This Sunday's Gospel

Exegetical notes and homily themes to get you started this weekend:

2/22/2023 – Ash Wednesday
2/26/2023 – Lent 1

3/5/2023 – Lent 2 (Roman lectionary)
3/5/2023 – Lent 2 (Common lectionary)
3/12/2023 – Lent 3
3/19/2023 – Lent 4
3/26/2023 – Lent 5

4/2/2023 – Passion (Palm) Sunday

4/6/23 – Holy Thursday
4/7/23 – Good Friday
4/8/23 – The Easter Vigil
4/9/23 – Easter Sunday

4/16/23 – Easter 2
4/23/23 – Easter 3
4/30/23 – Easter 4

February 22 – Ash Wednesday [ABC]

“Your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”
Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18
Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart . . .
Joel 2: 12-18
We implore you, in Christ’s name, be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5: 20 - 6:2


The readings for this first day of the Lenten journey to Easter call us to turn.

In Hebrew, the word for repentance is to turn, like the turning of the earth to the sun at this time of year, like the turning of soil before spring planting.  The Lenten journey that begins on this Ash Wednesday calls us to repentance – to turn away from those things that separate us from God and re-turn to the Lord.

In today’s Gospel, from his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs his listeners on the Christian attitude and disposition toward prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  Such acts are meaningful only if they are outward manifestations of the essential turningthat has taken place within our hearts.

Around 400 B.C., a terrible invasion of locusts ravaged Judah.  The prophet Joel saw this catastrophe as a symbol of the coming “Day of the Lord.”   The prophet summoned the people to repent, to turn to the Lord with fasting, prayer and works of charity.

In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul alternates between anger and compassion, between frustration and affection in defending his authority and mandate as an apostle in the face of attack by some members of the Corinthian community.  In today’s second reading, the apostle appeals for reconciliation among the members of the community, for a re-turn to the one faith shared by the entire Church.


As the earth will “turn” toward the sun in the weeks ahead transforming the dark and cold of winter into the light and warmth of spring, so these ashes mark the beginning of a Lenten transformation of our souls and spirits.

The Spirit who called Jesus to the wilderness calls us, as well, to a forty-day “desert experience,” a time to peacefully and quietly renew and re-create our relationship with God, that he might become the center of our lives in every season.

Return to top

February 26 – First Sunday of Lent [A]

Jesus was led by the Spirit in the desert to be tempted by the devil.
Matthew 4: 1-11


In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ 40-day desert experience, Jesus is confronted with several choices.  All of the tempter’s offers would have Jesus sin against the great commandment of Deuteronomy:  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.”  (Deuteronomy 6: 5)  The tempter offers comfort, wealth and power, but Jesus chooses, instead, the course of humble and prayerful servanthood that the Father has chosen for him.  All of Jesus’ responses to the devil’s challenges are found in Deuteronomy (8: 3, 6: 16, 6: 13).


The same Spirit that led Jesus into the desert leads us into this 40-day “wilderness experience” of Lent, to ask ourselves the same kind of questions, to begin to understand who we are and who we are becoming, to discern what God calls us to be as we journey to the dwelling place of God.

As Jesus was “tempted,” so, too, are we confronted with the many different choices and goals life presents us.  Life confronts us with choices: personal profit, comfort and glory or the life of God.  The season of Lent calls us to embrace God’s Spirit of truth that we may make the choices demanded by our complicated and complex world with courage, insight and faith.

This First Sunday of Lent calls us into the desert of our hearts, those unknown “wildernesses” and terrifying places we struggle through as a result of circumstances beyond our control or because of our own mistakes and sins – but it is in those deserts and wildernesses where we find the courage and vision to move on. 

Lent is the season for meaningful fasting: fasting not just for the sake “of giving something up” but fasting from whatever derails or hampers our relationship with God and alienates us from others, fasting from everyday distractions in order to put our time and energy into the things of God.

Return to top

March 5 – Second Sunday of Lent [A]

Jesus was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.
Matthew 17: 1-9


In today’s Gospel, Peter, James and John witness the extraordinary transformation of Jesus that we know as the “transfiguration.”  Matthew’s account (which takes place six days after Jesus’ first prediction of his passion and his first instructions on the call to discipleship) is filled with images from the First Testament: the voice which repeats Isaiah’s “Servant” proclamation, the appearance of Moses and Elijah, the dazzling white garments of Jesus.  Matthew’s primary interest is the disciple’s reaction to the event: their awe at this spectacular vision will soon wither into fear at the deeper meaning of the transfiguration: a meaning that they do not yet grasp.  As the disciples will later understand, the transfiguration is a powerful sign that the events ahead of them in Jerusalem are indeed the Father’s will.


