Saturday in the Octave of Easter

Gospel Mk 16:9-15

When Jesus had risen, early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told his companions who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.

After this he appeared in another form to two of them walking along on their way to the country. They returned and told the others; but they did not believe them either.

But later, as the Eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised. He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

Meditation: The first to see the risen Lord was not Peter or one of the apostles, but a woman noted for her demonized living! She had been forgiven much, and loved her Master greatly. She was first at the tomb to pay her respects. Unfortunately for the disciples, they would not believe her account of the Risen Master. Jesus had to scold his apostles because of their unbelief and stubborn hearts.

The Holy Spirit makes our faith in Jesus Christ come alive

Are you like the apostles or like Mary - slow to believe or quick to run to Jesus? Do you doubt because you do not see? The Lord makes his presence known to us through the work and power of the Holy Spirit. He gives us the gift of faith to know him personally and to understand the mystery of his death and rising. Do you believe his word and do you listen to his voice?

We are Christ's ambassadors and witnesses of his victory over sin and death

After his appearance to his beloved apostles, Jesus commissions them to go and preach the Gospel to the whole creation. Their task is to proclaim the good news of salvation, not only to the people of Israel but to all the nations. This is the great commission which the risen Christ gives to the whole church. All believers have been given a share in this task - to be heralds of the good news and ambassadors for Jesus Christ, the only savior of the world. We have not been left alone in this task, for the risen Lord works in and through us by the power of his Holy Spirit. Do you witness to others the joy of the Gospel and the hope of the resurrection?

"Lord Jesus Christ, increase my faith and hope in the power of your resurrection. And give me joy and courage to be your witness to others and to boldly speak of what you have done to save us from sin and death."

Monday of Octave of Easter

Gospel                Mt 28, 8-15

Tell my brothers that they must leave for Galilee; they will see me there.  The women hurried away from the tomb half-overjoyed, half-fearful, and ran to carry the good news to his disciples.

Suddenly, without warning, Jesus stood before them and said, "Peace!" The women came up and embraced his feet and did him homage. At this Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid! Go and carry the news to my brothers that they are to go to Galilee, where they will see me."

As the women were returning, some of the guard went into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. They, in turn, convened with the elders and worked out their strategy, giving the soldiers a large bribe with the instructions: "You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him while we were asleep.' If any word of this gets to the procurator, we will straighten it out with him and keep you out of trouble." The soldiers pocketed the money and did as they had been instructed. This is the story that circulates among the Jews to this very day.

Commentary on Matthew 28:8-15

The women who had come to the tomb early on Sunday morning to embalm the dead body of Jesus were amazed to find the stone rolled back from the entrance and the tomb empty. Their reactions are a mixture of anxiety and joy. They are anxious that the body may have been stolen; but there is also an expectant joy. Could it be that he is alive? We may contrast that with Mark where he tells us that the women in their fear “said nothing to anyone” (Mark 16:8).

And, while still wondering what could have happened, they run to tell the “good news” (obviously they were having optimistic thoughts) to tell the disciples when they ran into Jesus who gave them the Easter greeting of “Peace!” (Shalom).

As they cling to Jesus’ feet (like Mary Magdalene in John’s gospel, they do not want to lose him again), they are told not to be afraid, an admonition that will be heard frequently during these days, but to go to the disciples and instruct them to go to Galilee where they will see Jesus.

In today’s reading, the women are to instruct the disciples that they will see him in Galilee, their own place and that is where we will expect to see him, too. Galilee is their home ground, the place where they were born, grew up and work. That is where the Risen Jesus is to be found.

He is saying the same thing to us too. We do not have to go to Jerusalem or Rome or Lourdes or Fatima to find him. If we cannot find him in the place where we live and work, we won’t find him in those other places either.

TUESDAY OF THE OCTAVE OF EASTER

Gospel    Jn 20, 11-18

Mary stood weeping beside the tomb. Even as she wept, she stooped to peer inside, and there she saw two angels in dazzling robes. One was seated at the head and the other at the foot of the place where Jesus' body had lain. "Woman," they asked her, "why are you weeping?" She answered them, "Because the Lord has been taken away, and I do not know where they have put him."

She had no sooner said this than she turned around and caught sight of Jesus standing there. But she did not know him. "Woman," he asked her, "why are you weeping? Who is it you are looking for?" She supposed he was the gardener, so she said, "Sir, if you are the one who carried him off, tell me where you have laid him and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned to him and said [in Hebrew], "Rabboni!" (meaning "Teacher"). Jesus then said: "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Rather, go to my brothers and tell them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God!"

