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This Sunday's Programme

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Easter Sunday A

Sunday 9th April 2023

The Gospel Paraphrased

There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.

This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased

Mt 28: 1-10.

After the Sabbath, as dawn broke on the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala and the other Mary, both of whom had witnessed Jesus’ death and burial, came to the grave to grieve.  Suddenly there was a great earthquake as an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and approaching the tomb, rolled away the entrance stone and sat upon it.  His appearance was glorious, he himself, shone like lightening, his clothes were snowy white.  The guards, so struck with fear of him, were paralysed.  They were like dead men.

The angel said to the women: ‘Don’t be afraid! I know you are looking for Jesus, the Crucified.  He isn’t here, he has been raised!  Come! See the place where he lay!  Now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has been raised from the dead and is going on ahead of you to Galilee.  You will see him there!  There, I have told you!’

Racing away from the tomb, filled with joy and fear, they ran to announce this to the disciples and suddenly, Jesus was coming to meet them, saying: ‘Greetings!’ As they came up to him, they embraced his feet and worshipped him.  Jesus said to them: ‘Don’t be afraid!  Go and announce to my brothers that they are to go to Galilee.  They will see me there!

 

Psalm

The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.

This Sunday's Psalm

Ps 118: 1-2, 16-17, 22-23

Give thanks for God’s goodness:
God’s love is forever.
Let all the people cry:
God’s love is forever.

The strength of God has succeeded,
Mighty deeds accomplished for all to see.
I will not die,
I will live,
I will proclaim God’s deeds.

The stone the builders rejected
holds the building together.
This is God’s work,
and we witnessed the marvel.

Prayers

Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.

This Sunday's Prayer

Loving God, your Spirit of love continues to hover over our world creating and recreating it to radiate your glory.  Let your Son Jesus rise again in our world, overcoming all sin and suffering.  May we your people radiant that risen power in our lives, shining like bright stars until the fullness of your Love consumes our world.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, confident that you will hear us.

The Commentaries Summarised

As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.

This Sunday's Commentary

The Resurrection story from the Gospel of Matthew (which is used at the Easter Vigil) appears at first reading to be a simple straightforward story but as one studies the various elements it becomes apparent what a master storyteller Matthew is.  He has woven together so many elements from earlier in the Gospel and in doing so highlights the richness of the person of the Risen Jesus.

The Resurrection is not an event separate from the death of Jesus. Rather they are two aspects of the one story.  Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, named as being witnesses of his death and burial, are the ones to announce the Resurrection.  These first witnesses could confirm that Jesus really had died.  Apocalyptic elements that occurred at Jesus’ death – the earthquake and darkening of the sky – are again present but now the earthquake is accompanied by the radiant light coming from the angel. The description of this light echoes the sight of Jesus at the Transfiguration.  At Jesus’ death the centurion had announced that: ‘In truth, this man was Son of God.’  At the Resurrection, the angel announces that ‘Jesus, the crucified one’ is risen.  The Crucified One is indeed Son of God.

But the allusions go even further back.  At the Incarnation, the revelation of the coming of Son of God in a human body was revealed to Joseph in a dream by an angel (Mt 1:20). He did not have direct experience of the event.  As he believed what he was told, he entered into the mystery of God’s presence in the world.  The women do not see Jesus raised. They are given the message by the angel.  As they believe they receive the experience of the presence of Jesus.  In the Infancy Narratives, the first to worship Jesus are the Magi (Mt 2:11), who would have been regarded as outsiders to Jewish society.  After the Resurrection, the first to worship Jesus are the women, who would have been regarded as outsiders within Jewish society.  What is outstanding in all four Gospels is that women are the first witnesses to the Resurrection, as Jewish Law did not normally recognise women as witnesses.  The new Law that Jesus proclaimed in the Sermon on the Mount has now reached fulfilment.  The women, mourning and poor in spirit (Mt 5:3, 5) return from the tomb, not only comforted, they have witnessed the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

 

Exposition

Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.

This Sunday's Exposition

The message the women take to the disciples is to return to Galilee – there Jesus would met them. Why Galilee? Why not Jerusalem? Or any other place for that matter? To understand this we need to consider what happened in Galilee in the Gospel of Matthew.

Galilee was where the disciples and Jesus himself, for most of his life, had lived ordinary lives. This was where he had been a carpenter, where they had been fishermen, ordinary women of village life, tax-collectors etc. The disciples had hoped for a Kingdom that would remove them from all the difficulties and concerns of their humble lives – they thought they would sit on thrones. But the risen Jesus went ahead to meet them back in the place of ordinary life. That message to return to Galilee to meet Jesus is not only given to the disciples: it is given to us. We need to recognise that the Galilee of our lives is the place where he usually meets us. Our faith in the risen Jesus will not take away our concerns, difficulties and challenges but rather will give us the strength and wisdom to love and grow through them.