To experience transfiguration is to realize that there exists within each of us the “divinity,” the love of God, that enables us to transform our lives and the lives of those we love.  It is exactly that love — that “divinity” — that Peter, James and John behold in Jesus on the mount of the Transfiguration.  The power of that sacred presence shines through us, as well, even when we do not notice it or are unaware that God’s love is in our midst. 

Peter’s reaction to the Christ of the Transfiguration contrasts sharply with his reaction to the Christ of Good Friday:  While totally taken with the transfigured Christ in today’s Gospel, Peter will be too afraid to even acknowledge knowing the condemned Christ on Good Friday morning.  Lent calls us to descend Mount Tabor with Jesus and journey with him to Jerusalem to take up our cross with him, so that the divinity we see in the transfigured Jesus may become in us the Easter life of the Risen Christ.

Return to top

March 5 – Second Sunday of Lent [A]

Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus:  “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
John 3: 1-17


The Pharisee and teacher Nicodemus comes to Jesus in the middle of the night (in John’s Gospel, night/darkness symbolizes the lack of faith/light).  A man of learning, Nicodemus is one of the Jewish elites who were favorably disposed toward Jesus but were struggling to grasp the full meaning of his teachings.  For the writer of the Fourth Gospel, Nicodemus represents exactly the kind of timid disciple the evangelist seeks to persuade to come forward and openly profess his/her faith in Jesus as the Christ.

In their exchange, Jesus explains that the kingdom of God he proclaims transcends time and place, that God’s reign is a state of being: to enter the realm of God demands an interior transformation in the Spirit.  Invocating the image of Moses’ staff of a bronze serpent raised to save the Israelites from the bite of poisonous snakes (Numbers 21:9), Jesus foretells his own crucifixion, when he will be “lifted up” for the glory of God and the salvation of humankind.  And, in one of the most famous verses in John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of a God who is motivated by love so great that the Father has given the world his own Son not to condemn but to save.


Despite our own life’s experience, wealth and status, we are incomplete and lost until we are “reborn in water and the Spirit”: to be immersed in the Gospel principles of justice and reconciliation, to be transformed in God's spirit of humility and compassion.

To be “born in the Spirit” is to see things with the eyes of God, to honor what God honors, to love as God loves us.  The kingdom of God that Jesus speaks of in the Gospel transcends boundaries and labels, stereotypes and traditions, the color of flags and the color of skin.  In God’s eyes, we are all his children; in God's heart, we are all brothers and sisters to one another.

While we tend to see God as the great cosmic Ruler, a mysterious Being totally detached from us and removed from the human experience, Jesus reveals God as a loving Father who created us and our world out of love and seeks to restore his beloved creation through an even greater act of love: God’s becoming human himself in order that his beloved humanity might realize God’s dream of becoming holy and sacred.

Return to top

March 12 – Third Sunday of Lent [A]

Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well:
“ . . . whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst, a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have done.  Could he possibly be the Christ?”
John 4: 5-42


Jesus’ meeting the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well illustrates the principal role of Jesus as the Messiah: to reconcile all men and women to the Father.  As a Samaritan, the woman is considered an outcast by the Jews; as a known adulteress, she is scorned by her own village.  With kindness and dignity, Jesus reconciles her to God.

This Gospel has long had a special place in baptismal catechesis:  In revealing himself as the Messiah to the Samaritan woman, Jesus speaks to her of the fountain of water he will give -- the life-giving waters of baptism.  From Jacob’s well springs forth the living waters of the Messiah Christ.

The Samaritan woman is, for the evangelist John, a model of a disciple’s experience of faith:  In a personal encounter with Jesus, she confronts her own sinfulness and need for forgiveness; she then comes to realize the depth of God’s love for her; reconciled with God, her life is transformed; she is then sent forth to share with others her “faith story” of what she has seen and heard of this Jesus.


Water is the predominant symbol in today’s readings:  As water sustains life and cleans away the grime and filth that can diminish and destroy life, in the waters of baptism, the sins that alienate us from God are washed away and we are reborn in the Spirit of compassion and community.

All of us who have encountered Jesus are called to be reconcilers, not judges; we are called to lift people up, not drive them to their knees.  In so many ordinary ways we can help one another realize new life and hope in Christ if we are willing to tear down the walls that divide us, to reach over the distances between us, to build bridges over chasms of mistrust and prejudice. 

