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Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Easter Story from the Gospel of St. John

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church - Tucson, AZ

Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away, so she ran off to Simon Peter and the other disciple (the one Jesus loved) and told them, "The Lord has been taken from the tomb! We don't know where they have put him!" At that, Peter and the other disciple started out on their way toward the tomb. They were running side by side, but then the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He did not enter but bent down to peer in and saw the wrappings lying on the ground. Presently, Simon Peter came along behind him and entered the tomb. He observed the wrappings on the ground and saw the piece of cloth which had covered the head not lying with the wrappings, but rolled up in place by itself. Then the disciple who had arrived first at the tomb went in. He saw and believed. (Remember as yet they did not understand the Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) With this, the disciples went back home.

Mission in the Sun - DeGrazia Museum, Tucson, AZ

Meanwhile Mary stood weeping beside the tomb. Even as she wept, she stopped to peer inside, and there she saw two angles in dazzling robes. One was seated at the head and the other at the foot of the place where Jesus' body had lain.

"Woman," they asked her, "why are you weeping?" She answered them, "Because the Lord has been taken away, and I do not know where they have put him." She had no sooner said this than she turned around and caught sight of Jesus standing there. But she did not know him. "Woman," he asked her, "why are you weeping? Who is it you are looking for?" She supposed he was the gardener, so she said, "Sir, if you are the one who carried him off, tell me where you have laid him and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!"She turned to him and said (in Hebrew), "Rabbouni!" (meaning "Teacher").

Jesus then said: "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Rather, go to my brothers and tell them "I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God!"

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples. "I have seen the Lord!" she announced. Then she reported what he had said to her.

Chapel of the Holy Cross - Sedona, AZ

John 20:1-18 "The New American Bible", Thomas Nelson Publishers, New York, 1983, pages 1172-1173

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Sean & McGillicuddy Trick the Easter Bunny
by Chuck & Victor

One bright sunny day in Leprechaun Land, Sean, McGillicuddy and Armagh were sitting on the playground talking. "Guess what?" said Armagh "Tomorrow is Easter." "What's Easter?" asked both Sean and McGillicuddy. Since the boys didn't know anything about Easter, Armagh decided that she might pull a little joke on them. "Well," she explained, "Easter is when the Easter Bunny comes hopping around Leprechaun Land with his basket of Easter eggs. If you want to get some Easter eggs, you have to set up a trap to catch the Easter Bunny."

Sean and McGillicuddy thought for a moment. "We should start now if we want to get Easter eggs." McGillicuddy declared. He and Sean said goodbye to Armagh and left.

"Those goof balls crack me up," Armagh said laughing to herself, " everyone knows there's no such thing as the Easter Bunny."

Later that night, Sean and McGillicuddy had finished their trap. They tied a rope to a tree and tied the other end to a net on the ground that was covered by leaves. They placed a carrot in the center of the trap. Soon after they fell asleep, they woke up to hear a hopping sound outside. They both snuck out of their houses and darted behind a tree so the Easter Bunny wouldn't see them.

The Easter Bunny saw the carrot, and looked down at his growling stomach. "All this Easter business is making me hungry," he said to himself," I think I can take a break to enjoy a little snack." He hopped over to grab the carrot. Suddenly, the net gave way under his feet and he soon found himself trapped, dangling above the ground.

Sean and McGillicuddy jumped out from their hiding place and started celebrating. "We caught him! We caught him!" they sang out loud.

It just so happened that the Leprechaun King was out for his nightly stroll. He saw Sean and McGillicuddy dancing around something caught in a net above the ground. He decided to get to the bottom of this. "Sean, McGillicuddy! What are you two doing outside past your bedtimes? And what is trapped in that net?" He peered inside. "Why is the Easter Bunny caught in this net? You lads have some serious explaining to do!" Sean and McGillicuddy explained that Armagh had told them to trap the Easter Bunny in order to get eggs for Easter. "Well, this is very serious," the Leprechaun King said," I'll explain this to the Fairy Queen so she can take care of Armagh. As for you two," he pointed to Sean and McGillicuddy," You will assist the Easter Bunny and help him hide eggs tonight, and you will do it as rabbits yourselves." With his great leprechaun magic, the King turned Sean and McGillicuddy into little bunnies.

Then they went out into the night to help the Easter Bunny deliver eggs. When they were done, the spell wore off and they became leprechauns again. They went back to their houses and went to bed just as the sun was starting to rise. Several minutes later, Sean and McGillicudy's parents walked into their rooms to wake them up for church. The parents were unaware of the events that happened the night before. They couldn't figure out why Sean and McGillicuddy were so tired. The parents decided that both boys weren't getting enough sleep, so they made their bedtimes earlier.

