Theme: To Recognize and Fully Experience the Risen Jesus at Mass
The story of the appearance of Jesus to his disciples we heard in today’s Gospel from Luke has several striking parallels with that of last Sunday in John’s Gospel. In both accounts, Jesus is patient to help his disciples and all of us to recognize him and fully experience him after he has resurrected from the dead. Knowing all the fears we deal with, he starts the process by wishing us peace. Then, he invites us to touch him and look at his hands and feet as a physical evidence of his bodily Resurrection. His interpretation of the scriptures and his breaking of the bread (eating backed fish in Luke’s version) open our minds to fully experience him. All these events take place at the liturgy of Mass we celebrate every day.
The Gospel of today as well as that of last Sunday mention the disciples’ fright at seeing Christ in their midst. For John in last Sunday’s Gospel, the disciples were afraid of the Jews. They thought that the Jews were searching for them, to kill them as they did with their Lord. But, in Luke’s passage we just heard, the fear of the disciples has nothing to do with the Jews. Rather, they were afraid because they thought they had seen a ghost. We are in presence of two categories of fear. The first category (in John’s story) is what I called “the horizontal fear”. It is the fear which relates you to people or situations, such us: fear of losing a loved one, becoming jobless, how to raise kids, how to take care of your parents and grandparents, dealing with sickness, Covid19 pandemic, and fear of how to survive. The second category (in Luke’s account) is “the vertical fear”. This one is between you and God. For example when you ... READ MORE
Theme: The “Peace Be With You” of Jesus Liberates Us
The Gospel of this second Sunday of Easter contains several points to meditate on. Talking about all of them at the same time will be confusing. That is why, in this homily, I want to reflect only on the “Peace be with you” of Jesus to his disciples and his presence in their midst although the door of the house where they were was locked.
The disciples of Jesus spent a terrified weekend after the death of Jesus. Their master has died. They lost their hope. They feel disappointed, ashamed, confused, humiliated, and especially afraid. Their fear was that the Jews may do to them what they did to their master. Consequently, they locked themselves in in a house. We can imagine the level of their fear. Any movement around their locked house increased their panic. No doubt, many conflicting thoughts were happening within their minds. For instance, “why did I follow that man (Jesus)? Now he disappointed me; he put me in a spot. I would not be in trouble if I did not become his disciple. For how long will I stay in this locked house? What can I do?” These disciples spent the hardest moment of their lives at that time.
Sometimes the difficult situations we go through nowadays put us on the same situation as the disciples of Jesus. When you experience anxiety, worries, and any suffering, most of the time you feel like not talking to anyone, not going to the Church, not meeting the people, you just want to be alone. This crisis affects your prayer life. Consequently, your relationship with God and with other people becomes fragile. When you experience all these, it means, you have locked yourself in in your mind the same way the disciples of ... READ MORE
Theme: The Mystery of the Empty Tomb: “He Saw, and He Believed”
Today, Easter Sunday, we heard the testimony of Peter to an assembly of Gentiles (first reading). We also heard the testimony of Paul addressing Christians in distant communities (second reading). Now, it is the turn for you and me to give our testimony of the resurrection of Jesus to our people around us and far away. You can give your testimony only if you witness the event. So, let us then journey to the tomb of Jesus along with Mary of Magdala, Peter, and the disciple whom Jesus loved the most to experience the empty tomb in John’s Gospel of today.
As we go to the tomb of Jesus with the first three witnesses of the empty tomb in John’s Gospel, let us first see the reaction of each of them. The first one on the scene is Mary of Magdala. She arrived at the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark. She is the first to see the rolled-away stone and the empty tomb. The body of her Lord is not there. She is alone in that place and it is dark. She is upset, confused, afraid and other feelings you can imagine. Her first reaction, she immediately runs for help. Peter is the first person to enter the tomb. He is confused as well. He takes the time to see the burial cloths rolled up, but he did not understand. The third person is John. He too did not understand, but he saw and believed.
John believed because his heart moved faster than his head. Even though his head was not able to understand, his heart was able to believe. So, we too must enter the tomb of Jesus not with our head but with our heart. Here we do not deal with the presence of Jesus himself or the testimony of an angel (like last night’s Gospel) to inspire our belief on the resurrection of Jesus. Rather, we deal with an empty tomb, the absence of Jesus, without any testimony from an ... READ MORE
Theme: New Life with Our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ
During Lent we went into the desert with Jesus to prepare ourselves for this greatest celebration of tonight: the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. For forty days we tried to overcome sin and temptation so that tonight we start a new life with our risen Lord. The Scripture readings we heard tonight paint the board themes of New Life. The account of the creation of man and woman (first reading), the liberation of the Hebrews from Egypt (third reading), new life in Jesus through baptism (fifth reading and the Epistle), and meeting the risen Jesus in Galilee (the Gospel). Having gathered around the Easter fire, having been led into the Church by light of the Paschal candle, we commence a new life with Jesus who is risen from the dead.
