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“Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that your son may give eternal life to all you gave him. Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ. I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do. Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began.
‘I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me.
I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you’” (John 17:1-11a).
 
As we conclude the Easter season, John’s Gospel invites us into the prayer with which Jesus ended his farewell speech. Here the Son spoke directly to the Father and shared his intimacy with a divine Parent who knows and loves us unconditionally.
 
When Jesus’ prayer began, “Father, the hour has come,” the disciples did not know what he meant. But we do. We know that Jesus’ last hours were full of pain and suffering, so when we read that he spoke of an hour of glory, it is startling. In Old Testament language, glory signifies God’s invisible presence manifested as radiance. After Jesus’ death for others, God’s redeeming presence radiated in a new way throughout all times and places and within individual lives. As Jesus’ life asks us to redefine power, so his death asks us to redefine glory.
 
Until John’s Gospel, written about sixty years after the Resurrection, most people understood glory as a reward bestowed in the afterlife. John, however, wrote of glory as an immediate outcome of Jesus’ crucifixion and death, a continual showing forth of divine energy at work in the world. This understanding of glory gave Jesus surprising confidence in his followers: “the words you gave to me I have given to them.” Even though all but a few abandoned him, Jesus said to the Father, “I have been glorified in them.” Jesus loved and trusted even them, giving us assurance that God loves us even when we least deserve it.
 
Jesus made one of the clearest, most direct statements in the whole New Testament: “this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” To know the love of God the way Jesus knows it is the whole reason for our lives, and each of us who develops a personal relationship with Jesus will find it.
 
– How can you share with others the words given to you?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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Armenia_1988“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live (John 14:15-19).
 
There may be no greater assurance in times of trouble than the promise, “I will be there for you.” In that vein, I was touched by a story I read in Chicken Soup for the Soul which reminded me of Jesus’ promise to his disciples in today’s Gospel: “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”
 
This is a true story from the devastating 1989 Armenian earthquake that took only minutes to kill thirty thousand people. Moments after the earthquake rocked the country, a father ran to the elementary school to search for his son. When the father arrived, he saw that the school had been leveled. He remembered his promise to his son: “No matter what happens, I will be there for you.” He went to the area that had been his son’s classroom and began to dig, removing rock by rock from the rubble. Others began to arrive—parents, policemen, and firemen—and soon they told him his efforts were useless, all are lost. As others stood paralyzed and sobbing, the young father kept digging. For eight hours, then 16, then 32, then 36 hours, he dug—he would not be deterred.
 
Finally, after thirty-eight hours, he pulled back a boulder and heard his son’s voice. He called out to his boy, “Armand! Armand!” And a voice answered him, “Dad, it’s me!” The boy continued, “I told the other kids not to worry. I told them if you were alive, you’d save me, and when you saved me, they’d be saved too. Because you promised me, ‘No matter what, I’ll always be there for you.’”
 
In today’s gospel passage, which is from the farewell discourse, Jesus extends the sentiment “I will be there for you” to his closet companions. Jesus knows they will soon witness his suffering and death. They will be wrought with fear and pain as he his torn from them. He promises them that he will send his own Spirit to come as Advocate, protector, and divine friend. He will not leave them orphaned; he will abide with them and accompany them on their life journey through the power of his Spirit.
 
No matter what may come our way, we can face it with confidence and hope, knowing we are never alone. God will keep his promise to us—he will always be there for us. The promise that we will not be left orphaned when Jesus returns to his Father; the promise that the Spirit sent by Jesus will abide with us and all believers; the promise that the love of God that comes to us through the Spirit will overflow into the lives of others.
 
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him’” (John 14:15-21).
 
During these final weeks of the Easter season, the Church invites us to linger with Jesus and his disciples in an intimate farewell the night before he died. He is deeply sensitive to their human fears and hopes, and he hears the disciples’ unspoken need for something to hold onto as he seems about to abandon them.
 
