Octave of Easter

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The Resurrection of the Body

Easter Sunday (Year A)

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. John 20:1–3

Happy Easter! Our Lord has risen, He has overcome death and He has opened the gates of Heaven to all who believe and receive the gift of salvation. Alleluia! What a glorious day we celebrate!

Today’s Gospel concludes by saying, “For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” This is evident by the initial reaction of Mary of Magdala, Simon Peter and the Apostle John. Mary first thought that someone had taken the body of Jesus and moved it from the tomb. Peter was confused and ran to see for himself. John also went and when he saw the empty tomb, he believed. Eventually, all of the Apostles would come to understand and believe.

The initial reaction to the empty tomb teaches us an important lesson. Though the Resurrection of Christ is clearly known to us today, our knowledge of this glorious event must continually deepen. This is evidenced by the fact that the disciples of Jesus came to understand the Resurrection over time. They did not comprehend His Resurrection when Jesus first taught them about it. They did not fully understand it when they saw the empty tomb. They did not even fully comprehend it when they saw the risen Lord. It was only after they were given the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that their minds were open to this incredible mystery of faith so that they could begin to penetrate and comprehend this mystery more clearly.

The Resurrection of Christ was a real historical event. But it is also an event that transcends time. It’s an event that must permeate all time and transform every moment of our lives. When Jesus rose from the dead, it was much different than a simple return to life. He did not simply come back to the life He lived before He died. Instead, His resurrected state was a new beginning. He was now different. He was transformed. His body would now never age. It could not die. It could pass through closed doors. This resurrected body of our Lord, which is perfectly united to His divine nature, will remain with Him forever.

The resurrected body of our Lord also made it possible for us to share in His resurrected state. We now have hope that, if we share in His suffering and death, we will also share in His Resurrection. But what does that mean? Saint Thomas Aquinas believed that our resurrected bodies will be glorious beyond imagination. We will never age, require no food, never experience illness, be free from all disorders and will live this way forever. Somehow, through our bodies, we will also be able to share ourselves with others in a pure and holy way, communicating to others the love of God alive within our souls. We will have the gift of agility, being able to move from place to place with immediacy simply by thinking it. Our new glorified bodies will manifest the ways that we loved and served God in this world. For example, Jesus’ resurrected body had wounds in His hands, feet and side. But now those wounds radiate His glory and forever testify to His act of perfect love.

Reflect, today, upon the Resurrection of the Savior of the World. As you do, reflect also upon His invitation to share in this new life. Though much of our understanding of the Resurrection of Jesus, as well as our hope of sharing in this resurrected state, will only be understood when we share in it, it is important to place these ideas in our minds so that we have something to anticipate. At the very least, we must know and understand that our sharing in the resurrected state of Jesus is glorious beyond what we can imagine. This is what we celebrate today. And this celebration must fill us with hopeful anticipation of our participation in this glorious new life to come.

My resurrected Lord, Your sacred body and soul are forever united as one in a new and glorified state. You now invite all of us to share in Your suffering and death in this life so that we can share in Your Resurrection. Please fill my mind with understanding of this gift in order to fill me with hope so that I will work tirelessly for that day on which I hope to share in Your Resurrection. Jesus, I trust in You.

Glory Beyond Imagination!

Easter Sunday (Year B)

“Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.” Matthew 28:5–7

The Lord has truly risen! Alleluia! Sin and death have been destroyed, and new life has been offered to all who cling to the Savior in faith. What a glorious day we celebrate today!

Matthew’s Gospel, quoted above, is read at the Easter Vigil Mass. Prior to the reading of this Gospel are seven Old Testament readings, each followed by a psalm, as well as a New Testament reading, another psalm and the Gospel. There are seventeen readings in all at the Easter Vigil! For that reason, the Easter Vigil is called “the mother of all vigils.” Though many people have not had the opportunity to participate in the Easter Vigil, it is helpful to understand it, because its structure and length reflect the awe and wonder we must have at the Resurrection of Christ. 

The Vigil Mass begins in darkness, after the sun sets, with all the lights out in the Church. Outside, a new “blazing fire” is lit and blessed that symbolizes the Light of Christ that dispels all darkness. From that fire, the Easter candle and other candles held by the faithful in the church are lit, and the new light illuminates the church. The procession into the church with the candles is followed by the singing of the ancient hymn the Exaultat. That hymn is the Church’s announcement of the Resurrection of Christ and is filled with profound theology, presented with youthful excitement and amazement. The tabernacle remains empty as a way of inviting the faithful to anticipate the celebration of the Eucharist once again. The lengthy Liturgy of the Word follows, as it recounts the history of God’s plan of salvation. Finally, the Sacraments of Initiation are celebrated within the Mass that culminates with the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist.