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples. "I have seen the Lord!" she announced. Then she reported what he had said to her.

Commentary on John 20:11-18

After going off to tell Peter and the other disciples about the empty tomb, it seems that Mary of Magdala went back there to grieve over her lost friend and master. She sees two angels sitting inside the tomb and asks where her Lord has been taken. When asked why she is weeping, she replies that her Lord has been “taken away” and she does not know where he has been put.

Then, as she turns round, there is Jesus before her but she does not recognise him. This is a common experience with those who meet Jesus after the resurrection. He is the same and yet different. In this transitional period they have to learn to recognise Jesus in unexpected forms and places and situations. He asks the same question as the angels: “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” A question we need to ask ourselves constantly. Like Mary, we may say we are looking for Jesus – but which Jesus?

She thinks the person in front of her is the gardener. How often we jump to conclusions about people, about their character and personality and true identity! Maybe this man has taken Jesus away and knows where he is. It is also another lovely example of Johannine irony. First, that the one she took to be the gardener should know where Jesus was to be found. Second, it is John who tells us that the tomb of Jesus was in a garden (19:41). All the world’s pain and sorrow began with the sin of the Man and the Woman in a garden (Eden) and now new life also finds its beginnings in a garden. Mary was unwittingly right – Jesus is a Gardener, the one who produces life from the earth, and is the Word of his Father, the Gardener of Eden.

Then Jesus speaks: “Mary!” Immediately she recognises his voice, the voice of her Master. It reminds us of the passage about Jesus the Shepherd. “The sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name… the sheep follow him because they recognise his voice… I know my sheep and they know me” (John 10:3-4,15).

Immediately she turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni”. This is a more formal address than just “Rabbi” and was often used when speaking to God. In which case, Mary’s exclamation is not unlike that of Thomas in the upper room – “My Lord and my God!”

With a mixture of joy and affection and partly out of fear of losing him again, she clings on to him tightly. But Jesus tells her to let him go, because “I have not ascended to the Father”.  In John, the glorification of Jesus takes place on the cross at the moment of death. At that moment of triumph, Jesus is raised straight to the glory of the Father. In that sense, it is the glorified Jesus who now speaks with Mary not the Jesus she knew earlier. This Jesus cannot be clung to. In fact, there is no need. From now on “I am with you always.”

The Father of Jesus now becomes the Father of his disciples as they are filled with the Spirit that is both in the Father and the Son. Thus they will be re-born (John 3:5) as God’s children and can be called “brothers” by Jesus.

Mary – and all the others – have to learn that the Risen Jesus is different from the Jesus before the crucifixion. They have to let go of the earlier Jesus and learn to relate to the “new” Jesus in a very different way.

So she is told to do what every Christian is supposed to do: go and tell the other disciples that she has seen the Lord and she shares with them what he has said to her. “I have seen the Lord.” She is not just passing on a doctrine but sharing an experience. That is what we are all called to do.

It is significant that it is a woman who is the first person in John’s gospel to see and to be spoken to by the Risen Jesus. Not only that, if she is the same person mentioned by Luke as one of Jesus’ women followers (Luke 8:2), she was formerly a deeply sinful woman from whom seven demons had been driven out. Often no one is closer to God than someone who has been converted from a sinful past. We think of people like St Augustine or St Ignatius Loyola.

So Mary, who (who with Mary, Jesus’ Mother, stood by the cross of Jesus to the very end – unlike the men disciples), is now rewarded by being the first to meet him risen and glorified. She is truly a beloved disciple.

WEDNESDAY OF THE OCTAVE OF EASTER

Gospel        Lk 24, 13-35

Two of the disciples of Jesus that same day [the first day of the week] were making their way to a village named Emmaus seven miles distant from Jerusalem, discussing as they went all that had happened.

In the course of their lively exchange, Jesus approached and began to walk along with them. However, they were restrained from recognizing him. He said to them, "What are you discussing as you go your way?" They halted in distress, and one of them, Cleopas by name, asked him, "Are you the only resident of Jerusalem who does not know the things that went on there these past few days?"

He said to them, "What things?"

They said: "All those that had to do with Jesus of Nazareth, a prophet powerful in word and deed in the eyes of God and all the people; how our chief priests and leaders delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. We were hoping that he was the one who would set Israel free. Besides all this, today, the third day since these things happened, some women of our group have just brought us some astonishing news. They were at the tomb before dawn and failed to find his body, but returned with the tale that they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our number went to the tomb and found it to be just as the women said; but him they did not see."