Today, Jesus hears our need for the same reassurance. Writers of both the Old Testament and New Testament repeatedly remind us that the God of love delights in making and keeping promises. Jesus fulfills that tradition by giving his friends—and us—a series of remarkable promises: “Though I disappear from you physically, I will not leave you orphans.” “I will remain with you through my Spirit.” “To those who obey my commands, I will reveal myself.”
 
We will need to recall these promises many times during our lives when it seems as if we are suffering alone. The action of the Spirit who is Love connects the promises of an abiding presence with a new kind of knowledge. Jesus promises a depth of knowledge available only to those who obey his commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” To love like this is immensely challenging, but what a reward it brings: “To those who obey my commands I will reveal myself.”
 
Those who work among the poor sometimes say they know what it means to experience love as a way of knowing—not only knowing each other but also knowing everything better through each other. Mother Teresa made no formal study of economics or psychology but lived among the destitute on the streets of Calcutta, listening to their needs, healing their bodily and spiritual wounds, knowing them in a way most others could not. To those who love as Mother Teresa loved, the poor are a mystery in which God is waiting to be revealed. That’s why those who work among the poor often say “I receive much more than I give.”
 
– How do promises you have exchanged with friends and family strengthen you when you feel weak?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3).
 
Three months after my brother Paul was diagnosed with metastasized cancer, he was in the hospital and dying. He was the father of 7 and the grandfather of 13 and had lived a full life. However, we were in disbelief and shock at the suddenness of his deterioration. Two days before he passed away, he rallied and asked to speak privately with his wife of more than 50 years and their eldest son. He spoke of his deep love for his wife and each of his children, and then he told his eldest to “take care of your mother” and, most importantly, “do not fight with her.” He then told my nephew, “Love your two boys, and bring them up with good moral values and faith.” Paul asked his son to kiss him goodbye—my nephew doesn’t remember kissing his dad since he was a little boy. The origin of the word “good-bye” is “God be with you.” My brother assured his beloved wife and oldest child that all would be well—God was with them. Paul trusted that God had a place for him and that God would allow Paul to watch over his family.
 
Jesus begins his good-byes to his disciples, a few days before his death, with a comforting idea for those who are anxious about what happens when our lives are over. Jesus assures his friends that they need not worry: he is going to prepare the way before them. Put in everyday language, it may sound like this: “We have plenty of room, and we will welcome you.” “Many dwelling places” means a place for everyone. It is not a matter of better or worse, a mansion or a small apartment. There is no consideration of being able to pay the mortgage or afford the rent. Jesus says, “Where I am, there you may be also” (3)—not only now but forever.
 
Thomas then speaks for all of us when he asks for more information. How can we know the way? “The Way” is a code word for the new path to union with God. Following Christ, who is the way, is a total re-orientation of our lives toward God. This re-orientation awakens us to new life, just as Lazarus experienced a return to life upon hearing the words of Jesus. Jesus, as he assures Thomas, is the way, and the Father and Jesus are one. Philip then asks Jesus the obvious: “Show us the Father.” And Jesus, a bit exasperated, answers Philip’s question with a totally new vision of God: “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (10, 11). That is an explanation of the message of incarnation proclaimed in the first words of this Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1). Jesus is the Word of God in our midst—not metaphorically, but truly with and among us. Jesus makes it clear that God is not “up there” but here among us, as the word “Emmanuel” signifies: “with us is God.”
 
Jesus assures us that “with us is God” as he shows us the way of love in the ups and downs of life, in sickness and in health, and especially on our journey from death to life. He reminds us in this good-bye scene not to be anxious; wherever we are and whatever situation we find ourselves in, there God will also be.
 
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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Father_Lasance_prayer_bookI once overheard a man telling his companion that she was overreacting to whatever situation they were discussing.
 
“Ask yourself this,” he said. “A hundred years from now, who will know the difference?”
 
That advice immediately made me think of the same sentiment put in another way and in another language: “Quid hoc ad aeternitatem?’’ — “What is this in eternity?’’
 
