Empty Tombs.

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If I close my eyes, I can clearly see the mausoleum where my mom is buried. No matter what time of year it is, I always see it as summer. Her tomb is on the outside of the building facing a large open field and a small wood and creek beyond. The face of her tomb is a beautiful marble or some other stone. 

My dad always does a good job keeping a small floral arrangement that matches the season in the flower vase that sits on the front of her tomb. Of course when I imagine it, it is always the same floral arrangement. In my mind’s eye, it is the one we placed on her tomb the day we placed her remains inside. I would say that I will always see those same flowers on my mothers tomb, but I don’t believe that. 

What I do believe is that there will come a time when those flowers will no longer be necessary. There will come a time when the nameplate on the front of the tomb will be inaccurate. There will come a time when my mom no longer lays in that tomb. I believe Jesus Christ will raise my mom from the dead. I believe at sometime in the future her tomb will be empty just like Jesus’ tomb. 

We are getting ready to celebrate Easter this Sunday when we stand and proclaim that death is not the end. On Easter we ardently proclaim from the rooftops that Jesus has risen from the dead and death is conquered. Mary of Magdala and the Disciples found an empty tomb, and in short order they are going to find a resurrected Lord. Alleluia! 

But the good news doesn’t end there. Yes, Jesus’ tomb was and is empty. Jesus is raised from the dead. Scripture tells us that he is just the first of those who will be raised. Jesus’ death and resurrection means that when we die, we too will be raised. Praise be to God!

St. Paul says it like this in 1 Corinthians, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ…”

Yes I when I close my eyes, I can see how my mom’s tomb is today. When Jesus comes again, her tomb will be empty just as all of ours will be by the grace of God. 

Live It: On Easter Sunday go outside and say out loud (shout, if you dare), “Alleluia! The tomb is empty! Jesus is risen! Alleluia!” 

Sunday Readings for April 12th, 2020.

I’m so scared.

April 15th Sunday Readings.

 

denny-muller-534079-unsplashAre you the kind of person who is startled easily? I wish I could say no, but I’d be lying. A number of years ago, a friend of mine hid in a darkened closet to scare me. I opened the door, he harmlessly jumped out from behind a rack of chairs and barely uttered “boo” before I started screaming uncontrollably. I threw the music stand I was holding at him and nearly dropped by lap top. I was terrified. No real injury except for my dignity. 

In the gospel the resurrected Jesus comes into the presence of the disciples, and scripture says they were startled and terrified and thought they had seen a ghost. This was after Peter returned from the tomb, and after the two disciples on the road to Emmaus had recounted their experiences of the risen Jesus. 

Jesus goes on to inquire as to why they are so afraid. He even goes so far as to ask for something to eat. This thing before them isn’t a ghost, but Jesus, their friend, raised from the dead. Yet the disciples who saw all of Jesus miracles, were still shocked by his resurrection. 

How would you react if you encountered the resurrected Jesus? Would you be scared, startled, and spooked? I think how we react to Jesus the living God is directly related to who we think Jesus is and what we expect him to do.

If Jesus is just a good man and a good teacher, then seeing him appear after his death would be a frightening thing. If what we expected out of Jesus is that he would conquer the Romans, then we might just be terrified if he showed up after having been killed by the Romans. If Jesus is only our judge, then we might be a little worried when he appears. 

However, if we really believe that Jesus is God and if we believe that Jesus’ purpose was to conquer death and restore humanity’s relationship with God, then I don’t think we will be too worried about encountering the risen Jesus. If Jesus is on our side, and wants us to go to heaven even more than we do, then having him appear in our midst should be a relief for us. 

The other thing is this; as humans, we have a natural suspicion of strangers. If we were out to dinner with our family and some stranger sat down at our table, then we would probably be scared or at least a little on edge. Is Jesus a stranger for you? I don’t mean do you know who he is – of course you do. But do you know Jesus, personally? If really, truly encountering Jesus would be shocking and terrifying, I think it’s time to think about whether you know Jesus and why you think he wants to be near to you. 

Live It:
Invite Jesus into life. Whether it is at the end of the night before you go to bed or in the middle of Mass on Sunday, say a little prayer inviting Jesus into your heart and into your life. That way Jesus won’t be a stranger.

Thunder Stolen.

April 30th Sunday Readings.

Have you ever had someone steal your thunder? It happens when you have something CCPYfEmUkAA8PBr.jpggood or amazing to share and then someone else steps in first with their news or follows your story with an even better story. Nobody likes getting their thunder stolen, but it is just part of life. In the gospel Sunday we have maybe the worst stolen thunder moment of all time.

The Sunday after Jesus dies on the cross on Friday, two of his disciples are leaving Jerusalem to return to their home in the town of Emmaus. On the way they meet a stranger who opens scripture for them and explains Jesus’ death and resurrection. When the disciples arrive at their home, they invite the stranger in for dinner. When he blesses and breaks bread, their eyes are opened, they realize he is Jesus, and then he vanishes. The two disciples encountered the resurrected Jesus Christ. Wow.