Why is so much solemnity given to this celebration? Because Easter is worth it! Nothing ever has been and nothing ever will be more glorious than the triumph of the Son of God over sin and death. Easter must fill us with awe and wonder. Because of His death and Resurrection, our lives are changed forever. Therefore even if you are not able to participate in the “mother of all vigils,” try to learn the lessons this vigil teaches.

Among the many lessons we can learn from the Easter Vigil is that God’s glorious plan of salvation unfolds over time and then culminates with glory beyond imagination. This is especially depicted through the many readings in the Liturgy of the Word. The first reading for that Mass comes from Genesis and recounts the six days of creation. We then read the story of Abraham, our father in faith, and how his trust in God was tested when he was told to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice, in a prefiguration of the Father in Heaven offering His only Son for us all. We then read the story of Moses leading the people out of Egypt from slavery through the Red Sea. The waters of the Red Sea are a symbol of Baptism that crushes sin and leads us to freedom. Readings from the prophets Isaiah, Baruch and Ezekiel follow, revealing the unfolding of God’s promise of the gift of salvation to come.

At times in life, we can become impatient. We tend to want what we want when we want it. But the lesson of the Holy Scriptures is that God’s plan is not only perfect but is also fulfilled only in accord with God’s timing. This is His perfect wisdom. It’s a wisdom that we cannot always comprehend. In the end, if we embrace the perfect plan of God in our lives, we will share in the Resurrection of Christ. Nothing could ever be better than this. There is nothing that this world can offer us that even comes close to the glorious reward of sharing in the Resurrection of Christ.

As we celebrate the great Solemnity of Easter, reflect, today, upon the fact that God’s plan for your life is perfect. It’s a plan that God wants to unfold for you one step at a time. The end result is the glory of the Resurrection! It’s a life of perfection with Him in Heaven when every tear will be wiped away. It’s a plan that removes every sin, sorrow and suffering, and leads you to the fullness of joy. The way to embrace that plan is to take one step at a time as God leads. Little by little, God wants to change you, free you, forgive you, strengthen you and set you on the path to glory. Believe in the most awe-inspiring glory that you could ever share in. Believe in the promise of the Resurrection. Make sharing in it your one and only goal in life, and let God lead you down that path, one step at a time.

My resurrected Lord, the glory that we celebrate today, the glory of Your Resurrection, is far above anything I can imagine. The new life given to all who surrender their lives to You is glorious and awe-inspiring. Please help me to keep my mind and heart fixated upon this glorious promise and to always allow You to lead me toward it, one step at a time. Jesus, I trust in You.

The Message of the Angels

Easter Sunday (Year C)

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow. The guards were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men. Matthew 28:1–4

The angels of God have been present at the most significant moments of human history. There are numerous mentions of angels in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, the Incarnation of the Savior of the World was announced by an archangel. Myriads of angels were present at His birth. An angel spoke to Saint Joseph on four different occasions. As Jesus began His public ministry and overcame the temptations of the devil in the desert, angels from Heaven came to minister to Him. When Jesus prayed in solitude, especially during His agony in the garden, He was comforted by angels. At the empty tomb, it was an angel who first announced the good news that our Lord had risen. And at the end of time, it will be the angels of God who bring forth God’s justice.

Today’s angelic salutation to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary at the empty tomb should teach us that the message of the Resurrection is among the most important lessons we can ever learn. Furthermore, the message of this angel, given to these holy women, was intended not only for them, it is also spoken to us today.

The angel made an appearance that depicts absolute power and sanctity. He arrived with the speed of lightning. His countenance was radiant with Heavenly light. He instantly moved the large stone and sat upon it, pointing these holy women to the empty tomb. Today, if we have the eyes of faith, we will also receive an interior revelation from Heaven, just as these women did. Though we will not see with our eyes what they saw, we will see and hear through faith all that was spoken to them. 

The message of the Resurrection of Christ is being spoken to you today. Do you hear it? Do you comprehend the voice of this angel from Heaven? If you do, the first thing you will hear are the words, “Do not be afraid!” Fear is one of the greatest obstacles to the reception of the Word of God in our lives. The evil one sows fear; the angels of God dispel it. So begin by considering whether fear clouds your ability to receive the Word of God.