When the Fairy Queen was informed about Armagh, she decided that Armagh's punishment would be to help the Easter Bunny make chocolate eggs and other treats for the following Easter. Armagh was dumbfounded at the fact that the Easter Bunny was real.

As for Sean and McGillicuddy, they had learned their lesson and were going to be good little leprechauns from that time on and not listen to deceptive little fairies like Armagh.

Copyright (c) 2006 by Charles Nugent
All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced, in any media, without the express written consent of the copyright holder.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Palm Sunday
by Chuck

Palm Sunday is the sixth Sunday in Lent and the Sunday before Easter. It is celebrated in all major Christian churches - Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox. In popular parlance it is called Palm Sunday because it commemorates the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. The Gospels describe how the crowds lined the route, spread palm branches on the road and waved palm leaves in their hands enthusiastically as Jesus rode in on his donkey. Hence, the name Palm Sunday.

However, until 1970 the official name of this day in the Roman Catholic Church was the Second Sunday of the Passion. In 1970 the the Roman Catholic Church changed the official name to Passion Sunday which has caused confusion for those who were used to referring to the fifth Sunday in Lent as Passion Sunday (that Sunday is now officially called the fifth Sunday of Lent). But, for the average Christian, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, this day is still known as Palm Sunday.

In addition to palm trees being common in the Mediterranean world and its leaves a logical material to cover a dusty road, palm leaves were also a symbol of victory and triumph in the ancient world. The cheering crowds along the road gave evidence to the effectiveness of Jesus' message and the large following he had attracted. It is no wonder that the religious and political establishment were concerned about his popularity and the potential threat to their earthly power that it represented. However, Jesus' kingdom was not of this earth and he was not seeking earthly power. While his followers hailed his entry into Jerusalem with palm leaves which symbolized triumph and victory, Jesus himself elected to be borne on the back of a humble donkey rather than a horse. The horse is a powerful animal that was used in war. The horse represented conquest and power. Throughout history horses were the preferred means of travel for the rich and powerful. The donkey, however, is puny compared to the horse and is a simple beast of burden used by the common masses. As Christ repeatedly stated, his kingdom was not of this world but rather that of heaven. He urged his followers to focus on and prepare for eternal life in heaven, not political change on earth.

The memory of Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem just before his crucifixion was kept alive and celebrated from the earliest days by the Church in Jerusalem. The celebration included re-enactments of the Lord's triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the the waving of palms. The custom gradually spread to other churches in the eastern Mediterranean, reaching Constantinople (modern day Istanbul, Turkey), capital of the Roman Empire in the east, by the fifth century. In time the celebration spread throughout the Church and was retained by many Protestant churches following the Reformation. In areas where palms were not available, people used branches from local trees that bloomed in the spring. Today, modern transportation enables churches throughout the world to easily obtain and distribute palms on this day.

In many Orthodox Churches Palm Sunday is referred to as Entry into Jerusalem. Due to the fact that for religious purposes many of these churches use the Julian rather than the Gregorian calendar, this date, like that of other religious holidays is usually a week or more later than their counterparts in the Western Christianity. However, just like western churches, Entry into Jerusalem or Palm Sunday is celebrated with the distribution of palms or branches from local trees and marks the beginning of Holy Week. These churches also celebrate the day before Palm Sunday as Lazarus Saturday where they commemorate the raising of Lazarus from the dead by Jesus. On Lazarus Saturday many of the faithful spend time weaving the palms into crosses for distribution the next day. This custom weaving of palms into crosses can also be found in many Protestant Churches and, if one looks around a Catholic Church they will see that many of their fellow participants in the mass have woven the palm branch they received upon entering the church into a cross.

In Roman Catholic Churches in America palm leaves are distributed to the congregation as they enter the church. There are two Gospel readings on this, Passion (Palm) Sunday with the first being read at the start of the Mass. The congregation then holds up their palm leaves and the priest blesses them. Following the Epistle, the Passion Story from the Gospel according to St. Matthew is read. This is a long reading (Matthew 26:14 – 27:66) with sections divided among three or four readers and parts for the congregation. We again hear the story of Jesus' betrayal, capture, trial, torture, crucifixion, death and burial. The congregation takes the palm leaves home where they are kept as a reminder of the Gospel message of the passion. The palms are collected by the Church just before the beginning of Lent and burned to produce the ashes used on Ash Wednesday.