April – Christ’s love for the world and his followers

1 April

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection: Acts 10: 34, 37-43, Colossians 3:1-4, John 20:1-9

It may be baby’s first steps, a great advancement in science or even the experience of a spectacular sunrise or sunset. It’s at these moments, we find ourselves thinking about how lucky we are to witness such an amazing sight.

For Jesus’ apostles, it was a bit like that. Despite the three years they spent with Jesus in his public ministry, we see on many occasions in the gospels, that at times the apostle’s just didn’t get it. They knew they were with someone extraordinary, but not until the resurrection did things make sense. In Peter’s address to Cornelius in the first reading, he shares the story of the ministry of Jesus, and proudly proclaims that he was witness to all that Jesus did and now was the time to proclaim Jesus’ message to his people.

As children of God, we are called to be those witnesses with the responsibility to share the message of Jesus to all his people. As witnesses of Christ, we will experience many spectacular moments of grace with those whom we encounter.

Like the apostles we might not recognise those moments immediately, but hopefully, with the light of the risen Christ guiding us, we will come to realise such moments as an encounter with God.

Share a time in your life that simply amazed you.

 

8 April

Acts 4: 32-35, 1 John 5: 1-6, John 20: 19-31

It’s often hard to imagine – even when you read it – what sort of reaction of astonishment the disciples would have had to seeing Jesus alive. The Jesus they had shared ministry with, the Jesus that they saw die a torturous death a few days before on the wood of a cross. They knew where he was tombed.

They witnessed, at least from afar, a severely smashed body laid to rest. To the ancient world, death is forever, no one walks the earth, in reality, again thereafter! And yet here before them stood, not a resuscitated body of Jesus’ smashed remains, but the resurrected glorified body of Christ. Jesus’ presence before his disciples and the incarnate meeting with Thomas offers us today the greatest foundation of faith, hope and love.

Theologian Gustavo Gutierrez shares: “…because of one’s hope in the resurrected Christ, one is liberated from the narrow limits of the present and can think and act completely in terms of what is to come.” And to this Thomas’ response echoes throughout the centuries; “My Lord and my God!”

How do we offer the gift of Christ’s hope to those we meet?

 

15 April

Acts 3: 13-15, 17-19, 1 John 2: 1-5, Luke 24: 35-48

The gospel account in Luke this week is similar to the account of the incarnate presence of the resurrected Jesus in last week’s gospel of John. Last week we had the doubting Thomas place his hands into the wounds of Jesus and yet this week we have the astonished disciples sharing a meal of grilled fish.

A consistent feature of the post resurrection stories is that the risen Jesus was different and even at times initially unrecognizable. Jesus is in a “new” space and the doubting and fear struck disciples were not. In their fear they return to the safety of the “old” space as in some way fishers of fish and not fishers of humanity which Jesus called them to be.

Resurrection changes and transforms the old way of life and the old way of being. The words of the Apostle’s Creed finishes with “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.” If this is our future journey, as life everlasting, then the resurrection of Jesus is crucially important to our eternal life.

People may ask you what the meaning of life is. Well to my mind it is not found in the number “42” as Douglas Adams once suggested but it is profoundly discovered in the mystery of the Resurrection of Jesus.

Author, Fr Ron Rolheiser finally reminds us:“Was Jesus’ resurrection a faith event or a physical event? It was both. I believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, literally. I believe too that this event was, as the rich insights within contemporary theology point out, highly spiritual: an event of faith, of changed consciousness, of new hope empowering a new charity and a new forgiveness. But it was also an event of changed atoms and of a changed dead body. It was radically physical, just as are all events that are part of the incarnation wherein God takes on real flesh.”

How have you understood the resurrection of Jesus?

 

22 April

Acts 4: 8-12, 1 John 3: 1-2, John 10: 11-18

The Gospel for today begins with the words, “Jesus said; I am the good shepherd.” The notion of a real life shepherd may be foreign to a lot of us today in a post-modern world, but the vocation of shepherd in the time of Jesus meant much more than someone just looking after sheep.

To be a good shepherd meant that one had qualities of diligence and dependability, courage and bravery, integrity and a nurturing heart. A good shepherd had no hesitation in risking his own life against that of wolves and other wild animals for the safety of his flock.

ANZAC day is strongly connected to the idea of the good shepherd. In the eyes of faith, Easter symbolism permeates all the interwoven themes of Anzac Day, beginning with the Dawn Service. It is deeply moving to recognise that at the heart of the Australian soul rests the mystery of the death and resurrection.

A solemn service welcomes the dawn. Families brave the weather to pay their respects. Some pray, some call forth memories. In doing so, they bring to the present the experiences of our country’s past so that they can carry them into the future. They recognise the good shepherd who laid down their lives for so many.

ANZAC Day is a powerful and worthy ritual and the mystery of the Easter events expresses the assurance of a transcending hope, faith and love for all standing in the silence of the dawn.

 

29 April

Acts 9: 26-31, 1 John 3:18-24, John 15:1-8

The gospel reading last week was Jesus expressing to his disciples the model for life as the good shepherd and this week’s reading begins with the statement: “I am the true vine and my Father is the vinegrower.”

The fruitful vine offers true life; life which the gospel tells us in the earlier chapter is “life abundant”. How does this vine become fruitful? This does depend on the vinegrower who must carefully prune the vine enabling it to bear good fruit. Vines naturally have two kinds of branches — those that bear fruit and those that don’t.

The non-bearing branches must be carefully pruned back in order for the vine to conserve its energy for bearing good fruit. There is a clear and profound message here: We are either fruit-bearing or non-fruit-bearing. There is no in-between. For true growth, the dead bits must be pruned. Jesus promises that we will bear much fruit if we abide in him and allow him to abide in us.

Abiding in Christ requires careful reflection each day. The answers need not be complicated or deeply perplexing but simply from the heart. It is in this way that the Spirit will bear much fruit within each of us.

How does Jesus speak to you in this “bearing of fruit” metaphor? How do we “abide” or “remain” connected to the vine?




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