4th Sunday of Easter

Acts 4: 8-12 ;  1 Jn 3: 1-2 ;  Jn 10: 11-18

There is the story of a particular census taker who went to a poor home in the mountains of West Virginia to gather information. He asked the mother how many children she had. The woman began, "Well, there is Rosie, and Billy, and Lewella, Susie, Harry, and Jeffrey. There's Johnny, and Harvey, and our dog, Willie. The census taker interrupted her aid said:

3rd Sunday of Easter

 Acts 3: 13-15, 17-19;  1 Jn 2: 1-5 ; Lk 24: 35-48

There is a beautiful story concerning the love of Paul Tournier, one of the world's most beloved and respected Christian doctors, for his wife Nelly. Nelly used to talk about death after her first serious bout with coronary thrombosis while they were in Greece. She knew how gravely ill she was and that a second attack could leave her severely handicapped or could even be fatal. On the last day she said to him,

2nd Sunday of Easter

After the death of Jesus, for fear of the Jews the Apostles confined themselves to a closed room. They received the news of the resurrection of Jesus from many sources.  He  was seen by the women who visited the tomb. Peter saw the empty tomb. He appeared to the apostles themselves. But these testimonies did not give them  enough courage to come out and


Alexander  the great  went to Corinth, to see the great philosopher, Digenese of Sinope.  Alexander  was thrilled to meet  him. He wished to do him some favour. But Diogenes replied, "Give me a little of immortality."

Dear brothers and sisters man's search for immortality is as  old as man himself. In the Biblical accounts of creation we read that the serpent tempted Eve with the promise that if she  ate the fruit she would become like God.  And Eve could not resist that  offer. She disobeyed God's command with the desire to become like God.

The Epic poem from Mesopotamia, "Epic of Gilgamesh" describes the attempts of Gilgamesh to learn the secret of eternal life. He under took long and perilous journey to find the secrets of immortality. Finally he was told, "Gilgamesh, what you  seek, you will never find."

So it was concluded that  human  life comes to an end with death. Therefore it is  engraved on the tombstones, "Here lies Caesar" "Here lies David", "Here lies John".

But there is one  tomb in the world that is empty, and the tomb stone does not  bear  any engraving on it. That is the tomb lent to Jesus by Joseph of Aramathea. The occupant of the tomb has  overcome death and came to life again.

At dawn, when the women reached the tomb of Jesus two men stood by them in  flashing raiment and asked them "Why look among the dead for someone who is alive?"

The angels conveyed to them that Jesus has risen from the dead. And he no more to be searched among the  dead.

Shakespeare is dust, and will not come
To question from  his Avon tomb,
And Socrates and Shelley keep
An Attic and Italian Sleep,
They see not. But O Christians
May you not meet in spite of death,
A traveler from Nazareth?

The  accounts of Jesus' resurrection enkindled the spirit of Peter. Only Peter went out to experience it by himself. The story of his denial of his Master was not a thing that could  be kept silent; and yet he had the courage to face those who knew his shame.  He ran to the tomb. He bent down and saw the binding cloths. He went back  home amazed.  Peter realized the messianic prophecies and  the teachings of Jesus.
The Psalmist says, "For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell: neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Ps. 16:10). In other words, though the Messiah had been buried, He would be resurrected according to the appointed time of God.  He would not be in burial forever but rather He was there to fulfill the Scriptures concerning His death. He must be resurrected from the dead to prove that the power of death could not overpower Him.
During the ministry  Jesus  did frequently inform His disciples about His death and resurrection. In fact Jesus made the comparison between His resurrection and the life of Jonah in the belly of the fish, similarly the Son of Man would be resurrected from the dead after three days (Matt 12:40).
Peter began to realize  the relation between these teachings and the reality of resurrection. Peter is now  confident of his faith. His sermon bears adequate  testimony to that fact. Peter declared, "You killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witness."
The words, "Jesus is alive!" were enough to  create a  great spiritual hunger in the disciples where emptiness existed because of his death. May these worlds  wipe out the darkness in us and enkindle our spirits.


Good Friday

Evil can never be conquered by evil; but only by goodness, violence by non-violence; and hatred by  love for the enemy. That is the message of  Good Friday.
French Revolution broke out  with the noble aim of   freedom to all and establishing  universal brotherhood. But the   means used  was annihilating the opponents. It caused  untold  misery, blood shed, violence and hatred.  Russian revolution broke out to  wipe out the evils existed in the Tsar empire, again the means  used was one that of violence. And violence gave  rise to more violence.

But centuries ago Jesus has  shown that  the only means to overcome evil is  goodness. Today's first reading  from  Isaiah describes Jesus' passion. It  highlights  the suffering and that it was for our sins Jesus suffered.

The crowds were appalled on  seeing him
So disfigured did he look
That he seemed no longer human….

When Jesus  came out after long hours of trial, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said, "Here is the man".

