God so loved the world that he gave his only Son

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

John 3:16-18

It is not uncommon to see posters and signs at sporting events or in other public places with “John 3:16” written in big letters. In this verse, St. John proclaims the essence of the “Good News,”: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

The world that God created was good. There was order, harmony, peace. It bursted with life and emanated beauty. Why? Because it was the expression and “work” of God. God handed over to man a perfect creation, and gave him stewardship of it. But man turned from God, and rebelled against Him. This rebellion is called sin. Because God had entrusted the entire created order to man, when man “fell,” so did all of creation. Separated from God, who is life, mankind and all of creation became destined for death.

In this reading St. John witnesses to the mystifying mercy of God. The Father Creator sends forth His Son, who becomes man to redeem mankind and all of creation. Through Jesus, all who believe are liberated from the unavoidability of death. There is no life apart from God. By uniting Himself to humanity, and by sacrificing Himself to repair the damage of men’s sins, Jesus restores the gift of eternal life to mankind. By sending forth the Holy Spirit to form the Church and mystically unite each believer to the Church, God offers all men and women of all times, the salvation accomplished through Jesus Christ.

Reflection

This world is passing away. We are surrounded by sickness, sin, death and destruction, yet we have hope. For those who believe in Jesus, who are baptized in the Spirit and strengthened and healed in the sacraments, there is eternal life, and nothing and no one can take that away from us.

Activity

Receive the Holy Spirit. Who sins you forgive are forgiven them…

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked …for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.

The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Jn 20:19 -23

Recall the setting for this Gospel account. The first day of the week, is the Sunday after Jesus’ crucifixion. It is the evening and the Apostles are hiding in the Upper Room, where the Last Supper took place. Having seen their Leader, in whom they trusted, and from whom they expected victory and freedom, falsely accused, beaten, and publicly executed by crucifixion, they are afraid.

The Risen Jesus passes through the locked door and stands in their midst. He encourages them, “Peace be with you.” But He is not just coming to calm their fears. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” This is John’s version of the “Great Commission.” Jesus shares His mission with the Apostles. So that they might carry on Jesus’ work, He breathes on them and sends forth His Holy Spirit. “Receive the Holy Spirit…”

And what is Jesus’ work or mission, which they now must continue? “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and who sins you retain are retained.” Jesus was sent by the Father to liberate mankind from bondage to sin. Because sin is an offense against God, only God can forgive sin. So Jesus empowers the Apostles with the Holy Spirit. Commanded by Jesus Christ, and filled with the Spirit, the Apostles will carry on this mission of freeing the world from the horrors of sin.

Reflection

The Church, established by Christ, and built on the Apostles, continues this mission until the end of the world. Before returning to the Father, Jesus promised that He would remain with His followers forever. (Matt 28:20, Jn 14:18) He does this in and through the Church by the mystery and power of the Holy Spirit. On Pentecost, we celebrate the birthday of the Church.

Activity

I am the door

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

John 10:7-10

This gospel is from John chapter 10, which is sometimes called the “Good Shepherd Discourse.” In the lines that come after this excerpt, Jesus explicitly says “I am the Good Shepherd.” This self-proclamation would have been important to the Jews of Jesus’ time. For one thing, the people were very familiar with sheep and shepherds. Jesus was speaking to them with imagery that was relevant and made sense to them. More importantly, for the Israelites, there was connection between shepherding and leading God’s People. King David, the great Israelite king, was first a shepherd. The prophets had strong condemnations for shepherds who lead the people of God astray. The Old Testament foretold a a “good” shepherd who would lead the people back to God- protecting them, guiding them, providing for them.

But this in these lines from John’s gospel, Jesus does not call Himself “the Good Shepherd,” that comes later. Here, He calls himself the “door” or in other translations, the “gate.” How is Jesus a gate?

I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

There is one mediator between God and man. That is Jesus Christ. There is one, and only one savior. That is Jesus Christ.

Take notice, He is not the “gate keeper” or “door opener.” To live fully and abundantly, it is not enough that He open the door. For He tells us, that we must enter into and through Him.

Reflection

The Church is the “Mystical Body of Christ.” To enjoy salvation, and the fruits of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, to have life and have it abundantly, we must enter into His Body- the Church, and then we may draw our life from Him.

Activity

Watch this video to learn more about shepherding

As the Father has sent me, so I send you

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

John 20:19-23

In this gospel story of John’s we learn something important about the nature of God. God sends, or commissions, others. Some people have an idea of a God who is so complete and perfect and powerful in Himself that He has no need to be involved with others. Some think of Him as this creator who made the world and everything in it, and then sat back and removed Himself from the activities or natural processes of creation. But Jesus reveals that God is a Father, a personal God, who reaches out to creation.

St Paul tells us, “In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son…to redeem those who were under the law,” (Gal 4:4-6) Early in John’s gospel, we read that God sent his Son that all who believe in Him might have eternal life.(John 3:16)

At the Last Supper we learn that not only was Jesus sent by the Father, but now, He in turn is sending His Apostles. The word “apostle,” comes from the Greek words for “sending forth” and “messenger.” Jesus prays to the Father, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”(Jn 17:18) And He knows that just as He was rejected by the world, so will they be. But still He sends them with the mission that He, Himself had received: That God might be known and believed in.