But there is another understanding of ‘Galilee’. Galilee was the place where Jesus had taught his disciples a new understanding of the ways of God. There, they had had the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount, the radically new way of living and loving. There, they had learnt that, even in the midst of ordinary life, things could be different. We, too as baptised Christians have been taught by God. Over the years we have received a number of graces that have brought us to the faith we have this day. Often we discount these, thinking that what others have to say is more important as we imagine they are more educated, more spiritual. But if we go back over the ways God has taught us in the past, we can remember insights we have received, good example we have noticed, prayers we have been taught – a whole variety of things that have fed our spirit. It is important to honour these. Even if we feel we may have grown beyond some things, they are still a foundation upon which God has built and still will build.

Over this Easter let us ask Jesus to take us by the hand and journey with us into the ‘Galilee’ of our lives: to recognise him in the ordinariness of life and in the wisdom of the Spirit that we have been given.

Let him easter in us,
be a dayspring
to the dimness of us.

from The Wreck of the Deutschland.
Gerard Manley Hopkins

 

Reflection

Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.

This Sunday's Reflection

An extraordinary reversal of the way society operates occurs within this simple Easter story. To begin with, the soldiers whose job is to be brave in the face of danger faint with fear. The women, though fearful, face the earthquake, and the radiantly terrifying angels, listen to them and obey their orders. Who are these women? The first mention of them occurs at the crucifixion where they remained with Jesus through the humiliation of the cross. They had stood, faithful in love, in the midst of a murderous crowd. Now, after his death, they had come to express their grief by sitting by the tomb. Until the crucifixion Matthew had not mentioned them. It seems that they have slipped under the radar of ‘important people in the Gospel’. Yet these unimportant ones are the first preachers of the central belief of Christian faith. Another sign of their lack of importance is the fact that as women they were not regarded as suitable witnesses in Jewish Law.

With them, we see the marginalised made central to the Christian faith. These are the kind of people Jesus called ‘blessed’ in the Beatitudes. They are the poor in spirit, the ones who mourn, and they are the ones who see the first fruits of the Kingdom of Heaven. Somehow they had the ability to see past all the distractions to love that the other disciples had gotten caught up in: self-preservation, desire for fame, glory and influence. These women wanted to love and to be loved: to them was given the mission to preach his Resurrection. Within our own circles we know people on the margins: the elderly, sick, the lonely, those suffering from dementia, people overwhelmed by the challenges of life, even people in prison. This list can go on. Christian tradition has honoured service of these people: not because it gives us, who are strong and influential, an opportunity to give from our largesse but rather, with these people and through their eyes, we can see what is truly central to our faith: to love and be loved. When we love with them, we will see the Risen Jesus coming to met us.

 

 

Visual Meditation

Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.

This Sunday's Visual Meditation

This work is by an unknown English Master from the 12th century. If you can zoom in you will see the Crucifixion in the centre, above the news of the Resurrection being given to the women. Underneath is Christ leading Adam and Eve out of the realm of the dead, which is a symbolic way of showing how Christ has conquered all death.

– In this wood carving by an unknown Hungarian Master (click red text) study the contrast between the women and the soldiers.

– While this painting by Paolo Veronese, an Italian Painter from the Renaissance, is of Mary Magdalen with the other women in the background, we can see the reaction of love and worship that the women showed to the Risen Jesus. We also see Jesus telling Mary to go and proclaim his Resurrection.

– In this painting by Annibale Carracci an Italian baroque painter, look at the variety of reactions are shown in the women’s hands.  Notice how their feet are ready to move.  The news has enlivened them to tell their good news. –

This painting by Qi He, an American based Chinese painter.  The new life in the Risen Christ is shown with vibrancy and vividness..

 

Mulling Meditation

The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.

Exercising
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"

Driving
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.

This Sunday's Mulling Meditation

The risen Jesus has come to meet us at various times in our life. In the coming week mull over the times he has come to you.
Perhaps
– in the people who gave you support and encouragement in growing up,
– in the people who have forgiven you,
– in the times that you have forgiven after being hurt,
– in the times you have had the courage of your convictions,
– in the times you have received just the right advice…and taken it,
– in being loved…and in loving,
– in those who need you,
– in the beauty of nature,
– in the times you have known God in prayer.

Mull over, pray about and thank God for these times and if you have a person with whom you can share your faith, celebrate those Easter moments of your lives.

Mirror Meditation

In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.

This Sunday's Mirror Meditation

We all have dead places in our lives. This Easter invite the Risen Jesus to enter these places and raise them up with him.

Rest in the love of your God.

Affirm God’s love and life-giving power to bring good out of bad.

When you are resting in that love, let your mind gently go over the places in your life that you find dead. Rest again in God’s love.

Now chose one place and hold it before you and offer it to God. Ask Jesus to come and touch it with his life.

Now let your imagination consider ways that situation could change – continue to ask Jesus to give his life to the situation.

When you cannot think of any more ways, rest in God’s love.

Before you finish your mediation, ask the Holy Spirit to come upon you and help you breath life into the situation you prayed over.