The angel then said, “I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified.” In other words, these women had not yet understood the Resurrection. They were still seeking the dead body of our Lord. Similarly, we often find ourselves focusing upon our losses, sufferings and trials. As a result, it can be difficult for us to see the ways that our Lord desires to transform the crosses in our lives and bring from them the glory of the Resurrection. The angel then said, “He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.” When we allow God to transform every cross in our lives, those crosses and sufferings disappear as they give way to the new life God brings forth from them.

Finally, the angel tells the women, “Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead…’” When we come to faith in the death and Resurrection of Christ, we cannot keep it to ourselves. We must go forth and proclaim the Resurrection of Christ to others. It cannot be contained.

Reflect, today, upon the most glorious, awe-inspiring, life-changing message of Christ’s Resurrection. If you find that you do not understand this message, then this Easter Season is an important time for you. It must be a time in which you dispel any fear that clouds your thinking. It must be a time when you listen most attentively in faith. It must be a time when you hear God speak to you about His glorious triumph over sin and death. It must be a time when you more fully penetrate the mystery of the Resurrection. And it must be a time when you recommit yourself to go forth and share that message with others. Listen to the angels of God. Receive their message and allow Christ’s Resurrection to change your life forever.

Most holy angels of God, please come to me, speak to me and reveal to me the most glorious message of the Resurrection of Christ. Lord, I pray that my heart be freed of all fear and that my mind be opened to all that You wish to reveal to me. I do believe in the glory of Your Resurrection; help me to believe with all my heart and to proclaim that truth to others. Jesus, I trust in You.

Humility in the Face of the Resurrection

Monday in the Octave of Easter

The chief priests assembled with the elders and took counsel; then they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.’ And if this gets to the ears of the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” Matthew 28:12–14

The Lord of all rose from the grave, conquering sin and death, making it possible for us all to share in His glorious Resurrection! Death had lost. Satan had lost. The corrupt religious leaders had lost. And all those who believed in Jesus now had their eternal hope renewed. Sadly, though, what was the greatest victory ever known for humanity, a victory that opened the doors to eternal glory for all who believe, could not be accepted by the chief priests and elders of the people. They saw to His death, and, now that He had risen, they scrambled to do all they could to hide that truth.

Pride is hard to overcome. When a person professes they are right, when in fact they are wrong, and when they are then confronted with their error, the sin of pride will inevitably tempt them to further sin. This is what we see today in this passage from our Gospel. The chief priests and elders were informed by the soldiers that when the women came to the tomb early in the morning, there was a great earthquake, and they saw an angel of the Lord descend from Heaven, roll back the stone, and sit on it. When they saw this, “The guards were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men” (Matthew 28:4). And after they heard the angel tell the women that Jesus had risen, the guards went off to tell the chief priests and elders.

After all the miracles and powerful preaching of Jesus, you would think that the chief priests and elders would have believed. But they didn’t. And then, after hearing the testimony of these soldiers, you would think they would have fallen on their knees, repented of their hardness of hearts, and come to believe. But they didn’t. They doubled down in their sin and added sin upon sin.

Some forms of sin can more easily be admitted, especially sins of weakness. When one is weak and falls, it may not be always easy to overcome that sin in the future, but it is easier to acknowledge it as sin when it is caused by human weakness. But a sin of weakness is much different than a sin of obstinate pride. Obstinate pride is not only hard to overcome, it’s hard to admit. It’s hard to admit our sin when it is based on our obstinacy and pride. As a result, this type of sin often leads to other sins such as ongoing deception, manipulation and anger. This is illustrated by these chief priests and elders. But if you can humble yourself and admit your sin when it comes from your pride, that humility can have a powerful and transformative effect upon your life.

Reflect, today, upon these chief priests and elders of the people. Try to ponder their hardness of heart and the sad situation they found themselves in as they attempted to cover up their error and sin. Resolve never to fall into this form of sin yourself. However, if this is a struggle for you, seek humility so that you can be freed of this heavy burden by the grace of the Resurrection of our Lord.

My resurrected Lord, You conquered sin and death and brought forth new life for all who believe in You. Give me the grace, dear Jesus, to never allow my sin of pride to keep me from being open to the glorious and transforming action You desire to do in my life. Please give me the gift of humility so that I may always turn from my sin and turn to You. Jesus, I trust in You.

Cling to Jesus Now!

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter

Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” John 20:17

Mary of Magdala was one of the first persons to whom Jesus appeared. She was deeply devoted to Him, especially because of the great mercy He offered her when He forgave her manifest sins and expelled seven demons from her. After He had done that, Mary became a devout follower and was one of the few who remained faithful to Him, even as He hung upon the Cross.

