This weekend’s Gospel reading from John enjoys a number of themes not least of which has to do with hearing Christ’s call to live differently but returning to our “comfort zones.” Even after seeing the risen Lord and receiving his blessing and missionary charge, his disciples go back to what they were doing before Jesus first called them. Instead of continuing Jesus’ ministry, they return to the life they knew. When faced with the choice between embarking on a new way of life or staying where life is familiar and comfortable, they chose the latter. Good stewards know that Christ has called them to open their hearts and live in a different way. How often do we retreat from the Lord’s call so that we may remain with what is comfortable and familiar?
In today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we hear it proclaimed that many “signs and wonders” were performed in public by Christ’s followers, a demonstration that produced two results. First, the people of Jerusalem outside the Christian community were awed by what the disciples were performing. And in the midst of all this amazement, many were being converted. Good stewards know of the evangelizing power emanating from their daily acts of love, compassion, kindness and generosity. They believe that if they stay focused on Christ each day, every act has the power to transform a broken world. What “signs and wonders” will we perform today?
April 22 marks the celebration of Earth Day 2022. This annual event, which began in 1970 and launched the modern environmental movement, reminds us all that the care and protection of our earth and natural environment is of urgent concern. Indeed, caring for the earth and its resources is a moral obligation, one in which Christian stewards must play their part as stewards of God’s creation. We have listened carefully to recent pontiffs sounding the clarion call for the safeguarding of God’s creation. Pope Benedict XVI was sometimes called “the first green pope” for his continued plea that we respect the environment. Under his direction, solar panels were installed at the Vatican, and Vatican City signed up for a project that offset carbon-dioxide emissions.
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, who took the name of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology, has frequently spoken about protecting the environment. In his first Mass as pope, Francis called on us to be “protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.” Stewardship of the environment has become an ever-deepening part of our spiritual consciousness. For the Christian steward, caring for our earth and its resources is not an academic subject but a personal and practical one.
There are a number of ways we can celebrate Earth Day and demonstrate our commitment to protecting our environment. Even small actions can have great consequences! Pick up litter, recycle, turn off the water when you brush your teeth, switch to online bill payments, use public transportation, turn down your water heater, install energy efficient lights. If we stop to think about it, there are dozens of ways we can lighten the tremendous burden we place on our environment in order to promote a healthy ecosystem; especially those of us in North America who use such a high percentage of the world’s resources. The challenge of maintaining a clean environment is a matter of urgency, as the results of climate change can be seen regularly now. We are called to be good stewards of the earth. Let us celebrate Earth Day 2022 by making changes to the way we treat God’s creation. Let us establish a cleaner, healthier earth that will be sustained for generations to come
Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen! If you’re thinking this greeting comes a little late, since Easter Sunday was April 21, think again. As Catholic Christians, we celebrate the Easter season for seven weeks, until the fires of Pentecost once again inflame our hearts on June 9. Indeed, how could we not continue to celebrate this event that has changed everything for us?
It’s easy to slip into a cultural way of thinking about our great feasts. Many people have the Christmas tree taken down at the end of New Year’s Day, rather than waiting for Epiphany. Likewise, most of us have long ago put the Easter decorations away. But the Christian steward is aware of the beauty and meaning of the seasons in the liturgical calendar.
The Easter season remains a special time for recommitment to the Lord. One word for this period is “mystagogia,” and those who were newly baptized at the Great Easter Vigil are especially familiar with this term. It literally means that we delve more deeply into the mystery of our faith. But exploring this mystery is not just an endeavor for new Christians. As we prepare for Pentecost, we prayerfully examine what the Resurrection means in our own lives.
For Christian stewards, it’s a time to reevaluate how faith in the Risen Lord informs every aspect of our lives – how we labor, how we play, the way we pray, how we allocate our resources, where we spend our time, how we love, how we extend our compassion to others. If Christ is truly risen – an astounding and life-altering belief – then this Easter time brings immense joy and a continuing desire to know the Risen Lord.
The Scripture readings of the season are especially helpful. We hear once again the stories of the appearances of Jesus to his friends; how often they failed, initially, to recognize him in his glory. The Acts of the Apostles tell us of the struggles and the excitement of the new community of believers. We spent forty days in the penitential season of Lent.
Now, we are embarked on fifty days of joyous celebration. Let us experience this joy throughout the Easter season, so that when we celebrate Pentecost, we may truly find our hearts on fire with the Holy Spirit.
Alive in Christ! That’s what we are. Among the many readings of Easter, Saint Paul reflects on this “newness of life” in his letter to the Romans. The Christian life is a resurrected life. It is new life, one of truth, inner joy and genuine fulfillment. God has transformed our lives for all eternity, and that transformation is what it means to be a Christian. Do you know the resurrected life? Have you genuinely experienced it? Good stewards have; and in their commitment to the Lord, they know what it means to be alive in Christ. It is time to rejoice. He is risen! Alleluia!
Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection are the most important events in all of history. Everything before those days was leading up to those days. Everything following those days is the opportunity to live the graces of those days, the grace of having the risen Jesus in our lives.
