Octave of Easter

Happy Easter!

Alleluia!  He is Risen!

Saying those words is like drinking a tall glass of cold water after being out in the desert all day.  Lent is over and it is now time to celebrate the great joy of Easter!

At the Easter Vigil, the Exsultet is sung as Mass begins in darkness, illumined only by candles throughout the church.  The Exsultet is a beautiful hymn of rejoicing in Christ’s triumph over sin and death.  One part states:

O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!  O happy fault that earned for us sogreat, so glorious a Redeemer!

This line stands out because it calls the sin of Adam “necessary” and refers to it as “O happy fault.”  At first, this may seem strange.  Why is it that we refer to the sin of Adam, Original Sin, as “necessary” and “happy.”  The answer is Easter.  It’s because God, in His perfect wisdom and love, took sin and the consequence of sin (death) and used them as the means of the salvation of the world.  That’s what Easter is all about!

This may be hard to comprehend so it’s worth thinking about more deeply.  Without Adam’s sin, there would be no Jesus.  God would not have had to become one of us.  So even though the original sin of Adam, as well as all future sin, is evil and wrong, God in His perfect power and love chose to use it as the very means of the salvation of the world.  How?  By allowing the sins of the world to persecute Him and crucify Him, and then, by turning that suffering and death into the very means of salvation.  Jesus destroyed sin by destroying the consequences of sin which is death.  Death loses in the Resurrection!  Jesus’ Resurrection takes away the effects of all sin for those who cling to Him.

Easter is a time when we must do just that.  We must “cling” to our resurrected Lord!  We must cling to Jesus who is alive and well.  We must cling to His Resurrection and strive to share in it.  How do we cling to our Resurrected Lord?  There are many ways.  Here is one.

Take joy in everything.  Start with whatever it is that burdens you the most.  Whatever it is that makes you angry, sad or depressed.  Whatever that is, it can potentially become one of your greatest sources of grace and joy.  Seriously, it can.  If the brutal Crucifixion of Jesus, the Son of God, can turn out to be the greatest event in all of human history, then your personal suffering, your burden, or even your sin can very much become a source of great joy as long as you let God transform it into part of His Resurrection!

This is the meaning of Easter!  Easter means that nothing can keep us from the joy that God wants to give us.  Nothing can steal that joy away.  Sure, at times we will struggle just as Jesus did in the Agony of the Garden and the Via Dolorosa (the Way of the Cross), but those sufferings will not win.  The Resurrection won with Christ and it will win with us when we cling to Him.  Jesus persevered and, in the end, rose victorious.  This is Easter!

Know that God wants you to experience the joy of Easter in your life.  Let Him fill you with hope and with the joy that only the Resurrection can bring.  God wants Easter to begin now in our lives!  Happy Easter!

Lord, help me to cling to You in Your Resurrection.  Help me to let you transform every cross and burden in my life into joy.  Lord, may Your joy fill my life and be my strength in all things.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Overjoyed at the Resurrection!

Monday in the Octave of Easter

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce the news to his disciples.  And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.  Matthew 28:8-9

They went away “fearful” but also “overjoyed.”  What a fascinating combination!  These two experiences do not at first seem like they go hand in hand.  How is one fearful while also filled with joy?  Wouldn’t fear undermine joy?  And wouldn’t joy seem to cast out fear?  This all depends upon what sort of “fear” these holy women were experiencing. 

It seems that the fear these women were experiencing was one of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the gift of holy fear.  This is not a fear in the normal sense of being afraid.  Rather, it’s a fear that is better defined as a deep reverence, wonder and awe.  It’s a gift that enabled these women to recognize the profundity of what they were presently experiencing.  They were in awe, holy shock, amazement and filled with joy all at the same time.  They would have suddenly experienced the amazing realization and hope that Jesus had beaten death itself.  They were most likely confused but also filled with a faith that left them with a conviction that something
extraordinary had just taken place. 

This is the experience we must have today.  Today is the second day in the Octave of Easter.  That means today is Easter Day once again.  We celebrate Easter Day for eight straight days culminating with Divine Mercy Sunday.  So these next eight days are days when we should spend extra time trying to penetrate and experience the same experience these holy women had as they first discovered that Jesus was no longer in the tomb.  We must let ourselves engage the mystery of the Resurrection.  We must see it for what it is.  We must strive to comprehend this gift and the amazing fact that in His Resurrection, Jesus destroys the effects of sin.  He destroys death itself.  Truly amazing!