Easter transformation begins with a recognition of our sins and failings.  As Jesus confronts the woman at the well with the reality of her own sinfulness and brokenness, we must confront our own sinfulness and, in doing so, realize our need for God.  Sin is a reality in the lives of each one of us; but through Christ, forgiveness, reconciliation and rebirth, are just as real and possible.

Return to top

March 19 – Fourth Sunday of Lent [A]

The healing of the man born blind:
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him . . .
“I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do not see might become blind.”
John 9: 1-41


In his accounts of Jesus’ “signs,” the writer of the Fourth Gospel displays great skills as a dramatist.  His story of the healing of the man born blind is really a play with six scenes: the blind beggar’s healing with the mud Jesus mixes on the Sabbath; the townsfolk’s reaction to his cure; the beggar’s testimony before the Pharisees; the testimony of the blind man’s parents; the beggar’s second appearance before the Pharisees (resulting in his expulsion); the beggar’s return to Jesus.

While his synoptic counterparts recount Jesus’ miracles as manifestations of his great love and compassion, John “stages” Jesus’ miracle to reveal the deeper meanings of Jesus’ mission of redemption as the Messiah.  The healing of the blind beggar heightens the tension between Jesus and the Pharisees.  The teaching of this itinerant Rabbi threatens the structured and exalted life of the scribes and Pharisees.  They seek to discredit Jesus – and this miracle gives them the opportunity.  In using spittle, kneading clay and rubbing it on the man’s eyes, Jesus breaks the strict rules prohibiting any kind of manual labor on the Sabbath.  The miracle itself becomes secondary; the issue becomes Jesus’ breaking of the Sabbath.  Jesus’ teachings and healings so threaten the comfortably ordered lives of the Jewish leaders that they seek some way to discredit what he has done, so they condemn Jesus’ mixing of the mud as a clear violation of the Jewish prohibition of any kind of work on the Sabbath. 

The inquisition of the blind man and his parents and his expulsion from the temple are important parts of Jesus’ story for the evangelist and his readers.  John and his community of Jewish-Christians are experiencing the same rejection: many of them have been expelled from their synagogues and the temple for their belief in Jesus as the Messiah


Our faith, our embracing of the Spirit of God, demands that we see things not with the eyes of practicality, self-interest and profitability alone, but with the eyes of Christ’s selflessness and humility: to see beyond appearances and superficialities and look deeper to discover the timeless and profound truths of the human heart.  To see the world in the light of Christ empowers us to re-create our world, to shatter the darkness of injustice and hate with the light of justice and compassion.

Jesus says that the man he heals was born blind “so that the works of God might be made visible through him.”  In his blindness, the man’s healing becomes the manifestation of God’s goodness and grace for his family and neighbors.  Christ calls all of us to such an understanding of faith: that the moments of greatest hurt and difficulty in our lives — the crosses laid upon our shoulders — can become manifestations of God’s grace through understanding compassion, and patient forgiveness.

Return to top

March 26 – Fifth Sunday of Lent [A]

Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  The dead man came out, tied hand and food with burial bands, and his face wrapped in a cloth.  “Untie him and let him go.”
John 11: 1-45  


As was the case in John’s account of the healing of the man born blind (last Sunday’s Gospel), the raising of Lazarus is more than just a sign of Jesus’ love and compassion.  Each of the seven miracles that John includes in his Gospel (“the Book of Signs,” as this section of John’s Gospel is titled) is dramatized by the evangelist to underscore some dimension of the redemptive nature of Jesus’ work.  Today’s Gospel, the climactic sign in John’s Gospel, is presented in five distinct, self-contained scenes: Jesus receiving the news of Lazarus’ death, the disciples’ protesting Jesus’ return to Judea, Martha’s pleading with Jesus, Jesus’ emotional arrival at the tomb, and the miraculous raising of Lazarus.

The raising of Lazarus is clearly intended by John to demonstrate Jesus’ power over life and death.  The raising of Lazarus plays like a rehearsal for the events next week’s liturgies will celebrate.


As Jesus called out to Lazarus to be untied from the wrappings of the dead and to be free to live once again, so we are called to be free from those things that keep us too busy from loving and being loved.

Resurrection is an attitude, a perspective that finds hope in the hardest times and uncovers life among the ruined, that reveals light in the darkest night.  To each one of us belongs Jesus’ work of resurrection at Lazarus’s tomb: to help others free themselves from their tombs of dark hopelessness and the fear and sadness that bind them. 

