Recognizing Christ

494px-The_resurrection_day_Jesus is Risen!  Alleluia!  The celebration of Easter is a wondrous one indeed.  But the glory of the Resurrection was not immediately realized.  When Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter, and the other disciple saw the empty tomb, they did not know what it meant.  Peter and the other disciple returned home, probably confused at what was happening.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!”  (John 20:11-16)

Why didn’t Mary recognize Jesus?  Certainly she had spent enough time with Him to know what He looked like.  And only a few days had passed since she had last seen Him.  She purposefully went to the tomb to look for Him, so how is it that when she sees Him, she does not recognize Christ?

First, Christ appeared fully resurrected in all His glory. The fullness of His divinity was now evident.  He was not beaten, bloodied,  or weak.  Even so, wouldn’t she know Him when she saw Him?  Perhaps the better question is, do we know when we see Him?

Mary did not recognize the Lord because she was not expecting to see Him.  She knew He had died.  She was looking for a lifeless body and instead came face to face with the very source of life!  Despite His teachings, the human mind took control.  And that human mind said that Jesus had died.  He couldn’t possibly be here again.  Her grief, her sorrow, her confusion at the events that had taken place blinded her to the presence of Christ right before her eyes. 

What about us?  Do we recognize Christ?  Do we hear His voice and know it is Him?  We may not see Him standing beside the tomb, but He is still present among us.  When we see others in need, are we too blinded by our own worries and our own earthly needs to see Christ standing before us in them?  When we see others caught up in sinful behavior, is our vision clouded by our own judgements, perceptions, and anger?  Or do we recognize that each and every person is made in His image!  We only need to open our eyes and open our hearts to see the face of Jesus in every one of us.

Sometimes we see Him but fail to recognize the full glory that is present.  When we behold the Eucharist, we are in His presence!  When we receive communion do we see bread, or His Body?  God is not dead!  He is risen from the grave!  We do not need to search for Him within the tomb.  We need to instead see Him in those around us, in the Holy Eucharist, in all of creation!  His glory is abundant if we only open our eyes to see it!  Christ is all around us.   When worry and doubt clouds our vision, let us pray that the Holy Spirit will open our hearts and allow us to recognize the glory of the Risen Lord that is present among us today.

Image: By Unknown; publisher of Bible Card ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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Stripped Bare

Last night, at Holy Thursday Mass, as communion came to a close the church grew dark as one by one the lights were turned off until the only light was that of the glowing candles lighting the way for the procession of the Real Presence of Christ to a candle-lit altar on the opposite side of the church and a soft glow that very dimly lit the crucifix hanging above.  Too large and too high up to be taken down or covered, it was the only visible statue left. The choir sang solemnly as we knelt in the darkened church.

The beauty of this solemn hymn echoed through the otherwise silent church as we knelt in the darkness.  The altar was stripped bare.  The tabernacle left open and empty.   The celebration of the washing of the feet and the last supper had given way to the remembrance of the darkest night.  The night our Lord was betrayed, arrested, and sent to His death.

I looked up at the crucifix now cloaked in darkness.  The shadows made our Savior look more sorrowful, more pained.  As the choir sang the words, I could hear Jesus pleading, “Stay with me!”  The music, the darkness, the thought of our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane pleading and praying overcame me and I closed my eyes as tears began to fall. The words echoed through me,  “Stay with me.  Remain with me.  Watch and pray.” (Mt 26:38)  The weight of those words filled me.  Our God asks us to simply be with Him.  To believe in Him, and to follow Him.  How simple a request and yet how often we fall short.  Each time the choir repeated the words, I felt overcome with emotion as more tears fell.

Eventually the music stopped.  Slowly the pews emptied as we silently sat in adoration of our Lord, truly present before us in the sacred Eucharist.  I opened my eyes to look up again at the altar bare before me.  And I felt in that moment my soul stripped as bare as the altar before me.  My gaze shifted to the illuminated Host on the side altar.  I looked on in adoration.  There were no words I could find to pray so I sat in silence.  Listening.  Silently praying only the name of my Savior who gave His life for us.  Emptied of all worries, all doubts, all fears, all thoughts.  Of everything but Jesus there before me. 

When the time came for me to leave, I reluctantly stood up and walked over to the small altar with the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  I knelt before Him and felt His presence fill me up completely.  The beauty, the reverence, the holiness of this sacred night had emptied me of me so I could be filled with Him.  I was stripped bare so that He could cover me with His love.  

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Passion (noun) from the Latin, “pati” meaning “suffer.”  Definition: An intense desire or enthusiasm for something.

What a fitting word to describe the suffering and crucifixion of our Lord.  The Passion of our Lord which we read in the Gospel throughout this Holy Week  is hard to hear at times. The brutal manner in which our Savior was beaten, mocked, and put to death is hard to fathom.  Hearing accounts of the Passion becomes even more difficult with the realization that it is for our sins that this was endured. We realize in the reading of Christ’s Passion just how often we fall short of our Heavenly call.  We are forced to examine our consciences.  To see what side we would have been on.  Would we have denied Him?  Betrayed Him? What about now?  The Passion of Christ forces us to think on these sorrowful and sometimes uncomfortable realities.  

