Pondering the Word

Pentecost: Jn 20:19-23

05-31-2020Pondering the WordFr. Alcuin Hurl, FHS

This week Jesus breathes on the disciples. This is a sign or even sacramental action that signifies the impartation of the Holy Spirit. This is John’s version of Pentecost. The Gospel writers are often interested in displaying the mysteries of the life of Jesus I.e. his birth, baptism, Epiphany etc.. Unlike the other Gospel writers John puts the mysteries of the Resurrection, the Ascension and Pentecost on the same day. Remember that in the morning Jesus told Mary Magdalen not to touch him because he had not ascended to the Father yet but now Jesus invites the disciples to touch him later that evening which implies he has ascended already. Why does John do this? John the theologian and the last Gospel traditionally symbolized by the far seeing Eagle-like creature in Revelation wants to connect the gift of the Spirit to the Church on Pentecost to the Resurrection. This means that our receiving the the Spirit is also a receiving the the resurrected life of Jesus. The mysteries are not separate and all received when we have a personal encounter with Jesus by faith.

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Ascension of the Lord: Matthew 28:16-20

05-24-2020Pondering the WordFr. Alcuin Hurl, FHS

In this Sunday's Gospel we witness the Jesus going up to heaven forty days after his resurrection (when traditionally celebrated on Ascension Thursday). The opening prayer at Mass or "the collect" calls us to rejoice with thanksgiving and be glad with "holy joys" at the departure of Jesus. What are these mysterious holy joys? How can we rejoice and give thanks for the departure of someone we love and whose immediate presence we so dearly need? Rather, shouldn't we mourn the loss of someone we love? Here are four reasons to rejoice at the ascension of Jesus.

First, we rejoice because Jesus takes our poor human nature all the way up to the throne of God. God indeed exalts our lowly human nature by lifting it up beyond all the angelic powers to a place it has never gone before. Before the Word became flesh Christ indeed had a divine nature and authority but without the assumption of human nature. Now in his human nature Jesus is given all authority in heaven and earth. This mystery is good news for us because wherever the head goes the body follows which means we as the body of Christ follow him to the throne of God.

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6th Sunday of Easter: John 14:15-21

05-17-2020Pondering the WordFr. Alcuin Hurl, FHS

In this Sunday's Gospel Jesus promises that the Father will send another advocate who will abide with us forever. Who is this other advocate?

This new advocate is the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. This is the first of seven times (the number of perfection and creation) that Jesus promises the gift of the Holy Spirit to the disciples when he leaves. Advocate is the Latin version of the Greek word Paraclete which literally means "to call to one's side." This is a word that comes from the Greek courtrooms where one would have a counselor or paraclete who would give counsel, plead a person's cause, or intercede with the judge in a court case. In a way this means that the Holy Spirit is our lawyer who has never lost a case because his Father is the judge. How could we lose a case with such a wonderful helper and mediator?

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5th Sunday of Easter: John 14:1-12

05-10-2020Pondering the WordFr. Alcuin Hurl, FHS

In this Sunday's Gospel the disciples are huddled in the upper room in Jerusalem on the eve of the crucifixion gripped with terror. The Greek word for being "troubled" here means being terrified by the prospect of death. Yet, Jesus tells them to not let their hearts be troubled. Many of us have faced the fear of death especially in these days of the present pandemic for ourselves or our loved ones. Fear of death often feels like a wet blanket that we just cannot entangle ourselves from. Is it possible for us to actually free ourselves from the fear of death?

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4th Sunday of Easter: John 10:1-10

05-03-2020Pondering the WordFr. Alcuin Hurl, FHS

The Good Shepherd Discourse that we hear this Sunday comes right after Jesus heals the man born blind who was betrayed by his parents and then kicked out of the synagogue by the Pharisees. Even though the man born blind experienced this hurtful rejection from the people he trusted he still musters the strength to trust in Jesus.

