Tag Archives: 2019-04

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord

First Reading
Acts of the Apostles 10:34a,37-43
Peter preaches about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 118:1-2,16-17,22-23
Rejoice in this day of the Lord.

Second Reading
Colossians 3:1-4 or 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8
Colossians: Having been raised by Christ, be concerned with what is above.
1 Corinthians: Let us celebrate this feast with new yeast.

Gospel Reading
John 20:1-9
Mary of Magdala finds that the stone has been removed from Jesus’ tomb.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today we begin the Easter Season, our 50-day meditation on the mystery of Christ’s Resurrection. Our Gospel today tells us about the disciples’ discovery of the empty tomb. It concludes by telling us that they did not yet understand that Jesus had risen from the dead. Thus, the details provided are not necessarily meant to offer proof of the Resurrection. The details invite us to reflect upon a most amazing gift, that is faith in Jesus and his Resurrection.

Each of the four Gospels tells us that Jesus’ empty tomb was first discovered by women. This is notable because in first-century Jewish society women could not serve as legal witnesses. In the case of John’s Gospel, the only woman attending the tomb is Mary of Magdala. Unlike the Synoptic accounts, John’s Gospel does not describe an appearance of angels at the tomb. Instead, Mary is simply said to have observed that the stone that had sealed the tomb had been moved, and she runs to alert Simon Peter and the beloved disciple. Her statement to them is telling. She assumes that Jesus’ body has been removed, perhaps stolen. She does not consider that Jesus has been raised from the dead.

Simon Peter and the beloved disciple race to the tomb, presumably to verify Mary’s report. The beloved disciple arrives first but does not enter the tomb until after Simon Peter. This detail paints a vivid picture, as does the detail provided about the burial cloths. Some scholars believe that the presence of the burial cloths in the tomb offers evidence to the listener that Jesus’ body had not been stolen (it is understood that grave robbers would have taken the burial cloths together with the body).

The Gospel passage concludes, however, that even having seen the empty tomb and the burial cloths, the disciples do not yet understand about the Resurrection. In the passage that follows, Mary of Magdala meets Jesus but mistakes him for the gardener. In the weeks ahead, the Gospel readings from our liturgy will show us how the disciples came to believe in Jesus’ Resurrection through his appearances to them. 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.-loyolapress.com

Archbishop John Wong’s Message for Easter 2019

The encounter with True Love is in the silence

AS the Universal Church rejoices at the Resurrection of Jesus Christ our Savior, let us together proclaim “The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!”

It is in this Rising from the dead that has given significance to the birth and death of Christ. The world experiences births and deaths every day and many a time, these experiences give and take away hope and joy respectively. Yet, it is in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ that has set the foundation to true Hope, true Joy because we are promised with Eternal Life.

When I reflected on the accounts of the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, I could not still fully describe and comprehend the immensity and intensity of the Love that is given so generously to us. “It is proof of God’s own love for us, that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5: 8) It is not just any love that the world is promoting and living by today. This Love gives of Himself (1 John 4: 8) fully and freely, even unto death. It is called the Sacrificial Love, one that is given willingly for the good and life of the others. Yet, through my own experience, I believe anyone who has truly encountered this Love could not ever resist it. Moreover, this Love would draw one to be committed to lead a life transformed in the way of Christ.

With the signs of times and urgent issues the Church and the World are facing, we see clearly that the love of the world centers on the interest of the “I”. During the season of Lent, I was very moved when the psalmist said “Save me in your Love, O Lord” (Psalm 31:16). It has drawn me into a deeper contemplation of what this Love means and how it could save. It has convicted me more and more that the only remedy to these issues could only be countered purely from the decision of each person to will the good of the other person, just as Jesus Christ has chosen to lay down His own life for our salvation (John 10:18).

Brothers and sisters in Christ, to be the channel of love, we are to first encounter Love Himself. For me, the encounter of this Love lies in the empty tomb. The tomb, to many of us, may signify darkness, sorrow, despair and death. Yet, J.R.R. Tolkein once wrote a profound quote,  “Christian joy produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love.”

Likewise, I see this truth in the empty tomb. It is at dusk that the first sunlight will break through darkness. It is in the darkness of defeat, sorrow, despair and death, Jesus meets us there. As St Paul the Apostle wrote to the Ephesians (4: 8-10) “He went up to the heights, took captives, he gave gifts to humanity.” When it says, ‘he went up’, it must mean that he had gone down to the deepest levels of the earth. The one who went down is none other than the one who went up the heavens to fill all things. Jesus has Himself entered into this pit and won victoriously! Hence, we could proclaim “Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15: 55). Love Himself has conquered death!