On the first day of the week, the Sunday after the Crucifixion, Mary came to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body in accord with Jewish custom. But when she arrived, Jesus’ body was gone. And when Jesus appeared to her as she was weeping, she didn’t immediately recognize Him, for He had His new glorified body. But when Jesus spoke her name, Mary, she recognized Him. But rather than embracing her, Jesus said, “Stop holding on to me…” Why would Jesus say this?

Even though Mary’s attachment and devotion to Jesus was beautiful and holy, it wasn’t yet perfected. She wanted her Lord Whom she had come to know and followed. She wanted her former relationship with Jesus to be returned to her. But for this reason, Jesus said, “Stop holding on to me…” Jesus wanted much more. He was telling her that her relationship with Him was soon to change for the better. No longer would He simply be her earthly companion; instead, He would soon live within her, dwell within her very heart, become one with her, and be her Bridegroom for eternity. But this could only happen once Jesus ascended to the Father in Heaven to complete His divine mission of salvation.

At times, we also seek favors from our Lord that are purely temporal. Though we do need to trust Him for “our daily bread,” meaning, for all the basic necessities of life, we must realize that the gifts God wants to give us far surpass anything in this world. The supernatural gift of grace, the gift of the Indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity, the gift of oneness with our Lord is what we are made for and is the end goal and desire of our Lord.

Reflect, today, upon these words Jesus spoke to Mary: “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.” But do so with the knowledge that, now, Jesus has indeed ascended to the Father. Therefore, He now invites us all to cling to Him as He reigns in Heaven. Ponder the deep desire in the heart of our Lord that you cling to Him with every fiber of your being. He wants to dwell within you, to become one with you and to transform you in every way. This holy union is now being enjoyed for all eternity by Saint Mary of Magdala, and this same gift is being offered to you. Cling to Him and never let go, for this will be your eternal joy.

My risen and ascended Lord, You now reign in Heaven in perfect glory and splendor. Draw me into Your glorious life and invite me to cling to You with all my heart. I invite You, dear Lord, to come and make Your dwelling within me so that I can hold on to You forevermore. Jesus, I trust in You.

The Word of God Burning Within

Wednesday in the Octave of Easter

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 24:30–31

Two of Jesus’ disciples had been discussing the events of the past week as they walked the seven-mile journey along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They previously had hoped that Jesus was the one Who would redeem Israel—but then He was killed. And three days later, there were rumors of His Resurrection, which only left them confused. As they journeyed, Jesus appeared to the two disciples, but they did not recognize Him at first. His identity was hidden from their eyes. Jesus listened to them and expressed sorrow at their lack of understanding, so He explained to them the teachings of Moses and the prophets and that the Messiah needed to suffer, die and rise on the third day. As Jesus spoke, the disciples began to understand, and their hearts burned within them. Finally, in the gift of the Holy Eucharist, in the breaking of the Bread, their eyes were opened to see that it was Jesus with them.

Why did Jesus hide His risen presence from these disciples? It appears that He did so because they lacked faith. They said, “…we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel.”  But the Crucifixion was too much for them to handle. They could not comprehend why the Redeemer had to suffer as Jesus did, so they began to doubt.

Too often we are like these disciples who are confused about matters of faith and who struggle with doubts. For that reason, we must see ourselves in the persons of these disciples as they walked the road to Emmaus. Jesus offered these disciples a wonderful gift of mercy by helping them to understand His saving act. He explained to them all that was taught in Scripture regarding Him. And as these disciples listened to Jesus teach them, they slowly came to believe.

We, too, must allow Jesus to teach us about the transforming power of His death and Resurrection. We must listen attentively and allow our hearts to burn within us as we listen to His holy Word. Only in this way will we come to the level of faith we need to more fully comprehend and accept the transforming power of the Paschal Mystery.

Reflect, today, upon these disciples and their need to reflect upon the Word of God so as to understand, believe and have their eyes opened. Know that you need this same grace. You need to spend time with our Lord, immersed in His Word, listening to His voice, so that you will come to believe more fully. Allow the message of Jesus’ death and Resurrection to burn within you so that you, too, will come to believe.

My resurrected Lord, You appeared to these disciples who lacked faith and understanding and gave them the gift of Your holy teaching. Teach me, dear Lord, all that I must come to understand and know about You, Your death, Resurrection and glorious gift of new life. May Your Word burn within me and lead me to a transformation of my life. Jesus, I trust in You.

