Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018

Fr. Forlano, St. Stanislaus Parish

When John the beloved disciple entered the tomb, the scripture says, “he saw and believed.”  He believed in the resurrection without seeing the risen body of Jesus.  How does this happen?  It is important for us to reflect on this fact because it is the same way that we come to believe in the resurrection of Jesus – we who never have seen the physical risen body of Jesus.  What is it that he saw and how did that bring him to belief?  When Mary of Magdala came to the tomb, she saw the stone removed and thought the worst.  She thinks the grave has been robbed and that the body of Jesus has been stolen.  What John sees is the burial cloths there and the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.  This is the first clue or sign of the resurrection.  If someone stole the body, why would they remove the burial cloths first?  It is not what grave robbers would do.  Therefore, the body of Jesus wasn’t stolen.  There is something about the burial cloths themselves that is another sign of the resurrection.  We must remember that Jesus has spent the last three years with the disciples traveling all through Galilee and Judea and even in pagan territory.  They would have often “camped” out in the wilderness together or shared a common space for sleeping.  When John saw the burial cloths laying there and the head covering rolled up, it reminded him of how Jesus “made his bed” or rolled up his bedroll after waking up in the morning.  It was a sign that Jesus did it.  A sign that he was alive.  There was something distinctive about the way the burial cloths and head covering were that pointed to the presence of Christ alive.  All of know who made the bed or set the table even without seeing the person do it, if we spend enough time with them.  There is a difference between how my mom would set the table or make the bed compared to my young nephew.   The way things appear are signs of who has been there. 

Why was John the first to believe?  Why does he “see” what the others do not?  Because he is the “disciple whom Jesus loved.”  Not that he was loved more than the others, but that he more than the others had let the love of Jesus define him.  “Beloved” becomes his “name” – his identity.  Faith is a response to the love of God, accepting the love of God.  Being love opens us up to receiving the truth.  Faith is not the same as understanding.  The Gospel today makes note that John believed, but they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.  Faith is not an intellectual exercise.  We don’t get there through scripture study.  You can’t explain how it is that your mother or you spouse loves you, but you know that she does, and that love changes the way you look at her.  You believe her without question because of the love.  You don’t have to prove or test everything she says. 

The preaching of Peter that we hear in the Acts of the Apostles is a sign of the Resurrection.  This same Peter who denied Jesus three times and was afraid of the cross, now filled with the Holy Spirit, shares the Good News without fear.  The Holy Spirit fills him with new life and makes Jesus, the Risen Lord, present in his flesh.  The change in Peter is the sign of the resurrection – a sign that Jesus is alive.  You and me  – the baptized are like Peter.  We who come to the Eucharistic table, are those chosen by God  who have ate and drank with him after he rose form the dead.  He dwells in us and feeds us and continues to stay with us in the sacraments.  The way we live is a sign of his resurrection.  We believe not because of a text book, but because we have seen the signs of divine life in our brothers and sisters who love us as Christ has loved.  Who have forgiven us and cared for us.  We believe because of the surprising change or conversion we’ve seen in ourselves.  In the the strength and grace we’ve received to forgive others and to face challenges we thought were impossible.  In the fact that we have been given new life by his mercy and love.  Let’s be attentive to the signs of Christ’s life among us.  These are things that he has done, signs that he is with us, signs that he is risen.  This is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad!  Happy Easter!

Easter Vigil, March 31, 2018

Easter Vigil, March 31, 2018

Fr. Forlano, St. Stanislaus Parish 

The very brief account of the Resurrection of Jesus that we hear in today’s Gospel for this Easter Vigil tells us three important things about what we celebrate this most Holy Night and the way that God works to bring about our salvation.  1) First.  What God gives us is the fulfillment of our desire which is something that we cannot achieve by our own strength.  This is represented by the woman who go to the tomb, desiring to anoint the body of Jesus, yet knowing full well that they are not strong enough to roll back the stone to the entrance of the tomb themselves.  But when they arrive, they find the very large stone rolled back.   2) Second.  We will see the risen Jesus in the flesh.  The young man they find in the tomb tells the women to tell the disciples and Peter, “He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.”  3) Third.  God keeps his promises.  He fulfills them in amazing ways.  We will discover this if we seek him and listen to what he tells us.