His trust is quite remarkable because often when we are betrayed by those we trust we make an inner vow to never trust anyone again—even God. The problem with this common reaction is that we simply cannot live a full joyful life without trust. How do we know we can trust Jesus or anyone else when our heart has been so wounded by betrayal? How can we learn to trust again? Jesus answers this question by calling us to trust him just like sheep trust their shepherd.

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3rd Sunday of Easter: Luke 24:13-35

04-26-2020Pondering the WordFr. Alcuin Hurl, FHS

In this Sunday's Gospel we see how two disciples go from the darkness of unbelief to the light of Easter faith through scripture and the breaking of the bread. What does this means for us? Well this is very good news because it shows us how we are invited to encounter the Risen Lord Jesus through word and sacrament as every Holy Mass. First, we see two disciples on Sunday evening walking away from Jerusalem. They have given up their hope that Jesus was the redeemer. A stranger suddenly walks next to them but their "eyes are closed" so they did not know it was Jesus. This is particularly remarkable because tradition holds that Cleopas was the brother of St. Joseph and he did not recognize his nephew.

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2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday): John 20: 19-31

04-19-2020Pondering the WordFr. Alcuin Hurl, FHS

Last Sunday we began in the dark and saw how Mary Magdalen, Peter and the Beloved Disciple move toward Easter faith. Although Mary Magdalen returns and says: "I have seen the Lord" the disciples are still in the dark. It is evening on Easter Sunday and the disciples still remain locked in the upper room for fear of the Jewish authorities. But Jesus casts away this darkness by standing in their midst saying "Peace be with you." Peace or "Shalom" here means that man has been reconciled with the God. They have nothing to fear.

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Tuesday of the Octave of Easter: John 20:11-18

04-14-2020Pondering the WordFr. Alcuin Hurl, FHS

On Easter Sunday we were left with an empty tomb, burial clothes and the dim rays of Easter faith beginning to dawn in the hearts of the disciples. This week we see how Mary Magdalene and the disciples step into the full brightness of the light Easter faith a personal encounter with the Risen Lord. Even though we cannot see Jesus are we able to encounter the Risen Lord like the disciples? Let us turn to the Gospel and see.

While Peter and the Beloved Disciple depart, Mary Magdalene remains outside the tomb weeping. Despite the linen burial clothes left behind in the tomb she still thinks someone stole the body of Jesus. Mary then looks into the tomb and sees two angels in white who ask her why she is weeping. Mary here seems to be too overwhelmed with sorrow to be struck by fear at the sight of the angels which is the usual response in the Bible. It seems that Mary's deep love for Jesus makes her too focused on finding his body and too sad to be afraid.

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Easter Sunday: John 20:1-9

04-12-2020Pondering the WordFr. Alcuin Hurl, FHS

This Easter Sunday the tomb is empty yet so are our Churches. What does this mean?

This Lent we have seen how Jesus revealed himself to his disciples as the source of living water with his encounter with Samaritan woman at the well; as light of the world with the healing of the man born blind; as the Resurrection and the Life with the raising of Lazarus; and as the Messiah-King with his triumphal entrance into the east gate of Jerusalem on the back of a little donkey on Palm Sunday.

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Fourth Sunday of Lent: John 9:1-41

03-22-2020Pondering the WordFr. Alcuin Hurl, FHS

We are all the man born blind. Adam and Eve's decision to not walk on God's path for their life darkened their minds and twisted their hearts. We inherited our first parent's twisted darkness and we need the light. The Gospels tells us this Sunday that Jesus is the light. How do we get enlightened by Jesus and what happens when we do? The story of the man born blind answers these questions.

In the opening scene we see the darkness of the minds of the disciples who blindly assume that God cursed this man with blindness from birth due to either his sins or the sins of his parents. While they certainly have Psalm 103:8 memorized (The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love…) they still have a servile fear of God as an arbitrary and angry Father who is out to get his kids if they don't read his mind and follow his rules perfectly. It is as if they think God is an alcoholic!

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