That is said to have been a favorite expression of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Aloysius Gonzaga; I have known of it since I was about 14 years old.
 
And I know exactly where I first heard it: in “My Prayer-Book” by Father Francis Xavier Lasance.
 
A beat-up copy of that book was left in our parish church when I was an altar boy, and when no one had claimed it after a very long time, the curate, Fr. Bernard McKenna, gave it to me.
 
That was in 1956, and the book is on my desk now.
 
“My Prayer-Book” was first copyright in 1908 and again in 1936. When the one I have was published, it sold for anywhere from $1.75 to $10.00, depending on the binding. A replica of the 1908 edition is on sale now for about $26.00.
 
The book is 5.5 by 3.5 inches and it contains more than 700 pages of “reflections, counsels, prayers, and devotions” as the title page reports. It also contains the order of the Mass in Latin and English.
 
Some of the wisdom in this book comes from Father Lasance himself, and a great deal comes from a large number of other sources.
 
The subtitle of this book is “Happiness in Goodness” which reflects the author’s central theme, that ours is basically an optimistic faith designed not to depress us but to bring us good cheer.
 
It was in that context, in a section called “Faith and Humor,” that the expression “Quid hoc ad aeternitatem?’’ appeared.
 
“Think of the countless occurrences that fret and annoy,’’ says the prayer book, “that drive a man into himself and shut up his outlook over the world which the good God has given him, that make him petty and irritable and sour—how they would go down before such a question, as rank weeds before a scythe; how they would be lost sight of, as a swarm of gnats becomes invisible under the full light of an unclouded noon!”
 
I took that argument seriously and have pretty much lived under its influence ever since, trying to weigh the trivial problems of daily life against the promise of life forever in the presence of God.
 
All right, the language and the imagery are kind of dated, and there are some instances in which the tone of “My Prayer-Book” may seem out of place in our time—an uncharitable view of Protestants, for example—but it is a compendium, and a tangible relic, of our unchanging faith, and I keep it close at hand so that I can thumb through its pages.
 
Father Lasance (1860-1946) was a prodigious figure. He was a diocesan priest in Ohio, serving as a curate and a chaplain until, at the age of 30, he was forced by illness to live as a semi-invalid.
 
But quid hoc ad aeternitatem? Father Lasance, instead of feeling sorry for himself, used the time he gained by being precluded from parish work to write 39 books which were translated into numerous languages and which sold in the millions of copies.
 
He accepted no compensation for his work, but asked that the revenue be given to charities and used to provide his books free of charge to those who couldn’t afford to buy them.
 

—For his devotional works, Fr. Lasance
was given a special blessing by Pope Pius XI on May 10, 1927.


 
This post first appeared in The Catholic Spirit, Diocsese of Metuchen.
 
Charles Paolino is a member of the RENEW staff and a permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Metuchen.

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“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’ Philip said to him, ‘Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father’” (John 14:1-12).
 
This passage, a theological discourse, can be challenging to understand. In it, Jesus explains who he is and how he is related to God the Father. He teaches that his imminent and necessary departure should not be met with sadness, but rather that we, his disciples, should trust and find comfort in it. He assures us that through knowing him, we will know God the Father and be united with them someday soon.
 
We have all had experiences in which finding faith and trust has been difficult, and in this passage we see Thomas and Philip experiencing just that. Thomas does not want to believe in the reality that following Jesus means following him through his passion and death. Philip lacks the faith to understand that by knowing Jesus we know God the Father.
 
Life with God comes only through following Jesus through his death, and we need not doubt or be discouraged. Through belief and trust in Jesus and by living his message, we will return to the assurance of everlasting life with him. He has prepared a place for us.
 
– When have you found it difficult to trust and believe in Jesus’ message?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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“Jesus said: ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.’ Although Jesus used this figure of speech, the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them.
So Jesus said again, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.’” (John 10:1-10).
 