What happens in Galilee?  It is in Galilee where the disciples receive their commission from the Risen Lord.  He tells them, “Go… and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”  “Behold… I am with you always…”  What are the disciples to “behold”?  In context, it seems that we are to behold the ones who are to be baptized, the ones who are taught the Gospel.  What Jesus is saying is that through baptism, he remains with us in the flesh of the person who is baptized.  When you behold the baptized, you see Christ in the flesh.  This is what we teach regarding baptism.  The baptized become members of the body of Christ and dwelling places of the Holy Spirit – God dwells in them.  The symbols of the baptismal liturgy communicate the fact that we become through baptism an “other Christ”.  The white garment that each newly baptized puts on symbolizes that they have become a new creation and have been clothed in Christ.  The candle that each newly baptized receives which is lit from the Paschal Candle symbolizes that they have been enlightened by Christ, the light of the world, and have become “children of light”.  Light reveals.  The baptized are to reveal the face of Christ in the world.

The extended readings from the Old Testament, giving us an arc of Salvation History, remind us that God is always with his chosen people, that our merciful God doesn’t abandon us even when we are unfaithful, and that he saves us and keeps his promises in ways beyond our understanding.  The readings pre-figure and point to our salvation in Christ with clear allusions to baptism.  In Christ, through baptism, we are saved and God remains with us in a new and definitive way.

In the creation account in Genesis, God creates the heavens and earth by sending a mighty wind or his spirit over the waters.  Man is created in God’s image.  In baptism, the Holy Spirit is called down over the water of the baptismal font, and the baptized person is recreated in the image of Christ the “new Adam.”  The sacrifice of Abraham, with his son Isaac an image of Christ, recounts our father in faith who remains faithful to God’s command even when he doesn’t understand how it is possible that God will keep his promise.  In the account from Exodus, God saves his people from slavery and wipes out the enemy holding them captive by having them pass through the waters of the Red Sea.  Their passage was made possible by the prayer of Moses, a figure of Christ, and the strong wind that sweeps over the water.  The prophecy of Isaiah invites the unfaithful people, those who have broken the covenant, to “come to the water!”  Through this water, they will receive what their own efforts have failed to satisfy.  “Listen, that you may have life.  I will renew with you the everlasting covenant” the prophet promises.  “Seek the Lord.. call him…”  He calls them to conversion, “turn to the Lord for mercy; to our God who is generous in forgiving.”  It’s OK if you don’t understand how it is possible, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.”  Through the waters of baptism, we are brought into the New Covenant as all of our sins are forgiven.

The Epistle from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans is an instruction to the baptized reminding them of the effects of the baptism that they have received.  We are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection “so that we too might live in newness of life.”  We are no longer slaves to sin.  If we have died with Christ in baptism, we shall also live with him.  Are we aware of these effects in us?  Do we think of ourselves in this way, “living for God in Christ Jesus”?

In his commission of the disciples, Jesus also commands them to teach all nations, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  So what is taught has to be observable – the Christian life, the moral life, is not just a set of teachings or doctrines, but it is something that is seen – in the flesh.  We are taught the faith by following witnesses, by seeing the different way that others live, who live out their baptism – who live in union with Christ and let their relationship with Christ define and determine how they live and the decisions they make.

Aquí tengo una palabra especial para los padres y padrinos de estos nuevos bautizados.  El acto de bautismo los hace estos jóvenes miembros del cuerpo de Cristo, pero ellos necesitan guías y ejemplos para aprender la fe, crecer en la fe, y experimentar lo que significa pertenecer a Cristo.  Necesitan ver que la fe vive en ustedes.  Necesitan encontrar una persona o una comunidad de fe que tiene conciencia de su bautismo – que está llevando una vida nueva.  Cuando una persona encuentra el amor de Dios en la carne, entiende su bautismo propio y se despierta su bautismo.  Este es el papel principal de los padres y padrinos.  Es por esta misma razón que todos los bautizados renuevan sus votos bautismales cada año en la celebración de la Pascua.  Necesitamos recordar lo que Dios ha hecho en nosotros.

It is for this reason that all of us – all the baptized renew their baptismal promises every year at Easter.  We need to be reminded of what God has done in us – in our flesh – so that we can be witnesses and guides to the newly baptized.  In a few minutes we will behold Jesus come in the flesh in Michael, Miriam, Jayla, Jennifer, Marilyn, and Xavi.  Michael, Miriam, Jayla, Jennifer, Marilyn, and Xavi, be confident that no matter what happens to you in life, that Jesus is with you.  He will continue to work out your salvation in ways you cannot imagine, as long as you continue to seek him and listen to what he tells you.  God keeps his promises to you.  He is merciful and doesn’t stop calling us to himself.  Seek him and listen to him and follow the witnesses that the Lord has put into your life that have brought you to this day.  He will fulfill the desire of your heart, and in doing so, you too become witnesses of the resurrection, the way others can behold Christ with us today.  ¡Que Dios les bendiga!