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Alleluia!

I sit here this morning still in the glow of last night’s Easter Vigil at Our Lady of Lourdes.  From the prayers at the fire outside of the Church, where we began our celebration, to the final sending forth, it was blessed time.

I do many things, but one of the things I love most is proclaiming the Word, and I was privileged to be one of the readers last night.  What was most powerful to me (I also read the Exodus story) was the reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans, the opening and closing of which read:

Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death?
We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death,
so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too might live in newness of life….

We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more;
death no longer has power over him.
As to his death, he died to sin once and for all;
as to his life, he lives for God.
Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin
and living for God in Christ Jesus.

“Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.”  That is our charge.

We do not today merely celebrate an event that happened long ago.  The Resurrection has consequences for how we live our lives.

Today’s Easter message from the President of the University of St. Thomas sounded a similar theme.  Dr. Julie Sullivan wrote

Easter is not for spectators. As Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, we are called to reach out to our neighbor with loving deeds of service. As Jesus gave his life on the cross so that others may live, we are called to give our lives to improving our world and the lives of others.  As Jesus brought joy to the world by rising and giving us the hope of everlasting life, so we are meant to share Christ’s joy with our families, neighbors, colleagues, and all those we encounter.

Dr. Sullivan referenced the University’s recommitment to ensuring that our educational mission is accomplished “all for the common good.”  But she reminds us “a slogan rings hollow unless we constantly use it to assess and measure our actions.”

“Easter is not for spectators.”  If we limit ourselves to shouting “Allelulia,” if we proclaim Christ’s resurrection only by words, we ignore the central message of Paul – the message of Christ.

“You too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.”

Easter Blessings to all!

The University of St. Thomas Office of Mission provides daily seasonal reflections.  I was asked to provide the reflection for today, Holy Saturday.  Here is what I wrote:

Yesterday, Good Friday, we commemorated the crucifixion of Jesus. Tonight (for those of us attending Easter Vigils) or tomorrow morning, we will celebrate the Resurrection.

What about today? For many people, Holy Saturday is simply the day on which we ready the church for the Easter Vigil and do our shopping for the Easter feast.  I’d like to invite us to something more on this day.

In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius encourages us to take time in the space between Jesus’ death and His Resurrection, believing it is necessary for us to truly experience Jesus’ death and absence before we can fully appreciate the significance of His rising for us. The “tomb day” experience of the Spiritual Exercises is thus an invitation to envision a world without Jesus.

This is a lot more difficult for us than it was for Jesus’ disciples. For us, the progression from Good Friday to Easter Sunday is almost seamless. We live in a world infused with resurrection, so we never question it. The Resurrection is a given.

Do we really appreciate what we have? Do we have a sense of what life would be if Jesus did not rise on the third day?

The disciples did have a very real sense of this. For them, the death of Jesus was the end. Three years of following Jesus and it was all over. Imagine what they experienced! Fear – that everything Jesus had said and done ended at his death. Powerlessness – believing they had been abandoned by God. The finality of loss – as the stone was put in front of the tomb. Confusion – what would they do now?

Tomb day in the Spiritual Exercises invites us to get in touch with that sense of loss, to try to understand what it would mean to live in a world without Jesus.  Ignatius’ instruction for prayer during this day is to be with the disciples and with Mary in their grief over losing Jesus. To be with them as they take Jesus’ body off the cross, wash and anoint it, place it in the tomb, and watch the rock being rolled across the tomb’s entrance. To be with the other disciples afterwards, cowering in the upper room. One instruction for the tomb day experience says, “Let the effect of Jesus’ death permeate your whole being and the world around you for the whole day.”

I encourage you, amidst the preparation for your Easter celebrations, to take some time today to do exactly that: let Jesus’ death permeate your being; experience, as much as you are able, a world without Jesus.

