“HE IS RISEN!”
“HE IS RISEN INDEED!”
I will always remember the Easter Vigil in 2015. This is when I was confirmed into the Catholic Church. That night the normally mild-mannered priest presiding over the mass stepped up to the pulpit to give his homily, and he loudly proclaimed, “HE IS RISEN!” The people in the pews responded, “HE IS RISEN INDEED!”. The priest then proclaimed even louder, “HE IS RISEN!” and the people again responded, “HE IS RISEN INDEED!”. And once more the priest proclaimed, “HE IS RISEN!” and the people once more responded excitedly, “HE IS RISEN INDEED!” Now that’s a way to start a homily! If people were starting to doze off, they certainly weren’t any longer after the priest was yelling from the pulpit that “He is risen”! What a change from a few short days prior when the Passion narrative was read on Palm Sunday and the people in the pews are reminded that it is our sins that nailed Jesus to the cross when we say our part of the reading, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him”. It is certainly a much better feeling to proclaim that “He is Risen” than “Crucify Him”!
What that priest understood so well was that Easter is the pinnacle of the church year. While there are many great feast days and other celebrations throughout the church year, none of them top Easter. Easter is so important that we take the 40 days of Lent just to prepare for it! 1 Corinthians 15:54b-57 sums up what we are celebrating: “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The utter sorrow of Good Friday when Jesus was crucified has changed into the most joyous occasion in the history of the world. Jesus conquered death, rose from the dead, and we have the promise of eternal life because of His victory!
I remember thinking at the Easter Vigil how awesome it would be to be able to visit the tomb that Jesus was buried in. There is a church called the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem over the place where Jesus was buried that can be visited. This has to be the most holy place in the whole world, right? Well at Easter Vigil shortly before I would be confirmed and receive my first communion, it hit me. What we have available at Mass is greater than any holy site we could ever visit. At Mass, Jesus is really present for us to receive in the Eucharist. The Mass isn’t just a reminder of Jesus’ life, but it is actually a participation in His life. We literally receive His life into our lives by receiving the Eucharist. I know it would be an incredible experience to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or any of the other pilgrimage sites in the Holy Land, but I realized we are closer than we could ever be anywhere else in the world to Jesus when we receive the Eucharist at Mass. Whether it’s right here at St. Joseph’s parish, or wherever you attend, Mass is the holiest place in the world because Jesus is truly present to us in the Eucharist. What a great privilege it is to be Catholic and to have access to the incredible gift of the Holy Eucharist!
I hope you all have a great Holy Week and a great Easter!
This Palm Sunday, those powerful readings, range from super happy to super tragic! The First Reading starts with praising Jesus with palms as he enters Jerusalam, even calling out “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” It’s hard to believe how quickly something can go from amazing to terrible so quickly...
The hardest times in my life were similar to our readings today in that they started out so well! Matt and I discovered a couple of years ago that we were going to have another baby! Our fifth! Gosh, how we hoped it would be a girl, a sister for our only girl, Grace. All of you with sisters our there, you are blessed beyond measure. My four sisters are a huge gift to me.
Because this pregnancy was a surprise, we had a hard time wrapping our heads and hearts around another baby so soon after Grace was born, but God stretched our hearts like he does and we became very hopeful and excited about the baby! We started telling our friends and I even told the youth group here. We already knew what we would name the baby if it were indeed a girl. We would name her Hope.
It seemed that as quickly as this beautiful gift of life came into our lives and stretched our hearts, she was gone. Losing a child, no matter what age, is something I’d never wish on my worse enemy. We went to my first doctors appointment at 11 weeks gestation and could not find Hope’s heartbeat. Upon an ultrasound, it was confirmed that we lost a child for the second time. We lost a baby whom we named Matty just two years prior).
We lost Hope during the first week of Advent that year, the week of Hope. We know that God planned this-that Hope will always live on! I think telling people was the hardest part. And after telling my teens in the youth group, they all crowded around me and Deacon bill led us in a praying for our healing. It was so beautiful.
Everyone has probably experienced suffering and loss. And maybe even you have suffered this loss shortly after experiencing such a blessing or gift! If you have, I am sorry from the bottom of my heart.
But in the name of my child in heaven, Hope is not lost. Hope lives on! This is what we are preparing for! You see this Sunday we will remember Christ’s Passion, suffering and death. But next Sunday, we see that that’s not the ending God has in mind for us!
Death does not win! Suffering does not win! Good wins, joy wins! LIFE WINS! Look around you. WE are a resurrection people! Christ’s death and resurrections means that we are assured of hope for something better! We are assured eternal joy in heaven! The battle has been fought and WON for us!
My challenge for you this week is to prepare. Lift your sufferings (past present and future) to our Lord this week and prepare Him to resurrect them on Easter Sunday. And if you need a little help doing this, I have an in with two saints in heaven who I assume are in our Lady’s arms right now, Baby Matty and Baby Hope.
Have a blessed Holy Week my friends!
Do you like fire? Not like burning buildings down or anything, but enjoy looking at a flame on a candle perhaps? I believe there is something universal about humans and our attraction to fire. The warmth, the light, the comfort it provides.
Matt (my husband) and I love watching those survivor shows like Survivor Man or Man vs. Wild. It’s amazing how they say that fire is so necessary not only for warmth or to cook any animal they hunted/trapped/found, but also because psychologically, it helps men to feel comfort and hope and empowers them to carry on.
The readings this Sunday have a central theme… God loves us… but in order to truly love Him back, we must remain free… free to choose and free to act. Because of this freedom, and the temptations we face, humanity often chooses wrong… This was the case for the Israelites for a lonnnnngggg time. But that’s not how the story ends.
You see, the first reading and Psalm tells us about the Hebrew people and how God used to send them angels and prophets and messengers of God warning people to turn away from Sin and to love the Lord! But alas, they not only did not listen to these prophets, but they also tormented the prophets! That’s almost like spitting directly into God’s face. Not. Good.
So, the Babylonian Exile happens-the Jewish people are cast out of their Promised Land, their temple destroyed, and those who survived this hostile takeover were made as slaves. I can almost hear God say to them, “You see?! I warned you!!!” But instead of an, “I told you so” God has a different message.
God gave us Jesus as a response to our bad choices: THE ultimate act of Mercy. One of the most well known verses in scripture is a part of our Gospel reading, John 3:16
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.”
God never gives up on us. In fact, he loves us SO MUCH, that he gave his only Son SO THAT we could be with Him forever in heaven. We could not and do not earn that privilege. It is a gift to us. The most beautiful and humbling gift we could ever receive.
Jesus is more than some holy guy who taught us something. He did more than a few miracles back in the day. Jesus is real. He is alive today. He is the answer we are all looking for. His passion, death and resurrection make our entrance into heaven a possibility. This is what lent prepares us for-to celebrate this enormous gift.
Jesus is our light. He is the fire that warms us, sustains us, comforts us, gives us hope, instills in us the desire to do good and to spread those same attributes to the world around us.
When we know Jesus and choose to love like him, we shed light into the darkness that is the world around us. I am tired of the dark, you guys.
“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” ~St. Catherine of Siena
Word up. I am Stacy, the youth minister of this amazing group of teens. I have 4 kids of my own, 2 heaven babies and like 60 teens I consider very large children of my own.