Return to top

April 2 – Sunday of the Lord’s Passion: Palm Sunday [A]


Blessing and Procession of Palms:  Matthew 28: 1-11

Matthew’s account of Jesus’ entry into the city of Jerusalem is framed by the prophecy of Zechariah (9: 9).  The Messiah will come, not as a conquering warrior astride a noble steed, but in lowliness and peace, riding on an ass.  The Messiah-king is one with God’s just: the poor and lowly of the world.  Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in such a public and deeply symbolic way (which is followed immediately in Matthew's text by the routing of the money changers from the temple) sets up the final confrontation between Jesus and the chief priests and scribes.

The Passion:  Matthew 26: 14 - 27: 66   

While the Blessing and Procession of Palms commemorates Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the Liturgy of the Word focuses on the passion and death of the Messiah.  In his Passion narrative, Matthew frames his account in the context of the First Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah.  Matthew portrays a Jesus who is totally alone, abandoned by everyone, but who is finally vindicated by God (the portrait of the Messiah depicted in Isaiah and Psalm 22).

Scripture scholars believe that Matthew (and Luke) adapted their material from the evangelist Mark, whose Gospel is generally believed to be the first to be written.  Almost 80 percent of Matthew’s Passion account is identical in vocabulary and content with Mark.  Matthew, however, adds several details not found in Mark’s Gospel, including the death of Judas, Pilate’s washing his hands of responsibility for Jesus’ death, Pilate’s wife’s dream (in Matthew’s Gospel, divine guidance is often revealed in dreams – Joseph’s dream to take the child and his mother to Egypt, the magi’s dream to flee Bethlehem), the posting of guards at the tomb after Jesus’ burial.

Matthew is writing his Gospel for Jewish Christians who themselves have suffered at the hands of the Jewish establishment.  Many have been expelled from their synagogues and the temple for their insistent belief in Jesus as the Messiah.  Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin (the most controversial aspect of the Passion narratives historically) is pivotal in Matthew.  Matthew is the only Gospel writer who names Caiaphas as high priest during the proceedings and describes in great detail the chief priests’ manipulation of Pilate and the crowds.  Matthew presents to his Jewish Christian community Jesus as a model of suffering at the hands of the Jews (it is Matthew’s Passion account that includes the troubling line spoken by the crowds, “Let his blood be upon us and our children”).  The tearing of the sanctuary veil symbolizes for Matthew's community a break with their Jewish past.

As is the case throughout Matthew’s Gospel, Gentiles and not the people of Israel first recognize the truth about Jesus: only Pilate and his wife recognize the innocence of the condemned Jesus.

Reading 1:  Isaiah 50: 4-7

Reading 1 is taken from Deutero-Isaiah's “Servant songs,” the prophet's foretelling of the “servant of God” who will come to redeem Israel.  In this third song, Isaiah portrays the servant as a devoted teacher of God's Word who is ridiculed and abused by those who are threatened by his teaching.

Reading 2:  Philippians 2: 6-11

In his letter to the Christian community at Philippi (in northeastern Greece), Paul quotes what many scholars believe is an early Christian hymn (Reading 2).  As Christ totally and unselfishly “emptied himself” to accept crucifixion for our sakes, so we must “empty” ourselves for others.


There is a certain incongruity about today’s Palm Sunday liturgy.  We begin with a sense of celebration:  We carry palm branches and echo the Hosannas (from the Hebrew “God save [us]”) shouted by the people of Jerusalem as Jesus enters the city – but Matthew’s account of the Passion confronts us with the cruelty, injustice and selfishness that lead to the crucifixion of Jesus.  We welcome the Christ of victory, the Christ of Palm Sunday – but we turn away from the Christ of suffering and of the poor, the Christ of Good Friday.  These branches of palm are symbols of that incongruity that often exists between the faith we profess on our lips and the faith we profess in our lives.

The Gospel calls us to take on what Paul calls the “attitude of Christ Jesus” (Reading 1) in his passion and death: to “empty” ourselves of our own interests, fears and needs for the sake of others; to realize how our actions affect them and how our moral and ethical decisions impact the common good; to reach out to heal the hurt and comfort the despairing around us despite our own betrayal; to carry on, with joy and in hope, despite rejection, humiliation and suffering. 

Matthew portrays a Jesus who has been totally abandoned by his disciples and friends.  There is no one to defend him, to support him, to speak for him.  He endures such a cruel and unjust death alone.  Yet, amid the darkness, there remains a glimmer of light:  The prophecy of a new temple “not made by human hands” is fulfilled in the shreds of the temple curtain; a pagan centurion confesses his new-found realization that this crucified Jesus is indeed the “Son of God”; and a member of the Sanhedrin, Joseph of Arimathea, is emboldened to break with his fellow councilors and request of Pilate the body of Jesus.  The Passion of Jesus should be a reason for hope and a moment of grace for all of us as we seek the reign of God in our own lives – however lonely and painful our search may be.