Today, Jesus continues to meet us where we are, with the same Passion for our Salvation. It takes only our openness to respond with a ‘Yes” to reach out to His Hands which has been extended waiting for ours decision to want to be saved. This is where we will experience the power of love through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It brings us true Joy, true Hope and Eternal Life.

In order for us to encounter this True Love, I strongly urge us to “Listen”. Only when we choose to stop, be still and listen, we would encounter True Love Himself, for He is found in the silence.

Two very practical steps to listen are: (1) to soak ourselves in the Word of God, and (2) to frequent ourselves to the Sacraments, especially the Sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation.

The Word of God is filled with God’s Truth and His covenant Love for us. He wants to speak Love to us. Moreover, He wants to show us His tangible Love through the Sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation. When we avail ourselves to these Sacraments, it is in fact God initiating to give, reassure and restore us to fullness. He knows all that we are, but He remains faithful to love us totally.

Brothers and sisters, as we celebrate the victory of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, let us also give our honour to our Most Holy Mother of God, Mary. She was present all through the life of Jesus, convicted by the life that they walked through together, that Jesus is the Messiah the whole nation of Israel has been waiting for. She remained standing even at the foot of the Cross, trusting that God’s Will is fulfilled. She encountered Love, carried Love and lived with Love.  Therefore, let us continue to ask for her kind intercession that we, too, will encounter this Abounding Love that can be found in Jesus Christ Alone. Carry this love, live and share it to all.

We are redeemed children of an ever-abundant Father! Be Courageous! Let Love reach you, touch you and motivate you to go forward. Have a Blessed Easter!

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, Cycle C

Gospel at the Procession with Palms
Luke 19:28-40
Jesus sends his disciples for a colt and then rides into Jerusalem.

First Reading
Isaiah 50:4-7
The Lord’s Servant will stand firm, even when persecuted.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 22:8-9,17-20,23-24
A cry for help to the Lord in the face of evildoers.

Second Reading
Philippians 2:6-11
Christ was obedient even to death, but God has exalted him.

Gospel Reading
Luke 22:14—23:56 (shorter form: Luke 23:1-49)
From the cross, Jesus speaks words of forgiveness and promises that the good thief will be with him in paradise.

Background on the Gospel Reading

This Sunday, called Palm or Passion Sunday, is the first day of Holy Week. Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday are called the Triduum, three days that are the highlight of the Church year. There are two Gospels proclaimed at today’s Mass. The first Gospel, proclaimed before the procession with palms, tells of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. Riding on a borrowed colt, Jesus was hailed by the crowds as they shouted blessings and praise to God. This event is reported in each of the four Gospels.

Luke’s Gospel is the only one to report the exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees as Jesus enters Jerusalem. Jesus’ response shows that this event, and those yet to come, are part of a divine plan. We hear this echoed again in Luke’s description of the Last Supper when Jesus speaks of Judas’ betrayal, saying that the Son of Man “goes as has been determined.”

At the Liturgy of the Word on this Sunday, the events of Jesus’ passion are proclaimed in their entirety. In Lectionary Cycle C, we read the passion of Jesus as found in the Gospel of Luke. We will hear these events proclaimed again during the Triduum when we read the passion of Jesus from the Gospel of John.

Throughout Luke’s Gospel we see that Jesus’ words and actions proclaim the Kingdom of God. This motif continues throughout Luke’s passion narrative. Jesus appears to be in total command of events at the Passover meal as he hands over the kingdom to his disciples. He welcomes them to the Passover meal announcing that this will be his last until the Kingdom of God is fulfilled.

As throughout Luke’s Gospel, however, the disciples show little understanding of this kingdom that Jesus often announces. Following the meal, the disciples argue about who is the greatest. Jesus takes the opportunity to distinguish the meaning of leadership in the Kingdom of God from the forms of leadership seen in the world.

Jesus initiates a conversation with Simon and predicts his denial. Jesus then instructs his disciples to prepare themselves for the events that will follow. His words reveal an awareness of the challenges that all of them will face in the days ahead. As the disciples and Jesus enter the Mount of Olives, Jesus indicates the importance of the disciples’ time in prayer, telling them that through prayer they will be able to face the challenges ahead.

As he prays, Jesus is tested. In the garden, an angel is sent to strengthen him and to prepare him for the events ahead. After this moment, Jesus is again in charge of the events and circumstances.

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is portrayed as active and vocal throughout his passion. When one of the disciples strikes the high priest’s servant, Jesus heals the man, an event reported only in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus stops the disciples’ protest against his arrest by noting that this is the “time for the power of darkness.” Jesus engages and responds when brought before the Sanhedrin; his words speak about the “power of God” that will bring about the reign of the Son of Man. When questioned by Pilate, Jesus responds with just one phrase; yet before Herod, Jesus refuses to speak.

