Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Little Something Extra...Fifth Sunday in Easter

A New Commandment 

In today's Gospel, Jesus gives us a “new commandment” when He says, 

I give you a new commandment: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.
This is how all will know that you are My disciples,
if you have love for one another. 

Grab your prayer journal or a piece of paper, and spend a few minutes today reflecting on Jesus' words. You might use the questions below to get you started and/or to guide your meditation. 

1. Why is this a new commandment? (Keep in mind that the Greek word for new here is kainos. It refers to something “not merely recent but different from that which had been formerly” []). 

2. What does it mean to truly love someone? Is it merely about emotions, or is it something else? 

3. How does Jesus love us? 

4. How do you translate Jesus' love to others? 

5. How do you show yourself as Jesus' disciple through your love? 

6. Why is love an identifying condition for discipleship? 

7. Identify someone you love. How do you show your love to that person? What might you do to show your love in a special way over the next week? 

8. Identify someone you find it difficult to love. How might you show Jesus' love to that person this week? 

Lord Jesus, guide our hearts as we reflect on Your words and draw us ever closer to You.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Notes on the Psalms – Psalm 48

Psalm 48 proclaims the glory and strength of Zion. Zion is the mountain of the Lord, one of the hills upon which Jerusalem was built. For the Jews, Zion/Jerusalem was the center of the universe. It was the location of the Temple, which was God's dwelling place among men and the Jewish center of worship. It was the destination of all their pilgrimages and the goal of their travels. It was their center of government, commerce, and trade. It was their center of defense, a place protected and secure. Zion/Jerusalem was the place where everything came together, heaven and earth, the divine and the human, the spiritual and the temporal. The Jews loved Zion because they loved God, and Zion was God's city. 

Let's look at the psalm's description of Zion. Verse 1 assures us that Zion is “the city of our God” and “His holy mountain”. Zion belongs to the Lord, and within Zion, the Lord is given the great praise He is due. Zion is “beautiful in elevation” and “the joy of all the earth,” verse 2 informs us. It is a high place, lovely, and the cause of delight for the whole world. It is also the place in which God defends His people (verse 3). In Zion they find their refuge. 

Zion is also a place of astonishment for those who do not know God, as we discover in verses 4-7. Foreign kings had gathered before Zion, perhaps to besiege and conquer it. But they failed. In fact, they were too astounded to even begin. They panicked and ran, trembling, their forces shattered. What happened to cause this? The psalmist doesn't tell us, but he gives us a hint in verse 8. Zion is “the city of the Lord of hosts”, and God has established it forever. Did God's army of angels startle the kings into flight? Certainly God was protecting His city one way or another. 

In Zion, God's people ponder His love. They meditate on His kindness and mercy as they stand in His temple. His presence is there to greet them, and His Name and praise spread from Zion through the whole world, to the very ends of the earth. Zion rejoices in God's great victory and is glad for His just judgments and His guidance. 

The psalm ends with an invitation: “Walk about Zion, go all around it, count its towers, consider well its ramparts; go through its citadels...” Know this place and know it well. Explore every inch of it. Think carefully about what you are seeing. Why? The psalmist answers,“...that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever.” Knowing what God has done for them, seeing His great city, understanding His constant protection and love allows God's people to teach their children Who God has been for them, Who His is know, and Who He always will be. 

So what does this psalm mean for Christians? Zion/Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. The physical Temple was gone, even for the Jews, who now focused on a synagogue system of worship. Christians recognized that they had a new Temple, Jesus Christ, as the center of their worship. Jesus, then, could certainly be our new Zion. He is God's dwelling place among men, for He is God and Man, the meeting place of heaven and earth, divine and human, spiritual and temporal. He is our center, our destination, our everything. He is beautiful and the joy of all the earth. He is our defense and our refuge, the One Who causes His enemies to flee in fear. In Him, we ponder God's love and meditate on His kindness and mercy. In Him, we find God's presence. In Him, we rejoice. In Him is our victory and just judgment and guidance. What must we do then? We must know Jesus and know Him well. We must explore every word of His teaching, every event of His life and death and resurrection. We must think carefully about what we see. Knowing Jesus, we know what God has done for us, we understand His constant protection and love, and we can tell others all about Who God is for us. For Christians, Jesus is our Zion. He is our glory and our strength, the center of our universe.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Little Something Extra...Fourth Sunday of Easter

Jesus' Gifts and Promises 

Today's Gospel, John 10:27-30, is only four verses long, but it is packed full of meaning. Take a moment to reread the text. 

