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Saying 'My Lord and My God'

On Easter night Jesus appears to his disciples, showing them the wounds in his hands and his side. He breathes the Holy Spirit on them and communicates the gift of peace, the fruit of Easter, but Thomas is not present. And his absence cannot be accidental: Jesus did not wait for his return to the Cenacle but appeared when Thomas had left, perhaps for some urgent task despite all the risks and dangers that entailed. Jesus appears as risen and alive to his disciples while Thomas is absent, perhaps to make Thomas experience the struggle of believing, of going from unbelief to faith, because that would be instructive for us too. The Fathers of the Church claim that Thomas’s unbelief is more useful for us than the faith of the other disciples. Let us listen to Jesus’s words to Thomas: “Do not doubt but believe.” It is a word that creates what it says. Jesus seems to be saying to Thomas, “Come forth out of your unbelief and come into faith.” This is the word we ask Jesus to speak over our lives, to rescue us from our unbelief. If we are still sinners, if we are often lacking and fail in our friendship with Jesus, it is because we are not yet sufficiently believers; something in our minds, our wills, or our affections is still unbelieving. Let us ask for this grace: “Rescue me, Lord, from my unbelief and bring me to faith.” May it be granted to us to unite ourselves to Thomas in asserting, “My Lord and my God!”

—from the book Encountering Jesus: A Holy Land Experience by Vincenzo Peroni

 

 

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Christ Our Hope Has Risen

Sometimes our faith moves us outward with great joy and fervent hope. But sometimes we need to go within, to renew our strength and our courage in quiet times of prayer. Depending on the circumstances of our lives this year, we might not be feeling the exuberant joy we expect in this season of Easter. Illness, death, unemployment, depression, and other human realities don’t necessarily happen according to the liturgical year. But in a time when it seems the only constant is change, our faith—and even more, our hope—reminds us that God’s love will always be there for us.

—from the book The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis by Diane M. Houdek

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Jesus Is Constant

At this time in history, you and I now are present. We, like the apostles, are unreliable and weak and afraid. We are inconstant in our devotion to our Lord. We deny him, we betray him. But Jesus is I Am. He is constant. Jesus sits in the center of our hearts with arms outstretched. He died on the cross out of love for us. He is continually with us, welcoming us, and looking at us with his loving, tender gaze, just as he looked at Peter. What he did at table, he continues to do with all our varied and challenged humanity, a variety of personalities that is forever and continually represented in every church, in every upper room, throughout our entire world.

—from Meeting God in the Upper Room: Three Moments to Change Your Life by Monsignor Peter Vaghi

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Walking with the Risen Jesus

Let us try to imagine the scene of the disciples who are walking with Jesus at their side for about seven miles. We can almost picture them in our minds: Initially focused on themselves with downcast faces, little by little they regain their strength, lift up their heads, return to an upright position, and breathe deeply again. Having reached the village of Emmaus, Jesus concretely checks to see if these two have understood and accepted all that he wanted to reveal to them during their journey. The disciples’ invitation shows that they accepted the extraordinary nature of their mysterious journey companion. Their invitation reveals the new feeling that is now in the hearts of these two. “It would be very good if you stayed with us. We have not yet understood who you are, but your presence is a source of consolation. Stay here with us.” They enter the place, and during the meal Jesus performs actions and repeats the very words of consecration for the Eucharist. He takes the bread and breaks it. The disciples—watching this take place and trained in listening to the word of God now being interpreted—are able to recognize him in the breaking of the bread. The Gospel reports that at the disciples’ invitation, Jesus “went in to stay with them.” As soon as they recognized him, however, “he vanished from their sight.” But why? Shouldn’t he have stayed with them? Because now he was still with them, because he had taught them to recognize him in the sacrament of his presence that he had left them: the body broken for them and the blood poured out for them.

—from the book Encountering Jesus: A Holy Land Experience by Vincenzo Peroni

 

 

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Resurrection in Our Daily Lives

“Tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (Matthew 28:10). But why Galilee in particular? Because that is where it all started. It was on the shore of this lake that Jesus had called his first disciples; they had been with him and learned, saw, and heard from him right up to his death and resurrection. They often understood nothing and were disoriented. However, now that Jesus had risen, it was possible to understand everything. It is as if Jesus were saying, “Go back to the beginning; go back to the beginning now with the light of Easter, and in that light you will understand everything that has happened. Now the plan has been completed and you can understand it.” Easter thus becomes the interpretive key to everything. Why in Galilee? Because Galilee is the place of everyday life. We can have many intense experiences of the Lord, but the proof that our communion with him is authentic—that we have understood who is for our lives—occurs in our ordinary lives. During extraordinary experiences this is essentially easy for everyone, but it is in the test of daily life that we have to see if we are authentic disciples of the Lord.