Lord, Have Mercy

My friend Maria Scaperlanda posted yesterday a beautiful prayer adapted from The Book of Common Prayer.  Although it is titled a Litany for the Season of Lent, it seemed to me a perfect one to pray this morning, as we ready ourselves for the Triduum liturgy which will begin this evening.  Here it is:

Let us pray…

as this holy season of Lent gives way to the Holy Triduum:

Lord, have mercy                       

  •  We have not loved you with our whole heart and mind and strength:
  • We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves:
  • We have not forgiven others as we have been forgiven:
  • We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ has served:
  • We confess our unfaithfulness, our pride, hypocrisy, and impatience:
  • We confess our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves:
  • For our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts,and our dishonesty in daily life and work:
  • For our negligence in prayer and worship:
  • For our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty:
  • For our lack of charity toward our neighbors, for prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us:
  • For our waste and pollution of your creationand our lack of concern for those who come after us:
  • Restore us, Lord, and let your anger depart from us:
  • Accomplish in us the work of your creation:
  • By the cross and passion of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord:
  • And bring us with your saints to the joy of his resurrection:

The Sacred Triduum

Tomorrow is Holy Thursday.

The three days from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday – which we call the Sacred Triduum – are the holiest days of the Church year for the Catholic Church.  And I have always thought the Triduum liturgies are the most beautiful of any services I have attended.

I should say “liturgy” rather than “liturgies.”  As my friend Fr. Dan Griffith explained in a letter to parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes, “The Triduum is one feast and one continuous liturgy that takes place at the beginning of Holy Thursday and culminates with the Easter Vigil.  The days are meant to be experienced together as continuous.” (This is why there is no final blessing and sending forth after the Holy Thursday and Good Friday services.)

Many people, I know, have jobs that prevent them from participating in the entire Triduum.  But for those who are able to do so, give yourself the gift of attending your parish’s Triduum service this year.  I agree with Fr. Dan that, “For those who have experience the Triduum, the joy of Easter takes on a new meaning when we have journeyed from the upper room, to the foot of the cross to the empty tomb on Sunday morning.

Today was the final session of the Lent Reflection Series I am offering at the University of St. Thomas School of Law on the theme Praying with Jesus’ Parables. In this final session we considered three parables: the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), the Dishonest Manager (Luke 16:1-15) and the Wicked Tenants (Luke 20:9-19).

As I have in earlier sessions of this series, I shared some possible ways of thinking about each of the three parables with the participants.

The most difficult of the three parables for me is Luke’s account of the parable of the dishonest manager.  (I’m not alone – many commentators believe this to be the most difficult parable to understand.)  Why does the master commend his dishonest steward for acting prudently?  I offered a couple of possibilities in my talk and we considered some others during our discussion.

I think one of the more useful reminders about the second and third of the parables we considered is that, rather than thinking of the dishonest manager and the wicked tenants as people who are not us, we ought to be considering how we ourselves are like those Jesus talks about in his parables.

You can access a recording of my talk here or stream it from the icon below. (The podcast runs for 24:47.) You can find a copy of the prayer materials I distributed to participants here.

Today is Palm Sunday. Catholics and many Protestants around the world will listen at the Procession with Palms to St. Luke’s account of Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem, hearing how as Jesus rode into Jerusalem, people spread their cloaks on the road and “began to praise God aloud with joy.”

It is almost jarring to hear the crowds proclaim, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” Jarring because we know the rest of the story. (And we listen to the entirety of the story during today’s Gospel.)

And since we know what will shortly follow that scene, we have to ask ourselves, how did the crowd turn so quickly from “Blessed is he” to “Crucify him”? How could the same people who waved palms praising God with joy, several days later clamor for Jesus’ death?

It is not just an interesting historical question. It is not just about those people on those two days. Don’t we really do the same? Oh, not scream “Crucify him.”  But praise God in one moment and, by our words and deeds, reject him in the next.

As we come to the beginning of Holy Week, we might spend some time reflecting on the ways we are like the fickle crowds.

After an off week for the Law School’s spring break last week, today was the fifth session of the Lent Reflection Series I am offering at the University of St. Thomas School of Law on the theme Praying with Jesus’ Parables. Our subjects this week were the parables of the Talents and of the Sower.

I shared some possible ways of thinking about each of the two parables with the participants, again reminding them that what we are seeking here is not a definitive “meaning” of the parables.  Rather we are trying to open ourselves to what God wants to reveal to each of us at this time.

That is especially important when we are talking about parables we have all heard thousands of times.  It is easy to hear the first line or two and think, “Oh, I know that one.”  We want to be open for new ways of understanding them.  And, as with all parables, we don’t want to be content with the “easy” reading that may not present the challenge we need.

You can access a recording of my talk here or stream it from the icon below. (The podcast runs for 23:26) You can find a copy of the prayer materials I distributed to participants here.

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