Easter Sunday (C)

FR TONY'S HOMILYRCIA LESSONSFAITH FORMATION LESSONS

Fr. Tony’s Homily

Fr. Tony’s Homily

Fr. Tony’s Homily


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FEARLESS SOUL (5:06) – Struggles Give Us Strength

The Butterfly and the Cocoon

FEATURED ANECDOTE:  As a butterfly soared overhead, one caterpillar said to the other, “You’ll never get me up in one of those things!” Yet for every caterpillar the time comes when the urge to eat and grow subsides and he instinctively begins to form a chrysalis around himself. The chrysalis hardens and you’d think for all the world that the caterpillar was dead. But one spring morning the life inside the chrysalis will begin to writhe, the top will crack open, and a beautifully formed butterfly will emerge. For hours it will stand stretching and drying its wings, moving them slowly up and down, up and down. And then, before you know it, the butterfly will glide aloft, effortlessly riding the currents of the air, alighting on flower after gorgeous flower, as if to show off its vivid colors to the bright blossoms.

Somehow, the miracle of the butterfly never loses its fascination for us. Perhaps that is because the butterfly is a living parable of the promise of Resurrection. On Easter morning, the disciples saw Jesus’ graveclothes on the cold slab, empty, but still lying in the wrapped folds that had gone around and round the corpse. Only the corpse was gone, the grave clothes left behind, much like an empty chrysalis deserted by a butterfly which has left it to soar free. “He is risen as He said,” (Mt 28:6) an angel told the women who had come to the tomb to anoint His dead Body.

The Significance of Easter

Fr. Tony’s Homilies

Easter is the greatest and the most important feast in the Church. It marks the birthday of our eternal hope.  “Easter” literally means “the feast of fresh flowers.” We celebrate it with pride and jubilation for four reasons:

1) The Resurrection of Christ is the basis of our Christian Faith. It is the greatest of the miracles, for it proves that Jesus is God. That is why St. Paul writes: 

If Christ has not been raised,
then our preaching is in vain;
and your Faith is in vain”
 (I Cor 15:14).

Jesus is Lord, He is risen” (Rom 10:9), was the central theme of the kerygma (or “preaching”), of the Apostles

2) Easter is the guarantee of our own resurrection. Jesus assured Martha at the tomb of Lazarus:

“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me will live even though he dies…”
 (Jn 11:25-26).

3) Easter is a feast which gives us hope and encouragement in this world of pain, sorrows and tears. It reminds us that life is worth living. It also gives us strength to fight against temptations and freedom from unnecessary worries and fears.

4) Easter gives meaning to our prayers: It supports our belief in the Real Presence of the Risen Jesus in and around us, in His Church, in the Blessed Sacrament and in Heaven, hearing our prayers, and so gives meaning to our personal as well as our communal prayers.


Insert anecdote here

You can use the one featured above or choose another


Why We Believe in the Resurrection

Choose as many as time allows.

(1) Jesus himself testified to his Resurrection from the dead, giving it as a sign of his divinity. (Mark 8:31Matthew 17:22Luke 9:22).

Tear down this temple and in three days I will build it again”(Jn 2: 19).

(2) The tomb was empty on Easter Sunday (Luke 24:3). Although the guards claimed (Matthew 28:13), that the disciples of Jesus had stolen the body, every sensible Jew knew that it was impossible for the terrified disciples of Jesus to steal the body of Jesus from a tomb guarded by an armed, 16-member Roman Guard detachment.

(3) The initial disbelief of Jesus’ own disciples in Jesus’ Resurrection, in spite of His repeated apparitions, serves as a strong proof of his Resurrection. Their initial disbelief explains why the Apostles started preaching the Risen Christ only after receiving the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

(4) The transformation of Jesus’ disciples: Jesus’ Resurrection and the anointing of the Holy Spirit transformed men who were hopeless and fearful after the crucifixion (Luke 24:21John 20:19), into men who now were confident and bold witnesses to the Resurrection (Acts 2:243:154:2)powerfully preaching the Risen Lord.

(5) Neither the Jews nor the Romans could disprove Jesus’ Resurrection by presenting the dead body of Jesus.

(6) The Apostles and early Christians would not have fearlessly preached Christ as Savior and faced martyrdom if they were not absolutely sure of Jesus’ Resurrection.

(7) The Apostle Paul’s conversion from a persecutor of Christians to a zealous preacher of Jesus supports the truth of Jesus’ Resurrection (Galatians 1:11-17Acts 9:1Acts 9:24-25Acts 26:15-18).

