Third Sunday of Easter

THE KING OF ALL SURPRISES

By Leanna Cappiello

By our very nature, we are people of expectation.

We plan our lives in increments of years, months, weeks, moments and mealtimes. We like to know what’s coming so we can feel safe in our own knowing.

But as we are reminded on Easter, God is a God of surprises.

He gave His son Jesus as the sacrificial lamb, leaving no space to separate us from Him.

He formed us with expectation, but breaks our illusions right before our eyes.

This is the glory of God. Things are rarely what they seem to be at first – hence the intense mystery of our faith.

In today’s Gospel, the disciples recount the surprise of hearing the news of the resurrection. As they walk, Jesus himself approaches and asks about what they are discussing. Not even recognizing Him, they tell the story of how Jesus of Nazareth’s body was missing when the women sought Him in the tomb. They expressed hope for a plan of their own, “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” What happened after the Crucifixion was the surprise of all surprises – His body raised from the dead? They thought, Impossible.

Still a stranger to them, Jesus says in reply, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that Christ should suffer these things and then enter into glory?” The disciples had a plan in mind, but Jesus surprised them with something they could never have thought possible. The resurrection put their human expectations to shame with its divine glory.

How appropriate it is that this conversation between the disciples and Jesus happens on a road. Don’t we often find ourselves on a path to which we think we know where it leads, only to find out along the way that it leads a completely different direction? Our choice to follow Christ and let Him help us write our story can be a powerful, terrifying and liberating experience. He didn’t promise it would be easy, but He did say it would be worth it.

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The Resurrection of the Lord (Easter Sunday)

OLD THINGS MADE NEW

By Fr. Chris Valka, CSB

Today (Easter Sunday) marks the defining moment of our faith, our Church, our parish and our lives. Nothing is the same after the resurrection. Christ’s triumph is what separates Christianity from all other religions. Look closely at any religion and you will find great teachers and teachings; martyrs and ideas that better humanity, but only one man rose from the dead. The world would never be the same after the first Easter Sunday.

Everything we believe and practice hinges on the resurrection, and so it is fitting that we give this celebration everything we have. Here at St. Basil’s, I have joked with several parishioners that as soon as we finishing celebrating the risen Christ, I am going to fall with exhaustion like the stone he rolled away!

Good celebrations take a lot of work, and they are certainly a team effort – not just the ministers and volunteers – but all of us. If you are at our parish this weekend, then you played a part in the celebration, so let me take this moment to thank you for helping us celebrate!

That said, some folks deserve more gratitude than others. There are many that put in a great many hours to prepare long before we opened the doors on Saturday night. In fact even before the liturgies began, some came out to help us clean the church so that it would shine with all the glory our Savior deserves.

Those of you who know me, know that I like a clean church and have spent a lot of time cleaning the place since I arrived last July. Part of my cleaning before Holy Week including repairing parts of the bell tower and finally cleaning the windows. I must admit that I was amazed how well they cleaned up, and it made me think of how often we through things out because they are not new, when really they just need a little love. . . or elbow grease.

This great old church is a good example of how beautiful old things and traditions can be – kind of like Mass on Easter Sunday. If you are a visitor to our parish, my hope is that we will see you again – that you will come back to see just how much more there is to see and experience. Perhaps you can help us to do a few new things with some of the old things? Perhaps this can be your resurrection moment? Perhaps you will look back years from now and say things really weren’t quite the same after this Easter?

And if you already call this parish home. . . well. . . I have the same hope for you too. May we all work together to celebrate the resurrection every day we are together!

Happy Easter,

Fr. Chris

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

THIS WEEK IS UNLIKE ANY OTHER

By Fr. Chris Valka, CSB

Holy Week has begun. Everything is now set in motion: Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem precedes his arrest, which is followed by his trial, which precedes his sentence, which is followed by his torture and death. Everything is connected.

There is a reason we read the Passion in such a dramatic fashion, with several lectors reading the various parts of each character: only when we see the big picture do we begin to feel and see the drama of the tragedy which is highlighted by characters of the story. The innocent Jesus next to the revolutionary Barabbas; the Jewish authorities who mock alongside the Roman solider who respects; the weeping women in the midst of the chaotic crowd; and so on.

Each character read in a different voice allows us to participate in a more profound manner; to ask ourselves how we would react to the events unfolding before us? Sure, we hold palms thinking how wonderful it would have been to welcome Jesus to Jerusalem, but it is more likely that we would have been like the Apostles who fled or even Peter who denied? Or might we have been like the Pharisees who condemn? When we look back at our own life, which character in the Passion are we most closely compared to?

All I ask is that you take time this week to consider such questions, for this week is not like any other. It is a week, when we are changed and defined – perhaps even redefined; but only if we take time to allow ourselves to enter the story.

Fifth Sunday of Lent

WHAT COMES NEXT?

By Emily VanBerkum

The story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is one of my favourite biblical narratives found only in the Gospel of John. Early on in the narrative, we learn that Lazarus of Bethany, brother to Mary and Martha, fell ill and that God would somehow be glorified through his illness. Even with a risk to his safety, Jesus returned to Judea to “wake” Lazarus from his “sleep.” As a true miracle, Jesus resuscitates Lazarus’ physical body in order to reveal himself as a sign of the “resurrection and the life.” In so doing, we discover that whoever “lives and believes in Christ will never die.” Significantly, this revelation reminds us that God’s gift of eternal life in Christ exists in the present, i.e. even now in our physical lives we may accept in good faith that there is something beyond this life waiting for us in death. Herein lies the good news of this Gospel account. In this encounter, Jesus models for us the great glory of the resurrection which points to the impending Easter event!

