Welcome to Green Reflections, the blog dedicated to reflections on the readings from the Roman Catholic Sunday Lectionary, with particular sensitivity to the needs of the earth. Use this blog to deepen your own awareness of our Creator's desires for the planet and ways that we can appreciate God's goals for the earth,giving it the loving care that it deserves.
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Happy Easter! Today I want to tell you a story. It is only a tale. It didn’t really happen…or, did it? Every good story has a truth buried in it. I invite you, today, to listen with the ear of your heart to find the truth that lies herein.
Recently a very old manuscript was discovered and I managed to get my hands on a copy of it. According to the signature, this story was written by one, Joanna, the wife of Chuza. This is what the manuscript says:
“I was there that morning and I want to tell you what I witnessed before someone tries to deny the story. Several of us women had gone to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body but when we arrived we found an empty tomb. We were so befuddled that most of us ran back to Jerusalem to tell the Twelve what we found. While we described the empty tomb and the burial cloths of Jesus, an insistent knock was heard on the door to the upper room. Every eye in the room looked around in fear as we fell silent. Then a voice was heard from outside,
‘Open the door! It’s me, Magdalen. Let me in.’
Peter went to the door and admitted Mary Magdalen into the upper room. Before he could say a word, Magdalen exclaimed for all to hear,
‘He is risen! I saw the Master.”
Peter looked at her in horror. ‘Sit down, Magdalen, and tell us what you saw—from the beginning,’ he instructed.
She didn’t sit down, but began saying, ‘I was at His tomb, bending down and looking in while I wept. There I saw two angels sitting, one at the head and the other at the foot of His burial spot. One asked me why I was crying and inquired, ‘Why are you looking for the Living One among the dead?’ I don’t know what I was thinking then. I turned around and saw a man in the garden.
He looked at me and said quietly, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ I told Him, ‘If you took the body, show me where you placed Him so that I may take Him back to His tomb.’ The man merely looked at me and began to chuckle. Then He said my name, ‘Mary.’
In that instant, I looked into His eyes and I saw Him for the first time. It was Jesus! His life had been transformed. I thought He was merely a gardener. Well, He is the Gardener. I understood and I knew that He was the Master Gardener who was present at the first garden in creation. All at once, I rushed to Jesus and hugged him.
Jesus began laughing heartily and told me, ‘Don’t squeeze me to death! I have not yet ascended to my Father. Now, now, go to My brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and to your God.’’
I fell to His feet and began kissing those beautiful wounds. I heard Him again, ‘Go—tell my brothers.’ I tell you, I didn’t want to leave, but Jesus commissioned me to bring you this great news that He is risen!
Peter and the other twelve gazed at her in disbelief. You could just see it written on their faces as they thought, ‘The poor woman is addled. We’ll have to treat her with kid gloves.’
Magdalen stood up tall and pleaded with Peter, ‘Don’t you understand? He is alive. Jesus is risen. Death could not hold him down. Evil could not make an end of Jesus. Love is more powerful than all the violence in the world. And now, He is sharing His risen life with us.’
Peter’s eyes dropped not knowing what to say to this poor woman. Magdalen walked over to Philip and she pleaded with him. ‘Philip, don’t you understand? The one that you thought was the messiah really is! Jesus wants us to live His risen life now, in the world. Everything He taught us about God’s reign is true. Just like He preached the Good News and reached out to heal people, Jesus wants us to preach His message and bring healing to others and to all creatures. He wants us to be reconcilers because he has reconciled the whole world to God.’ Philip’s eyebrows shot up, but he didn’t respond to her.
Then Magdalen came to Nathaniel. ‘Listen to me, Nathaniel. Jesus saw you sitting under the sycamore tree before you ever met Him. You said He was the Messiah. He is alive, I tell you. Remember, how Jesus ate with sinners, how he welcomed the poor and outcasts of society to His table? He was building a new people of God, a chosen race of the most unlikely characters. He wants us to do the same!’ Old Nathaniel looked at her, you could see belief enticing him, but he said nothing.
Then, looking around, Magdalen saw Mary, Jesus’ own mother, sitting in the corner. She was bent over, leaning on her cane for support, her white hair dazzling and her eyes focused on Magdalen. She rushed to Mary and knelt down before her. ‘Mary, you believe me, don’t you? He is risen!’
Mary’s eyes began to twinkle. She nodded her venerable white head and replied, ‘Yes, He is risen. Christ is risen! It is as you have said.’
You could have heard a pin drop in that room. Then, old Mary leaned over and pulled something out from under her seat. It was a tambourine. She proffered it to Magdalen, nodding all the while. Magdalen glowed and, still facing Mary, moved to the center of the room.
She raised the tambourine and struck it. She sang out in a clear voice, ‘Christ has died!’ ‘Alleluia!’ old Mary responded. The other women quickly jumped to their feet and formed a circle around
She started to dance and struck her tambourine again. ‘Christ is Risen!’ ‘Alleluia!’ they answered back, swaying to the music all the while.
Magdalen turned to the Beloved Disciple singing, ‘Christ will come again!’ ‘Alleluia, alleluia!’ he responded joining the dancing women.
Then the whole assembly rose to their feet and joined the song, ‘Christ has died, alleluia! Christ is risen, alleluia! Christ will come again, alleluia, alleluia!’”
And Jesus appeared, standing in the middle of them.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Today’s reading of the Scriptures are very full and quite rich. We move from the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Sunday through the sorrowful and shameful death by crucifixion on Friday. I doubt that any disciple can read these gospel passages and not be moved by the self-emptying love of God that takes on the full measure of human cruelty.
Even so, as we contemplate the death of Jesus there may be some elements that escape our notice since the gospel was written in the first century Jewish-Christian community. Some cultural overtones may be lost on us and it is on these that I want to focus today.
Scripture scholar, John Pilch, S.J., tells us that Jesus “died a shameful death, one reserved for the worst of criminals. Even though he died in the best Mediterranean manly tradition, this manner of death wiped out with one stroke all the good he had done. If Jesus truly were beloved of God, God would not have allowed him to be overcome by his enemies.” Here we get a peek into the cultural heart of the first century Jews. It becomes very understandable that many of Jesus’ followers left him when he was crucified, because clearly Jesus could not have been the messiah, according to their thinking, if God abandoned him to crucifixion. And this is where Christian Scriptures make it very clear: God’s values are not our values. In fact, God turns our expectations and judgments upside down! By his acceptance of suffering and a shameful death, Jesus has fully embraced the worst that humankind can do to him, and God vindicated Jesus in the resurrection. What should have been shame and should have wiped out memory of Jesus from history, is the very event that exalts Jesus.
As His disciples, we follow Jesus’ example and allow ourselves to be poured out in love for the good of the world. On this Passion Sunday we can ask ourselves, “Which cultural values stop us from fully embracing the way of Christ?” Being in control is a strong value in Western cultures and can blind us from accepting our limitations as mortal beings. Being always right is a blind spot that can prevent us from apologizing or even recognizing the truth that we are wrong at times. Jesus knew that accepting death on a cross would cause him the loss of all honor among his people. Yet, He knowingly embraced the cross for the healing of our world. To bring healing to others and to our world, we need to follow Jesus along the way of the cross, the way of suffering, the way of humility, the way of the cross. How appropriate that we start Holy Week with a reflection on the quality of our discipleship if we are committed to carrying Christ’s salvation, that is the healing, to our world and all its peoples.
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- Audubon Society
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- Catholic Coalition on Climate Change
- E Magazine
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- Environment California
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- Global Climate Change Report
- Natural Resources Defense Council
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- The Nature Conservancy
- Union of Concerned Scientists
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