Return to top

April 6 – Holy Thursday [ABC]

“If I, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet.”
John 13: 1-15
This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the LORD, as a perpetual institution.
Exodus 12: 1-8, 11-14
As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.
1 Corinthians 11: 23-26


The central event of John’s Gospel account of the Last Supper is the mandatum – from the Latin word for “commandment,” from which comes the traditional title for this evening, Maundy Thursday.  At the Passover seder, the night before he died, Jesus establishes a new Passover to celebrate God's covenant with the new Israel.  The special character of this second covenant is the mandatum of the washing of the feet: to love one another as we have been loved by Christ.

The writer of the Fourth Gospel makes no mention of the establishment of the Eucharist in his account of the Last Supper.  Chapters 14, 15 and 16 recount Jesus’ last instructions to his disciples, followed by his “high priestly prayer” in chapter 17.  The Johannine theology of the Eucharist is detailed in chapter 6 of John’s Gospel: the “bread of life” discourse that follows the multiplication of the loaves and fish at Passover.

Tonight’s first reading recounts the origin and ritual of the feast of Passover, the Jewish celebration of God’s breaking the chains of the Israelites’ slavery in Egypt and leading them to their own land, establishing a covenant with them and making of them his own beloved people.

The deep divisions in the Corinthian community have led to abuses and misunderstandings concerning the “breaking of the bread.”  In addressing these problems and articulating the proper spirit in which to approach the Lord’s Supper, Paul provides us with the earliest written account of the institution of the Eucharist, the Passover of the new covenant (this evening's second reading).  If we fail to embrace the spirit of love and servanthood in which the gift of the Eucharist is given to us, then “Eucharist” becomes a judgment against us.


The Eucharist, instituted this night, comes at a price all must be willing to pay:  We must become what we have received; we must become, for others, Christ the healer, Christ the compassionate and selfless brother, Christ the humble “washer of feet.”

Jesus, who revealed the wonders of God in stories about mustard seeds, fishing nets and ungrateful children, on this last night of his life – as we know life – leaves his small band of disciples his most beautiful parable:  As I have washed your feet like a slave, so you must wash the feet of each other and serve one another.  As I have loved you without limit or condition, so you must love one another without limit or condition.  As I am about to suffer and die for you, so you must suffer and, if necessary, die for one another.  Tonight’s “parable” is so simple, but its lesson is so central to what being a real disciple of Christ is all about.  When inspired by the love of Christ, the smallest act of service done for another takes on extraordinary dimensions. 

Tonight is about reliving a memory: the memory of Jesus, the Christ, who begins on this night, for our sakes, his great “passing over” from death to life.  At this table, in the cenacle of our own church, the memory of Jesus becomes a living reality.  Jesus speaks to us again and again in the pages of the Gospel book, in the basin, pitcher and towel, in the Eucharistic bread and wine.  The memory we relive tonight and tomorrow and the next day re-creates us, identifies us, makes us who we are as human beings who love, who care, who heal, who forgive, who lift up.

Return to top

April 7 – Good Friday [ABC]

When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.”  And bowing his head, he handed over his spirit.
John 18: 1 – 19: 42


John’s profoundly theological Passion account portrays a Jesus who is very much aware of what is happening to him.  His eloquent self-assurance unnerves the high priest and intimidates Pilate, who shuttles back and forth among the various parties involved, desperately trying to avoid condemning this innocent holy man to death.  Hanging on the cross, Jesus entrusts his mother to his beloved disciple, thus leaving behind the core of a believing community.  He does not cry out the psalm of the abandoned (Psalm 22); rather, his final words are words of decision and completion:  “It is finished.”  The crucifixion of Jesus, as recounted by John, is not a tragic end but the beginning of victory, the lifting up of the Perfect Lamb to God for the salvation of humankind.


Today, Jesus teaches us through his own broken body.  As a Church, as a community of faith, we are the body of Christ – but a broken body.  We minister as broken people to broken people.  The suffering, the alienated, the unaccepted, the rejected, the troubled, the confused are all part of this broken body of Christ.  In God’s unfathomable love, the broken body of Christ is forever transformed into the full and whole life of the Risen Christ.

As Jesus’ cross becomes a means of transforming death into life, we are called on this Good Friday to use the crosses that we shoulder in our lives as vehicles for “resurrection” in the Jerusalems and Golgothas of our own time and place.

