Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Prayers today: Come, you whom my father has blessed; inherit the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world, alleluia. (Mt 25:34)

God our Father, on this solemn feast you give us the joy of recalling the rising of Christ to new life. May the joy of our annual celebration bring us to the joy of eternal life. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns world without end. Amen.

St. John Baptist de la Salle (1651-1719)

Complete dedication to what he saw as God's will for him dominated the life of John Baptist de la Salle. In 1950, Pope Pius XII named him patron of schoolteachers for his efforts in upgrading school instruction. As a young seventeenth-century Frenchman, John had everything going for him: scholarly bent, good looks, noble family background, money, refined upbringing. At the early age of 11, he received the tonsure and started preparation for the priesthood, to which he was ordained at 27. He seemed assured then of a life of dignified ease and a high position in the Church. But God had other plans for John, which were gradually revealed to him in the next several years. During a chance meeting with M. Nyel of Raven, he became interested in the creation of schools for poor boys in Raven, where he was stationed. Though the work was extremely distasteful to him at first, he became more involved in working with the deprived youths. Once convinced that this was his divinely appointed mission, John threw himself wholeheartedly into the work, left home and family, abandoned his position as canon at Rheims, gave away his fortune and reduced himself to the level of the poor to whom he devoted his entire life. The remainder of his life was closely entwined with the community of religious men he founded, the Brothers of the Christian School (Christian Brothers, or De La Salle Brothers). This community grew rapidly and was successful in educating boys of poor families using methods designed by John, preparing teachers in the first training college for teachers and also setting up homes and schools for young delinquents of wealthy families. The motivating element in all these endeavours was the desire to become a good Christian. Yet even in his success, John did not escape experiencing many trials: heartrending disappointment and defections among his disciples, bitter opposition from the secular schoolmasters who resented his new and fruitful methods, and persistent opposition from the Jansenists of his time, whose moral rigidity and pessimism abut the human condition John resisted vehemently all his life. Afflicted with asthma and rheumatism in his last years, he died on Good Friday at 68 and was canonized in 1900.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (24.13~35)

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognising him. He asked them, What are you discussing together as you walk along? They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days? What things? he asked. About Jesus of Nazareth, they replied. He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see. He said to them, How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory? And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going further. But they urged him strongly, Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over. So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us? They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon. Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognised by them when he broke the bread.

Our Companion
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

The scene is just outside Jerusalem, and it is the first day of the new week, with the great Sabbath now over. All is quiet and the weather is marked by a sombre peace. The occasional cry of a bird is heard, but apart from that, there is just the subdued voice of two companions walking on the lonely road leading away from the City. We might even say that the quiet of the morning has a touch of the eerie to it, and that this has been so ever since the Friday afternoon two days before. A great prophet had suddenly met a terrible end, orchestrated and achieved by the religious leaders, no less. This wonderful man had traversed the country and filled it with his person, his teaching and his miraculous deeds. A little over a week before, he had spectacularly raised a person from the dead after four days in the tomb, just outside the City itself. He had entered the City, cleansed the Temple of its markets and set up teaching in its precincts. For his disciples he was the hope of the nation. He, they thought, would be the one to set Israel free, for there was no limit to his goodness and his power. A great shock had enveloped his friends and disciples, for the light of their life had been snuffed out. At the moment of his terrible demise, the very earth had rocked. He was now gone. The two lonely walkers continued along the road for the village of Emmaus, their voices subdued, their feelings profoundly depressed. They were lost in their brooding thoughts as they noticed a little distance behind them another solitary walker heading along the road in the same direction as they. They slowed and allowed him to join them as their fitful discussion paused. He quietly reached them, and perhaps they allowed him to walk between them, with one on either side. They were absolutely downcast. What were you discussing, he courteously asked? They stood, distressed, and asked him in wonderment — how could you ask this? Are you a visitor, and do you not know what has just happened here?

The scene is so real, so vivid, so full of factual detail (Luke 24:13-35). There is nothing of the mere “story” to it. It is not a tale, a myth, something of a fable. It is the report of facts that had happened years before the writing of the account. A remarkable thing was occurring in this simple, historical scene. Jesus of Nazareth, who had been mercilessly bundled to his terrible death by ruthless religious leaders, was alive in the flesh and walking on the road with his two companions. There was absolutely nothing like it in all the annals of history. This extraordinary circumstance was unfolding in the midst of the most simple ordinariness. The two depressed and perplexed companions had between them the risen Jesus. They saw him, they heard him, and his physical presence was just as palpable as had been the presence of each of them one to the other. They did not recognize him as yet — perhaps because his fulness of risen life gave to him a special newness, and also because there was simply no expectation in them of their ever seeing him again. But, as they would soon learn, it was the same Jesus and he was joining them in their ordinary life. He was not coming to them in thunder and glory — just as he had not come in thunder and glory to Mary Magdalene a few hours before. He came, risen and victorious, but as one of them. They were still his brothers and he was taking the time, as it were, to be with two ordinary disciples. Why was it that he spent so long a time with two relatively obscure disciples (one being Cleopas)? We have no idea, but it tells us that the risen Jesus joins us in our daily life just as he joined them. As we walk along the road of life towards our goal, we are often depressed with the perplexities of our calling. He, the risen Jesus, is walking with us in all those perplexities of our ordinary and everyday life. He wants to know what is in our minds, and he wants us to let him cast his light on us. There can never be such a companion as Jesus Christ for our journey!

The same risen Jesus joins us in so many ways in everyday life. He resides in his body the Church as its Head. We are the Church’s members, and therefore members of Jesus Christ. We are the branches, he is the Vine. He comes to us in the preaching and teaching of the Church. He comes to us above all in the Sacraments, and in particular — on a regular basis — in the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance. Let us pause every day to let him join us and enliven our hearts with his words and his grace. In those two disciples are exemplified each of us. Let Christ be our companion as we journey along the way to our true homeland.

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