Ultimately, the raising of Lazarus is a sign of hope. Hope that Christ’s life will find its fulfillment in death on a cross. Is it not incredible that by believing in Jesus, we pass from death into life? My Catholic faith, and firm belief in God’s steadfast love has convinced me that death never has the final say- there is and must be spiritual life beyond our earthly existence. Whereas Lazarus was resuscitated to resume life in his mortal body so that he would one day die again, Christ resurrected from the dead, taking on a glorified spiritual body that would know eternal life with God the Father. Christ’s death makes it possible for us to share in this reality. In preparation for Easter, I encourage our community to consider what it means to have eternal life in Christ. Why do we wait in joyful hope of the resurrection? Is there a spiritual life beyond death? If not, what’s the point?

Fourth Sunday of Lent

A CROSS THAT HEALS

by Lucinda M. Vardey

In Jesus’ time physical afflictions were interpreted to be a sign of sinfulness and children with disabilities were believed to be bodily bearing the wrongs of their parents.  Jesus’ ministry and crucifixion undid that presumption.

In our Christian understanding suffering is not a sign of sin but an opportunity within the challenges of life to share love.  Reviled on the cross Jesus taught that compassion and mercy may not be received but it could instead be extended even in the most dire of circumstances.

A modern-day example presents itself in the life of a young Italian woman called Benedetta Bianchi Porro.  During the l960s, she accepted Christ’s calling to take up the cross of her suffering with courage and a hope-filled heart.  Diagnosed with a rare nerve disease which paralyzed her entire body, causing her to live in the darkness and isolation of deafness and blindness, she extended the light of Jesus’ wisdom and gentleness to all who visited her.  As she came to recognize her advancing illness as a means of unity with the agony of Jesus, she offered her daily sufferings to alleviate the sufferings of others.   Through sign language with one hand, she consoled the despairing, comforted the confused and enlightened the faithless.   Now recognized as Venerable by the Church, Benedetta taught that God’s healing power comes in a number of guises testing our faith, transforming our souls, purifying our intentions and renewing our spirits in hope towards holiness.

As Psalm 23 states: “Even in the darkest valley I fear no evil, for you are with me.”

Third Sunday of Lent

THE STRANGER’S VISIT

By:  John Dalla Costa

Not surprisingly for such an amazing story, theologians have rich and diverse interpretations of the woman whom Jesus meets at the well.

Some see her as a harbinger for the church. She was after all the first person in John’s gospel to proclaim Jesus as Messiah. And she pioneered evangelization, converting her whole Samaritan town into welcoming this thirsty Jewish Rabbi as Lord.

The Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar included this passage in his reflection on the nature of eternity. This woman, whose name we do not know, saw Jesus face-to-face, and was transformed by that gaze. She was the same person in the same life, facing the same struggles, toils and joy. But that ordinariness had been pierced and made holy by letting Jesus into her heart, including its darkest recesses. In that ecstatic liberation from despondency and sin, she experienced the deep communion that dissolved what separated Jew from Samaritan, male from female, loneliness from belonging, and the momentary from the eternal.

Pope John Paul II also referenced the Samaritan woman in his apostolic letter on the dignity and vocation of women. This woman had deep knowledge of religion, and incomparable courage in breaking taboos. Risking a remarkable conversation of equals with Jesus, she created a model for prayer: asking questions and seeking understanding; welcoming truth regardless of its discomforts; standing ground with dignity, and yet willingly and humbly confessing failures; petitioning for grace, and then taking personal initiative and responsibility for passing that gift unto others.

Jesus approached the woman as the thirsty one, but she is the one who leaves sated. Midway through our own Lenten journey, we might pray for the audacity to drink what the Lord offers with the relish and abandon of the remarkable woman at the well.

Second Sunday of Lent

LITTLE THINGS FOR LOVE’S SAKE

Here we are at the Second Sunday of Lent. Our cravings have increased for what we are fasting from, and our energy has decreased for the resolutions we are taking on. It can seem like a dismal time, especially with the winter weather still upon us.

But Lent is far more a season for joy than for grief. At the heart of things, Lent teaches us to love more deeply. And yet we cannot love without suffering, or at the very least, a bit of discomfort. It seems that love and suffering go hand-in-hand. Why is this so?

In these times of collective longing, learning, and even anguish, we are more prone to notice the details. After all, it’s in “the little things” that make good things better, and harder things more difficult.  I imagine that this is why some of the best artists are among the most tortured souls. They embrace suffering in a way that is profound and prolific.

The second reading from Timothy begins with, “Brothers and Sisters, join me in suffering for the Gospel.” An invitation: to suffer for the promise of Good News. A reason: to unite in something larger than ourselves.

While many of us are lingering on the fear of pain, Jesus seems to hear us and offer a resounding, “Get up and do not be afraid” in the Gospel. As if to remind us that we are not alone in our suffering, He offers the best example of love: the cross, and the promise of a resurrection. Jesus didn’t run from the cross, He embraced it. And with this action, made all things new.

There may be suffering for the sake of love, but there is no fear in love.  By choosing to deprive ourselves of little luxuries, and extending ourselves a little further with acts of service, we leave that little bit of space for Jesus to dwell. By the cross, He has chosen us. It is in each season of Lent, that we may choose Him.