This gospel passage takes place the first evening of the resurrection day. Jesus appears to His apostles and He says, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” But first two times He says, “Peace be with you.” This is at the same time, an offer of peace, and a command. They must not fear or worry. And to strengthen them, and to give them the power that they need, “He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.”

The Father not only sent His only Son that all might have life in Him. The Son, Jesus Christ, established a Church, founded on the Apostles to carry on that mission.

Reflect

At the very moment when Jesus commissions the apostles to carry on His work and to bring others to knowledge of God, He gives them the special power to forgive sins. Being able to forgive sins is something that only God can do, yet here, Jesus clearly shares this power with His apostles. As the first priests of the Church they will guard this power and hand it on through the Church in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Activity

This is a cool Sacrament of Reconciliation crossword puzzle:

https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/view/36885504/reconciliation-crossword-puzzle-catholic-mom

He saw and believed

Now on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. so she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved and said to them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Peter then came bout with the other disciple, …they both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came…and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. The the other disciple who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not know the Scripture that he must rise from the dead.

John 20:1-10

“He saw and believed.” In this Gospel account, John sees the empty tomb and the discarded burial cloths, and believes.

Even before this takes place, John loved Jesus. He respected Him. He left his father and their family business of fishing to follow Him. And unlike the other disciples, he did not abandon Jesus as Jesus suffered on the cross. But in this story, John tells his readers that it is the empty tomb, the evidence that Jesus had arisen from the dead, that caused John to believe. Furthermore, John admits that neither he, nor the older Peter, even understood the Scripture until the Resurrection.

What does this mean? It means that these two disciples, so close to Our Lord, did not believe Jesus or understand all that the Scripture had foretold about Him.

Jesus had revealed to them who He was and that the Jewish Scripture were fulfilled in Him. Presumably Peter and John accepted this, because they continued to follow Him. Peter had confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, “the Son of the living God.”(Matt 16:16) So when John says that it was only on seeing the empty tomb that they came to understand and believe, what is he talking about?

What they had not believed and understood was that Jesus came to overturn the reign of sin and death. God is Lord of life and He never intended suffering or death. When Adam and Eve committed the first sin, they brought pain, suffering, and death into creation. The Son of God became man liberate man and all of creation from the power of sin and death and God’s Kingdom of life and love might flourish. The empty tomb was the evidence that He was victorious.

For Reflection

Do you believe that Jesus has power over sin and death? If so, ask for his help with any sin that you struggle with.

Activity

For a beautiful printable coloring page go to http://www.supercoloring.com/pages/empty-tomb

For a fun paper mache tomb activity go to https://birmingham.citymomsblog.com/holidays-and-seasons/easter-lessons-mom/

Hosanna to the Son of David

And when they drew near to Jerusalem…Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If any one says anything to you, you shall say, The Lord has need of them,’ and he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble , and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed the…And most of the crowd spread their garments on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him, and that followed him shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who come in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the Highest!

Matt 21:1-11

All that Jesus has said and done on his path to Jerusalem has been designed to alert the Israelites that He is the Messiah, the new king sent by God to deliver God’s People.

Remember that the Israelites are God’s chosen people. A people whom God had formed, saved from slavery, spoken to, given the law to and provided for. They had once been a mighty kingdom. But for almost 1000 years, they were divided, overcome by more powerful kingdoms, driven into exile and ruled by foreigners. Still, many held on to the hope that God would never abandon them. They believed that He would send a Messiah who would deliver them.

Jerusalem had been the epicenter of the Israelite kingdom. The place of true worship and the city of its kings. Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem is an emphatic signal for the Jewish people that Jesus is the long awaited Hope of Israel. Just before this story in Matthew’s Gospel, Matthew tells of a woman who anoints Jesus’ head with costly oil. In the Jewish tradition, the king’s head was anointed with oil as a sign that this was the man chosen by God to rule the people. In this story, Matthew points out that by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus is the king that had been promised by the prophets Isaiah and Zechariah. Even the crowd’s response reveals Jesus as the new king. They call Him Son of David, linking Him to the mighty King David. They greet Him with psalms of praise that had been prayed by the Israelites for a thousand years. They welcome Him in the same way that they had welcomed their kings of old, throwing their cloaks on the ground before Him and waving palms.

Let us watch throughout this Holy Week and see how He assumes His throne.

Unbind him and let him go

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him;
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Jesus said to her,
Your brother will rise.”
Martha said, “I know he will rise,in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life ; whoever believes in me, even if he dies will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me, will never die.”
He cried out in a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out,
tied hand and foot with burial bands,
and his face was wrapped in a cloth.
So Jesus said to them,
“Untie him and let him go
.”

-John 11:17, 20, 23-25,43-44

Jesus continues his march to Jerusalem where he will allow himself to be convicted, scouraged and crucified. Raising Lazarus from the dead is actually the last of Jesus’ miracles before his crucifixion.

In fact, if you read on in John’s Gospel, you will find that by raising Lazarus from the dead, He so enfuriates the Jewish leaders that they begin to plot the death of Jesus.