Jesus said:
“My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,
and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.
The Father and I are one.” 

Let's dig in. 

There are three primary “actors” in this passage: Jesus, the Father, and the sheep. The sheep, of course, are a metaphor for Christians. Think about sheep for a moment. They aren't the brightest creatures in the world. In fact, they're rather stupid. They tend to wander off and get lost. They get themselves into all sorts of trouble, sometimes caught up in brush, sometimes turned upside down. They are completely dependent on their shepherd to take care of them and rescue them. Sound familiar? We, too, are completely dependent upon our Shepherd. We can be rather stupid. We wander off and get lost in sin when something attracts our attention. We get into all sorts of trouble, caught up in worldly desires and turned upside down in our morals. We need our Shepherd to care for us and rescue us. He is the One Who leads us to good pasture and fresh water, finds us when we are lost, helps us when we are in trouble, cleans us up when we are dirty, and pulls us out of all the silly situations in which we often find ourselves. 

Notice, too, that Jesus claims the sheep. They are His. 

What are the characteristics of these sheep? They are the ones who hear Jesus' voice and follow Him. Jesus' sheep have open ears. They hear Jesus' voice, and more than that, they respond. They follow Him. Their hearing is not passive. It leads to action. The Greek verb for follow is akoloutheō. It means to accompany on a journey, to take the same road, to join as a disciple, and even to conform wholly and steadfastly to another person in both life and death. These sheep walk with Jesus, committed to Him and to His way of life. They have faith in Him. They obey Him. They trust Him. They go with Him through trouble and trial as well as in good times. They conform to His character. 

Jesus knows His sheep. The verb here is ginōskō, and it can refer to a most-intimate kind of knowledge. One source says that this verb “frequently denotes a personal relation between the person knowing and the object known; equivalent to, to be influenced by our knowledge of the object, and hence, to allow oneself to be determined by one’s knowledge.” ( This kind of knowledge produces a relationship. It affects the emotions, the will, and the actions of the knower, who allows himself to be influenced and guided by his knowledge. Jesus knows His sheep in a personal way. He understands them. He enters into relationship with them. He allows that relationship to influence Him. 

When Jesus' sheep hear and follow Him, He gives them a gift and makes them a promise. Listen again to what He says. “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of My hand.” Jesus gives His sheep eternal life. Right now, in the present. Those who follow Jesus begin to live Heaven on earth because they are with Him. They are in relationship with Him, which is what Heaven is all about. Eternal life begins now when we hear and follow Jesus, conforming ourselves to Him, believing Him, trusting Him, obeying Him. These sheep do not perish. They may die a physical death, but they do not die the spiritual death that would separate them from Jesus for eternity. The Greek verb for perish here is apollumi. It can also mean to be lost or destroyed. That does not happen to those who hear and follow Jesus. Jesus further promises His sheep that no one will take them from Him. As the Greek verb harpazō implies, no one will snatch these sheep from Jesus. No one will pluck them away from Him. No one will carry them off by force. No one will seize them as prey. They are safe. 

Some Protestants use this verse to argue that once people are saved, they are always saved, no matter how they behave. Catholics do not agree, for such a doctrine deprives people of the free will that God gave them. As human beings created un God's image, we have the ability to choose God or not at any point. We can choose to be the sheep that follow Jesus, the sheep who receive His gifts and His promises, or we can choose to be rebellious sheep that deliberately take off on our own and refuse to conform to our Shepherd even if we had previously done so. In that case, the straying sheep leaves Jesus' gifts and the promises, scorns them, and refuses to accept them. That sheep is no longer safe in the Shepherd's care and risks being lost for all eternity. Because Jesus is the good Shepherd, He will also continue to search for His stray sheep and draw them back to His side so that He can return His gifts and promises to them, but He does not force them or violate their free will. They must choose for themselves. 

Those who promote the “once saved, always saved” idea argue further that no one can take the sheep away from Jesus. This is true. No outside party can remove Jesus' sheep from His side by force. Unfortunately, however, a sheep can decide to leave. The verb apollumi clearly refers to third party action. It says nothing about the free choice of an individual. Those who follow Jesus are safe. Those who stray forfeit their safety by their own choice. 

Let's continue. 