When Luke describes the Way of the Cross and Jesus’ crucifixion, he calls to our attention many events that are not reported in the other Gospels. Throughout his Gospel, Luke has paid heed to the women who accompanied Jesus. Now, on the road to Calvary, Jesus speaks to the women who walk with him. Only Luke reports Jesus’ words of forgiveness spoken from the cross. And only Luke reports the dialogue between Jesus and the good thief. Finally, in contrast with the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, Luke reports no words of abandonment spoken by Jesus on the cross. Instead, Jesus, in full command until his death, commends his spirit to his Father and takes his final breath.

Throughout Holy Week, we will continue to reflect on the events of Jesus’ passion and death. As we meditate on the cross, we ask again and anew what it means to make the statement of faith that Jesus, in his obedient suffering and dying, revealed himself to us as God’s Son and brought to fulfillment the Kingdom of God.-loyolapress.com

Fifth Sunday of Lent, Cycle C

First Reading
Isaiah 43:16-21
The Lord is doing something new for his people.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 126:1-6
A song in praise of the Lord’s marvelous deeds

Second Reading
Philippians 3:8-14
Paul says that he counts all things as lost and focuses on one goal, Christ.

Gospel Reading
John 8:1-11
Jesus does not condemn the woman caught in adultery.

Background on the Gospel Reading

The Gospel for the fifth Sunday of Lent continues to offer lessons about God’s mercy and forgiveness. Last Sunday we heard the Parable of the Prodigal Son from the Gospel of Luke. Today we hear not a parable, but the report from John’s Gospel of an encounter among Jesus, the scribes and Pharisees, and a woman caught in adultery.

In John’s Gospel, the conflict between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees occurs much earlier than in the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem is reported at the beginning of John’s Gospel. Even after this event, Jesus continues to teach in the Temple. After returning to Galilee for a time, Jesus again enters Jerusalem and cures a man on the Sabbath. From this point forward in John’s Gospel, the Pharisees are described as making plans for Jesus’ arrest and seeking his death.

In the chapter preceding today’s Gospel, Jesus was teaching in the Temple area. Feeling threatened by his teaching and his actions, the chief priests and the Pharisees are already sending guards to arrest Jesus. The guards return, however, without arresting Jesus because they have been impressed by his words. Even more than this, some among the crowds are considering the possibility that Jesus is the Messiah. The chief priests and the Pharisees change their plan. Before making an arrest, they seek to gather more evidence against Jesus by posing a question intended to trap Jesus.

Today’s Gospel begins by reporting that Jesus is again teaching the crowds in the vicinity of the Temple. The scribes and the Pharisees approach Jesus, bringing a woman who has been caught in the act of adultery. They put to Jesus the question of what ought to be done in this case.

The Pharisees state clearly that according to the Law of Moses, those caught in the act of adultery were to be stoned to death. Under Roman occupation, however, the Jewish people did not have the authority to execute people; this is cited in John’s passion narrative. To answer the Pharisees’ question, Jesus must propose an action that will be either contrary to the Law of Moses or contrary to Roman law. The purpose of the question appears to be similar to the question about paying taxes found in Mark 12:13-17. Either answer, yes or no, will support the Pharisees’ case against Jesus.

Jesus avoids the trap, however, by offering an answer that was not anticipated by those who posed the question. Jesus, after writing on the ground with his finger, addresses those who stand before him and suggests that the one without sin cast the first stone. Jesus then returns to his writing. This Scripture reading, by the way, is the only evidence we have of Jesus writing. Yet there are no specific details about what he wrote.

We can easily imagine the scene as the Pharisees and the elders disperse, one by one. Jesus has eluded the trap they had prepared. We might also give credit to the elders and the Pharisees who do not, in the end, claim to be sinless and worthy of passing judgment. These Pharisees are not as self-righteous as the portrait found in the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector (See Luke 18:9-14).

Left alone with the woman, Jesus asks where the accusers have gone. With no one remaining to condemn the woman, Jesus (the one who truly is without sin) sends the woman on her way, refusing to pass judgment on her and exhorting her to avoid future sin.

Jesus’ response to those who accuse the woman is more than a caution to us about making judgment of others. It is a profound lesson in divine mercy and forgiveness. As sinners, we are all unworthy to judge the sins of others and we would stand convicted by God for our transgressions. Yet Jesus, the one without sin and thus our judge, offers us who are sinners his mercy and forgiveness. Redeemed by Jesus’ compassion, we are sent to sin no more and to live in God’s love and peace.- loyolapress.com

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