Jesus is crucified every day in the betrayals, condemnations, and crosses taken up and endured by the poor, the sorrowing, the sick, the grieving and the dying – but the “goodness" of Good Friday gives us reason to hope, reason to carry on, reason to rejoice.  By the grace of the Risen Christ we can transform our crucifixions into Easter victories. 

Today, “truth” stands in front of us in the figure of the humiliated Jesus, the suffering Jesus, the ridiculed Jesus, the crucified Jesus.  Right in front of us is the truth about a God who loves us to a degree we cannot begin to fathom; a God who refuses to give up or reject or destroy his beloved creation – a creation that has hardly lived up to its promise; a God who humbles himself to become one of us in order to make us like him, to realize that we have been created in his image, created by his very breath blown into our hearts.

God calls us on this Good Friday to a second Exodus journey, marked in the slaying of his Son, the Lamb, who becomes for us the new Passover seder — today is our exodus from the slavery of sin to the freedom of compassion and forgiveness, our “passover” from this life to the life of God.

Return to top

April 8 – The Easter Vigil [A]

The angel said to the woman, “Do not be afraid!  I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified.  He is not here, for he has been raised up just as he said . . . ”
Matthew 28: 1-10


In his Gospel, Matthew presents Jesus’ resurrection as a great intervention by God, inaugurating a new order throughout creation and history.  The empty tomb is surrounded by miraculous phenomena: the earthquake, the angel whose appearance resembles a “flash of lightning” with garments as “dazzling as snow,” the rolled back stone and the collapse of the guards.

In Matthew’s account, Mary Magdalene and the “other” Mary come to the tomb for no other reason than to mourn (the guards, no doubt, would have prevented any attempt to go near the body for additional anointing).  The disciples, meanwhile, are nowhere to be seen.  The women’s courageous and compassionate presence is rewarded by their being the first to hear the astonishing news of the Resurrection.  The angel explains that Jesus has been “raised up” exactly as he foretold on three occasions in Matthew’s Gospel (16: 21, 17:23 and 20:19).  The two women then become “apostles to the apostles,” sent to tell the others what they have seen.

On their way, the Risen One appears to them.  In bidding the two Marys peace and in calling the cowering disciples his “brothers,” Jesus offers the forgiveness and reconciliation that are hallmarks of the Easter promise.


In the Easter miracle, God re-creates the world.  It is the first night and day of the second Genesis.  Death is no longer the ultimate finality but the ultimate beginning.  The Christ who taught forgiveness, who pleaded for reconciliation, who handed himself over to his executioners for the sake of justice and mercy, has been raised up by God.  We leave behind in the grave our sinfulness, our dark side, our selfishness, our pettiness -- the evil that mars God's first creation.

In the light of Easter morning, we realize unmistakably the depth of God’s love for us and understand the profound truth of Jesus’ Gospel of compassion, love, forgiveness, reconciliation and selflessness for the sake of others.  God’s ”raising up” of his Son affirms our redemption through the power of the Gospel spirit of love; the empty tomb of Easter is the ultimate victory of the Gospel over humanity’s sad tendency toward despair, isolation, prejudice and selfishness. 

With Easter faith, we can transform the darkness of Good Friday hatred into the light of Easter’s Alleluia; we can awaken the promise of the empty tomb in every place and moment and heart we encounter on our journey to Easter's fulfillment in our own lives.

Return to top

April 9 – Easter Sunday [ABC]

[NOTE:  The Gospel from the Easter Vigil may be read on Easter Sunday.]

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.  So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.”
John 20: 1-9


John’s Easter Gospel says nothing of earthquakes or angels.  His account begins before daybreak.  It was believed that the spirit of the deceased hovered around the tomb for three days after burial; Mary Magdalene was therefore following the Jewish custom of visiting the tomb during this three-day period.  Discovering that the stone has been moved away, Mary Magdalene runs to tell Peter and the others.  Peter and the “other disciple” race to get there and look inside.  Note the different reactions of the three:  Mary Magdalene fears that someone has “taken” Jesus' body; Peter does not know what to make of the news; but the “other” disciple – the model of faithful discernment in John's Gospel – immediately understands what has taken place.  So great are the disciple's love and depth of faith that all of the strange remarks and dark references of Jesus now become clear to him.


While the Easter mystery does not deny the reality of suffering and pain, it does proclaim reason for hope in the human condition.  The empty tomb of Christ trumpets the ultimate Alleluia: that love, compassion, generosity, humility and selflessness will ultimately triumph over hatred, bigotry, prejudice, despair, greed and death.  The Easter miracle enables us, even in the most difficult and desperate of times, to live our lives in hopeful certainty of the fulfillment of the resurrection at the end of our life's journey.