In this story we have a bit of an allegory for the whole of Jesus’ mission. What does Jesus do? He resurrects a man to life who has been dead for 4 days. What does it cost Him? He sparks the furry of his enemies and they make plans to kill Him. Jesus liberates Lazarus from death and the tomb and in exchange, He boldly approaches his own self-sacrificing death.

For Reflection

We have eternal life because Jesus died for us. He died that we might live free, unafraid, and happy with Him forever.

To Do

There are lots of fun Lazarus crafts and games online if you look. The one I thought was coolest requires at least three people and two sheets. One player wraps the other two up in a sheet. Once they are both secured in the sheet, it’s a race to see who can escape first.

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened

As Jesus passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth.

Jesus spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with clay, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Silo’am (which means Sent.) So he went and washed and came back seeing. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, “Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he”; others said, “No, but he is like him.” He said “I am the man.”

John 9:1, 6-9

This excerpt from John’s Gospel takes place as Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem. There, he will be crucified and will give his life for the redemption of the world. Several of the events that occur and the encounters that Jesus has as he makes this journey fulfill the prophecies of Isaiah from about 700 years before the Incarnation. Isaiah proclaims, “Behold, your God will come…He will come and save you. The the eyes of the blind shall be opened…(Is 35:4-5)” Isaiah continues to list the wonderful signs that will accompany God’s salvation. Throughout the gospels, Jesus shows himself to be the one foretold by the prophets. This story is just one of many such episodes.

It might seem strange how Jesus chooses to heal this man. What does He do? He spits on the ground. He makes a muddy, clay mixture and smears it on the man’s eyes. Surely, as God, Jesus could have come up with a more hygienic and palatable way to restore the man’s sight! And yet, this is what Jesus does, so we must think about why He would do such a thing.

First, recall the creation account from Genesis. God makes man from dust of the ground. Now consider saliva. Saliva is over 95% water. Also, in this case, the water comes from the body of Jesus. The Church uses water in Baptism. So, in the Scriptures, man is created from the dust of the earth, and in Baptism, men and women are recreated- freed from sin, and made children of God.

In this story, Jesus is signaling that His mission is to “recreate.” He is the one whom the prophets promised would be sent to make God present among the people and to restore what was lost by sin.

For Reflection

What does it mean that Jesus has come to “recreate”? Does creation need to be redone or fixed? Do we believe that Jesus has the mission and power to do this? How is this work continued now that He has ascended to Heaven?

Activity

At Baptism, you were given new life in Christ. Find your Baptsimal certificate. Read it over. Mark the date of your Baptism on your calendar. Thank God and your parents for the gift of your Baptism.

If you knew the gift of God…

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there.
Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.
It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.
Jesus said to her,
“Give me a drink.”
His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.
The Samaritan woman said to him,
“How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
—For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—
Jesus answered and said to her,
“If you knew the gift of God
and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘
you would have asked him
and he would have given you living water.”

-John 4:4-10

It is a great mystery that God became man.

The Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Son, in an act of obedient love, gave up all the majesty, power, and glory of God to take on a human nature. He came into the world as a poor, tiny child, who would eventually be imprisoned, beaten, and crucified.

In this gospel reading from John, we are invited to contemplate, once again, the utter humility and giftedness of God the Son. Jesus is “tired from his journey.” God is tired and thirsty. The Word of God, through whom the seas and the entire universe was created, asks for a drink.

The woman balks at this idea, because “Jews used nothing in common with Samaritans.” This was because the Jews looked down on the Samaritans. Though they both traced their heritage back to Jacob, the Samaritans had intermarried with pagans and adopted some of the pagan traditions. Jesus responds, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you ‘give me a drink’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.

Jesus’ “living water” is his own life, poured out for us. He did this once and for all on the Cross. Each time the Church baptizes a person, Jesus’ living water is again poured out. It cleanses the soul and makes a new creation. The baptized is given a new life in Christ that he/she may enjoy for all eternity.

For Reflection

God will never force us to love him and serve him. It is our free will choice. He comes to us in humility and invites us into a relationship, just as he did with the Samaritan woman.

Activity

Look for an opportunity to cheerfully serve another person. This could be something as simple as getting a drink for a younger sibling who cannot reach the cups, or offering to help a parent do the dishes. Do one small activity of service this day, and offer it to Jesus.

Have I been with you all this time, and you still do not know me?

Jesus said to [Thomas], I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father and we shall be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? he who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells inme does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me…”

John 14: 6-11

What is at the core of being Catholic? Why were we Baptized? Why do we go to Mass? Follow the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes? Why do memorize all those wonderful old prayers?

At the center of our Catholic Faith, is a person, the Person- Jesus Christ! He is the reason for all that we do and all that we believe. Above all to be Catholic is to be in a relationship with Jesus, and through that relationship to be a beloved child of the almighty God and Father of all.

For Reflection

Do I have a relationship with Jesus? Do I try to know Him and talk with Him?

Challenge

Visit a Catholic Church where Jesus is present in the Eucharist outside of mass time. Say to Him- “I know that you are real. I know that you see me and know me. I would like to know you.”