Those listening to this parable would have been familiar with shepherds. It was not the most desirable of professions—shepherds were away from home at night and unable to protect their households. It was also a physically challenging profession—shepherds had to contend with the heat of the day, the cold at night, and the wild animals and thieves that threatened their flocks. They did, however, develop close relationships with their sheep. Shepherds frequently had individual calls for each sheep, and should his flock become mixed with another, a shepherd had only to call his sheep to gather them.
 
Jesus contrasts himself with thieves and robbers and later with the “false shepherds” who lead flocks astray. The parallel between effective leadership and shepherding was used in the Hebrew Scriptures, and people would have recognized it. These Pharisees are so concerned with obeying the rules and observing the Sabbath that they cannot hear Jesus’ voice and do not follow where he leads.
 
In our own lives, we are sometimes faced with “false shepherds”—promises or offers of things that will make our lives better but tempt us to lose our focus on Jesus’ call to each one of us as unique individuals.
 
– How do you experience the presence of Jesus as the Good Shepherd?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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Fra_Angelico_St._DominicAs a Dominican Sister, a member of the worldwide Order of Preachers, I have a special love for the Gospel of Matthew.
 
St. Dominic, our founder, carried around with him a copy of the Gospel of Matthew and the Epistles of St. Paul. According to tradition, Dominic poured over them so much that he knew them by heart. The Gospel of Matthew was central to his prayer and inspired his preaching. The Dominican artist Fra Angelico depicted St. Dominic seated at the foot of the Cross, meditating on the Word of God, and most other paintings of Dominic portray him holding a gospel book, presumably Matthew, close to his heart.
 
Our newest addition to the RENEW Scripture Series is Matthew: Come Follow Me by believer and scholar Martin Lang. I find this series unique and inspiring. The first section of each session, “Enter into the Biblical Story,” invites us to take on the mantle of a disciple in the time of Jesus, to follow him, listen attentively to his Word, and allow the Word to transform our hearts and minds.
 
The second interpretive lens Dr. Lang uses is entitled “Old Testament Witness.” This section examines the Hebrew Scriptures that were central to the belief of the early disciples and the Gospel writer. We reflect on the parts of the Old Testament that recapture the theological perspective of the corresponding section of the Gospel we are studying and praying.
 
The third interpretative lens Dr. Lang invites us into is called “Responding to Human Experience.” It is an effort to use modern culture to reflect on the Gospel—to connect the Word of God with our contemporary lives.
 
The final interpretive lens Dr. Lang presents to us is “Respond To God’s Word,” which invites us to act on the Word of God as it speaks to our lives in this moment.
 
Matthew: Come Follow Me is enriching my prayer and inspiring my preaching as I give presentations and retreats on various spiritual topics. As I grieve the recent loss of my brother Paul, I also find solace in Dr. Lang’s reflection on Matthew’s account of the resurrection.
 

“The resurrection of Jesus, for people of faith, is the bedrock symbol of God’s care for us. Death is not the ultimate humiliation. It is a passage to a new condition of life. As the theology of the Gospel of John tells us, the living Jesus dwells among us during our lives. He accompanies our journey. He leads us through the transition of death to continue our lives with him and all who love him, in a new form for all eternity” (page 362).

 
As a sister of St. Dominic and a follower of Jesus the Christ, I hope to immerse myself more deeply in the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew reveals to us the continuity of Jesus’ teaching with that of the Torah and the Prophets. As Lang reminds us, Matthew beautifully weaves into his account the full thrust of Jesus’ universal message for all people—a new dawn for humankind is breaking. Jesus has come to establish the kingdom of God’s peace, love, and justice. I, like Matthew and Dominic, long to be a witness to that kingdom.
 
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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scripture_groupRENEW has been creating small-group materials for nearly forty years and, during that time, one of the constants has been placing scripture readings at the core of every session. Open any RENEW resource, on any topic, and there in the session you will find the instructions to read a specific passage from scripture.
 