Becoming a Witness to the Truth

Thursday in the Octave of Easter

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” Luke 24:45–48

Jesus once again appears to a group of His disciples, and He once again gets straight to the point. He “opened their minds” so that they would understand all that the Scriptures revealed about Him. He helped them to see that His death and Resurrection were fulfillments of the teachings of Moses and the prophets. And then Jesus says something new: “You are witnesses of these things.”

As we saw in yesterday’s Gospel, it’s clear that the disciples did not yet understand why Jesus had to die and then rise again. They were still in shock and traumatized by these events. Therefore, Jesus had to carefully explain to His disciples the meaning of what had just taken place. They needed to understand this on a level that they couldn’t comprehend by themselves. They needed Jesus’ clear and detailed explanation as well as a special grace by which their minds would be opened to an understanding of these profound mysteries of faith.

We are no different than these disciples. It’s easy to believe in Jesus for insufficient reasons which only result in superficial faith. Some believe simply because that’s what they were taught when they were young. Some believe because it makes them feel better to believe. Some believe because they don’t know of anything better to believe. But then there are those who believe for the right reason. Like the disciples in this resurrection appearance, they have listened to Jesus speak clearly and in detail to them, such as through their study of Scripture, the Catechism, or other holy sources, and then they were given a special grace from God that “opened their minds” to an understanding that goes far beyond human rational abilities alone. Are you one of those people?

If you are, then you have another duty. Not only must you continue to internalize these truths, allowing them to deepen and change your own life completely and totally, but you must also become a “witness” to these things. When you grow in an authentic knowledge of the faith revealed by our Lord, you must also share it with others. Real faith must be shared!

Reflect, today, upon this powerful resurrection appearance. As you do, ponder whether or not you have allowed our Lord to speak to you in the same way that He did to these disciples, and whether or not you have truly internalized all that He has spoken to you and explained to you. If you are among this grouping of people, reflect also upon your duty to be a witness of these truths to others.  Jesus wants to appear in His resurrected form to many others, but He especially does this, today, through the mediation of His faithful followers who are now sent forth to be witnesses to Christ and His glorious Resurrection.

My risen Jesus, You gave Your disciples a glorious gift when You opened their minds to Your holy Truth and taught them many things. Please open my mind also, dear Lord, so that I will comprehend the deep and profound mysteries of faith. Help me to understand Who You are, why You had to die, and how to share in the new life of Your Resurrection. Please also use me as Your witness so that many will come to know You and share in the new life won by Your Resurrection. Jesus, I trust in You.

The Mystery of the Resurrection

Friday in the Octave of Easter

Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.” And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they realized it was the Lord. Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in like manner the fish. This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead. John 21:12–14

The appearances of Jesus after His Resurrection were cloaked in mystery. Not a mystery of confusion, but a mystery of profound depth and awe. On this, the third time Jesus appeared to His disciples, Jesus first spoke to them from the shore after they had been fishing all night without catching anything. He told them to try again and to throw the net over the right side of the boat. They did so without even realizing that it was Jesus Who was speaking to them. But upon catching more than they could handle, they realized it was the Lord.

The “mystery” present in this resurrection appearance has many aspects. Why did the disciples not recognize Jesus at first? Why did Jesus instruct them to throw the net over the right side of the boat? Why was Jesus made known through this catch of one hundred and fifty-three large fish? Why was Jesus cooking breakfast for the disciples on the shore? And why did John record that “none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’” Though all of these mysteries have answers that have been offered over the centuries by the saints and great Scripture commentators, it’s useful to also simply ponder the fact that Jesus’ resurrection appearances were, indeed, cloaked in mystery.

In a mystery novel, the reader is given various vague clues to help them try to figure out the mystery and solve it. The clues are vague intentionally so as to make the solving more enjoyable and challenging. However, when it comes to a “mystery of faith,” such as the mystery of faith surrounding Jesus’ resurrection appearances, the mystery is of an entirely different sort. In these cases, the mystery is one of depth and breadth and is something that has the potential to draw us deeper and deeper into the infinite nature of God and His saving action.

Take, for example, this one line quoted above: “And none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they realized it was the Lord.” It appears that the disciples gathered around Jesus as He was preparing breakfast on the shore and sat there in awe of Him. Their silent awe of Him in this appearance reveals that words are not sufficient. Normally, when you see someone whom you are happy to see, you greet them and start talking, asking them how they are, etc. But here, the disciples remained in this holy awe, listening to Him, receiving this meal and pondering the mystery of His resurrected presence.

