Octave of Easter 2021

Sunday, April 4, 2021

A New Day has Dawned

Easter Sunday (Year B)

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad. (see  Psalm 118)

Our Easter celebration has begun!  Happy Easter!

In many parts of the world, Easter comes in spring.  It’s the time of year when nature itself brings forth the beginnings of new life.  The tulips begin to rise from the cold and dormant earth, the leaves begin to bud on the trees, transforming the forest into a sea of green, and the Sun begins to shine with a new radiance, sending warmth at its rising each morning.  Creation itself reflects the glory and splendor of the Resurrection of Christ in many ways.

The death of winter reflects the death of Christ and the silence of the tomb experienced on Holy Saturday.  Everything goes dormant.  Vegetation appears to die, and even the animals and insects retreat into various forms of hibernation and immobility.  However, at the appointed time, as the warmth of the sun rises anew, nature itself is called forth from the death of winter into the new life of spring.

The cold winter would be deeply depressing if it were to remain forever.  Just imagine if scientists were to tell us that the forthcoming winter was a unique one in that it would now remain forever.  Never again would we see the warmth of spring or summer.  Never again would we see the insects, plants and leaves on the trees.  What a hopeless situation that would be!

But God speaks to us in many and varied ways, and one such way is through the cycle of nature.  New life is certain!  The warmth will return after the winter freeze, nature will rise and the earth will sing again.

If the Father in Heaven is so diligent about caring for the natural creation, how much more does He care for the re-creation of humanity?  How much more would He have cared for the Resurrection of His own divine Son?  How much more does He care for our entrance into the new life won for each of us by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead?!

Allow the beauty of creation to be a sign to you of a reality that is infinitely greater.  Allow yourself to be drawn into the newness of life that is bestowed upon you by your sharing in the Resurrection of Christ.  To rise with Him means you are to become a new creation.

Reflect, today, upon the above line from the Responsorial Psalm for today’s Mass.  “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.”  The “day” we rejoice in is the new life God wants to bestow upon your soul here and now.  It’s a new day, a glorious one, a transformed one, a resurrected one.  New life must begin now and must become continually new and glorious as we journey deeper and deeper into the glory of the Resurrection.  Ponder this “new day” and allow our Lord to bestow it upon you through the power of His glorious Resurrection from the dead.

My resurrected Lord, my hope is in You!  Alleluia, You are alive and You have conquered all sin, all death, all evil.  You bring forth new life to all who turn to You in their need.  My Jesus, I do turn to You and abandon myself to You in Your death so that I may rise with You in Your Resurrection to new life.  Breathe into me this gift of new life and allow me to begin anew.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Monday, April 5, 2021

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 has 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 woman 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.


Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Cling to Jesus Now!

Tuesday of 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.


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

The Word of God Burning Within

Wednesday of 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 lack 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.


Thursday, April 8, 2021

Becoming a Witness to the Truth

Thursday of 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 persons?

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.


Friday, April 9, 2021

The Mystery of the Resurrection

Friday of 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.


Saturday, April 10, 2021

The Beauty of Repentance

Saturday of 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.


Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Feast of Mercy

Divine Mercy Sunday (Year B)

Saint Faustina writes in her Diary:

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 flow are opened (Diary #699).

It was Jesus Himself, through the mediation of this humble and holy religious sister, Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska of the Blessed Sacrament, Who instituted the Feast of Mercy that we celebrate today. In addition to the above quote from her Diary of Divine Mercy, Jesus spoke on numerous other occasions about His desire that this feast be instituted as a universal Feast of Mercy to be celebrated throughout the world on the eighth day of Easter every year.

From the time of her death in 1938, the private revelations from Jesus to Sister Faustina began to be read and shared. At first, the Feast of Mercy was celebrated by only a few who knew of these messages. As these private revelations began to circulate further, there were some within the Church who questioned their authenticity. Thus, on March 6, 1959, the writings of Sister Faustina were put on the “forbidden” list by the Holy Office, Rome. However, in 1965, with the permission of the same Holy Office, the Archbishop of Kraków, Poland, Archbishop Karol Wojtyła, began an informative process in which new light was shed upon Sister Faustina and her writings. This process concluded on April 15, 1978, with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Rome, issuing a new decree permitting the spread of Sister Faustina’s writings and the new devotion to The Divine Mercy. Then, by the providence of God, just six months later, the Archbishop of Kraków, Karol Wojtyła, was elected pope, taking the name Pope John Paul II. A little over two decades later, on April 30, 2000, Sister Faustina was canonized a saint in a ceremony presided over by Pope John Paul II. During her canonization, the Holy Father also instituted the Feast of Mercy for the universal Church to be celebrated on the eighth day of the Octave of Easter every year.

The providence of God is truly amazing. God started with this humble cloistered nun. He allowed His private revelations to be scrutinized by the Church and ultimately hand picked one of the greatest popes our Church has ever known to introduce these private revelations to the world. It’s amazing to ponder the process by which these revelations went from the silent cloister of Sister Faustina to the universal Church. One thing this process truly tells us is that God must deeply desire that we immerse ourselves in the messages of Divine Mercy given through Saint Faustina. It was by God’s providence that these messages slowly moved from the silence of the cloister in Kraków, Poland, to the universal Church beginning in the year 2000. Though it may be tempting to think that these messages are old and outdated, we should realize that God knew how long it would take for them to become instituted as a universal feast for all. Therefore, though these messages were first revealed before 1938, it was God’s plan that they would especially be needed and read starting in the year 2000 and beyond. The message of Divine Mercy is especially for us today.

Reflect, today, upon this beautiful providence of God in bringing forth His message of mercy. Allow His providential methodology to not only inspire you but also to greatly encourage you to immerse yourself in the messages given to us from Jesus through Saint Faustina. Try to commit yourself to reading these messages so that, through them, God’s providence will be able to come to fruition.

Most merciful God, You are The Divine Mercy, You are Mercy Itself. Help me to continually ponder this glorious gift of Your Mercy in my life. May the inspired writings of Saint Faustina especially be a gift to me so that their messages will bring forth Your mercy more fully in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.

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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.

Amen.

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