Why do we do this? We do it because sacred Scripture is the inspired word of God and contains everything we know about Jesus. His very words are there for us to read. It is the source and foundation of our faith.
 
Your small group can gain a great deal from making scripture central to what you do. There are simple things which will help you get the most from those readings. At the end of your session, ask for a volunteer, or assign a reader for the next week. Ask them to read the passage ahead of time and practice it. That will allow them to read with both ease and conviction.
 
Encourage your small group to read the daily readings. You can find them easily with an app for the missal on your phone or tablet, or by going to the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website where you can also sign up to have the readings sent to you via email every day.
 
Taking the time to make Scripture a part of your daily life is yet another way to bring your small group together through shared experience. Delving deeper into the Gospels beyond the Sunday readings will give you a more complete understanding of Jesus, bringing you closer to him.
 

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Journey_to_Emmaus“And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. He asked them, ‘What are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped, looking downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, ‘Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?’ And he replied to them, ‘What sort of things?’ They said to him, ‘The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people.’ And he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures. As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24:15-19, 25-32).
 
The story of Emmaus is one with which we can all identify. The disciples were walking along, fearful and anxious. They had thought Jesus was going to be the Messiah, but their picture of a messiah didn’t correspond to the reality of Jesus’ life. He was crucified and now was missing from the tomb. Some of their women even said he was alive. What kind of messiah was this? And so they hurried along, surprised by a stranger who apparently had not heard the news.
 
In this story, the disciples’ expectations about how God was supposed to work blinded them from seeing that God was walking with them. Even when Jesus broke open the Scripture, explaining how his death and resurrection had been foretold by the prophets, they still did not understand. It was only when Jesus took the bread and broke it that they recognized him, and could reflect back and say “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way?”
 
Like the disciples, we sometimes seem to be wearing blinders that keep us from seeing that God is walking with us. We have preconceptions about how God should work in our lives, or about the people through whom God does or does not work. We too receive the gifts of the Word, of the breaking of the bread, of the gathered community through which we can see and recognize God. The story of Emmaus is a call to attentiveness, a call to open our eyes to God, who ceaselessly accompanies us; to look beyond the prejudice, apathy, and indifference that blind us. It is a call to be always aware of God, who causes our hearts to burn within us, right here and right now.
 
– What are some of the barriers that keep you from recognizing God, who is always with you?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained’” (John 20:19-23).
 
This appearance of Jesus to the disciples is marked by his offer of peace. As the disciples hide in fear in a locked room, it is peace that Jesus offers them, not once, but twice. He then offers them the gift of the Holy Spirit, and asks them to be forgivers—people who do not hold grudges or build barriers, but people who are about reconciliation.
 
This greeting of peace is important for the gathered disciples. For the Jews, one of the signs of the coming Messiah was a reign of peace, a time when the lion would lay down with the lamb, and all would live in harmony. Jesus fulfills this expectation by exhibiting in a very tangible way that God’s reign is at hand. This greeting also comes at a time of fear and uncertainty for the disciples. Their leader, who many betrayed before his death, has been executed, and they rightly fear for their own lives. Instead of chastising them, Jesus offers them his peace. He invites them to trust beyond their concerns for security, to experience him in a new and different way, and to offer the same to others through the gift of forgiveness.
 
This offer of peace extends to us today. We are invited to believe in the God who works in new and creative ways, to trust beyond what we might see or feel. We are called to be peacemakers in our relationships by loving as God has loved us and offering forgiveness to those who have offended us. It’s often difficult to do, but throughout time people have discovered that in holding others’ sins bound they actually hold themselves bound. God’s Spirit longs to heal our wounds, yet we can prevent ourselves from experiencing God’s peace when we cling to the offenses that have hurt us. Each day, each hour, the Spirit that was given to the disciples is present in our own lives, offering us the opportunity to give and receive the gift of peace and healing.
 
– How have you experienced the gift of peace through the giving or receiving of forgiveness?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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Share this table prayer with those you will eat with on Easter Sunday.
 