(8) The sheer existence of a thriving, empire-conquering early Christian Church, bravely facing and surviving three centuries of persecution, supports the truth of the Resurrection claim.

(9) The New Testament witnesses do not bear the stamp of dupes or deceivers. The Apostles and the early Christians were absolutely sure about the Resurrection of Jesus.

Fr. Tony's Homily

Sunday Exegesis

In the first reading, St. Peter shares his own experience of Christ’s Resurrection and its joy with the members of the pagan Cornelius’ family who received the Holy Spirit as he spoke and then were baptized.

In the second reading, St. Paul, bearing witness to his conversion experience and Faith in the risen Lord, reminds the Colossians, “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God! When Christ your Life, appears, then you, too, will appear with Him in glory.”

Today’s Gospel explains the empty-tomb Resurrection experiences of Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John. Mary Magdalene proclaims her personal experience: “I have seen the Lord(Jn 20:18).

The Resurrection of Jesus had certain special features.

First, Jesus prophesied it as a sign of His Divinity: “Destroy  this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”(Jn 2:19).

Second, the founder of no other religion has an empty tomb as Jesus does.  We see the fulfillment of Christ’s promise on the empty cross and in the empty tomb. The angel said to the women at Jesus’ tomb: “Why are you looking among the dead for One Who is alive?  He is not here but has risen” (Luke 24:5-6). The real proof, however, is not the empty tomb but the lives of believers filled with His Spirit today!

The third special feature is the initial disbelief of Jesus’ own disciples in his Resurrection, in spite of his repeated apparitions.  This serves as a strong proof of his Resurrection. It explains why the apostles started preaching the Risen Christ only after receiving the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.  Proclamation and witness-bearing are the main themes of today’s readings.

First Reading

Today’s first reading, the third of Isaiah’s four Servant Songs, like the other three, foreshadows Jesus’ own life and mission.

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Additional insights on the First Reading from Fr. Tony

In the middle section of the book of the prophet Isaiah, chapters 40-55, there are four short passages which scholars have called the Songs of the Suffering Servant. Today’s first reading is the third Servant Song. These four songs are about a mysterious figure whose suffering brings about a benefit for the people. In the original author’s mind, the servant was probably a figure for the people of Israel, or for a faithful remnant within the people. The Songs portrayed the antithesis of Israel’s messianic expectations, because Israel expected a triumphant Messiah while the prophet foresaw a “suffering servant” Messiah. Jesus saw aspects of his own life and mission foreshadowed in the Servant Songs, and the Church refers to them in this time of solemn meditation on the climax of Jesus’ earthly life. These songs foretell Jesus’ conscious and active choice to remain faithful to his saving mission no matter what the cost: “I have not … turned back” and “I gave my back to those who beat me.” The kingship of Jesus was to mean suffering and humiliation, not just publicity and grandeur. In today’s Responsorial Psalm, (Ps 22), the Psalmist puts his trust in Yahweh for deliverance and salvation. The context of this day’s worship also conveys Jesus’ confidence in God’s protection in the midst of His trial and crucifixion. The passage encourages us to be companions of Jesus in suffering by offering our own sufferings in union with the redemptive sufferings of Christ, so that we may become collaborators in that suffering. The passage also challenges us to accept what we cannot change, so that we may endure the difficulty for as long as it is necessary, just as Christ did. (Personal application of the suffering servant prophecy: It is speaking to you and me on at least two levels. First, we meditate on the prophet’s words, and recognize how much suffering Jesus went through for our salvation. Such meditation can only lead us to love him more and to desire that our will accord with his will at all times. Now at another level, we put ourselves into that prophetic scene. Wherever we see the word “I” or “me” we change that by inserting our own first name. In this way we will see that the Lord is calling us to imitate him. It can be an “aha” moment for us, a sudden understanding and a sudden call for a decision).


Responsorial Psalm

The Refrain for today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 22),”My God, My God, why have You abandoned Me?” plunges us into the heart of Christ’s Passion.


Second Reading

The Second Reading, taken from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, is an ancient Christian hymn representing a very early Christian understanding of who Jesus is, and of how his mission saves us from sin and death.