But at it’s heart, it is a story of Passion.  Passion in His suffering, yes.  But also the passion God has for us,  The deep, passionate love that God has for each one of us.  A love so strong and intense that He gave His only Son for us.  God has a passion for each of us.  He has an intense desire for each one of us.  A desire for us to be with Him in Heaven filled with the peace, love, and joy that comes only from Him.  

The Passion of Christ is not a made up story.  It is true.  Each sorrowful, beautiful, love filled moment is true.  As we head into the Holy Triduum, let us listen to the accounts of His sorrowful Passion bearing in mind the intense, powerful love that is behind it all.  Let us pray that this love fills us so that we may share it with those around us.  Let us pray that our hearts be opened and that we might be able to love the Lord our God with such a deep and wondrous passionate love!  On the cross His love for us was poured out in the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.  Through His dying, we have been given new life.  By His sorrowful Passion, He has redeemed the world.    


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Was Judas Doomed to Betray Jesus?


I wrote this post 2 years ago after a thought provoking discussion with my sister. As I listened to the reading of e Passion at Mass today, I thought back to this post and to Judas. As I went back to read this again, I realized how much of it still hit me and so I decided to re-blog this for some of my newer readers and as a repeat meditation of sorts for those who may have read it before. God Bless!

Originally posted on roses near running waters:

In recently discussing the scripture surrounding Holy Week with my sister, we got on the topic of Judas.  Why did he do what he did?  And did he have a choice?

Judas was one of the 12 apostles of Christ.  He was one of the people closest to our Lord.  So why did he betray Jesus?  When we look at the time leading up to the crucifixion, we see a lot of turmoil.  Riots had become commonplace events.  Those in power were struggling to prove to Rome that they had control of the events taking place. Jesus had already attracted negative attention by those who disagreed with His beliefs or who felt threatened by the power He held.  In Luke 22:1-6 we read:

“Now the feast of the Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was drawing near, and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way to put Him to death…

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Jesus Wept

During Lent we hear Gospel accounts of temptation, miracles, and eventually of the Passion of our Lord.  Hearing these year after year means we become very familiar with them,  Sometimes that familiarity causes us to simply go through the motions of our Lenten and Holy Week preparations without realizing the full significance of what actually happened.  I know that for myself, the Holy Week liturgies always center me and bring me face to face with the reality of what Jesus did for me and for us all.  But even before Holy Week, two little words never fail to remind me of the enormity of that sacrifice, 

“Jesus Wept.” (John 11:35)

Often we read the Gospel and are so focused on the gloriousness of Jesus being fully diving, that we forget He is also fully man.  In a mystery we may never understand, Jesus is God and man.  Not half God and half man; but wholly God and wholly man in every way except sin.  Just like all men, He faced temptation, He had friends and family, He ate, He drank, He slept.  He grew frustrated at times.  He felt joy.  And He most certainly felt pain.

When Lazarus dies, Jesus, being fully divine, know that this death is not the end.  And yet, His fully human nature is revealed by those two words, “Jesus wept.”  The loss of a friend, the grief He witnessed in Martha and Mary, it all affected Him in a very real and very human way.  And He wept.  

This seemingly normal reaction becomes more profound as we begin to realize that Jesus did not lose His humanness as His death approached.  Think of the Last Supper, the agony in the garden, and the crucifixion with the knowledge that He experienced all these things as man.  The betrayal of friends, feeling abandoned by God, suffering, and even death.  Jesus knows the pain we experience in this world because He Himself faced it.

Being fully human does not diminish His divinity but rather enhances it.  Jesus is God.  And God is not far off, distant, or unconcerned with us here on earth,  No. Our God is so loving that He sent His only Son to us as a man to show us the way.  To let us know that there will be pain and suffering in this world but that it is not the end.  

So if we feel lost or alone, like no one else knows the pain we face, let us remember that Jesus knows our pain.  He experienced it in a very real, very human way,  And as we approach Holy Week, let those words ring in the back of our minds as we recall His sacrifice for us.  God became man in Jesus and as man He felt every bit of that sacrifice.  For us He came into this world.  He lived.  He loved.  He suffered.  He died.  He wept.  

photo: “Jesus Wept” – James Tissot; Brooklyn Museum
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Whoever Believes

Today in church we hear the Gospel of Lazarus being raised from the dead. Our Lord tells Martha,

“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11:25-26

Can you imagine the emotions of Martha at that moment? The past few days had been so difficult for her and her sister Mary. They felt saddened by the death of their brother and the fact that Jesus had not arrived sooner to heal him. Martha hears the words of Jesus being the resurrection and the life, and yet her heart did not believe that there was anything Jesus could do. Perhaps without even realizing it, Martha and Mary had placed limits in their minds of the power of Christ. When they saw Jesus weeping at the loss of His friend, they probably shared in the crowds questioning. If Jesus missed Him and loved him so, why did He not arrive sooner and prevent this from happening?