Then he said to them, "What little sense you have! How slow you are to believe all that the prophets have announced! Did not the Messiah have to undergo all this so as to enter into his glory?" Beginning, then, with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted for them every passage of Scripture which referred to him.

By now they were near the village to which they were going, and he acted as if he were going farther. But they pressed him: "Stay with us. It is nearly evening -- the day is practically over." So he went in to stay with them. When he had seated himself with them to eat, he took bread, pronounced the blessing, then broke the bread and began to distribute it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him; whereupon he vanished from their sight. They said to one another, "Were not our hearts burning inside us as he talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?"

They got up immediately and returned to Jerusalem, where they found the Eleven and the rest of the company assembled. They were greeted with, "The Lord has been raised! It is true! He has appeared to Simon." Then they recounted what had happened on the road and how they had come to know him in the breaking of bread.

Commentary on Luke 24:13-35

One of the great passages of the New Testament. It is Easter Sunday as the passage opens. In Luke all the resurrection appearances take place in the vicinity of Jerusalem and on Easter Sunday.

It begins with two disciples on the road leaving Jerusalem. For Luke the focal point of Jesus’ mission is Jerusalem – it was the goal to which all Jesus’ public life was headed and from there the new community would bring his Message to the rest of the world.

They are on their way to a place called Emmaus, about 7 miles (11 km) from Jerusalem, whose exact location is not now known. It does not really matter and that is the point. They were on the “road” – they are pilgrims on the road of life. Jesus is the Way, the Road. The problem is that at this moment they are going in the wrong direction.

The Risen Jesus joins them as a fellow-traveller. “Something” prevents them from recognising him. What was that “something”? Their presumption that he was dead? Was it their pre-conceived idea of what Jesus should look like?

Seeing their obvious despondency and disillusionment, he asks what they are talking about. With deliciously unconscious irony they say, “You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days.”

Jesus plays them out a little more with a totally innocent-sounding, “What things?” He wants to hear their version of what happened. To them the death was the failure of Jesus’ mission. They refer to him as a “prophet” as if, after the debacle of his death, they could not see in Jesus the Messiah they had earlier acknowledged. “We were hoping  that he would be the one to set Israel free.” Again the delicious irony of their own words is lost on them. For them, freedom meant liberation from the tyranny of foreign domination and perhaps the inauguration of the Kingdom of God as they understood it.

They are puzzled also by the stories of the women describing an empty tomb and angels – but there is still no sign of Jesus. More irony! They are addressing these very words to Jesus!

Jesus then gives them a lesson in reading the Scriptures and shows them that all that happened to Jesus, including his sufferings and death, far from being a tragedy was all foreordained. Luke is the only writer to speak clearly of a suffering Messiah. The idea of a suffering Messiah is not found as such in the Old Testament. Later, the Church will see a foreshadowing of the suffering Messiah in the texts on the Suffering Servant in Isaiah.

As they reach their destination, Jesus makes as if to continue his journey. However, they extend their hospitality to the stranger.  So Jesus goes in to stay with them. Wonderful words. But it would not have happened if they had not opened their home to him. As they sat down to the meal, Jesus, the visitor unexpectedly acting as host, took the bread, said the blessing over it, broke it and gave it to them. And in that very act they recognised him. This is the Eucharist where we recognise the presence of Jesus among us in the breaking of bread. Not just in the bread, but in the breaking and sharing of the bread and in those who share the broken bread.

Then Jesus disappears. But they are still basking in the afterglow. “Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” In the light of all this experience, they turn around [conversion!] and go back along the road to Jerusalem from which they had been fleeing. There they discover their fellow-disciples excited that the Lord is risen and has appeared to Simon. And they tell their marvellous story and how “they had recognised him at the breaking of bread”.

All the ingredients of the Christian life are here.

- Running away from where Christ is to be found. We do it all the time.

- Meeting Jesus in the unexpected place or person or situation. How many times does this happen and we do not recognise him, or worse mistreat him?

- Finding the real meaning and identity of Jesus and his mission in having the Scriptures fully explained. Without the Scriptures we cannot claim to know Jesus.

- Recognising Jesus in the breaking of bread, in our celebration of the Eucharist. The breaking and sharing of the bread indicates the essentially community dimension of that celebration, making it a real comm-union with all present.