The Risen Christ is present to us in the faithful witness of every faithful follower of Jesus who shares the good news of the empty tomb, who seeks to bring resurrection into this life of ours: to rise above life’s sufferings and pain to give love and life to others, to renew and re-create our relationships with others, to proclaim the Gospel of the empty tomb.

Today we stand, with Peter and John and Mary, at the entrance of the empty tomb; with them, we wonder what it means.  The Christ who challenged us to love one another is risen and walks among us!  All that he taught – compassion, love, forgiveness, reconciliation, sincerity, selflessness for the sake of others – is vindicated and affirmed if he is truly risen.  The empty tomb should not only console us and elate us, it should challenge us to embrace the life of the Gospel.  With Easter faith, we can awaken the promise of the empty tomb in every place and moment we encounter on our journey through this life.

In Matthew’s Easter Gospel, the Risen Jesus instructs the stunned Mary and her companion to “go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”  Galilee is the place where Peter and the others were first called, where everything began — to return there means to see everything they experienced in following Jesus in the light of the cross and the empty tomb.  Returning to Galilee transforms the horror of the past week into the new, radiant light of Easter — and, in that new light, their lives and ours are forever made new and whole.  This Easter, may we make our way back to the Galilees of our life, to meet again God’s Risen One in the reconciling and healing peace of this holy season.  

Return to top

April 16 – Second Sunday of Easter [A]

“Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.  And when he said this he breathed upon them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit . . . ”
Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
John 20: 19-31


The Gospel for the Second Sunday of Easter (for all three years of the Lectionary cycle) is Act 2 of John’s Easter drama.
Scene 1 takes place on Easter night.  The terrified disciples are huddled together, realizing that they are marked men because of their association with the criminal Jesus.  The Risen Jesus appears in their midst with his greeting of “peace.”  John clearly has the Genesis story in mind when the evangelist describes Jesus as “breathing” the Holy Spirit on his disciples:  Just as God created man and woman by breathing life into them (Genesis 2: 7), the Risen Christ re-creates humankind by breathing the new life of the Holy Spirit upon the eleven.

In scene 2, the disciples excitedly tell the just-returned Thomas of what they had seen.  Thomas responds to the news with understandable skepticism.  Thomas had expected the cross (see John 11: 16 and 14: 5) – and no more.

The climactic third scene takes place one week later, with Jesus’ second appearance to the assembled community – this time with Thomas present.  He invites Thomas to examine his wounds and to “believe.”  Christ’s blessing in response to Thomas’ profession of faith exalts the faith of every Christian of every age who “believes without seeing”; all Christians who embrace the Spirit of the Risen One possess a faith that is in no way different less than that of the first disciples.  The power of the Resurrection transcends time and place.


We trace our roots as parish and faith communities to Easter night when Jesus “breathed” his spirit of peace and reconciliation upon his frightened disciples, transforming them into the new Church.

The “peace” that Christ gives his new Church is not a passive sense of good feeling or the mere absence of conflict.  Christ’s peace is hard work: the peace of the Easter Christ is to honor one another as children of the same Father in heaven; the peace of the Easter Christ seeks to build bridges and find solutions rather than assigning blame or extracting punishment; the peace of Christ is centered in relationships that are just, ethical and moral. 

The “peace” that the Risen Christ breathes into us at Easter shows us a way out of those tombs in which we bury ourselves; the forgiveness he extends enables us to get beyond the facades we create and the rationalizations we devise to justify them. 

Jesus’ entrusting to the disciples the work of forgiveness is what it means to be the church: to accept one another, to affirm one another, to support one another as God has done for us in the Risen Christ.  What brought the apostles and first Christians together as a community – unity of heart, missionary witness, prayer, reconciliation and healing – no less powerfully binds us to one another as the Church of today.

While today’s Gospel has been ready by the Church as Jesus’ instituting the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the whole Christian community possesses the power to “forgive” and “retain,” and the grace to “bind” and “loosen.”  The Risen Christ gives to every one of us the “power,” the “authority,” the grace to forgive and to bind one another in love.   

All of us, at one time or another, experience the doubt and skepticism of Thomas:  While we have heard the good news of Jesus’ empty tomb, all of our fears, problems and sorrows prevent us from realizing it in our own lives.  In raising his beloved Son from the dead, God also raises our spirits to the realization of the totality and limitlessness of his love for us. 

We all have scars from our own Good Fridays that remain long after our own experiences of resurrection.  Our “nail marks” remind us that all pain and grief, all ridicule and suffering are transformed into healing and peace in the love of God we experience from others and that we extend them. 