Reflect, today, upon the ways that our Lord comes to you. It’s easy to miss Him since His ongoing presence in our lives is also mysterious. Imagine if the disciples would have ignored Jesus’ call to “Cast the net over the right side of the boat…” If they would have ignored that command, they may have never come to realize it was the Lord. Reflect upon the ways that our Lord speaks to you. Do you respond? Do you recognize Him? Do you allow yourself to be drawn into this holy awe of His divine presence? Follow the example of the disciples and be on the lookout for the ongoing presence of our Lord all around you.

My divine Lord, You are constantly present to me, day and night, and yet I so often fail to perceive You and adore You. Help me to become more aware of Your presence in my life. As I do, help me to enter more deeply into these holy mysteries with love, devotion and awe. Jesus, I trust in You.

The Beauty of Repentance

Saturday in the Octave of Easter

When Jesus had risen, early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. Mark 16:9

The first person recorded in Scripture to whom Jesus appeared was Mary Magdalene. Notably, she was the one out of whom Jesus cast seven demons. Being possessed by seven demons has traditionally been understood to mean that she was completely possessed. Prior to Jesus freeing her, satan and His demons had completely taken over her will by her free submission to evil. And yet, it was to her, a woman with such a horrible past, that Jesus chose to give the honor of His first appearance. What an amazing fact!

Everyone has a past. Some have been grave sinners. Others, like Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, have never committed a mortal sin. Obviously, the beauty of a soul like Saint Thérèse is deeply admirable, and such a soul will be greatly rewarded in Heaven. But what about the grave sinner? What about those like Mary Magdalene who have lived horribly sinful lives? What does our Lord think about them?

The fact that Mary Magdalene is the first person recorded in Scripture to have seen the risen Lord should tell us much about how Jesus views a person who has greatly struggled with serious sin but has later overcome that sin and turned wholeheartedly to our Lord. Sin is demoralizing. When unrepented, it leaves a loss of dignity and integrity. However, even after one has repented, some people will continue to struggle with unhealthy guilt and shame. And for some, these struggles can become a weapon by which the evil one tries to discourage them from feeling worthy to serve our Lord with zeal and passion.

But the truth in the mind of God is that repentant sinners are true jewels and beautiful in the eyes of our Lord. They are worthy of the greatest honors. God does not dwell on our past sin. Instead, our past sin, when it has been repented of and forgiven, will be an eternal sign of the love and mercy of God.

How do you deal with your past sin? First, have you completely acknowledged it, repented of it and sought forgiveness from our Lord? If so, does it still haunt you? Does the evil one still try to remind you of your past and strip away your hope in the mercy of God?

Reflect, today, upon the most grievous of your past sins. If you haven’t yet confessed them, then do so as soon as you can. If you have, try to see your soul through the eyes of God. God does not see your past sins with anger and disgust. Rather, He sees only the depth of your conversion, sorrow and repentance. And, to Him, this is holy and beautiful. Ponder the beauty of your repentant heart and know that, as you do, you will be looking at your own heart through the eyes of God.

My most merciful God, You love the sinner and hate the sin. You love me in ways that are beyond my understanding. Help me to understand how deeply You love my heart when I completely repent. And help me to see my heart only through Your eyes. I thank You for Your love and mercy, dear Lord. Help me to love You all the more. Jesus, I trust in You.

A Whole Ocean of Graces

Divine Mercy Sunday (Year A)

Saint Faustina reports in her Diary what Jesus told her about Divine Mercy Sunday: 

“My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day are open all the divine floodgates through which graces flow” (Diary #699).

That day is today! It is the Feast of Divine Mercy! Today’s feast is among the newer feasts in our Church. Though Jesus’ desire that this feast be celebrated on the eighth day of Easter was spoken to Sister Maria Faustina Kowolska back in 1931, it was not solemnly instituted until the year 2000. On April 30 of that year, Saint Pope John Paul II canonized Saint Faustina and inaugurated the Feast of Divine Mercy as a universal feast within the Church. Because this Feast is so recent within the Church, we can be certain that we still have much to learn about the message of this Solemnity as well as the numerous messages about God’s mercy revealed in Saint Faustina’s Diary.

Among the many messages contained within her Diary, Jesus revealed to us that this Sunday, the eighth and final day of the Octave of Easter, is a day like none other. Though grace and mercy are continuously poured out from Heaven upon us, Jesus is very clear that today is unique. Today, “a whole ocean of graces” is poured forth upon souls who approach the font of His mercy. Sit with that image for a time. “A whole ocean of graces.” What does that mean?