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Additional insights on the Second Reading from Fr. Tony

This section of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians is an ancient Christological hymn representing a very early Christian understanding of Who Jesus is and how his mission saves us from sin and death. It is a message that Paul received from those who had been converted to Christ. It is a summary of ‘the great mysteries of our redemption,’ and it rightly serves as a preview of the events of Holy Week. It describes how Jesus, though Son of God, emptied himself’”of divine glory and took the form of a man like us in all things except sin. Out of love and obedience, he willingly accepted his death, “even death on a cross.” Because Jesus humbled himself and did not cling to any of his special privileges as God’s Son, “God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above all names.” We are called to have the same attitude of humility and obedience as Christ our Lord had. Christians reading this passage today are joining the first people who ever pondered the meaning of Jesus’ life and mission. We’re singing their song and reciting their creed during this special time of the year, when we remember the most important things Our Lord did. God humbled himself for us! Jesus’ triumph was his self-giving on the cross to open for us the road to the Father. All we can do in response is to bow our heads in awe, and present our loving, contrite hearts to God, begging for mercy. God wants our heart to be humbled, contrite, and truly repentant because only is that condition is it open, and so able, to receive His Mercy and His Love.


Gospel

The first part of today’s Gospel describes the royal reception Jesus received from his admirers, who paraded with him for a distance of the two miles between the Mount of Olives and the city of Jerusalem.

In the second part of today’s Gospel, we listen to/participate in a reading of the Passion of Christ according to Luke. We are challenged to examine our own lives in the light of some of the characters in the Passion story – like Peter who denied Jesus, Judas who betrayed Jesus, Herod who ridiculed Jesus, Pilate who acted against his conscience as he condemned Jesus to death on the cross, and the leaders of the people who preserved their position by getting rid of Jesus.

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Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

The first part of today’s Gospel (Lk 19:28-40) describes the royal reception which Jesus received from his admirers. They paraded with him for two miles: from the Mount of Olives to the city of Jerusalem. Two-and-a-half million people were normally present to celebrate the Jewish feast of the Passover. Jesus permitted such a royal procession for two reasons: 1) to reveal to the public that he was the promised Messiah, and 2) to fulfill the prophecies of Zechariah (9:9): “Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion…. see now your King comes to you; he is victorious, triumphant, humble and riding on a donkey…”), and Zephaniah (3:16-19): “Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty Savior … He will … renew you in His love … I will save the lameand assemble the outcasts … I will bring about their restoration.” (The traditional “Palm Sunday Procession” at Jerusalem began in the fourth century AD when the Bishop of Jerusalem led the procession from the Mount of Olives to the Church of the Ascension)

In the second part of today’s Gospel (Lk 22:14—23:56; or 23:1-49), we listen to/participate in the Passion of Christ according to Luke We are challenged to examine our own lives in the light of some of the characters in the story like Peter who denied Jesus, Judas who betrayed Jesus, Pilate who acted against his conscience and condemned Jesus, Herod who ridiculed Jesus, and the leaders of the people who preserved their position by getting rid of Jesus.


Special features of Luke’s passion narrative

1) St. Luke in his Gospel presents Jesus as ‘the Savior of mankind.’ So, in his passion narrative too, he stresses that Jesus suffered and died to save mankind. This, then, is not just the tragic story of one man; this is a story of a Savior who is fulfilling a mission.

2) From the outset, St. Luke also establishes Jesus’ death as an ‘innocent’ martyr who was betrayed, denied, and abandoned by friends, unjustly charged by a frenzied mob, led by threatened religious leaders and abetted by weaseling politicians. Only in St. Luke’s narrative does Pilate pronounce Jesus’ innocence three times. Again, only St. Luke has Herod declaring Jesus’ innocence. We also notice the centurion’s statement, “Surely, this was an innocent man.” Even one of the criminals crucified with Jesus attests his innocence, “We are only paying the price for what we’ve done, but this man has done nothing wrong.”

3) St. Luke also affirms the fact that the ‘forgiving’ power of God was already at work in Jesus before his death. His enemies humiliate him, strike him, scourge him. Soldiers make a crown with thorns, a crown for the ‘King of the Jews,’ Herod mocks him. Through it all there is Jesus and for his part, he does not strike back, he does not scold, he does not accuse or blame. At every turn in this tangled web, in response to every individual and the crowds who caused his suffering and death, Jesus forgives! Most remarkably, Jesus is ready to forgive his executioners, and, on the cross, he forgives those who are putting him to death and promises paradise to one of the criminals who died with him who has asked, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” Another wonder is his capacity in suffering to go out to others: to ‘turn towards’ the women of Jerusalem, to acknowledge their grief, and to express his own concern for them.

