Easter Sunday: Life Beyond Suffering and Wickedness

April 20, 2014

Throughout Lent, Bondings 2.0 has featured reflections by two New Ways Ministry staff members:  Matthew Myers, Associate Director, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder. This series closes today with the reflection below. The liturgical readings for Easter Sunday are Acts 10:34a, 37-43; 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8; John 20:1-9.

“The Resurrection” by Otto Dix

In pre-Vatican II days, I was a child in a Catholic grade school in Philadelphia. Every year toward the end of Lent, on the day before the Easter recess, the sisters would usher their classes down to the school’s big auditorium. There in the dark, cavernous room a feature length, silent movie about the passion of Christ would be projected onto a giant screen. I can still remember the black and white images of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, before Caiphas and Annas, being scourged and crowned with thorns, carrying and being nailed to the cross. This was a much more gruesome and shocking movie than even Mel Gibson could imagine.

I cried and cried each year that I saw the movie. My idea of Easter was suffering and death. In those days, the Easter Vigil was a quiet Saturday morning liturgy that not many people attended. Easter Sunday Mass seemed also subdued. The Resurrection appeared as an afterthought. No wonder that I felt Christmas was the happiest day of the liturgical year.

In the very early Church, there were no crosses to signify Christianity. The fish was the Christian symbol and the fish, not the cross, was the icon that St. Augustine used. Historians claim that only six crosses, without a corpus, have been unearthed that date back to the time of Augustine.

I thank God for Vatican II, the renewal of the liturgy, and theological developments—all of which my parched and Jansenistic spirituality drank in. I now understand that Christ’s passion, death, and Resurrection are all one fabric in the Paschal mystery.

The Resurrection is God’s response to the cruel and immoral deeds of those who wanted to do away with Jesus, stop his healings, and silence his voice for a more just world. Jesus’ Resurrection means that life will be victorious over death, goodness will triumph over evil, peace and joy will replace pain and suffering. Jesus did indeed suffer and die for us—in order to show us how to live.

Jesus never promised that he would put a stop to sickness or tragedy or pain—ours or any one else’s. Jesus did promise that he could take those circumstances and mysteriously draw life out of them. His goodness is stronger than any wickedness or evil. Jesus is that good.

To follow the crucified Christ until the Resurrection means that we try to stop grumbling, criticizing, and finding fault so much. It means that we cease lamenting the injustices in the world and in the church, but start trying to correct them. It means that we stop feeling so sorry for ourselves. It means that we will seek to give our time, our energy, our struggles, our very existence for the sake of love. We will know injury, exhaustion, and sorrow, but hope in Christ’s Resurrection will sustain us because Christ’s goodness is stronger than any wickedness or evil. Jesus is that good.

–Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, New Ways Ministry

 


Easter Sunday: Jesus Is Risen! Alleluia!

March 31, 2013

Christ_Resurrection

Easter Exultet

by James Broughton

Shake out your qualms.
Shake up your dreams.
Deepen your roots.
Extend your branches.

Trust deep water
and head for the open,
even if your vision
shipwrecks you.

Quit your addiction
to sneer and complain.
Open a lookout.
Dance on a brink.

Run with your wildfire.
You are closer to glory leaping an abyss
than upholstering a rut.

Not dawdling.
Not doubting.
Intrepid all the way.
Walk toward clarity.

At every crossroad
Be prepared
to bump into wonder.

Only love prevails.
En route to disaster
insist on canticles.

Lift your ineffable
out of the mundane.

Nothing perishes;
nothing survives;
everything transforms!

Honeymoon with Big Joy!

 


Easter Sunday: Proof of the Resurrection

April 8, 2012

"The Risen Christ" by Paula Maybery


 

Alleluia!
Jesus is risen!
Christ is risen, indeed!
Alleluia!

The best Easter sermon that I ever heard was also the shortest.  Here it is in its entirety:

“If today anyone asks you for proof of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, you’re it.”

A happy and blessed Easter to all!

 

–Francis DeBernardo,
New Ways Ministry


Holy Saturday: Let the Memory Live Again

April 7, 2012

Holy Saturday, the day that Jesus lay in the tomb, is one of the most overlooked days in the Christian liturgical calendar. There is no liturgy for the day and very little spirituality or theology about it. We tend to move right from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, moving from crucifixion to new life, from sadness and pain to joy and exultation.  What happens in between?

That question can be asked in another way: What does it take to move from death to new life?  We have all experienced that phenomenon in our lives: the time after something terrible happens and we think we will never be able to continue and the time before we experience a new outlook and renewed joy in living.  This in-between time can be a struggle.

When God offers us the opportunity for new life, we have the choice to accept or reject God’s grace.  We can’t resurrect ourselves; we can only choose to accept or reject the grace of resurrection that God offers when we are ready for it.  To make the choice for life requires a conscious effort on our part to decide to act differently.  We must recall how we were before, choose not to exist in this “dead” state, remember how God’s love operates in our lives, and elect to start life anew.

I can’t help but imagine that Jesus, while lying in the tomb, went through a similar process. While, of course, He was dead, my imagination can’t help but wonder what His thoughts might have been if He had them.  I believe that, just as we have to do, Jesus had to choose to resurrect.

For me, this experience of being “dead” and needing to choose to live a new life is best described in the lyrics of the popular song, “Memory,” from the musical, Cats, by Andrew Lloyd Weber.  I like to think of them as the “thoughts” that Jesus had while lying in the tomb. Here are the lyrics, followed by my interpretation of them in light of Holy Saturday:

1. Daylight
See the dew on the sunflower
And a rose that is fading
Roses whither away
Like the sunflower
I yearn to turn my face to the dawn
I am waiting for the day . . .

2. Midnight
Not a sound from the pavement
Has the moon lost her memory?
She is smiling alone
In the lamplight
The withered leaves collect at my feet
And the wind begins to moan

3. Memory
All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then
I remember the time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again

4. Every streetlamp
Seems to beat a fatalistic warning
Someone mutters
And the streetlamp gutters
And soon it will be morning

5. Daylight
I must wait for the sunrise
I must think of a new life
And I mustn’t give in
When the dawn comes
Tonight will be a memory too
And a new day will begin

6. Burnt out ends of smoky days
The stale cold smell of morning
The streetlamp dies, another night is over
Another day is dawning

7. Touch me
It’s so easy to leave me
All alone with the memory
Of my days in the sun
If you touch me
You’ll understand what happiness is

8. Look
A new day has begun

The first verse describes the waiting that we go through.  The second verse describes the experience of emptiness we feel when dead.  The third verse offers the remembrance of how our lives used to be.  The fourth verse tells of the hope that we have during this period.

The turning point happens in the fifth verse, which reminds us that we can experience temptation to remain dead, to remain frozen in our current condition, rather than resurrecting. In this fifth verse, we are reminded of the determination that we need to experience resurrection, that it is our choice whether to do so or not.

The sixth verse lets us know that, though it seems we are trapped by this death experience, we will soon experience new life.  The seventh verse describes how easy it can be to stay in the past, rather than opening ourselves to a new experience of life.  The eighth verse simply states that we are now at the dawn of a new experience, better than we have tasted before and unencumbered by both the joys and tragedies of the past: a true resurrection.

May we all choose to resurrect to new life from the pain and tragedy of the past.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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