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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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That we may grow in our desire to give ourselves over in love to God and God’s people as we pray for and reflect on the grace to let ourselves be loved.
 
Gracious and compassionate God,
as your Christian people,
we have been signed with the cross of your Son.
Place us once again near the cross of Jesus
to learn the lessons you long to teach.
Continue to re-form us by the life, death, and rising
of the Master who called us “friends.”
Stir in us the memory and power of his life.
May the gospel we cherish
become the sacred gift out of which
we fashion our lives anew.
We pray for wholeness
for ourselves and for our Church.
Do not allow our fears or resistance
to limit the power of your Spirit.
Bring forth in us the new life
that you see bound up
within our ignorance and pride.
Weep with us and over us again
until we unleash the contagion of your love,
and release those bound
by their own fears or others’ greed.
Make us eager to be among your people
as those who serve in love.
Through, with, and in Jesus, we give you thanks,
O lover of us all and giver of our loving. Amen.
 

 
 
Excerpted from
Lenten Longings – Year A: Let Yourself Be…, 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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That we may discover new reverence for the mystery of the Communion of Saints which transcends time and space to unite us with one another.
 
O Holy Trinity, God of love,
breathe in us, move among us,
gather us into you.
Resettle us on the soil of our earth
to free one another
through the mutual exchange of the varied gifts
with which you bless us.
Unbind us from our fears,
unite us in our shared sorrows,
enlarge us with the deep and simple sharing of our joys.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen.
 

 
 
Excerpted from
Lenten Longings – Year A: Let Yourself Be…, available from RENEW International

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A couple of months ago I gave the opening keynote address, entitled “Evangelization Matters,” at the Mid-Atlantic Congress for Pastoral Leaders in Baltimore. To begin I shared the story about Pope Francis celebrating his first Holy Thursday liturgy as pope in a juvenile detention center in Rome. For me, this is a story of the New Evangelization and why it matters. Pope Francis washed feet in a prison instead of Rome’s grand Basilica of St. John Lateran. Instead of the traditional 12 priests, he washed, dried, and kissed the feet of 12 young inmates—outcasts who live on the margins of society. He went even farther—he dared to wash two young women’s feet and the feet of a Muslim. He did not have to say anything—he just did it! His simple, loving action reverberated around the world. Speaking to the young offenders, Francis said that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion in a gesture of love and service. “This is a symbol, it is a sign. Washing your feet means I am at your service. Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us,” the pope said.
 
I can only wonder what this encounter with Christ through the pope’s gesture of foot washing meant to these young people. And what will this encounter with the welcoming and merciful Christ mean for their lives in the future? Yes, evangelization matters. The pope’s example at that prison was not only a living out of the indiscriminate love of Christ but a call to everyone who witnessed it to do the same. The pope was renewing the challenge we hear first from Jesus, succinctly expressed in a song of Weston Priory: “The Lord Jesus after eating with his friends washed their feet and said to them: Do you know what I your Lord have done to you, I have given example so you must also do.”
 
As the pope reminds us in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), evangelization is the joy-filled work of touching peoples’ minds and hearts and lives with the saving, healing, liberating good news of Jesus Christ who came not to be served but to serve. Evangelization is bringing the joy of the Gospel to the heart of our world by making God’s reign of justice and peace a reality in all of creation. Yes, evangelization matters.
 
The unlimited love of Jesus bends before us, washes us clean, and urges us to go forth and be foot washers especially to the least among us. Jesus sends us out with the joy of the Gospel: will you go?
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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