“Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” When we spend time in silent reflection contemplating the salvific events surrounding our redemption and exploring the depth of Christ’s love for us in his saving Passion, we are drawn into sacred mystery. We are called to remember, to celebrate, to believe. But our thoughts lead us to be shocked, to be shamed, to be scared of what transpired in less than 24 hours. We are afraid to talk about Jesus for this might happen to us. It is shocking and for most Christians difficult to imagine and to think about the horrible events surrounding the Cross and the manner in which Jesus was treated simply because he loved the poor, he healed the sick, he forgave the sinner, he restored the dignity of the broken-hearted and he did this type of “work” on the Sabbath – a day set aside to do good, to give life, to be holy. Jesus died for being kind, for being merciful, for eating with poor sinners and for feeding several thousand of his followers. He died because he said he was the Son of God. Imagine being killed by means of such a horrific death because you said and truly believed you were a child of God. The Passion shocks everyone. It even shocks and surprises those who asked for it. In his death, Jesus is gone but his body remains. His disciples ask and receive permission to take the body down from the Cross so that it can be properly placed in a tomb. Early in the morning, Mary Magdalene comes looking for Jesus to be with him but she comes to be with him in death. She seeks him in this life. She remains with the past. She remains with Jesus in death and in sorrow, in anguish and in pain, in mourning and in grief. Imagine her joy and the joy of all the disciples to know Jesus is alive, he is risen. He is truly risen. The longing, the desire, the love for Jesus overflows. At times, we can stay stuck in the past with all the hurt and pain, with all the discouragement and disappointments, with all the lies and failures. But Jesus is not there. He is risen. He is here in this moment with you. At times we spend so much time thinking about the future and day dreaming about wealth and how things could be better, how they can be easier but Jesus is not there living in a made up future with unsuccessful expectations and richly imaginations. He is here. He is risen. He is in this current moment. He is here with you and me.
Reflections from the Heart
Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” Pause for a moment and think about your worst fear. You know, that thing you fear the most. That thing that causes you to have sleepless nights, to over eat, to weep uncontrollably when you are all alone. What if that thing really happened? What is the worst that could happen? You lose your job, they find out you lied, you are humiliated? Well, that could happen. But never forget that God loves you, he really loves you. God will never abandon you. God will save you. God’s plan is to have you with him for all eternity in his heavenly Kingdom. A place where there is no fear, no crying, no hurting, no pain, no dying. So even if your worst fear comes to pass, the Good News is that you still end up with God. We fear hurt and pain and embarrassment and loss. That stuff really scares and disables us. But with God, there is endless love and mercy and consolation and peace even in moments of fear and hurt and embarrassment and loss. Especially in those moments. God’s gifts and God’s grace are more abundant than all our fears combined. Where there is fear, there is much more grace. When we are frightened, God’s arms hold us even tighter. When we are scared, know that we are never alone for God is with us. He will never abandon you. The things that should frighten us the most is our pride and our numbness to sin. These separate us from God’s gracious gifts, from his holy presence, from his amazing grace. And that should really scare us. We need God. We really need him. We can’t live without him. Holy Fear is our strength in moments of temptation, in moments of doubt, in moments of pride and even moments of sin. In these moments, God’s grace floods us with the knowledge that he loves us, the understanding that God is greater than all our fears, the wisdom to overcome our sin and the strength to get over our prideful condition. But we have to cooperate with God’s grace. We must become meek and humble of heart like Jesus and surrender to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Fear can disable us, imprison us, shut us down, cause fatigue and fill us with anxiety but only if we let it. Jesus says, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” God is always with us. He never leaves us alone. In stressful moments, in moments of great fear and anxiety. Say a prayer. Say to Jesus, Jesus, I trust in you!