The next part of the text explains why Jesus can and does offer such gifts and promises to His sheep. The Father has given the sheep to Jesus, and the Father is greater than anyone or anything that might ever try to pull the sheep away by force. Moreover, the Father continues to hold onto the sheep with Jesus because, as Jesus says, “The Father and I are one.” No one will take the sheep (apollumi again) from the Father or from Jesus. They stand together as one to protect the sheep that hear and follow Jesus. 

Theologians have reflected on Jesus' last line for centuries. “The Father and I are one.” That is true on so many levels. They are one in divine nature and one in will. They are one in love and one in power. They are one in their plan for humanity. The Father is God, and Jesus is God. They are completely and totally united, completely and totally one, in a way that humans will never fully understand, but we believe. This is our faith. 

We learn from today's Gospel, then, that to be Jesus' sheep, we must hear His voice and follow Him. We must listen and act. Then, if we continue to do this, we will have access to the amazing gift Jesus holds out, eternal life that never ends, and to the promise of complete safety in the loving arms of Jesus and the Father.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Notes on the Psalms – Psalm 47

Psalm 47 presents an invitation to actively, vehemently praise God. The psalm is structured as follows: invitation to praise (verse 1); reasons for praise (verses 2-5); second invitation to praise (verse 6); and more reasons to praise (verses 7-9). Let’s spend some time digging into the language of this psalm to better understand how and why we are to praise our Lord. 

The first invitation to praise occurs in verse 1. “Clap your hands, all you peoples;” the psalmist encourages, “shout to God with loud songs of joy.” Who is to praise God? All the people. The Hebrew word here is ‘am. It refers not only to the Israelites but also to the Gentiles, all the nations of the world. The invitation to praise is extended to the whole human family. Led by the Israelites, who know the one true God, the Gentile nations must enter into worship, recognizing God for Who He is. 

How should all the people of the world praise God? By clapping their hands and shouting with loud songs of joy. This is noisy worship! Clapping hands, ringing cries of gladness and triumph, proclamation and rejoicing, loud voices lifted up in exclamations of adoration! This praise isn’t something hidden away or pronounced quietly or shyly or half-heartedly. It is confident praise, public praise, praise that no one can ignore, praise that stands before the whole world, praise that tells everyone who will listen about the amazing things God has done for His people. 

What are these amazing things? Why must all the peoples of the world praise God? First and foremost, God is the Most High, and He is awesome. He is above all else on earth and in Heaven. He is God, and He deserves our praise for that reason alone. He is awesome, or in Heberw yârê', to be feared, to be revered, to be honored. He is great...all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good, all-beautiful. He is above our highest images, beyond our deepest thoughts, better than our wildest dreams. He is the great king over the whole earth, over all the people of the world. He rules. He reigns. He is majesty in person, so we praise Him. 

We also praise God for what He has done for His people. Verses 3 and 4 describe God’s actions on behalf of Israel. With a word, He has placed Israel over the other nations of the world. This doesn’t sound like a very praiseworthy thing for the other nations, but in reality it is. Israel knows God and knows how to worship Him, and part of Israel’s job is to lead the whole world to Him. Israel is God’s firstborn son, responsible for guiding and disciplining the younger brothers of the world. Israel stands as a representative of God before the Gentiles, who can be stubborn in their pagan worship and therefore must be subdued and trained that they may be prepared to accept the true praise they are invited to give to the true God. This role is part of Israel’s God-given heritage, in Hebrew nachălâh

This inheritance is Israel’s greatest source of pride (in Hebrew, gâ'ôn), its true wealth and power, its means of redemption. Israel is certain of God’s love, for God has done great things for His chosen people. He has brought them out of slavery and taught them His law. He has settled them in their land and instructed them in true worship. Further, God dwells among them, He has “gone up with a shout” and the sound of the trumpet, first to the Tabernacle and then to the Temple, where He is always present to the Israelites. God Himself, His presence, His self-giving love, is Israel’s share, Israel’s inheritance, Israel’s pride, Israel’s salvation. 

Indeed, there are many reasons to praise God, and the psalmist again breaks out in exaltation in verse 6: “Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.” The psalmist cannot be still. He wants to sing out, to make music, in praise of God, and he longs for everyone else to join him. Notice the repetition here. The Hebrew word zâmar (to sing praise) is repeated four times in verse 6 and once more in verse 7. The psalmist is caught up with a strong desire, an urgency, to worship his God and King. 