Return to top

April 23 – Third Sunday of Easter [A]

Jesus meets the two disciples on the road to Emmaus:  “While he was sitting with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them.  With that their eyes were opened and the recognized him . . . ”
Luke 24: 13-35


Today’s Gospel begins on the afternoon of that miraculous Easter Sunday.  Having just completed the observance of the Passover Sabbath, two disciples of Jesus (one identified as Cleopas) are making the seven-mile trip to the village of Emmaus.  By identifying them as disciples, Luke is emphasizing that these two were more than just impartial observers of the events of Holy Week.

Luke writes that their exchange was “lively” – we can well imagine!  As well as anger at the great travesty of justice that had taken place, they must have felt emotionally shattered at what had befallen their revered Rabbi Jesus.  The two are suddenly joined by a stranger who asks the subject of their “lively” conversation.  The stranger then explains, to their astonishment, the meaning of each of the events of the past week.  When they reach the village, the two disciples ask the stranger to stay with them.  And, in the words from Luke’s Gospel that we have come to treasure, the two disciples “come to know (the Risen Christ) in the breaking of the bread.”


Luke’s Easter night story parallels our own experience of the Eucharist: We come to the Lord’s table feeling angry, hurt, despairing, alone – but at this table, coming to “know him in the breaking of the bread,” we can experience the peace and presence of the Risen Christ.

It has been said that true friendship begins when people share a memory.  Like the two disciples who recognize Jesus in the breaking of bread, we, too, are bound as a Church by the same memory of the Risen One.  In the word we hear together and the bread we share together, God's love is both remembered and relived, giving us hope and direction and meaning in the course of our individual journeys.

As the two disciples discover on their journey to Emmaus, Christ is alive and present in our midst in the love, charity and goodness we give and receive, in the sacrament of his body and blood, in moments of grace and prayer.

Like the disciples journeying to Emmaus, we are disciples are on a journey, a journey reaches its zenith in the great Paschal journey from crucifixion to resurrection.  As the disciples traveling to Emmaus discover, the journey is not ended.  It continues through the wilderness and is marked by the cross.  But God is still very much present to us along the way.

God travels with us on our own roads to Emmaus; God is present in the broken bread of compassion and healing we offer and receive from our fellow travelers.  Easter faith is to recognize God in our midst: in our wanting to understand, in our struggle to make things right, in our brokenness.  May this Easter season open our hearts and spirits to recognize Christ among us in every moment of our lives, in both the bright promising mornings and the dark, terrifying nights.  

Return to top

April 30 – Fourth Sunday of Easter [A]

“I am the gate for the sheep . . . Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture . . .
“I came so that they might have life and have it to more abundantly.”
John 10: 1-10


Chapter 10 of John’s Gospel is Jesus’ “Good Shepherd” discourse.  In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus points to two kinds of sheepfolds or corrals:  In the community or town sheepfold, the real shepherd was recognized by the gatekeeper and his flock knew his voice and followed; out in the fields, the shepherd slept across the corral opening – his body became the corral gate.  Both “gates” are beautiful images of the Redeeming Christ, the “Good Shepherd” who lays down his own life to become the very source of life for his people.

John places these words of Jesus right after the curing of the man born blind (the Gospel read a few weeks ago on the Fourth Sunday of Lent).  The evangelist uses these references about shepherds, sheep and sheep gates to underline the miserable job of “shepherding” being done by the Pharisees and the temple authorities as in the case of the blind man.  John is writing in the spirit of the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 34):  God will raise up a new shepherd to replace the irresponsible and thieving shepherds who feed themselves at the expense of the flock.


In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls himself the “gate” of humble justice, selfless compassion and ready forgiveness that leads us to the dwelling place of God.   In this Easter season, God invites us to pass through the threshold that is his Risen Christ: to leave behind our sadness and fears and doubts in order to come into the safety and warmth of God’s hearth of peace and compassion.

When our spirits ache over what has been lost, when we lose our moral and ethical way, when we feel our footing slip beneath us as we try to navigate life’s twists and turns, Christ’s voice can always be heard above the noise and din our lives if we listen for it with hope, conviction and faith.

Sometimes we look at the Gospel from our modern, sophisticated perspective and quietly dismiss what Jesus says as too unrealistic or too simplistic to deal with the complex problems we must face.  But there is no high- tech, comfortable, convenient road to living the Gospel of forgiveness, compassion and justice.  “To have life to the full” demands that we journey by way of the “gate” of Gospel wisdom, charity, reconciliation, compassion and justice.

Return to top