Here is the man!  A great proclamation made by Pilate.  It matches with the  prophecy of Isaiah centuries ago. The  prophecy of Isaiah about the son of man who would deliver the world, who would lead the estranged  humanity  back to God the father; who would open the  shut doors  of paradise to the children of Adam,  and who would heal the  wounds created by  sin, is being realized in the  person of Jesus. And the words of Pilate points to this man, on whom the Jews placed their  hope as the savior, on whom the common people look on as their liberator, on  whom the  weak look on as their strength, on whom the sick looked on as their  healing power.

He stands  in front of them with a  crown of thorns, clad in a  scarlet robe.

The crown represented  honour and power. Kings and emperors appeared in public wearing the crown.  The crown of thorn placed on the  head of Jesus had  great  symbolic meaning. The power and glory Jesus' offers to his followers have to be obtained  only  by accepting  sufferings. The disciples have  imbibed the spirit of Jesus Message. So they were ready to  accept  anything in their life to  bear  testimony to their master.

How do we react  to the  suffering of Jesus? We are moved to sorrow for our sins. But what Jesus wants of us is to sustain the feeling of Good Friday. The sympathy we experience today, the regret that  comes  to us today, the resolutions that we make today should be  adhered to. Then  we will be  invited to share  his glory, as he promised the good thief on his side, "You will be with me in paradise today." Amen


Holy Thursday

Many people desired to leave behind  them a  concrete  symbol for the posterity to remember them. The Pharaohs of Egypt had thus built  the great pyramids of Egypt. It stands  high, embraced by the heavenly clouds, still bearing witness to  the  memories of  Pharaohnic rule. Former President of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, figured his great face on a mountain between the cities of Pujo and Baguio. But on  30 December, 2002  the visage was blown to pieces.

Jesus  left behind him not a perishable  monument, but his  very real presence  in the  institution of the Eucharist. The Eucharist  is the symbol of life giving bread. "I am the  bread of life…unless you will eat the flesh of  the son of man you will have no life in you (Jn 6). Interestingly, Jesus was born  in Bethlehem, and  the Hebrew name "Bethlehem" means "House of Bread".

Eucharist was instituted on the Day of Passover. Passover for the Jews was  one of the greatest feasts. It recalled the major events in the history of salvation. To remember the  great deeds of God in delivering His people from Bondage, God commanded them to keep  this feast observing all the details as it was done in  Egypt, when the Angel of God came down and smote  all the first born of the homes which were not smeared with the blood of the lamb. After narrating the  events, they ate the  unleavened bread together with the roasted lamb.

Lamb was  an important symbol in the expiation of  sins. In Leviticus we read the  account of transferring the sin of the society  onto the  lamb. "The High Priest is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites – all their sins – and put them on the goat's head. He shall send  the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place (Lev.16:21-22)." The goat bore their sins and  disappeared into the desert. This gave the Israelites a visual image to "see" God forgiving their sins. Before the  scapegoat   was sent out, the high priest had sacrificed a goat  and made  atonement as a sin offering  for the nation of Israel.  The law prescribed, "He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering  for the people and take its blood  behind the curtain  and do with it as he did with the bull's blood; He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in  front of it. (Lev 16:15). The reconciliation with God has been accomplished for the year.

When John the Baptist was preaching repentance  he saw Jesus  and he  proclaimed "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." When Jesus was pointed out as the Lamb of God, John Knew well the role of the lamb in the Jewish tradition. When Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac, he  willingly obeyed God's command. But, as Abraham raised hands to slay him God  called him. "Abraham do not lay your hands on the child. Abraham looked up and saw a ram. He sacrificed it to God. A male lamb is offered daily at the morning and evening sacrifice on the Sabbath day, at the feast of the New Moon, of  Trumpets, of Tabernacles, of  Pentecost, of Passover and on many other occasions.

Jesus the lamb of God offered himself  to God at the last supper. Eucharist  stands as a perfect offering. Jesus changed the bread into his Body and wine into his Blood. He gave authority to his disciples to reenact this sacrifice. When he entrusted  them with this power  he knew they were weak. He knew that Peter would deny  Him. He knew they would all hide for fear of the Jews. Still he has given them the privilege and entrusted them with the power to reenact the sacrifice.

There are Cherubim and Seraphim  waiting at his feet. Bu he has not given this power to any of the Angels. By commanding them to reenact this sacrifice in his memory  Jesus has  instituted the sacrament of  Holy Orders, and set them  above the Angels. Even Mother Mary had  the opportunity to bring Jesus into the world only once. But  he comes down through the hands of the priest at every Eucharistic celebration.

Then Jesus reminded them that this authority is for service. He demonstrated  it by washing the feet of his disciples. And Jesus gave them the new commandment. "Love one another as I have loved you."

Every Christian who partakes in the body and blood of Jesus should turn into the  lamb of God. He should be able to bear witness to the new commandment of love. He should be able to reenact the sacrifice of Jesus. Then as John declared seeing Jesus, "Behold,  the lamb of God"  our brothers should be able to point at us and say, "Behold the lamb of God." For that  the love taught by Jesus, the sympathy  reflected in the face of Jesus, the consolation  found in the words of Jesus, the forgiveness offered by Jesus, the Kindness shown by Jesus and the understanding  radiated through the actions  of Jesus should be experienced through us. May Jesus give us the strength and grace for this especially during the great Triduum.