19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 (Jesus) said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. 23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:19-23) Continue reading
When I was in seminary, our homiletics professor had lots of advice and pointers for the Sunday homily – I am about to ignore one of the pieces of advice. The professor was pretty adamant about not explaining theology. And I mostly agree with his point – it can make a homily really dry and fill it with language that needs its own explanation. The professor’s final point was that you are likely to give an inaccurate or heretical version of the theology in any case.
The professor in Systematic Theology would also agree. He made the point that almost every early heresy in the early Church came from people trying to explain the Incarnation, trying to explain how it is that Jesus is vere Deus, vere homo – truly God, truly human. The words in the Gospel of John seem so simple: the Word became flesh. And indeed, the heresies of the first four centuries of the Church are filled with controversies, serious in fighting, involvement of the Roman Emperors, and sometimes armies were formed, and battles fought. Explaining theology can be very dangerous stuff. Continue reading
The Ascension of the Lord is a great celebration of the Church. It commemorates the bodily ascension of Jesus into heaven. According to St. Luke it occurred 40 days after the Resurrection (Acts 1:3). It is a feast of great antiquity with liturgies and art of the 4th century already addressing it as a norm of the Church. In the Eastern Church this feast is known in Greek as Analepsis, the “taking up,” and also as the Episozomene, the “salvation from on high,” indicating that by ascending into his glory Christ completed the work of our redemption.
Especially in Western Europe, the Feast of the Ascension, falling on Thursday, traditionally has been a public holiday, allowing the faithful to participate in the holy day of obligation. In modern times, there are no mid-week public holidays in most places, and so, celebration of the feast diminished. There are many Christian traditions that do not celebrate the Ascension. In the early 1990s the Vatican gave permission for the local bishop to move the observance of the Feast of the Ascension from the traditional Thursday to the following Sunday, the Sunday before Pentecost. The permission to move was given so that the faithful might maintain contact with the importance of the feast. Continue reading
46 And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day 47 and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And (behold) I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” 50 Then he led them (out) as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. 51 As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. 52 They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and they were continually in the temple praising God. Continue reading
This coming Sunday marks the 7th Sunday of Easter (Year C); however, most dioceses will celebrate the Ascension of the Lord. You can read a complete Ascension commentary on the first reading from Acts here.
The scene of the Ascension is the first account in the Acts of the Apostles. Acts tells how Jesus’ disciples received his Holy Spirit and continued his work after he ascended into heaven. From the opening linchpin of the Ascension, much of Acts is carried along a travelogue, following the Christian missionaries, especially Paul, as they spread God’s word outward from Jerusalem. Similarly, Luke’s Gospel had put a unique stress on Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51 to the end of the book.). Acts carries the journey to the “ends of the earth.” Continue reading
There are moments in this life when I wished I processed more insight about what was happening in the moment that is now. They are often moments caught up in the midst and whirl of things; moments when I look back and wished I had paused and considered what was stirring within. Attentive to the now.
Lent is a season when we are called to take time and pray for the wisdom to be attentive to the moments leading up to the celebration on Easter. But what about the Easter season? Those 50 days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost have come and are almost gone. There is a lot whirling around our lives that make the quiet of Lent seem long ago and far away. Continue reading
Salvador Dali’s painting “Ascension” is certainly one of the most provocative paintings depicting the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus. The symbolic elements are many, the speculations even more, and the agreement on meaning is still up for grabs. But I sometimes tend to focus on some of the more realistic elements cast among the surrealistic things. While the art experts discuss the finer points of Dali — his life, faith, and his work, I am fascinated by perspective, as well as the hands and feet. The former as though clutching at something; the latter soiled and showing the wear and tear of life on earth. Continue reading
When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted… (Mt 20:17)
We are a little uncomfortable with that doublet: worshiped, doubted. I mean these are the apostles – they have been with Jesus for three years and have seen incredible signs and wonders, the lame have walked, the deaf hear and mute speak. Surely these apostles would be people of great faith. Continue reading
All power…all nations… all that I have commanded you…with you always – One should be struck by the repetition of the word “all” in this passage:
- Jesus has been given all power (v.18).
- Disciples are to be made of all nations (v.19).
- Disciples are to obey all that Jesus commanded (v.20).
- Jesus will be with the disciples always (literally “all the days”; v.20).
The universality of Jesus’ power and his continuing presence provide the dynamic for the universal discipleship mandate. The disciples will be able to make disciples of all the nations only as they recognize that Jesus has been given all authority and that he will be with them all the days until the end. The universal task is daunting, but it can be done because of the continuing power and presence of Jesus. Continue reading
Commentary – Jesus was from Galilee and since the beginning of his public ministry had moved from the northern most reaches of Israel to its center in Jerusalem – the locus of the confrontation and rejection by the leaders of Israel. But now the “Galilean” has triumphed against all odds and it a manner none had foreseen. The preparation of the “twelve” was not lost in their abandoning Jesus at the Passion. They are now restored to their positions of trust and responsibility and given final instructions for fulfilling the mission to which they had already been called (cf. 10:1-15) – but the scope is now far wider than Israel and included all the nations (28:19) Continue reading