Pray together:
 
Christ has risen! Alleluia!
Loving God, you who create all things
and generously give us all we need,
we praise you and thank you for being present with us now
as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, your Son.
 
Thank you for accompanying us on our Lenten journey;
please be us during this Easter season, and always,
as we strive to live as disciples of your Son.
 
May the breaking of bread, today and every day,
remind us of the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ,
who died to atone for our sins
and rose again so that we, too, may rise
and live in your presence forever.
 
O God, bless this food and we who share it,
and be with those who cannot share it with us.
 
We ask this in the name of the same Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.
 
Alleluia! Christ has risen!
 
LiveLent
 
 
Excerpted from
Live Lent! Year A by Sr. Theresa Rickard, OP, available from RENEW International.

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“On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, ‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.’ So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead” (John 20:1-9).
 
Every canonical Gospel makes it clear that the empty tomb was discovered by women, and in each account, Mary of Magdala is among them. In John’s Gospel, she is the only one to discover the empty tomb. She runs to tell Simon Peter and “the other disciple,” and they set out for the tomb. When they arrive and enter, it is the other disciple who “saw and believed.” Peter does not yet believe. Both, however, “did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”
 
It is indeed a dark moment for them. Mary, already overcome with grief, finds that her beloved teacher has been taken from his resting place. She runs to her companions, but they too don’t understand what has happened and offer no comfort. The empty tomb is the bridge between Jesus’ earthly ministry and his resurrection. It is through this dark moment of unknowing that the disciples must pass to encounter the risen Jesus, the life that will come from death.
 
It is ironic that on this day, the summit of our Christian celebration, we are presented with an account of the confusion, uncertainty, and sorrow of that first Easter. This gospel reading speaks to our own experiences of sadness, grief, and death. Often, we don’t understand, we don’t see how or where God is working in these situations. We want to trust, but we find ourselves lost in the darkness, hoping to find a light. In the readings that follow Easter we are given the hope that ultimately light and life will have the final word.
 
– How have you been able to find God at a time of darkness or grief?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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We are given the Eucharist, and we must journey with Jesus to the cross.
 
Lord Jesus,
You loved us so deeply that you were
willing to love us unto death, death on a cross.
When we see brothers and sisters
who are suffering and afflicted,
let us see you, and let us respond
with a love “surpassing all understanding”—
your love. Amen.
 
LiveLent
 
 
Excerpted from
Live Lent! Year A by Sr. Theresa Rickard, OP, available from RENEW International.

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“The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road. The crowds preceding him and those following kept crying out and saying: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;
hosanna in the highest’” (Matthew 21: 8-9)
 
“They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucify him” (Matthew 27: 30-31).
 
Holy Week is a week of paradox. It begins with the triumph of waving palms and shouting hosanna to the son of David. But it soon becomes a very sad scene. The same king whom the crowds glorified is betrayed with a kiss, arrested, tortured, and finally crucified. Triumph is quickly transformed into tragedy.
 
How do we understand this paradox of the Lord’s Passion? The names “Palm” Sunday and “Passion” Narrative are not contradictory terms but rather are melded together in the Paschal Mystery which inseparably unites the dying and rising of Jesus. It weds tragedy to triumph, shame to glory, sorrow to joy.
 
It is here that the Paschal Mystery has a connection to our lives. We cannot wait for all our crosses to be lifted so that we can experience only complete joy. For us, joy comes mixed with sorrows; roses bloom, but the thorns remain.
 
Through the Passion readings we see that Jesus lived the full gamut of human reality. He expressed happiness with his family and friends, satisfaction in accomplishing his mission, fulfillment from seeing the fruits of his labor. Jesus also experienced the pain of disappointment, anger, betrayal, rejection, and both physical and mental torture. By walking closely with Jesus in these days of Holy Week, we remind ourselves that he is walking closely with us through every step of our sorrow and joy.
 
– What lesson does the suffering of Jesus teach you about your own suffering?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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