The Lord is Risen, Alleluia
Did Mary Magdalen feel as if she had just woken from a very bad dream? I know that feeling of utter relief when waking from a deep sleep in which I was being hounded by difficult people or was unable to find something or get to some place very important. We have all had those anxiety dreams which made reality pale in comparison.
Mary Magdalen was probably numb, performing a ritual action with other friends of Jesus as on automatic pilot. What must have it been like to be huddled together in that upper room from Friday, through the Sabbath, waiting for the day to fulfill their duty? It must have been still unbelievable to them that they must perform this last act of devotion for their master, rabbi, teacher, friend, and healer; the one whom they believed to be the Son of God.
Our Church connects and has always connected with Mary's plight, her deep sorrow and the courage with which the women set out on their mission. At the Easter Vigil Mass and again at the Mass of Easter Morning we hear accounts of her experience from two of the evangelists. The story appears in each of the four Gospels. This is a moment for Mary, and a moment for us, that is not to be missed. She hears and we hear words that should wake us from a tormented sleep into the light of endless day and endless possibility. "Do not be afraid...Go and tell...There you will see me..."
At Mother of Perpetual Help Monastery, this community of contemplative nuns, was blessed by the presence of eighteen Redemptorist seminarians, students preparing for the Novitiate along with their formators, for the entire Easter Triduum. Our small chapel was filled by their big-ness in size, their big-ness of voice and their big-ness of heart and devotion to Jesus our Redeemer. They not only joined us for the major liturgies in which they were readers or cantors or singers in their Schola, but they also came to participate in the various offices of the Liturgy of the Hours.
On Holy Thursday Father Phil Dabney was the celebrant and homilist at our evening liturgy. Father Phil served until recently as Redemptorist Vocation Director for the Baltimore Province for fifteen years. His reverence and attention as he washed the feet of eight students and four sisters of our community was inspiring. In his homily he noted the absence of an institution narrative in John's account of the last supper and the outstanding emphasis on loving service. It is as if, Jesus, the inspired teacher, knowing he was about to die, decided that he had to dramatically underscore all that he had taught by doing something totally radical, so unexpected and out of the ordinary that no one present would ever forget the moment. His action was the ultimate 'visual aide'. He put on a apron, got down on his knees and washed the dirty, calloused, worn feet of his own followers. It was an act so outrageous that Peter refused the magnanimous gesture. What is the message? We are, he begs us on his knees, to do the same.
On Good Friday Father Paul Borowski, one of the directors of this group of students, presided at our Liturgy. His homily was a first person narrative of that last day in the voice of Peter. He shared his story his repeated denials, his lack of courage, his frightful fear of being himself arrested and crucified. His dismay was palpable, his uncertainty too. And his guilt tremendous. He wondered aloud, "What are we to do now?
Father Paul was also the principle celebrant at our Easter Vigil, assisted by Father Patrick Keyes who also directs the students, and Father Thomas Picton, Provincial of the Denver Province of Redemptorists. Father Picton was the homilist. He spoke of the various current theories concerning the Resurrection "story". However, he said, "We know better because without the Resurrection the rest is meaningless." He offered a number of rebuttal arguments directed at doubters but then said, " We know that Jesus our Redeemer is risen from the dead when we see a ninety year old Redemptorist living with the 'garbage people' on the outskirts of a city in Brazil because he is the only one willing to do so. We see Jesus our Redeemer risen from the dead when two Redemptorists serving the Caldean Catholic community in Bagdad refuse to leave even though they know they are in grave danger. WE see the risen Lord in long faithful marriages and faithful perseverance in vowed religious life." His heart moved at the devotion of these and others he described, tears streamed down his face as Father gave his accounts of the risen Jesus among us.
On Sunday morning Father Patrick Keyes was celebrant. Faher Keyes told us about his favorite Easter homily, one that recycles well everywhere and in every language. He told us how he calls all the little children out of the congregation to come and join him in front of the altar. He then tells them his tale of woe, how he could not figure out what to put in his homily and how he went to the park and sat on a bench. Then a little bunny came out of the grass and talked to him and told him what to say. Father Patrick said he then whispers the bunny's message to the children to willing pass it to their neighbors. Then Father said he commissions them to go out among the congregation and whisper in the ears of all the people the message that the bunny in the park gave him. This is always a 'show stopper.' Of course Father embellished this for us so that we were well prepared for the message being whispered by the children and also heard by us today. "Jesus is LOVE."