We begin a new life with our risen Lord, not in darkness but in the light, not in fear and doubt, but with hope and courage. The Gospel we heard says that Mary Magdalen and other women went to the tomb for the purpose of anointing Jesus’s body. Although they are concerned that they will lack the strength to roll the stone away from the entrance to the tomb, yet they continue going. New life with Christ must move us with this great faith. The difficult situations you encounter, even those that seem impossible to solve must not prevent you moving forward toward Jesus. If today is not your day, tomorrow will be yours; just keep ... READ MORE
Theme: A Deep Meditation on Jesus’ Passion Moves us to Stay with Him and to Repent
A meditation on the passion of Jesus must provoke in us many positive reactions. In this homily, I would like to underline just two of them. A deep meditation on Jesus’ passion must move us to stay with Jesus and also to leave sins behind us.
My mom passed away on last month (March 6thin Kinshasa/ Congo, my home country). From the day she died until the day we buried her (Wednesday March 10th, 2021) I saw many people coming to our house sympathizing with us. Many of them were staying overnight, some sleeping on the floor and others outside on the chairs. I just want to use one aspect of this African custom. Those people sacrificed their beds, times, and occupations to stay with my family during the mourning of our mother. Today we commemorate the passion and death of our Lord. The Blessed Mary sees her only Son, Jesus, the innocent one, dying on the cross. She is afflicted and inconsolable. It is the time Jesus needs us the most to stay and sympathize with him and also sympathize with his afflicted Blessed Mary. The passion of Jesus must move us closer to Jesus and his mother. But most of the time, this ... READ MORE
Theme: The Institution of the Eucharist and Priesthood
At Holy Thursday, we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s supper. This is for the last time Jesus celebrated the Jewish Passover with his disciples. With this celebration, our Lord gave this ancient memorial meal a new meaning as he stated: “From now on I am the paschal lamb, sacrificed to God. The Lamb that takes away the sin of the world… This is my body; this is my blood.” (See our second reading.) The last Supper is the Eucharist that Jesus has given us which symbolizes his death and resurrection. To better understand this, we must first understand why and how the Jews celebrated the feast of the Passover.
During the time of Jesus (even until now), the Jews celebrated the Passover as a memorial of their liberation from bondage in Egypt. A lamb was sacrificed in the Temple and the sacrificial repast followed at home. Our first reading describes the “how and why” of this celebration. What I want to underline here is that when Jews commemorate the deliverance from their slavery in Egypt, they do much more than just look back to the past. At this celebration of the Passover, the Jews identify themselves with those who actually did leave Egypt. Past and present coincide. So, from generation to generation, every ... READ MORE
Theme: Jesus’ Death was not a Defeat but a Victory
After spending forty days of Lent with Jesus in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, today we start the holy week which begins with the celebration of Palm Sunday of the passion of our Lord. Jesus entered his own city of Jerusalem to accomplish this mystery of his Passion and Resurrection. For his people, he is the Son of David, a Messiah sent by God to give freedom and self-determination to his country. But Jesus is a humble and peaceful king, not in favor of worldly display. His mission is to establish God’s kingdom on earth. Thus, his impending suffering and death does not thwart this divine plan, but they fulfill it. Jesus’ death was not a defeat but a victory.
Like with Jesus, God has a plan for each one of us. Your mission is to continue building God’s kingdom where you live. Suffering and pain we go through must not prevent us from fulfilling our mission. The liturgy of the holy week, particularly that of this Palm Sunday, reminds us that suffering, pain, and death are also mysteriously part of our passage to a glorious life with Christ. So, how do you deal with suffering in your life and when you encounter fellow humans who die in suffering and distress? While doing this experience, keep in mind what saint Paul said: “if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thes 4: 14).
Prayerful meditation on the Passion of Jesus we heard in today’s Gospel should make us grateful for what Jesus did for the humankind. He said: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends.” (Jn 15: 13-14). Let us imitate our Lord by keeping our faith in God when we encounter suffering, pain, and death. Also, like Jesus, we must lay down our lives for our fellow brothers and sisters. Amen.
Fr. Leon Ngandu, SVD
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