“My mouth shall declare your justice, day by day your salvation. O God, you have taught me from my youth, and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.” To be a Disciple of Christ is to know him, follow him, learn from him and ultimately to be like him. For Jesus, every moment was and is a teachable moment; an opportunity to learn and to grow in the will and knowledge of God. Jesus freely and generously shared his thoughts, his knowledge, his heart, his love, his wisdom with his disciples and continues to do so with us. Jesus understands that not everyone absorbs instruction and knowledge in the same way or at the same rate or at the same capacity. Our upbringing plays a key role in our development. It affects how we learn, how we teach, how we perceive, how we experience, how we understand. This is an important lesson for all teachers. To understand that not all the students start from the same page or the same place or from the same point of understanding. A good teacher understands their students; their abilities, their limitations, how they take in information, how they process it, how they learn and how they teach. Jesus understood this so he used different methods of teaching the disciples in order to encourage and honor different styles of learning. At times, the disciples learned through listening to Jesus while he shared different prayers and beatitudes. At times, the disciples learned through the signs and wonders performed by Jesus. Other times, the disciples experienced mercy through healing. Other times, Jesus taught them through parables to engage the disciples’ imagination in order to contemplate and experience what the Kingdom of God may be like. Through the use of these different styles of teaching and learning, Jesus re-enforced the most important lesson of them all – how to become and be loving, kind, joyful, merciful, forgiving, charitable. He showed and taught the disciples how to be Christian. That is, how to be like Jesus. How to live as a beloved child of God. Some of the lessons were difficult to understand and needed to be repeated more than once like why was it necessary for Jesus to be mocked, rejected, beaten and killed then rise on the third day? God forbid they said. But being the good, patient teacher that he was, Jesus helped the disciples to see, listen, experience, and imagine the importance of this lesson through repetition and through the Transfiguration. They would come to learn, believe and understand without a doubt the depth of God’s love and the power of his glory that would destroy death, forgive sins and restore life simply because he loves us. Fr. Ivan
“Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness.” “Do you ever wonder why we are here and say to yourself there has to be more to life than just this? Somehow we’re just not getting it.” These were the philosophical questions I asked a friend that began a collision course between God’s Divine and Providential Plan and my limited and sad understanding of God, his love, his call, his will. The questions tore open a spiritual doorway into my heart that pushed me into the world of the discerning spirit and the opportunity to serve. The gateway opened that day, although neglected or ignored at times, could never be closed and certainly would never stop knocking until the call was answered and the heart was satisfied. These somewhat harmless but most profound and prophetic questions echo in the hearts of so many hungry souls and weary spirits who thirst and seek to respond to the possibility of entering into a deeper and more personal relationship with God by sharing in the mission and ministry of Christ. The mission and ministry of Christ seeks to bring about the happiness of individuals through the Teaching of the Law, the Preaching of the Gospel and the Healing of the hearts that are broken, the healing of the spirits that are wounded, the healing of the bodies that are aching, the healing of the souls that are hurting and the healing of the minds that have been tainted by sin. Jesus taught that the Son of Man would be mocked and rejected, persecuted and slapped, chained and scourged, crucified and killed but will be raised on the third day in order to bring out the salvation of souls and the restoration of the fallen humanity. We can help by sharing the truth. Jesus preached the Kingdom of God was at hand and that love and compassion, peace and joy, mercy and forgiveness would rule and reign forever. We can help by helping others to welcome God’s Kingdom into their hearts and homes. Jesus went from town to town casting out sin and satan, healing division and illness and restoring people to good health and into a loving relationship with God. We can help by allowing Jesus to heal us. Sharing in the awesome mission and ministry of Christ will certainly bring about your own happiness – for you will understand why you are here and come to realize there’s nothing more rewarding than assisting Jesus bring about your salvation and that of the whole world. Fr. Ivan
“Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?” Why do we fast? Well, at times we need to fast for medical reasons. We need blood work done or need to prepare for a routine checkup or undergo a surgical procedure. We also fast for health reasons to care for certain dietary concerns that can reduce health risks and improve our overall wellness and wellbeing. We also fast for spiritual reasons. In ancient times, the People of God would fast in preparation to encounter God on his holy mountain and enter into God’s Holy presence. They washed their bodies, purified their hearts and cleansed their minds in order to more fully enter into the Glory of God. For three days, they fasted from certain foods, refrained from sin and avoided sinful activity in order to be holy before the Holy of Holies. They were to be purified in order to behold the Purity of God. We, more often than not, attribute fasting to food. Similar to the observances and practices of the Lenten Season. But fasting is much more than refraining or abstaining from food since we are much more than body. We are also heart, spirit, mind, and soul. All these can uniquely contribute to or hinder our spiritual health and wellbeing. For example, to more fully enter into the Glory and Holiness of God, we can cleanse our minds from impure and graven images by refraining from living and playing out fantasies. We can also refrain from judgmental and hurtful thoughts and stop worrying and trust God more fully. To more intimately experience the Mercy of God, we can consecrate our hearts to him by refraining from anger. By getting rid of all malice, avoiding all hatred, eliminating all envy and simply loving more and forgiving more. To wash our bodies clean and remain the Temple of God we were recreated to be, we can fast from inappropriate touching, from obscene gestures, from impure acts, from bad language and from eating fast food and simply more fully become the Body of Christ. To sanctify our spirits and more fully enter into the Kingdom of the Divine Will, we can fast from pride, from ego, from selfishness, from ambition and simply become more like Jesus – that is, meek and humble of heart. To purify our souls and be with God, we must make a full and faithful return to innocence and to the sacred. We need to fast from all blasphemies, idolatries, all mortal and grave sin and simply desire God who is our surest hope, our true happiness. The only one who satisfies all our needs.