Let all the devout, all who love God rejoice in this beautiful, bright Feast. Let the wise servants be glad and enter into the joy of their Lord. Let those who have borne the burden of the Fast, now receive their pay. And those who have toiled since the 1st hour, now receive their just reward. Let any who came after the third hour, gratefully join in the fast. And those who have come after the sixth hour, let them not doubt, for they shall suffer no loss. If any have delayed to the ninth hour, let them not hesitate, but also come. And they who have arrived only at the 11th hour, let them not be afraid because they delayed, for the Lord is gracious and He receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to those who come at the eleventh hour as well to those who have worked from the first. [Read more…] about Easter Sunday Reflection: St. John Chrysostom’s Easter Sermon
Picture yourself: a follower of Jesus during the first century. One called – audibly – by name to follow Him, one selected to be among His inner circle, one of the twelve. The most notable miracles? You saw them. The most memorable sermons? You heard them. You were sent out with another of the twelve to proclaim the Good News and performed miracles yourself in His name. For three years you lived and breathed right alongside Jesus soaking in everything He said and did.
I can only imagine what that experience would do to my faith. I’d like to hope it would be a life-defining experience, the sort that would leave any one of us unalterably changed. Which is always what makes the story of one of Jesus’ twelve, Judas, so troubling. He lived this… and he walked away. While we know very little about Judas Iscariot: his call, his betrayal of Christ, and his death (Matthew 27, Acts 1), we know with certainty that he was a traitor (Matthew 10:4, Mark 3:19, Luke 6:16, John 6:71), who apparently stole from the apostle’s common purse (John 12:4-6).
The Apostles were almost certainly stunned by Judas’ actions: the tone of their recollections of him in Gospels show great sadness or even bitterness at the mention of his name. Dean Jones performed a wonderful one-man play called St. John in Exile – Jones plays the title character, John, reflecting on the Gospel story while living out his days in exile on the prison island of Patmos. When he narrates Jesus’ betrayal, there is a moving mixture of anger and anguish in his voice as he recognizes Judas leading the mob to arrest Jesus (start watching at 34:05):
On the night our parish youth group kicked off a semester of youth ministry programming on the Church, our guest speaker took questions from teens. One of them went like this: “You mentioned that it’s hard to get to Heaven. Do you really mean ‘really hard?”
A better word than ‘hard’ in this case might be ‘impossible.’ It is impossible for any of us on our earn merit to get to Heaven. This is why Jesus had to come. The Old Testament tells the story of the people of God who, after being created by God to love broke their relationship with Him (by sinning), and were never able to properly reconcile that relationship. God tries over and over again, covenant by covenant (think Abraham, Isaac, Moses, David…) but humanity is never able to uphold their end of the bargain. [Read more…] about Is it HARD to get to Heaven?
A baby eagle is safe in its nest: warm, well-fed, and knows that it is loved. There’s a legend about how baby eagles learn to fly. One day, the mother destroys the nest, and throws the baby eagle out from the tree. The mother catches the eagle before it hits the ground, brings it back up, and then launches it again, hurtling towards the ground over and over again until it learns to fly. There are days when we look at God like that baby eagle must look at its mother: are you insane? What are you doing? I’m not going to survive this!
Some of the spiritual giants in our history have put this sense of panic to words: [Read more…] about Why does God let us suffer so much?