We could presume that the first person to see Jesus risen from the dead was his own mother Mary. The Gospels tell us about Jesus appearing to the apostles, Mary Magdalene and many others. In the Gospel today (John 20:1-9) we heard of Mary Magdalene, Peter and John seeing Jesus’ empty tomb and later in that chapter John tells us about Jesus’ appearing to them that day. In our first reading from Acts, Peter said that the Father “granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” (Acts 10:40-41)
The life of Jesus and the meaning of his passion, death and resurrection has been impacting people ever since those days, more and more people every year. If you throw a stone into a pond it will cause a ripple to spread out more and more until eventually is gets to the edges of the pond and the entire pond has been affected. The graces of the death and resurrection of Jesus have been spreading out to more and more people ever since.
Those who were not privileged to see Jesus risen had their lives touched and impacted by those who did see Jesus and enjoyed the graces of the risen Jesus in their lives. Peter saw Jesus risen and his preaching impacted so many others. We read that three thousand people were baptized after Peter’s preaching at Pentecost (Acts 2:41).
Jesus continued to be present after his resurrection, present through those who witnessed to him, present in the life of the Church. If you want to meet Jesus after his resurrection, the place to meet him is where the Church gathers. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus learned that Jesus was with them as he explained the Scriptures to them and then broke bread with them (Luke 24:13-35). Those two disciples learned that celebrating the Eucharist is where you can find Jesus.
Jesus continues in the Church. This is expressed beautifully in the letter to the Ephesians where the Church is described as the Body of Christ and Christ is the head and the whole body is joined to him (Eph 4:15-16).
How then can anyone who cuts himself or herself off from the life of the Church enjoy the fullness of Christ’s life? After Jesus’ resurrection, the place to find him is in the Church.
On Good Friday, we hear about the blood and water from Christ’s side on the cross symbolizing the sacraments, especially baptism and Eucharist, originating from Christ on the cross. That life of grace from the side of Christ continues in the Church to all who receive his sacraments. When you receive a sacrament you meet Christ just as the apostles met Jesus risen from the dead. The sacraments are encounters with Christ. After Jesus’ resurrection, the place to find the risen him is in the Church, especially in his sacraments.
We also find Jesus in the Church in the community of people who gather every week to worship God. Those who allow Jesus to touch them, allow Jesus to transform them to become more like Christ, and allow us to encounter Christ through the sincerity of their lives given to Jesus. A beautiful experience is to encounter someone who is close to the Lord, and when you meet that person you know you are in some way meeting Jesus. This is experiencing the risen Jesus continuing in the Church. Meeting people like that assures us that saying “Jesus continues in the Church” is not just words, but is true because we have experienced Jesus ourselves. Jesus continues in the Church. We know because we have experienced Jesus in the Church.
When we experience Jesus present with us, Jesus continuing in the Church, everything changes. What we heard in our second reading makes so much sense: If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col 3:1-3)
There is a new way to live when we have Jesus in our lives. There is a way to live that is incompatible with having Jesus in our lives and there is a way to live that reflects having Jesus in our lives. If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col 3:1-3)
This beautiful homily was shared with us by Rev. Tommy Lee
In the prelude to today’s great Passion Narrative, Saint Paul reminds us that we find our hope in the “emptiness” and “humility” of Christ Jesus; a life that led to the cross, but through the cross, to glory and exaltation. The way is not easy. Good stewards know that it requires a willingness to lay aside all rights of personal privilege; emptying ourselves in the service of others; embracing values different from the values of the world. It requires an understanding that to be “in Christ” means to be a servant because Christ came into the world, not as Lord but as servant. What crosses are we willing to carry? What worldly values we are willing to forego in order to share Christ’s glory?
St. John Baptist de La Salle is the patron saint of schoolteachers. He was the founder of the Brothers of the Christian Schools and is renowned for his lifelong devotion to educating the poor. John Baptist was born to a wealthy family in Reims, France, in 1651. He was a scholar, studied for the priesthood and was ordained in 1678. He earned a doctorate in theology in1681. Although he lived a comfortable life at the cathedral in Reims, he was drawn to education early on. At the urging of a layman to open a school for poor children in Reims, John Baptist opened two schools that became very popular, even though the prevailing view in France was that children of the poor should only be taught how to perform manual labor, not to be educated. John Baptist continued to discern the will of God in his life. He sold all that he possessed and donated the proceeds for hunger relief. He and a small group of men formed themselves into a religious community by taking a vow of obedience and adopting the name Brothers of the Christian Schools. In 1686, he opened four more schools in Reims as well as a school to train teachers. He would later establish other schools in Paris and Saint-Denis. Although his religious community was not yet approved by the Church, in 1694 John Baptist and twelve of his community members took perpetual vows, committing themselves to providing free education to the poor for the rest of their lives. John Baptist’s educational theories and practices became standard including classroom instruction instead of one-on-one instruction, teaching in the native language instead of in Latin and integrating faith formation into a curriculum. St. John Baptist de LaSalle died on Good Friday, April 7, 1719. He was canonized in 1900 and his feast is celebrated on April 7.
Strong words come from Saint Paul in today’s second reading. He reveals in no uncertain terms that life in Christ is our goal. Everything else, he maintains, is “rubbish.” Junk. Trash. Garbage. Is that true? Is everything else “rubbish” compared to deepening our relationship with the Lord? What about putting recreational activities ahead of attending Mass? Or preferring uninterrupted hours playing the latest video games or watching TV to spending time in a bible study group, choir practice or serving in a soup kitchen? Or keeping late hours at work over sharing the gospel with friends and neighbors? To what extent do we exercise stewardship over our relationship with Christ?