Do you understand the Resurrection of Christ?  Not well enough.  It’s only the humble truth for each of us to admit that we need to understand the Resurrection more.  We must let not only the truth of the Resurrection sink in, we must also allow the effects of the Resurrection to change us.  We must allow the Resurrection of Christ to enter into our souls and invite us to share in this new life today.

As these holy women left the tomb, the Scripture tells us that they met the Resurrected Christ on their way.  And it tells us that when they saw Jesus they, “approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.”  This is no small act of adoration and love.  This act of worship and adoration of Jesus shows that they not only believed, but also acted by worshiping Him.  We must do the same.

Reflect, today, upon the awesome event of the Resurrection and spend time this week in this humble adoration.  Try to literally bow down to the ground in homage before the Resurrected Christ.  Try to do this literally.  Perhaps in the silence of your room, or in a church, or any place that you can comfortably express this literal and physical act of worship and adoration.  As you do this, let yourself come face to face with the Risen Lord.  And let Him begin to more deeply transform your life!

Lord, I do believe.  I believe You rose victorious over sin and death.  Allow me, especially during this Octave of Easter, to enter into the great mystery of Your Resurrection.  Help me to understand and experience this overwhelming glory in my life.  I adore You with a profound love, dear Lord. Help me to worship You with all my might.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Holding On to Jesus

Tuesday of the Octave of Easter

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.  Jesus said to her, “Mary!”  She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher.  Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.” John 20:15-17

Mary Magdalene had been outside Jesus’ tomb weeping because she didn’t know what had happened to His sacred body.  Jesus appears to her suddenly in her grief and she is overwhelmed, crying out “Rabbouni!”  Jesus tells her to stop holding on to Him.  Why would Jesus say this?  What did He mean?

As we can imagine, this was a very emotional moment for Mary.  She had been there watching the entire Crucifixion.  She knew Jesus well and loved Him dearly.  She watched Him die and now, all of a sudden, Jesus was alive and in her presence.  Her emotions must have been overwhelming. 

Jesus was not being critical of Mary when He told her not to hold on to Him.  He was actually giving her beautiful advice and direction in her spiritual journey and in her relationship with Him.  He was telling her that His relationship was now going to change, and deepen.  He told her not to hold on to Him because He had “not yet ascended to the Father.”  At that moment, Mary’s relationship with Jesus was primarily on a human level.  She had spent much time with Him, been in His physical presence, and loved Him with her human heart.  But Jesus wanted more.  He wanted her, and all of us, to now love Him in a divine way.  He was soon to ascend to the Father, and from His heavenly throne He could descend to begin a new relationship with Mary, and with all of us, that was far more than one on a human level.  From His throne in Heaven He could now enter Mary’s soul.  He could enter into a new and much deeper communion with her and with all of us.  He could live in us and we in Him.  He could become one with us.

By letting go of the more human and emotional aspects of her relationship with Jesus, Mary could soon cling to Him in a way that she couldn’t do through her human interaction with Him.  This is the divine marriage, the divine communion to which we are all called.

Reflect, today, upon your own clinging to Jesus.  He is now fully resurrected and ascended and we can experience the full fruits of the Resurrection as a result.  We, with Mary, can now hold on to Him in our souls because He is primarily the one holding on to us.

Lord, may I cling to You as You cling to me.  May my heart, mind and soul be Yours.  Come live in me so that I may live in You.  I give my life to You, dear Lord, help me to offer You all that I am.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Recognizing Jesus in Your Daily Life

Wednesday of the Octave of Easter

That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. 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. Luke 24:13-16

This appearance of Jesus to two of His disciples is intriguing and fascinating.  They were quite distraught and didn’t seem to know what to think about Jesus’ death.  They had hoped He was the Messiah but then He was killed.  And then there were some who claimed His tomb was empty.  What should they make of all this?

As the story goes on, Jesus “interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.”  With that, these disciples realized that this man with whom they were speaking had incredible wisdom and understanding, so they invited Him to stay with them. Jesus stayed and sat down with them in their home.  While there, Scripture says that “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.”