—from the book Encountering Jesus: A Holy Land Experience by Vincenzo Peroni

 

 

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Risen and Alive!

We are not content to say merely that Jesus is risen. We want to affirm that Jesus is risen and alive! He did not simply come back to life so that he could die again. He was not brought back to life like Lazarus, whom Jesus rescued from the tomb and would then have to die again. Jesus is risen and alive: He will no longer ever die. If Jesus is alive it means that he is our contemporary; we can dialogue with him and perceive his attentive and loving gaze on our lives; we can look at him and recognize in him the reality of our own lives. To know that Jesus is risen and alive means that he has truly defeated the power of death. He has rescued us from the mortal anguish that comes from the mystery of death that manifests itself as a kind of declaration of bankruptcy about life. The big problem with death is not only that it puts an end to life, but it also echoes that our existence is a kind of failure: All that we do or suffer or work at and all we have loved, experienced, or endured has been useless and seems to affirm death. The resurrection, life that is no longer subject to death, gives a fullness of meaning and beauty to the day-to-day nature of our existence; every effort, hope, suffering, and desire finds its true significance.

—from the book Encountering Jesus: A Holy Land Experience by Vincenzo Peroni

 

 

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Resurrection Song

At the heart of the story on Easter Sunday is the empty tomb. Somewhere in the darkness of the Easter Vigil and the pale dawn of Easter Sunday, each of us must confront the empty tomb and discover for ourselves the Risen Christ.

Pope Francis reminds us that our joy in the Risen Christ calls us to a quiet love and service, wrapped in the awareness that our life in Christ needs no trumpets or pomp and earthly glory. We have a peace in our hearts that is stronger than death itself. All our hope lies in that promise.

—from the book The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis by Diane M. Houdek

 

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Don't Lose the Connection

The moment in which we lose connection with Jesus and with the Church, we are no longer ourselves and we do not have any understanding of who we will be. For Peter at that moment, the cock crows and his crowing becomes an echo of Jesus’s words during the Last Supper. Peter, now smitten and dejected, is brought back to self-awareness. The Lord, turning his head, looks at Peter. Once more it is the gaze of Jesus that conquers a person, that moves him to compassion. We can understand that this gaze is not the unpleasant gaze of “I told you so!” It is not a gaze of judgment but a gentle, tender gaze that seeks to win him back. It is a gaze that calls Peter back. What does Peter do? He recalls the words the Lord had spoken, and he goes out weeping bitterly. These tears of suffering, of repentance for his denial, are a blessing for Peter because they are the prerequisite to receiving forgiveness. These tears are his request to Jesus to forgive him and to accept him again as a friend. The falling tears from this “Sandman, Sandman” mix with the dirt, and, on the morning of Pentecost, that dirt mixed with the tears of suffering and repentance will be hardened into stone, as in a kiln, by the fire of the Holy Spirit. Then Simon will definitively become Peter, a solid rock on which finally the whole Church can remain firm; he knows he will never again deny his Lord. He might be weak, a sinner in his flesh, but he will not ever again betray Jesus; his faith will be sure, solid, and secure. Our self-understanding needs to start with our relationship with Jesus: I am a disciple of the Lord, of the Lord who decided to die and make himself a gift of love for me, of a Lord who is risen and alive.

—from the book Encountering Jesus: A Holy Land Experience by Vincenzo Peroni

 

 

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Keep Watch with Me

The Gospel says Jesus arrives at Gethsemane with his disciples but then distances himself a bit. This is a battle that Jesus needs to face by himself. He asks his companions to keep watch with him and to pray not to enter into temptation, but he needs to face this hour in solitude. The disciples do not hold up; they are not capable of keeping vigil and they fall asleep. But this sleep is certainly not a sign of weariness. So what kind of sleep is this? It is a way of escape. Sleep is the thing in life that most resembles death; it can be a way of escape. The disciples do not actually want to see this moment happen, to face this moment. How many ways we find to anesthetize our consciences and our minds, filling our schedules with appointments, filling our minds with noise, burdening ourselves in useless preoccupations with things we do not need, to avoid focusing our hearts, our gaze, our minds, our wills, and our emotions on the one thing that matters! We fear the struggle of facing the reality of daily life that makes us encounter the truth about ourselves, so we seek various subterfuges to avoid having to confront ourselves. Jesus asks us to keep watch with him, to look at reality, to choose the good, to remain anchored to him with our whole being, whatever it costs, because this is the only way to be free and to overcome.

—from the book Encountering Jesus: A Holy Land Experience by Vincenzo Peroni

 

 

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