- The central experience of Scripture and Liturgy draws us to participate in the work of proclaiming the message of Christ and sharing our experience of it with others that they may also share it.

- The importance of hospitality and kindness to the stranger. “I was hungry… and you did/did not feed…” Jesus is especially present and to be found and loved in the very least of my brothers and sisters.

THURSDAY OF THE OCTAVE OF EASTER

Gospel        Lk 24, 35-48

The disciples recounted what had happened on the road to Emmaus and how they had come to know Jesus in the breaking of bread. While they were still speaking about all this, Jesus himself stood in their midst [and said to them, "Peace to you."] In their panic and fright they thought they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, "Why are you disturbed? Why do such ideas cross your mind? Look at my hands and my feet; it is really I. Touch me, and see that a ghost does not have flesh and bones as I do." [As he said this he showed them his hands and feet.]

They were still incredulous for sheer joy and wonder, so he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of cooked fish, which he took and ate in their presence.

Then he said to them, "Recall those words I spoke to you when I was still with you: everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and psalms had to be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to the understanding of the Scriptures.

He said to them: "Thus it is written that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. In his name, penance for the remission of sins is to be preached to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of all this."

Commentary on Luke 24:35-48

Our gospel for today is a continuation of the Emmaus from yesterday. After Jesus had revealed himself to the Emmaus disciples they decide to return to Jerusalem to tell the Church the Good News  Our gospel begins with them telling their story of how He was revealed to them in the “breaking of the bread”. The Church already knows of the resurrection because Jesus had appeared to Simon Peter. We are not told of that appearance.

Suddenly Jesus himself appears in their midst. The fact that he comes suddenly, although the doors were locked, indicates that his presence is now of a different kind.

He wishes them peace. It is the ordinary Jewish greeting of ‘Shalom’ but one which has special meaning in this Easter context. Before his Passion Jesus had told his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Not as the world do I give it to you…” (John 14:27). The peace of the Risen Jesus is fully of messianic blessings.

In spite of what they had heard, they are terrified and think they are seeing a ghost. “What are you afraid of?” Jesus asks them. He shows them his pierced hands and feet. The Greeks mocked at the idea of bodily resurrection but Luke emphasises the physical reality of Christ’s risen body, that is, the wholeness of the person of the risen Jesus.

He invites them to come and touch him. Ghosts do not have flesh and bones. As he shows them the wounds in his hands and feet their fear turns to a mixture of joy and utter astonishment. They can’t believe their eyes. Jesus has to ask them to give him something to eat. Ghosts don’t eat and Jesus is no ghost, he is no disembodied soul. There is also an emphasis that death is not an escape from the body but that the whole person goes into the next life.

Jesus then goes on to explain, as he did with the Emmaus disciples, how all that had happened to him was fully in harmony with and the fulfilment of the Law, the prophets and psalms. Mentioning the three constituent parts of the Old Testament Jesus indicates that the Messiah was foretold through the whole of the Hebrew scriptures.

And out of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection comes the mission to proclaim reconciliation with God through Jesus to the whole word. “You are witnesses to this.” It is their mission to carry on the establishment of the Kingdom throughout the world. Or, as it is put here, “that repentance, for the forgiveness of sin, would be preached in the [Messiah's] name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem”.

This passage in conjunction with the story of the road to Emmaus answers one of the most basic questions concerning Easter:   “How do we come to Easter faith?”  Easter faith is a gift from the Risen Lord. He has to “open our minds” for us to come to Easter faith. We do not come to Easter Faith on our own, but through the grace of Christ. We also see that He gives us the gift of Easter Faith through the sacred scriptures. In both this gospel passage, and in the previous passage of the disciples on the road to Emmaus,  the scriptures played such a central role in their coming to Easter Faith: To be an Easter people is to be a people of the Word for it is through the Word that we are given the gift of Easter Faith. Finally, the Emmaus disciples came to Easter faith not just by the Risen Lord breaking open the Scriptures for them, but also “in the breaking of the Bread” which is a clear reference to the Eucharist.

How do we  grow in Easter Faith? We grow in Easter faith through the Mass for in the Mass we break open the Word and we “break the bread”.