Symbolically speaking, a whole ocean is meant to depict the infinite. Try to imagine what it would be like to have the entire ocean poured upon you—it’s beyond comprehension! Thus, God is saying that the infinity of grace is given today. The question for us all to ponder is this: How receptive am I to those infinite graces?

By analogy, imagine that your life was like a thimble, and an ocean of water was poured upon you. As a thimble, you could not contain all that was given. Therefore, we should realize that God wants to stretch our capacity to receive His mercy more abundantly by widening our capacity for mercy. What if your soul were like a large pond? Still, the waters of the ocean could not be contained within that pond. What is it that is capable of receiving an entire ocean of mercy? Only an ocean can contain an ocean. For that reason, God desires to first prepare our souls to receive an infinity of mercy by transforming us into vessels of infinite capacity. 

Saint Teresa of Ávila, in her spiritual classic, “Interior Castles,” teaches us that the soul is, indeed, capable of infinite capacity for the simple fact that God dwells within. The soul is like an interior castle with many interlinked dwelling places through which we must pass so as to arrive at the central chamber. She teaches that the goal of the spiritual life is to travel through these various dwelling places to the center of our souls where the infinite God dwells so that we can be present to Him there. Therefore, we must understand that our souls are indeed capable of receiving the infinite waters of mercy, because God created us with this ability when He chose to live within us. The key to being able to fully receive this fullness of mercy is to seek out the infinite God, dwelling within. How is this done?

The heart of the path laid out in the Diary of Saint Faustina is as follows: Go to Confession and receive Holy Communion so as to obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. However, as many of the great spiritual writers explain, such as Saint Teresa of Ávila, there are many levels we must pass on our spiritual journey so as to be able to encounter God in His fullness. This, of course, includes encountering God’s mercy given to us in Holy Communion and Confession. Those who receive these Sacraments while dwelling only in the first dwelling places, for example, will never benefit from them to the extent that those who dwell in the seventh and central mansion where the King dwells in fullness. Thus, mercy is given in its fullness but unless we make the transforming journey to God through conversion and purification of our souls, we will never be able to receive the ocean of graces God bestows.

Reflect, today, upon this ocean being poured forth upon you. How much of this mercy are you able to receive right now in your life? As you humbly admit your limited openness to God’s grace, know that God patiently waits for you, dwelling in His fullness deep within you, waiting for you to make the journey to Him. Commit yourself to this journey by prayer, fasting, penance, the reading of Scripture, the celebration of the Sacraments and spiritual reading. There is an ocean of the fullness of life waiting for you. Dive in and allow His mercy to deepen your capacity to receive Him most fully.

My Lord, You are The Divine Mercy, the source of all grace and the Bestower of this grace in superabundance. I thank You for the infinity of Your generosity and pray that my soul will be more fully disposed to receive You. Please stretch the capacity of my soul through my ongoing journey of purification and conversion so that I will receive all that You wish to bestow. Jesus, I trust in You.

Eternal Contemplation of God’s Mercy

Divine Mercy Sunday (Year B)

Saint Faustina writes in her Diary: 

“My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the First Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy” (Diary #699).

What will it be like to contemplate the love and mercy of God for all eternity? To some, this might not at first seem that appealing. Won’t it become boring if all we do for all eternity is contemplate God’s mercy? If that is a question that resonates with you, then the reason this idea initially lacks appeal is because you cannot fathom how fulfilling and glorious this will be. Jesus said, “My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity.”

God willed that this Sunday, the eighth day of the Octave of Easter, be celebrated as the Feast of Mercy. By placing this Feast on the last day of the Octave of Easter, God is telling us that the message of this Feast reveals the ultimate purpose of our lives. Easter is the culmination of the perfect plan of redemption. And Divine Mercy Sunday is the culmination of that perfect plan. Therefore, nothing is more important than trying to understand the message this Feast presents.

By analogy, if you were given a new car but never drove it, the car would be of no use. Or if you won the lottery and the money simply sat in your account unused, what’s the benefit? Or if you were gravely ill and were given a medicine that would cure that illness but you never took it, then you would remain ill. So also, if we believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus, but never allow the Mercy that is given by that act to transform us, then we have missed the point. The Divine Mercy is the point of life. It’s the only thing worth seeking. It’s the only source of satisfaction and fulfillment. It’s the only cure for our ills. It’s the only source of true riches. In three short words: It Is Everything!