Martha says to Jesus that she believes in Him. Yet when Jesus goes to open the tomb where Lazarus lay, she cautions Him against opening it saying,

“Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.”Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” John 1:39-40

And Jesus spoke to our Father in Heaven and called to Lazarus to come out…and he did! Against all odds, against all belief, Jesus performed a truly wondrous miracle and raised Lazarus from the dead! Oh the joy that they must have experienced at that moment! The seemingly impossible had become possible! Their perceived limitations on the powers of God had been shattered.

How often we place limits in our mind on the wonders God can do. We often look for human reasoning in response to the problems of this world. We use words like “can’t” and “impossible.” Our minds cannot perceive the enormous love, mercy, and power of God. And all too often we let our minds dictate our beliefs. We believe in what we see around us. In physical facts and proven thoughts. But sometimes, despite knowing God’s goodness and grace, we still question.

We still wonder if our prayers will be answered. We still shake our heads at the state of the world, thinking that there is nothing that can be done. We say we have faith. We say that we trust. But do we truly believe? Do we really believe in our hearts that God can do anything? When we pray and call out to The Lord in times of distress, is it cautiously, or confidently? Do we hesitate to ask for things that seem just too good to be true? The Lord tells us to ask we we shall receive! Do we truly believe that?

It is no secret that our prayers may not always be answered in the ways we feel they ought to be. Some things are simply beyond our understanding. But when we face difficulties in our lives, let us pray that our hearts be filled with faith and trust enough to know that not only does God hear our pleas, our cries, and prayers, but He can and does answer them! Let us pray that our belief in The Lord and His goodness is so strong that no matter what we face in life, we can truly trust in His love for us! There is no limit to the wonders God can do for us. He can perform miracles beyond our understanding. We only need to believe. To believe in the power of prayer; to believe in miracles! To believe that God has everything under to control. To believe in His unending love for us. For whoever believes will never die. 

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A Beautiful Reunion

I am a very visual person and the imagery associated with the mysteries of the Rosary  helps to deepen my prayer life and my faith.  This morning as I meditated on the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, I was struck with a beautiful image.  I’ve often thought of what a joyous occasion it would be for Mary to again see her Son in the glory of Heaven. The immense love, peace, and joy is beyond our comprehension.

I pictured our Blessed Mother running with joy to meet her Son.  The rising sun reflected off the snow outside my window enhanced my imagination as I pictured brilliant whites, golden yellows, and rosy hues of pink surrounding Our Lady and my God.  There was such joy in the eyes of Jesus and Mary and they both had enormous smiles on their faces as Jesus wrapped His mother in His loving arms and they were locked in an embrace of such deep love and joy to be reunited.  The image was so beautiful and vivid while still remaining dreamlike in a sense.  I smiled to myself as I imagined the joy of meeting Christ face to face.

I thought then of the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).  The joy of the father as he greeted his son who had gone astray is so evident in this story.  I can imagine the relief the son must have felt as receiving such a welcoming.

As I thought on these two images, I found myself identifying with each.  While I strive to live my life in as Christ-like a manner as possible, I am still a sinner.  Despite knowing the sacrifice my Lord made for me, I continually find myself seeking out His forgiveness.  Like the prodigal son, I feel such a relief at the grace our Almighty Father exhibits towards us all.  When I participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I feel the peace and forgiveness of the Lord wash over me.  When I receive Him in Holy Communion, I feel His arms wrap around me in a loving embrace.

While the prodigal son reminds me of where I have been, the sins I have committed, and the ultimate forgiveness of Christ, the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother reminds me of where I want to go and what it is I strive for.  I know I am a sinner.  I know I have made mistakes and fall short of my heavenly call.  How I long to live a life like Mary.  Tp be perfectly obedient to the will of the Lord even when it is beyond my understanding.  To be such a loving and faithful wife, mother, and follower of Christ.  To be able to accept all the trials that come my way with the knowledge that God has a plan for me.  I strive to have the faith and wisdom to echo Mary’s resounding “Yes!” to the Lord when He calls to me.

I know that I have failed at times.  And I know that despite my faults, my God has forgiven me.  But one look at the cross reminds me that my sins came at a price and that price was lovingly paid by my Savior at Calvary.  I do not want to continue to be the prodigal son.  I want to be like Mary.  I do not want to receive forgiveness only to rich back into sin.  I know that no matter how many tomes I falter, Christ will still welcome me home.  But seeing the love He has so freely given, I want to cease all sinful behavior and be a better example of His love.  

I am the prodigal son, yes; but I long to be like Our Lady.  I am a sinner; but I strive to be a saint.  I cannot get there without the love, grace, and forgiveness of God.   It fills me with joy and peace to picture the beautiful reunion to Mary in Heaven with the Lord.  My soul finds hope in that, by God’s endless love and mercy, we one day will meet Him in all His glory and share in that beautiful and loving reunion of Jesus our Savior, His Blessed Mother Mary, and all the Angels in Saints in Heaven for all eternity.

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