FRIDAY OF THE OCTAVE OF EASTER

Gospel        Jn 21, 1-14

Jesus showed himself to the disciples [once again] at the Sea of Tiberias. This is how the appearance took place. Assembled were Simon Peter, Thomas ("the Twin"), Nathanael (from Cana in Galilee), Zebedeés sons, and two other disciples. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going out to fish." "We will join you," they replied, and went off to get into their boat. All through the night they caught nothing. Just after daybreak Jesus was standing on the shore, though none of the disciples knew it was Jesus. He said to them, "Children, have you caught anything to eat?" "Not a thing," they answered. "Cast your net off to the starboard side," he suggested, "and you will find something." So they made a cast, and took so many fish that they could not haul the net in. Then the disciple Jesus loved cried out to Peter, "It is the Lord!" On hearing it was the Lord, Simon Peter threw on some clothes -- he was stripped -- and jumped into the water.

Meanwhile the other disciples came in the boat, towing the net full of fish. Actually they were not far from land -- no more than a hundred yards.

When they landed, they saw a charcoal fire there with a fish laid on it and some bread. "Bring some of the fish you just caught," Jesus told them. Simon Peter went aboard and hauled ashore the net loaded with sizable fish -- one hundred fifty-three of them! In spite of the great number, the net was not torn. "Come and eat your meal," Jesus told them. Not one of the disciples presumed to inquire "Who are you?" for they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came over, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This marked the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after being raised from the dead.

Commentary on John 21:1-14

Today we have a resurrection story which is unique to John. Like most of John’s accounts, it is a story full of symbolism.

We see a group of disciples, seven altogether, seemingly at a loose end with nothing to do. Peter, the leader, decides to make a move. “I’m going fishing.” It is what he knows best. The others go along with him. Is there an implication that the great enterprise that Jesus began is over and they return to their old way of living?

After a whole night on the lake they get nothing.   Is there also an echo of words spoken at the Last Supper, “without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)?

As the light of dawn breaks Jesus is standing on the shore but, as usually happens in these post-resurrection scenes, they do not recognise him. He asks the question fishermen do not like to be asked, “Have you caught anything?” Reluctantly they have to admit, No. He then gives them some suggestions. On a natural level, it is possible he could see a movement of fish that was not visible from the boat but the real meaning is deeper. He will lead the fish to them as he will lead people to them later on.

After following Jesus’ instructions, they make a huge haul of fish, so many that they cannot be brought into the boat. The exact number is given: 153. Is that an actual memory or is there a special symbolism in the number? The main point, however, is to emphasise God’s generosity. It was a large catch.

And the net was not broken. The net itself is, as in other texts, a symbol of the Kingdom of God. This is all clearly a parable, a symbol of their future work as fishers of people, a work whose success will originate in the power of Jesus behind them and in their following what he tells them to do.A similar incident had happened during Jesus’ earthly life and the “disciple Jesus loved” immediately saw the connection. He is the one with deeper insight into the presence and the ways of his Master. “It is the Lord!” he exclaims.

But if the “other disciple” was the one Jesus loved, it was Peter who was the one who loved Jesus. And it is Peter, the impetuous one, who reacts first. He was not wearing any clothes* so he throws something around himself and jumps into the water to get to Jesus, leaving the others to bring the boat and fish to the shore. Such is his anxiety to be close to his Lord.

On the shore they find that Jesus has lit a fire. There is bread and some fish cooking. (Where did these fish come from? It is the kind of question we do not need to ask when reading a symbol-full passage like this.) “Bring the fish you have just caught.”

In response to the command, it is Peter, the leader – now and in the future, who alone brings in the huge catch from the boat by the water’s edge. Peter alone dragging the net in is an image of the Kingdom coming (compare the parable in Matt 13:47ff). It also signifies the special position of Peter in the mission of the Apostles. Just now the whole group together could not haul the net into the boat.

Jesus then invites them to come and eat with him the meal he has prepared for them. Here, too, there are eucharistic overtones. Now as they stand close to the friendly stranger, no one dares to ask “Who are you?” because they know quite well it is the Lord, the risen Jesus. Again we are being taught to find the presence of the Lord in all those who are kind to us, who do good to us in any way and especially in those who share the eucharistic meal with us. Just as we are called to be Jesus to everyone that we encounter.

His identity in a way is now confirmed by his taking the bread and the fish and giving it to them to eat. He broke bread, he celebrated a Eucharist with them.

We have here then some central pillars of our faith:

- recognising Christ in the kindly stranger and playing that role ourselves;

- expressing our love and solidarity with each other through our celebration of the Eucharist and breaking bread together;

- working with the power of Jesus to fill the net that is the Kingdom, becoming truly fishers of people.

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