For God is the King, the psalmist says again. He is the “king of all the earth” and the “king over the nations.” He is seated on His holy throne, and the princes of the people are gathering around Him. Interestingly, the Hebrew word for prince is nâdı̂yb, and it means one who is noble, who is generous, and who is willing. In the psalmist’s view, these princes are indeed noble and generous because they are willing to assemble together as God’s people. They are willing to join the Israelites as subjects of the great King, the God of Abraham. Notice here that God is called the God of Abraham. Abraham was the ancestor of Israel but also the father of many nations of the earth. Again, we are seeing God’s people expand to include not just the Israelites but the nations, the other descendants of Abraham, who are returning to the fold and learning to worship the God of their father. 

The last line of the psalm explains why the princes of the people are gathering around God: “For the shields of the earth belong to God...” In other words, God is the protector of all the nations. He defends them according to His will. He shields them, or if necessary, He allows them to fall if it will draw them to Him. Those who turn to Him will find a refuge and a guardian. They will be secure, safe, perhaps not from every disaster or trial, but ultimately in the most important way, from the loss of God, which would be the greatest catastrophe of all. 

The psalm ends with a reminder. God is “highly exalted.” He is the Most High over all the earth. He deserves the highest praise from all His people no matter where they may be.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Little Something Extra...Third Sunday of Easter

Bread and Fish and Compassion 

Today's Gospel, John 21:1-19, offers many points to ponder. Below are just a few to consider throughout the week. 

1. Peter decides to go fishing. He seems to be looking for something normal. After all, his life was in an upheaval just then. The Man he had been following faithfully for three years was dead. Peter had denied Jesus just when He had needed him the most, and he probably wasn't sure where he stood in Jesus' eyes. Now Jesus was risen. He had already appeared to His disciples in peace and love, but Peter may still have been feeling guilty, embarrassed, and hesitant. He needed something comforting, something ordinary; he needed to fish. 

2. The disciples caught nothing even though they fished all night. They must have been disappointed and tired. 

3. There was a Man on the shore. The disciples in the boat did not recognize Him physically as Jesus. The Man asked, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They responded in the negative. He told them to let down their nets over the right side of the boat. The fishermen must have been exhausted and frustrated, but they obeyed. 

4. They caught so many fish that they could not even pull their net in! All of a sudden, it dawned on them. Did they remember a previous incident that was very much the same (see Luke 5:1-11)? John called out, “It is the Lord!” 

5. Peter's reaction was immediate and rather humorous. He tucked up his garment, jumped into the sea, and started swimming for shore. He was so anxious to reconnect with Jesus that he couldn't even wait for the boat to get back to shore. 

6. When they finally dragged the bulging nets to shore, the disciples discovered that they had caught 153 large fish. The Jews thought that there were 153 Gentile nations. The disciples were to be fishers of men, even those men who did not belong to the tribes of Israel. 

7. Jesus served bread and fish for breakfast. It was a simple gesture but one filled with love. 

8. Jesus asked Peter a very important question: “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” Do you love Me more than you love the things I do for you? Do you love Me more than the other people in your life? 

9. Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love You.” Jesus responded, “Feed my lambs.” Take care of those left in your charge, Peter. Show your love for Me by spreading it to other people, by feeding them, physically as necessary but, even more importantly, spiritually. 

10. The dialogue between Peter and Jesus repeated twice more in almost the same words. Jesus asked Peter for his love. Peter responded by giving it, and Jesus gave Peter a task to do that the love between them might pass on to others. 

11. Peter was a little hurt when Jesus asked a third time if he loved Him. Peter replied, “Lord, You know everything; you know that I love You.” Yet it had to be that way. Peter had denied Jesus three times; he needed to proclaim his love three times, too. Jesus understood. His compassion for Peter was far greater than Peter's fear. 

12. The conversation between Peter and Jesus ended on a somewhat disturbing note, for Jesus suggested that Peter would die a martyr. Peter's death, however, would give glory to God, so Jesus told him, “Follow Me.” Do what I have done Peter. Give all to Me as I have given all to you. Follow Me. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Little Something Extra...Second Sunday of Easter

Today we celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy, which was granted to the universal Church by Pope John Paul II on April 23, 2000. According to the Church's official decree, this feast is "a perennial invitation to the Christian world to face, with confidence in divine benevolence, the difficulties and trials that mankind will experience in the years to come." In other words, today we focus our attention on God's great mercy and compassion, and we acknowledge our trust in God, confident that no matter what happens in the world or in our own lives, God will care for us.