Again, this is intriguing and fascinating.  Why did Jesus appear to them, conceal who He was, sit down and break bread with them, allow them to suddenly recognize Him and then vanish into thin air?  Well, He did it for a reason and we should be very attentive to this.

Jesus wanted those disciples, as well as all of us, to know that He who rose from the dead was very much alive and that we would recognize Him in the breaking of the bread.  We would recognize Him in the Most Holy Eucharist!

This appearance of Jesus to these disciples was, in fact, an appearance to teach all of us the simple truth of His presence in the Eucharist.  It was at that moment, as they “took bread, said the blessing, broke it,” that Jesus was suddenly made manifest to their minds and souls.  Jesus is alive in the Eucharist!  But it also tells us that He is veiled in the Eucharist.  This combination of being veiled and truly present gives us wonderful guidance in our faith.

Jesus is here, right now, in our presence, but we most likely do not see Him.  But He is truly here!  These disciples were in the presence of Jesus and they did not realize it.  The same is true for us.  We are constantly in His presence and we do not realize it.  This is especially true when we are at Mass but it is also true in countless other ways throughout our day.  We must commit ourselves to seeing Him, to recognizing Him and to adoring Him.  We must discover the resurrected presence of Jesus all around us.

Too often we think that our Lord is present only in extraordinary ways.  But that is not true!  He is constantly present to us in very ordinary ways.   He is here with us right now, loving us, speaking to us, and calling us to love Him.  Do you see Him?  Do you recognize His presence?

Reflect, today, upon the experience of these disciples.  If you were them, you’d be blessed to be in the presence of the Savior of the world.  What an honor!  The truth is that God is with you now and always.  He is constantly with you and is constantly speaking with you.  Look for Him and listen to His voice.  You may be surprised at how near He really is.

Lord, thank You for loving me so much that You are always with me.  Help me to see You and to recognize Your gentle and still voice.  Give me the eyes of faith to see You present in the Most Holy Eucharist, and help me to discern Your presence in every ordinary event of my day.  I love You, dearLord.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Incredulous with Joy!

Thursday of the Octave of Easter

While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them. Luke 24:41-43

“Incredulous for joy!”  What a great description of the disciples’ reaction to Jesus!  To be “incredulous” means that the disciples were not sure what to believe.  They were hesitant to believe in what they were seeing.  There was Jesus, whom they saw crucified, standing before them with the wounds in His hands and feet.  He was talking to them and asked for something to eat.  They were in a bit of shock, disbelief and uncertainty.

But the description says that they were incredulous “for joy!”  It’s as if they were waiting to explode with joy, they wanted to experience joy in what they were seeing, but something was holding them back.  It all seemed to be too good.  Was it true?  Could it be that Jesus really conquered death and was once again back with them?

This reaction of the disciples reveals an experience that we all have at times when invited by God to enter into His glory and grace.  So often, when God invites us closer to Himself, when He invites us to experience the joy of His Resurrection, we react with hesitancy.  We can find it hard to actually let ourselves experience the reality
of the Resurrection in our lives.

This can happen for many reasons.  Discouragement is one cause for our hesitancy to fully embrace the Resurrection.  The disciples were deeply discouraged at the death of Jesus.  And now that He had risen, and was standing there before them, they were hesitant to let go of that discouragement they let take hold. 

So also, we can easily let the weight of the world, our sin, or the sins of others get to us.  We can get angry or upset and find ourselves brewing over the apparent problems we face.  Taking joy in the Resurrection means we turn our eyes away from those things and look intently at the realities God wants us to focus on.  It does no good to become discouraged with the many problems that come our way.  Instead, our Lord is regularly calling us to look beyond them to something greater.  He is calling us to look to His victory!  Looking at His victory is freeing and produces an incredible faith in our lives.  And that faith in the Risen Lord will have the effect of a wonderful joy that God wants us to have. 

Reflect, today, upon your own reaction to the reality of the Resurrection of our Lord.  Spend some time today gazing upon the Risen Lord.  Look at His victory.  Look at His glory.  Look at Him who calls you to a deep faith.  With your eyes fixed on Him, all else that tempts you to discouragement simply fades away.