When Jesus says that our eternity will be spent contemplating His Mercy, He doesn’t only mean that this is something we will do after we die. True, the fullness of the revelation of His Mercy will be set before us when we enter into the Beatific Vision and contemplate God forever. But “eternity” includes today. It includes the here and now. Therefore, our contemplation of The Divine Mercy must be the single most important goal in our life today. When it is, everything else in life will fall into place in support of this goal.

In order to make the contemplation of The Divine Mercy the most important goal of your life, you must begin to understand it. That’s why we were given this special day, this most solemn Feast of Mercy. Therefore, use this day as an opportunity to deepen your contemplation of this Gift. Begin by reading about God’s Mercy as it was revealed to us through Saint Faustina. Try to spend time reading Jesus’ words, His explanations, descriptions and revelations about His Mercy. As you do, if you find that it remains incomprehensible, don’t worry. It is incomprehensible! However, since Jesus promised us that our eternity would be spent in contemplation of His Mercy, then we must believe that the more deeply we enter into that contemplation now, the more glorious our lives will become. If we can truly taste of this Mercy, gain a small glimpse of its grandeur, and comprehend even a small aspect of its meaning, then we will truly find much satisfaction in this endeavor.

Reflect, today, upon The Divine Mercy. As you do, humble yourself through prayer by admitting to God and to yourself that His Mercy is beyond what you will ever comprehend. Do this in prayer. Reading about God’s Mercy is important, but it will only be through prayer that we begin our contemplation. And it will only be through this contemplation that we will begin to live the central purpose of our lives.

Glorious Divine Mercy, pour down upon me; open my mind to Your depth and breadth. Help me to begin to contemplate You in Your fullness so that I can begin my eternity with You now. My loving Savior, You have revealed so much about Your Mercy. May I not only learn about this Gift but also receive it into my life. Jesus, I trust in You.

The Divine Mercy

Divine Mercy Sunday (Year C)

Today is the Feast of all Feasts! It is the Feast of Mercy! This Feast originated from the private revelations given to Sr. Maria Faustina Kowolska, a Polish cloistered nun who died in 1938. In the year 2000, she was canonized by Saint Pope John Paul II, and the Feast of Mercy was instituted as a universal Feast of the Church. To better understand this Feast, let’s read some of the private revelations Jesus gave to Saint Faustina:

“Whoever approaches the Fountain of Life on this day will be granted complete forgiveness of sins and punishment” (Diary #300).

“This Feast emerged from the very depths of My mercy, and it is confirmed in the vast depths of my tender mercies” (Diary #420).

“On one occasion, I heard these words: My daughter, tell the whole world about My Inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flows are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy” (Diary #699).

“Yes, the first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to our neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to absolve yourself from it” (Diary #742).

“Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion. I am giving them the last hope of salvation; that is, the Feast of My Mercy. If they will not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity” (Diary #965).

“I want to grant complete pardon to the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on the Feast of My mercy” (Diary #1109).

In addition to the above quotes about the celebration of the Feast of Mercy, below are some quotes revealing more about The Divine Mercy itself:

“Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to My Mercy” (Diary #300).

“My Heart overflows with great mercy for souls, and especially for poor sinners. If only they could understand that I am the best of Fathers to them and that it is for them that the Blood and Water flowed from My Heart as from a fount overflowing with mercy” (Diary #367).

“I desire trust from My creatures. Encourage souls to place great trust in My fathomless mercy. Let the weak, sinful soul have no fear to approach Me, for even if it had more sins than there are grains of sand in the world, all would be drowned in the unmeasurable depths of My mercy” (Diary #1059).

“Tell all people, My daughter, that I am Love and Mercy itself. When a soul approaches Me with trust, I fill it with such an abundance of graces that it cannot contain them within itself, but radiates them to other souls” (Diary #1074).

“My daughter, write that the greater the misery of a soul, the greater its right to My mercy; urge all souls to trust in the unfathomable abyss of My mercy, because I want to save them all” (Diary #1182).

Reflect, today, upon God’s infinite and unfathomable Mercy. The Divine Mercy is especially for those who struggle with sin. Jesus says, “The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy” (Diary #723). The Divine Mercy is the very tenderness and compassion of God. Run to Him, trust in Him, open your soul to Him and allow Him to pour forth an ocean of Mercy on this holy day.

Most Merciful Lord, I desire to receive the superabundance of Your Mercy poured forth from Heaven today. Please open my heart so that I will turn to You in my need. I am a sinner, dear Lord, but for that reason I am in most need of You in my life. Help me to trust in You with all my might. Jesus, I do trust in You!

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