Jesus Himself revealed the divine desire for today's Feast through St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, a humble Polish nun, in 1931. He spoke to her of His intention for this great day:

"My daughter, tell the whole world about My Inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will I contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy." (Diary 699)

As a visible reminder of His mercy, Jesus showed St. Faustina an image of Himself with His hand raised in blessing and two rays, one red and one pale, emanating from His heart. He instructed her to have the image painted and to add the words "Jesus, I trust in You." Jesus also explained the meaning and importance of the image:

"The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the very depths of My tender mercy when My agonized heart was opened by a lance on the Cross. These rays shield souls from the wrath of My Father. Happy is the one who dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him." (Diary 299)

"By means of this image I shall grant many graces to souls. It is to be a reminder of the demands of My mercy, because even the strongest faith is of no avail without works." (Diary 742)

"I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish. I also promise victory over its enemies already here on earth, especially at the hour of death. I Myself will defend it as My own glory." (Diary 48)

Today, then, spend some time reflecting on the great mercy that God wants to pour out upon the world and upon each of us individually, for we are all His beloved children.

For more information about Divine Mercy Sunday and the Divine Mercy devotion, see the following: 

Information on the Divine Mercy devotion -

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Notes on the Psalms – Psalm 46

Psalm 46 tells us some very important facts about Who God is, what He does for His people, and how His people are to respond to Him and to His works. 

First, the psalm offers several images that illustrate Who God is. According to verse 1, “God is our refuge and strength...” The Hebrew word for refuge is machăseh. From the verb châsâh, which means “to flee for protection,” machăseh connotates a shelter, a safe place where people can experience hope and trust. The Hebrew word for strength is ‛ôz, which can refer to might, force, majesty, security, and power. God, then, is a powerful protector to Whom we can flee for help and safety. He is majestic and mighty yet sheltering and secure. 

The verse continues, describing God as “a very present help in trouble.” We'll come back to the idea of God's presence in a little while, but first let's reflect God as “help in trouble.” The Hebrew word for help is ‛ezrâth. It's a simple word that means exactly what it says, one who helps, who provides assistance, who succors. God is our help. We can always turn to Him when we are in distress. He is constant. 

So far, then, the psalm tells us that God is our refuge, our strength, and our help. The word “refuge” appears twice more, in verses 7 and 11, both of which assure us, “The God of Jacob is our refuge.” The Hebrew word here is different from the one used earlier. It is miśgâb, and it refers to a cliff or high place, an inaccessible location, a tower and a defense, a secure retreat. With this word, we can picture God as a heavenly high place. He brings us up to Him and keeps us securely above our enemies, who can't reach us when we are in God. 

We also see two “official” titles for God used in this psalm: the God of Jacob (verses 7 and 11) and the Lord of hosts (verses 7 and 11). Jacob is another name for Israel, and both names can refer either to the father of the twelve sons who became the twelve tribes or to the twelve tribes themselves. To say “the God of Jacob” is to encompass all of Israel's history into one nice, neat title. God is the God of everything Israel ever was, is now, and ever will be. He is the God of His people's ancestors, the God of the current generation, and the God of their descendants. He is the God Who has worked marvelous deeds in the past, the God Who defends His people now, and the God Who will continue to do so in the future in new and ever-surprising ways. He is with His people, near them always and forever. The second title, the Lord of hosts, reminds us that while God is imminent to His people, He is also transcendent and far above them, “exalted among the nations” and “in the earth”, as verse 10 tells us. He is the Lord of hosts, the God of the angels. His mighty hand stretches farther than we can ever know. He is infinitely perfect, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, eternal, and ever present. The angels worship Him on high with songs of praise, for He is their God as well as our God. 

We just noted that God is ever present. Psalm 46 asserts this several times: God is with His people; He will not leave them alone. Verse 1 tells us that God is “a very present help in trouble.” Verse 5 assures, “God is in the midst of the city”. Verses 7 and 11 note that “The Lord of hosts is with us”. God is with us. He will not leave us to our own devices. He watches, He sees, and He acts on our behalf. 

