbed into Jesus’ perfect sacrifice of thanksgiving.

But our thanksgiving is not limited to the Mass itself. Anything that we experience can become an occasion for thanksgiving. Although it is obviously easier to render thanks in happy circumstances, we should also learn to thank God even in our trials. St. Paul exhorts us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess 5:18).

By offering thanksgiving to God in the midst of difficulties, we grow in trust, knowing that the Lord is ordering all things for our eternal welfare. In this way we keep our earthly lives in the proper perspective of our ultimate destiny.

God did not have to create us at all, or share with us His own divine life. If we maintain a spirit of gratitude for God’s great works of creation, redemption, and sanctification – which we could never merit on our own – we can better shoulder the burdens of daily life.

For more, see Catechism paragraphs 2637-38.