Lord, I do want to gaze upon You.  I want to see Your splendor and glory.  I want to see You risen from the dead and take great joy and delight in this reality.  Help me, dear Lord, to experience the incredible joy that comes from knowing You, our Resurrected Lord.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Fishing for Souls with Jesus

Friday of the Octave of Easter

“Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. John 21:6

Every fisherman would love to have the experience that Jesus offered the Apostles in the passage above.  The Apostles were fishing all night and caught nothing.  Then, in the morning, Jesus appeared on the shore but they did not realize it was Him.  He then gave them a simple command to cast their net off the right side of the boat.  And they caught so many fish they could not pull them in.  What an exciting catch!

This catch of fish was much more than just a favor from Jesus to help them with their work.  It was highly symbolic.  The central symbolism is that Jesus was giving the Apostles a new calling.  They would no longer be fishing just for fish, rather, they were now to fish for souls.  And the important part is that if they attempted to do this by their own efforts, they would come up empty handed.  If, however, they did it at the Lord’s command, in His way, within His timing, then their efforts would provide an abundance of good fruit.  More than they could ever imagine!

This miracle of Jesus begins to reveal to the Apostles (and to us) the command that comes to evangelize the world.  This revelation comes after His Resurrection as Jesus gives His final instructions to the Apostles to carry out His mission of salvation.  We should see in this miracle our own call to spread the Good News.  And we must see in this miracle the command to spread the Good News only at the command of Jesus, in His way and within His timing.

Sometimes Christians tend to come up with many “good” ideas to spread the Gospel.  But the key is to humble ourselves before God and realize that we are incapable of spreading the Good News of the Gospel unless the Lord is leading the way and giving the direction.  This tells us we should wait on Him and let Him speak.  We must listen to His voice and respond only when He leads.  Evangelization is a response to Jesus rather than something we do by our own effort.  This is the central message of this miraculous event.

As we continue our Easter Day celebration it is a good time for each of us to reflect upon our own responsibility to evangelize.  We all have a calling to share in this work of Jesus.  It will take on different forms for each of us according to our vocation and mission.  But the real question is this: “Am I responding to the call from Jesus to evangelize in the way He is directing me?”  This is an important question.  We should know that the particular mission Jesus gives us is not entrusted to anyone else.  And He does want to use us. 

Reflect, today, upon this command our Lord gave to the Apostles and hear Him speak this same command to you, calling you to “fish for souls” in accord with His holy will.  Let the Lord speak to you this week and let yourself be open to His direction.  God wants to use you, so make sure you let Him!

Lord, I do want to be used by You.  I do want to evangelize in accord with Your will.  Help me to confidently answer the call, and help me to sincerely listen to the direction You give.  Use me, dear Lord, to save many souls for Your Kingdom.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Softening Your Heart

Saturday of the Octave of Easter

But later, as the Eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised. Mark 16:14

Why did the Apostles fail to believe Jesus had risen from the dead?  They had seen so many amazing miracles first hand from Jesus.  They lived with Him day in and day out for three years.  They heard Him preach and teach with perfect authority and grace.  And now, after He rose from the dead, their hearts were hardened and they did not immediately believe.  Jesus had to appear to them and offer this proof to their own eyes.

This struggle that the Apostles went through is one that is all too common.  It’s the struggle of a hardness of heart.  They wanted to believe, but they couldn’t let themselves freely embrace the Resurrection with true faith until they had some proof.  Little did they know that all the proof they needed was already within them.

So often we are invited by Jesus to have faith and believe in Him and to accept many things as a matter of faith.  The gift of faith is like a small flame within our hearts that we carelessly expose to the winds.  This carelessness allows the flame of faith to be extinguished before it can grow.

The goal of our Christian walk is to let that flame of faith become the blazing fire that God wants.  And it’s possible!  It’s entirely possible to let that flame become so all-consuming that nothing can put it out.  Are you willing to do what you need to so as to let that flame glow brightly?  And how do we do this?

The path to this blazing fire of faith within has to do with the way we handle that spark which is already there.  We have to care for and nurture that small flame.  We have to treat the beginnings of our faith with great care.  We must guard it and feed it so that it grows.  This is done, in part, by avoiding carelessness in our life of prayer. 