How does God act? What does He do for His people? The psalm answers. God helps His city, Jerusalem (symbolic perhaps of all of Israel and today of the Church). The Hebrew for help is ‛âzar, which implies surrounding with protection. When the nations are in chaos and kingdoms fall, God's people will be secure, for God “utters His voice” and “the earth melts.” At the word of God, wars end, violence ceases, stillness reigns. Those battling against His people experience defeat and desolation. Their bows break; their spears shatter; their shields burn up. God shows His might; He exhibits His power on behalf of His people. He protects them, delivers them from their troubles, and makes them secure in their holy city. 

How, then, should God's people respond to Who He is and what He does? The psalm tells us this, too. First, we should not fear. No matter what happens, if the earth suddenly changes, if the mountains shake and tumble into the sea, if the waters rise up with a roar, we must not fear. God is with us. He acts on our behalf. If the kingdoms around us fall and the whole world descends into confusion, we must not fear. God will protect us. Verse 10 gives us words directly from God, instructing us on how we are to respond to Him: “Be still, and know that I am God!” Stay quiet, relax, don't move, let go. Be still. Let God do what He does best. Let Him take control. Wait, watch, pray. Be still. Know that He is God. He is mighty. He can save us. He wants to save us. He is in control over everything. He is our refuge and strength, our help, the God of Jacob, the Lord of Hosts. He is with us. Know that and be still. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Little Something Extra...The Resurrection of the Lord

The Risen Jesus, the Same yet Different 

Jesus is risen! The grave could not hold Him. Death could not keep Him. He has thrown open the gates of Heaven. Yet for forty days, He remains at least partially on earth. He meets with His disciples many times, showing them that He is truly alive. His risen Body is amazing to behold. He is so different, but He is still the same Jesus, Who has now died and risen again to save His people from their sins. 

Let's reflect on the risen Jesus. In so many ways, He is still the same Jesus He always has been. He is still both God and Man, both divine and human. Even though He is risen, He still has a human body. He makes this clear to His disciples on Easter Sunday when He first appears to them. They think He is a ghost, but He answers, “Look at My hands and My feet; see that it is I Myself. Touch Me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Even His wounds are still visible, marks of the suffering He endured for our sake. He invites Thomas, “Put your finger here and see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it in My side. Do not doubt but believe.” Jesus is still human. 

Jesus is also still invested in the same relationships He had been before His death and resurrection. Tradition tells us that He probably appears first to His mother after He is raised from the dead. He still values her love and honors her as His mother. Further, His relationship with His apostles and disciples is still fully intact. He appears to Mary Magdalene, calling her by name. He appears to the other women, telling them to inform His “brothers,” the apostles, of His resurrection. He appears to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, comforting them and teaching them. He appears to the apostles in the upper room, assuring them of His peace and instructing them about their mission. He appears to several apostles at the Sea of Tiberius, where He cooks breakfast for them. Jesus still preserves the relationships He has always cherished. 

Jesus still treats His loved ones with the same mercy and compassion that He has always shown. Look at how He deals with Peter by the seashore. One the day of Jesus' crucifixion, Peter had denied Him three times. Now Jesus says nothing about that. Instead, He allows Peter to make up for those denials. “Simon son of John,” Jesus says to Peter, “do you love Me more than these?” Peter answers, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” Jesus says in reply, “Feed My lambs.” The conversation repeats twice more with only a few variations. Jesus has just given Peter a chance to make up for his denials, to proclaim his love, and to reclaim his mission. Jesus is still the same merciful and compassionate Lord that He always was. 

Even though Jesus is still the same in many ways, He is different, too. He is now the risen Lord. While He is human, He has now taken humanity to a new level. The laws of time and space no longer apply to Him. He can appear out of nowhere and enter through locked doors. He can also change His appearance at will, so much so that sometimes His closest followers do not recognize Him immediately. Although the marks of His wounds remain, He no longer suffers in His physical body. He has moved beyond that now. He is the Victor over suffering and death. He faced it and won. His new humanity is a glimpse of the humanity we will all have one day when, at the end of time, we join Him in His resurrected state. 

Further, while Jesus firmly maintains His relationships, He takes them to a new level. He tells Mary Magdalene that she must not hold on to Him, for He will be ascending to His Father. Soon He will no longer be with His followers in the same way. He will be present to them, certainly, but now in the Eucharist. He will continue to teach them but now through the Church. He will continue to guide them, comfort them, and heal them but now in the sacraments. They will have to walk by faith and not by sight. 

Jesus is risen! He is old; He is new. His the same; He is different. But He is still Jesus, and He still loves us beyond all telling. Alleluia! Alleluia!