The readings today were very personal to me. I was struck by the recurring themes of trust, justice, and faith. When I received the “assignment” for reflection on April 9, I immediately realized that this would have been my father’s 90th birthday. He passed away 40 years ago this summer so his 50th birthday was his last on earth. At the time of his death and for nearly 30 years after, my mom survived because of her abiding faith and trust in the Lord. This faith both previously taught and daily demonstrated became my sustaining force as well.
The first reading challenges us to justice: social justice and commitment to those who are less fortunate than us. While the opening expressed concern about the widows, I viewed that term as standing for all who were unable to manage on their own or speak for themselves. It is a call to all of us, to look into our souls and decide how we will fulfill our obligations as Christians, as Easter people. How often do we neglect the word of God and not provide for those less fortunate? As we make choices from those among us to serve and represent us, do we always consider those who are “filled with the Spirit and wisdom?”
The reading said no more about directly serving others, rather focused upon the spreading of the word of God. As these new disciples spread the word and more were becoming “obedient to the faith,” how could anyone ignore serving others? It is one thing to speak the words, it is quite another to live the words. If we are to walk in the path of the Lord, if we are to do more than just espouse the words, then we must serve and fight for justice.
The concept of justice brings us to the second reading. In reading this psalm, we have no doubt that God loves us and He loves justice. His mercy is there for us for the asking. Our role is to ask, to serve, to fear, to hope, to believe, to celebrate. Recently on Palm Sunday, we reflected on The Passion of Christ listening with heavy hearts to his suffering. As Holy Week continued we had many opportunities to further reflect on what was to pass and what it means to us. In my parish, the services for the Triduum were reverent and filled with meaning. My heart ached on Holy Thursday as we watched the altar stripped bare signifying that Christ Jesus had left us and his suffering was to begin. Good Friday found us again feeling the suffering and our part in it as well as the enormous love of Christ for us. As we placed our nails in the cross, we were reminded of our own sins and the gift of grace given to us as we left those nails. He showed His mercy to each and every one of us. At Easter, we experienced transformation as did the church itself. Seeing the nails of the cross transform to lilies, we could, indeed, be jubilant and give thanks. This reading is uplifting and assures us that with trust, we shall have mercy and be delivered from death.
The gospel reading says it all – it sums up our faith and our challenge. “Be not afraid” . . . Christ’s command to his disciples and to us. Trust in the Lord – with trust and faith we do not need to fear but that is not always easy. Back in 1991 when the U.S. was in an earlier war with Iraq, I was very afraid. I was a reservist in the Army Nurse Corps and knew many would be deployed. As a single parent with a teenager and a soon-to-be teenager, I worried about the fate of our family if I left. One Sunday as these worries weighed particularly heavily on my heart and soul, the opening hymn at mass was “Be Not Afraid.” The words spoke so clearly to me – “You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst. You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way. You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand. You shall see the face of God and live.” Surely, God was speaking directly to me to calm my fears as He did to the disciples in the boat. As the tears freely flowed down my face, I knew that I was not alone and that with faith and trust in the Lord, my family would be fine.
In summary, the message for today is quite clear – trust, believe, be not afraid, "I go before you always"!!I dedicate this reflection to the memory of my father on this day, his birthday. I give thanks to my mother whose deep and abiding faith sustained her for many years until her death and who provided me a foundation on which to build my own faith. I am eternally grateful.
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