April 8, 2015
The first time I laid eyes on Caravaggio's painting of "The Incredulity of Saint Thomas" it literally sent chills down my spine.* The painting depicts Jesus holding Thomas' hand and guiding his index finger into the wound of his side while Thomas' face shows surprise and disbelief. Thomas' poking into the freshly healed wound of Christ is both shocking and disturbing. While the painting is a masterpiece of art, it does not capture the actual story of the Gospel. In the Gospel story, John the Evangelist does not say whether Thomas actually touched Jesus' hands and side. More importantly, while all the other disciples remain silent, Thomas professes extraordinary faith by saying, "My Lord and God!" For me to narrowly interpret today's Gospel story as the story of "Doubting Thomas" is to miss the big picture and the significance of today's celebration. The center figure of today's Gospel is really the risen Jesus, not Thomas!
April 4, 2015
I am always mesmerized by the Service of Light which begins the Easter Vigil. We gather outside the assembly area to light a fire in the dark of night, often in chilly springtime weather. From that new fire we light a candle and mark it with the five wounds of Christ. We then follow that Christ Candle into the darkened assembly, stopping three times to chant: "The Light of Christ. Thanks be to God." Each time we light tapers from that Candle, passing the light from taper to taper, we bit by bit dispel the darkness in the assembly. Gradually the flickering tapers shed their rays on the faces around us, until the entire assembly is revealed in the light. With Christ, we have become the light of the world.
April 3, 2015
Have you ever wondered why the Holy Thursday liturgy has no dismissal and the Good Friday liturgy has no opening or dismissal rites? This tells us that these three days of the Triduum are one extended celebration. In the early church, we celebrated the events of the Paschal Mystery in one continuous liturgy, without interruption. We now spread our remembrance of these events out over three days, to give us more time to ponder them.
April 2, 2015
Have you ever wondered why there are two accounts in today's celebration of the Mass of the Lord's Supper? The second reading from 1 Corinthians recounts the prayers that Jesus said over the bread before and over the wine after that last meal he ate with his disciples. The Gospel reading from John, seemingly giving it the place of honor, tells the story of Jesus washing their feet. What do these two accounts ask us to ponder today?
April 1, 2015
On this Easter Day we reach "ground zero" of our Christian faith - the conviction that God's love is stronger than death. The destiny of Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, is the assurance of this astounding and challenging core of our Christian faith. A few years ago I gave a Holy Week retreat for a community of sisters in Orange, California. At Mass on Easter Sunday we read the same Gospel selection - John 20:1-8 - that is read this year. Mary Magdalene, who has a prominent role in the Gospel of John as the first witness of the resurrection, comes to the tomb of Jesus early in the morning, now that the Sabbath has concluded. To her dismay, she finds that the stone that had sealed the tomb has been rolled away and the tomb is empty. She runs with this startling news to Peter and to the "Beloved Disciple," who is a privileged witness in John's Gospel. They in turn run to the tomb to see for themselves.
March 25, 2015
In recent years I was in Minneapolis on Palm Sunday. Friends of mine took me to the Palm Sunday liturgy at the Basilica of Saint Mary. I expected to experience a rather ordinary celebration. As usual, Jesus' entry into Jerusalem was proclaimed, palms were blessed, and a procession with palms followed. But how cared for and prayerful the procession was! We received palms woven into beautiful, intricate patterns. The white-robed choir, sixty some strong, led us into the Basilica to chant strains of Hosanna. We circled the entire assembly before walking up the main aisle toward the altar where we would celebrate the Paschal Mystery. Following that white-robed choir, embraced by mantra-like chant, I was overwhelmed by the sense that we were caught up in that procession with palm branches begun two millennia ago in the dusty streets of Jerusalem. This is what our people have always done, I thought; the procession welcoming Jesus so long ago is still going on. That is how our people always begin the celebration of Holy Week. That is what Egeria, a 4th century pilgrim to Jerusalem, recorded in her diary
March 11, 2015
"Early and often" is a phrase more associated with Chicago voting patterns than with sacred scripture, but the Chronicler uses it in the first reading of the Cycle B readings to describe God's attempts to offer salvation to humanity. "Early and often," he says, God had compassion on the community of Israel, and offered them the means for returning to their relationship with the Lord. This is one of several "covenant stories" that we have in the B Cycle of readings for Lent. We have heard about the covenant that God made with the whole world in the story of Noah; and on the second and third Sundays, we are reminded of the covenants through Abraham and Moses. On the Fifth Sunday of Lent, we will hear the prophet Jeremiah announce God's intention to establish a new covenant, written on the hearts of God's people, that they cannot walk away from any more than they can walk away from themselves.
March 5, 2015
The optional Year A reading for this Sunday is the first of three special sets of scripture for the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent for parishes with people in the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) program - those preparing for Baptism (or full communion in the Catholic Church) on the Easter Vigil. This final and more intense preparation time for the catechumens (with their sponsors and catechists) is also an invitation to the broader Christian community to reflect on, and renew, their baptismal commitments around three central Christian images from these Year A readings: moving from thirsting to life-giving water; from blindness/darkness to sight/light; from death to new life. Today's readings focus on the first in the trilogy.