4) Finally, right from the beginning of his ministry in the synagogue of Nazareth till his death on the cross at Calvary, Jesus is Spirit-filled’ and he is always in union with God through ‘prayer.‘ The Lukan Jesus is the rejected prophet, but he is the one who trusts utterly in God. Jesus seems to be the victim, but all through, he is in fact, the master. He is master of the situation because he is master of himself. We notice, St. Luke’s depiction of Jesus at prayer on the Mount of Olives lays less stress on his being troubled and sorrowful and more on his union with God. Indeed, his prayer to his Father is answered in the form of an angel sent to strengthen him. This strength saw him through to the end, so that, just before he died Jesus prays, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”


Notes on Palm Sunday events

1) Jesus rides on a lowly donkey: Doesn’t it seem odd that Jesus would walk 90 miles from the Galilee to Bethany and then secure a donkey for the final two miles to JerusalemIn those days, Kings used to travel in such processions on horseback during wartime but preferred to ride a donkey in times of peace. I Kings 1:38-41 describes how Prince Solomon used his father David’s royal donkey for the ceremonial procession on the day of his coronation. Jesus entered the Holy City as a King of Peace, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah. The Gospel specifically mentions that the colt Jesus selected for the procession was one that had not been ridden before, reminding us of a stipulation given in I Samuel 6:7 concerning the animal that was to carry the Ark of the Covenant.

2) The mode of reception given: Jesus was given a royal reception usually reserved for a king or military commander. I Mc 13:51ff describes such a reception given to the Jewish military leader Simon Maccabaeus in 171 BC. II Mc 0:6-8 refers to a similar reception given to another military general, Judas Maccabaeus, who led the struggle against the Greek Seleucid Emperor, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and liberated the Temple from pagan control in 163 BC.

3) The slogans used: The participants sang the “Hallel” psalm (Psalm 118), and shouted the words of Psalms 25 and 26. The Greek word “hosiana” originally meant “save us now” (II Sm 14:4). The people sang the entire Psalm 118 on the Feast of the Tabernacles when they marched seven times around the Altar of the Burnt Offering. On Palm Sunday, however, the people used the prayer “Hosanna” as a slogan of greeting. It meant “God save the king of Israel.”

4) The symbolic meaning of the Palm Sunday procession: Nearly 25,000 lambs were sacrificed during the feast of the “Pass Over,” but the lamb which was sacrificed by the High Priest was taken to the Temple in a procession four days before the main feast day. On Palm Sunday, Jesus, the true Paschal Lamb, was also taken to the Temple in a large procession.

5) Reaction of Jesus: Before the beginning of the procession, Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Lk 19:41-42), and when the procession was over, he cleansed the Temple (Lk 19:45-46). On the following day, he cursed a barren fig tree. Jesus cursed a fig tree for lying with its leaves. It looked good from the outside, but there was nothing there. Surely, he must have intended a reference to the Temple. The religious folk of his day were impotent and infertile. They had taken a good thing, religion, and made it into a sham.

Fr. Tony's Homily

Life messages

Choose as many as time allows

1) Let us live the lives of Resurrection people: We are not supposed to lie buried in the tomb of our sins, evil habits, dangerous addictions, despair, discouragement or doubts. Instead, we are expected to live a joyful and peaceful life, constantly experiencing the living presence of the Risen Lord Who loves us in all the events of our lives and amid the boredom, suffering, pain and tensions of our day-to-day life.

2) The conviction of the real presence of the Risen Lord with us and within us and all around us, enables us to lead disciplined Christian lives. It will help us to control our thoughts, desires, words, behavior and actions.

3) This salutary awareness of the presence of the Risen Lord within us inspires us to honor our bodies, keeping them holy, pure and free from evil habits and addictions. Our conviction that the loving presence of the Risen Lord dwells in our neighbors and in all those we encounter, should encourage us to respect them and to render them loving, humble and selfless service.

4We need to become transparent Christians, radiating the Risen Lord around us in the form of selfless and sacrificial agape love, mercy, compassion and a spirit of humble service. each time we try to practice Christian charity, mercy and forgiveness and each time we fight against temptations, we share in the Resurrection of Jesus. (L/22)

End of homily

Joke of the Week

At the end of Mass, some priests like to offer a joke to their parishioners. Please be sensitive though to particular circumstances or concerns. Some Jokes may not be suitable for particular times, placeS, or congregations.

Joseph of Arimathaea was a very wealthy Pharisee, a member of the Council, and a secret follower of Jesus. It was Joseph who went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body after the crucifixion. And it was Joseph who supplied the tomb for Jesus’ burial.

I wonder if someone pulled him aside and said, “Joseph that was such beautiful, costly, hand-hewn tomb. Why on earth did you give it to someone to be buried in?”

“Why not?” Joseph may have answered.  “He only needed it for the weekend.”

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