So amazed by their experience, they immediately leave Emmaus and head back to Jerusalem to tell their fellow disciples that Jesus has risen from the dead. I can only imagine their excitement with each step towards their friends. If it was me, I would have rehearsed what I was going to say to everyone. It would start like this, “You guys are never going to believe this and you probably want to sit down, because this is going to blow your mind…”

Then imagine walking in and before you can even start your friends blurt out, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Scripture doesn’t record what they immediately said next or what they were thinking, but my best guesses are, “Well, good for you!” or “Us too! Meh.”

What scripture does say is that the two recounted what had taken place along the way and how they encountered Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Even if this may look like the most epic stolen thunder moment in all human history, in reality, the two share in the joy of their friends and fellow disciples in realizing that though Jesus died, he lives. The news of encountering Jesus overcomes any and all human jealousy or hurt in this moment.

With news this good, there is no stolen thunder or one-upping the other, simply shared joy.

Yet, most of the time we are scare or intimidated to share when we’ve had a close moment with Jesus. “What will people think?” But the reality is that if the person you are sharing your experience with knows Jesus too, or if they really love you well, they won’t be upset or jealous or feel badly, they will share your joy.

In this Easter season, we need to share our joy more often. We need to be over joyed when someone shares good news with us. There is no such thing as stolen thunder with news this good.

LIVE IT:
Think of the person who loves you the most. Got it? Now make a plan to do one of two things: 1) tell them about how you encountered Jesus this Lent/Easter, or 2) ask them how they encountered Jesus this Lent/Easter. Then rejoice because Jesus lives!

The Good Word for April 19th

Firstflight_webFor the complete Sunday readings, click here.

Can you imagine what it must have been like to see the first airplane fly? We’ve become so accustomed to the idea of powered human flight that we don’t bat an eye about hopping on a metal tube and hopping off 1300 miles away. Most of us probably worry more about going through security at the airport than whether this 735,000 lbs beast of a machine is actually going to lift off.

Can you imagine being one of the witnesses at Kitty Hawk, NC while the Wright brothers flew for the first time? I bet someone said, “If I hadn’t been there and seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it was real.” The Wright brothers short flight opened up a new way to travel for everyone, forever. Only 66 short years later, a human being walked on the moon. The first powered flight was 120 feet; less than a century later we traveled 238,900 miles to the moon. Amazing.

In our gospel, we hear about the disciples witnessing the resurrection of Jesus Christ. At first they are so overwhelmed they don’t believe it. Their friend and leader whom they watched die and be buried, suddenly stood before them. They had seen Jesus raise others from the dead during his ministry, but this was different and they knew it.

It was so inconceivable that a dead man was alive, they couldn’t believe it until Jesus invited them to touch him and then he ate. He wasn’t some ghost, but was alive again.

Jesus was the first to rise from the dead, to live in his resurrected body. By Jesus’ death and resurrection, he completed changed human existence. When Jesus rises, he forever transforms what it means to die. Jesus conquers death for everyone, forever. And the disciples are there to witness it firsthand.

The question for you and me is – Do you believe it? Do you believe this really happened? Do you believe Jesus rose from the dead and conquered death forever?

I can tell you the disciples certainly believed it; they knew it was real. Most of them spent their whole lives telling others about it and were killed because of what they taught.

So, do you believe it is real? And if you do, what does it mean for you life? If Jesus really did change everything, what changes in us?

Live It:
Mark 9:24 has a simple prayer prayed by a dad who desperately needed to believe that Jesus could change everything forever. Say this prayer this weekend; look for how Jesus is real in your life.

“I do believe, help my unbelief!”

The Good Word for April 12th

For the complete Sunday readings, click here.kvefr1374s

When I was 21 years old, I went to Christmas Midnight Mass in Notre Dame Cathedral in Parish. Needless to say it was pretty amazing – beautiful liturgy in one of the grand churches in our faith. But I almost didn’t make it inside the building. While we were waiting in line, the police announced in multiple languages that the church was full and there would be no more room. Many people left. But my friends and I stuck around and sure enough in about 15 minutes they opened up the doors and we were allowed in.

“Good things come to those who wait,” is a classic piece of sage wisdom. We see this in our gospel this Sunday. Jesus appears to the disciples, but Thomas is absent. When Thomas returns he doubts his friends in a grand speech. The next line starts like this, “Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them.” If your friends started saying that they spoke to your executed and buried leader, would you stick around for a week? Would you remain with them?

Even though Thomas doubts what his fellow disciples were saying, he still sticks around. Even though he doubted their witness and questioned the resurrection, Thomas stays with the group until Jesus returns.

And how is he rewarded for staying with the other disciples and remaining in the community? He meets the resurrected Jesus Christ face to face. Thomas’ response to this encounter is to affirm that the risen Jesus is his, “Lord and God.”

What do we learn from Thomas and his story? If we are doubting or questioning our faith, if it is hard for us to believe the witness of our friends or understand the confident faith of others at church, our best response is to stick around. Even when we aren’t “getting anything out of church,” or finding it hard to believe, if we are willing to wait, God will make himself known and meet us in our unbelief. Then, after meeting the risen Lord face to face, we too can say that Jesus is our Lord and God.

Live It:
Give God 2 more minutes. Either at the end of your prayer time or after Mass this weekend, sit back down and close your eyes and pray for just 2 more minutes asking God to be with you the following week. Invite your family to do this as well; you might be surprised by Jesus.