Christ is risen! We are three days from the end of the paschal season on the Gregorian (New) Calendar, while the Julian (Old) Calendar churches just began their Easter joy today! Isn’t it something how things work out. So, if I were a Roman Catholic in Ukraine, I would be wrapping up my paschal prayers, but the whole country around me would be exploding with “Christ is risen”, ringing of bells, great bouquets of flowers, and 40 more days of celebrating the Resurrection. So, 80 days of Easter and then some. Not a bad way to live.
People in Ukraine waiting for the blessing of their baskets at the end of Easter services today.
Sunday of the Man Born Blind: written for the parish bulletin for May 5, 2013:
We continue the baptismal theme and the use of water, but here spiritual blindness is removed as well as physical. It is important to note that the man “was born blind” as this emphasizes the power of the miracle. And we continue the pre-Pentecostal theme as well, because the later history of Jewish Christians being expelled from synagogues is put into this story from Jesus’ lifetime. The Holy Spirit strengthens us in persecution: this newly cured man loses everything because he defends Jesus and the miraculous cure. But when he hears the voice of Jesus, he worships Him.
When Jesus was alive, those who believed in Him were not thrown out of synagogues. That happened only in the 80s of the first century. The writer in John’s Gospel takes an incident of his church’s experience and puts it into the time of Jesus’ preaching, in order to make a point to his local church: this is how you should respond, with faith. The young man confesses that Jesus is the Son of God! He is one of the very first in the gospel to do so. He loses everything, but finds strength and peace alike in that profession of faith.
Persecution on the basis of religion abounds today, but what most people do not know is this: 75% of all instances of religious persecution are against Christians.
What will we be willing to risk if the laws turn against us? The martyrs of the 20th century, and the spiritual heroism of this man who was born blind, will have to guide us and encourage us in the 21st century as we truly see the faith. Caesarius of Arles wrote: That blind man was prepared as a salve for the human race. He was bodily restored to light, in order that by considering his miracle we might be enlightened in heart. In evening prayer tonight, may we offer this prayer to God, that we will always be enlightened in our hearts and do what is right, no matter the cost. Christ is risen!
Two Popes in prayer: Benedict XVI and Francis I are shown kneeling down in prayer in Vatican City. Pope Francis is vested in all of the papal clothing; Benedict is not wearing the shoulder cape and sash. This picture is from May 2, in the chapel of the monastery where Benedict will be leading a life of prayer and writing. It is a unique situation in Catholic history, and these two men are making history every day with each decision they make. But it is important to note that they do so as men prayer: in front of Christ Crucified, and in front of the Living Jesus in the tabernacle. Pray for them: they certainly spend time praying for all of us!