Prayer is the key to letting God grow within.  He is there, speaking to us and calling us to believe.  Every time we doubt, or harden our heart, we expose that tiny flame to the elements.  But every time we intensely focus upon that flame, we enable it to grow and take hold.  Praying, listening, seeking, loving and believing are the ways to the faith God wants to bestow upon us.  And if the Apostles would have just let that gift of faith, planted deep within, grow by a softening of their hearts, they would have quickly and easily believed that Jesus was alive without having a need to see Him with their own eyes.

Reflect, today, upon the fact that we do not see the Resurrected Christ in a physical way, but we do have the same ability as the Apostles to know and love Him.  What are you doing every day to let this love and knowledge of Christ grow?  What are you doing in your own faith life to let this flame become a blazing and all-consuming fire?  Recommit yourself this day to prayer, and watch your faith in Christ grow brightly!

Lord, I love You and I believe in You.  Help me to fan the flame of faith planted in my heart into a blazing and all-consuming fire.  Help me to know and love You so that this knowledge and love transform me.  Purify my soul by this fire and free me from any hardness of heart.  Jesus, I trust in You.


The Mercy of God in Superabundance!

Divine Mercy Sunday

What a grace-filled day this is! It is the eighth and final day of the Octave of Easter. On this eighth day of Easter we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. It is a day when the flood-gates of mercy are opened wide and God lavishes us with more than we could ever hope for.

Divine Mercy Sunday has been celebrated for years as a private devotion. But in the year 2000, Pope Saint John Paul II, who himself was an extraordinary instrument of God’s mercy, put this feast on the Church’s official calendar as he raised Sister Faustina to sainthood.

Saint Faustina was a member of the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Krakow, Poland.  She died in 1938.  She came from a simple and poor family of farmers, had only three years of simple education and performed the humblest of tasks in her convent.  But she also was a mystic who was privileged to have many private revelations from our Lord which she recorded in her diary of Divine Mercy.

She writes of her experience on February 22, 1931: 

In the evening, when I was in my cell, I became aware of the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand was raised in blessing, the other was touching the garment at the breast. From the opening of the garment at the breast there came forth two large rays, one red and the other pale. In silence I gazed intently at the Lord; my soul was overwhelmed with fear, but also with great joy. After a while Jesus said to me, ‘paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the inscription: Jesus, I trust in You.’

Later, Jesus explained to her in another vision: 

“The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous; the red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the depths of My most tender Mercy at that time when My agonizing Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross….Fortunate is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him.”

Jesus spoke again to her of His desire that the Solemnity of Divine Mercy be established:

“On that day (the 8th day of Easter each year) 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 flow 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.”

As we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, intensely reflect upon the abundance of this gift that God wishes to pour forth upon us.  There is no limit to how much we are loved by our God of perfect mercy.  And today, on this the eighth day of Easter, we should especially be aware of the fact that the floodgates of Heaven are opened to us to an unimaginable degree.  Turn your eyes toward our merciful Lord and be open to all that He wishes to bestow.

Lord of Mercy, help me today to begin to understand what mercy is all about.  Help me to first be open to the mercy You wish to bestow upon me.  As I receive Your own Divine Mercy, help me also to be an instrument of that mercy for all to see.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Prayer for Trust in The Divine Mercy of God
Most merciful Jesus,
I turn to You in my need.
You are worthy of my complete trust.
You are faithful in all things.
When my life is filled with confusion, give me clarity and faith.
When I am tempted to despair, fill my soul with hope.

Most merciful Jesus,
I trust You in all things.
I trust in Your perfect plan for my life.
I trust You when I cannot comprehend Your divine will.
I trust You when all feels lost.
Jesus, I trust You more than I trust myself.

Most merciful Jesus,
You are all-knowing.
Nothing is beyond Your sight.
You are all-loving.
Nothing in my life is beyond Your concern.
You are all-powerful.
Nothing is beyond Your grace.

Most merciful Jesus,
I trust in You,
I trust in You,
I trust in You.
May I trust You always and in all things.
May I daily surrender to Your Divine Mercy.

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy,

Pray for us as we turn to you in our need.

Second Week of Easter

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