GOD IN OUR MIDST
Transformed by Easter
By Richard Rohr, O.F.M.
Christian history reaches its crescendo point in the Resurrection
of Jesus. The risen Jesus is the final revelation of the heart
of Goda God who teaches love rather than hate,
forgiveness rather than blame, nonviolence rather than violence.
Recall Jesus' encounters with his disciples after his Resurrection.
He comes to the circle of followers with whom he had spent three
years, the people closest to him who had nevertheless rejected,
betrayed and abandoned him. Following his Resurrection Jesus
has the opportunity to chastise them. And yet, in all four Gospel
accounts of the risen Christ we see that Jesus neither berates
nor blames his disciples. Indeed, Peter, who had betrayed him
three times, is given three chances to say "I love you" to his
There is nothing to be afraid of in the risen Jesus. We have
in him the perfect icon of a God who is safe and a universe
that is safe. We have a God who does not blame, does not punish,
does not threaten, does not dominate. We have a God who breathes
forgiveness. The whole biblical tradition has been moving to
this moment where God is identified with universal forgiveness.
The Resurrection of Jesus tells us that there is no victory
through domination. There is no such thing as triumph by force.
By his life, death and resurrection Jesus stops the cycle of
violence and challenges the notion of dominating power. He invites
us to relational or spiritual power, where we are not just changed
but transformed. And not transformed from the top down but from
the bottom up, not from the outside in but from the inside out.
Transformed into God.
Many of us identify more easily with the judging God we may
have encountered in childhood: the one who knows our every sin
and metes out punishments, the one we must attempt to placate
and please. Often, we are more comfortable living with a fearsome
God than a God whose love knows no bounds. But by his life,
death and resurrection Jesus challenges us to new heights through
Most of us cannot go for long without thinking a judgmental
or accusatory thought about others. So often, there is someone
we're judging, accusing, blaming. To live in the good, to live
in the love, to live without a need to judge or accusethis
is major surgery! None of us gets to that point by a nonstop
flight early in life. But when we're there, we know we're transformed.
We're free. We are at one with the risen Jesus.
Once we have a personal experience in our own life of the risen
Christ upholding us, naming us, loving us, freeing us, then
we have nothing to fear. That's how secure Christ makes usbecause
we have a reference point, we have a center point. We have received
the gift of the Spirit.
During a retreat I made some years ago, my fellow retreatants
and I were asked to list the adjectives each of us would use
to describe Jesus. My list included words such as compassionate,
self-confident, humble, forgiving. When our retreat leader brought
us back together as a group she suggested that the qualities
we had each identified represented not so much what Jesus was
like but what each of us wanted to be ourselves. Jesus is the
divine lure who invites us forward in our humanity, who entices
us into these very virtues by his own full living of them. The
qualities I had on my list are indeed qualities Jesus possessed.
But the reason we want to embrace them is because Jesus has
set the standard, the goal and the ideal for our humanity.
In Jesus we see the divine being who is also the perfect human
being. Jesus comes in a human body to show us the face of God,
who is eternally compassionate and eternally joyous, who stands
with us in our sufferings and our joys. As Christians, our vocation
is to unite with Christ crucified and Christ risen.
RICHARD ROHR, a Franciscan priest from Our
Lady of Guadalupe Province in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is the
founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque.
His newest book is
Hope Against Darkness: The Transforming Vision of Saint Francis
in an Age of Anxiety (St. Anthony
Celebrating Easter as Family
By Judith Dunlap
I recently found an old photo from my grade school days.
I knew it was an Easter picture because of the new outfits
my family members and I were wearing. The picture brought
back many memories: church visitations on Holy Thursday, solemn
and silent Good Fridays, purple-covered statues, the delight
of eating chocolate after 40 days of abstinence.
For many children today, Easter is a day to hunt eggs and
eat chocolate bunnies. For Christians it is the most important
day of the year. How can we honor the sacredness of this season?
Consider scheduling a family meeting (Palm Sunday would be
an ideal time) to decide how you will celebrate Holy Week
and Easter. Make the most of the last days of Lent by including
sacrifices, good works and prayers the family can do together.
Following are some suggestions.
Give up television for an evening; spend time playing a game
together. Drink water with simple meals; give the money saved
to the poor. Make cards for parish shut-ins. Bake bread or
have a special meal on Holy Thursday. Read Scripture: Jesus'
last days would be most appropriate. Pray the Stations of
the Cross. Spend the hours 12-3 P.M. on Good Friday together,
perhaps taking a walk, visiting a church or sitting quietly
at home. Plan to celebrate Easter Sunday by making sure everyone
is included in helping choose a favorite meal and activity
for the day.
Most important, pray together with your parish family on
Holy Thursday, Good Friday and at the Easter Vigil. Afterwards,
talk about the rituals and the week you have celebrated. Easter
is a celebration of new life. When we celebrate it as family
we have an opportunity to share that life with each other.
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The Green Mile
By Frank Frost
Where would you look for a story about an innocent man with
supernatural powers who is sentenced to death, a man whose
initials are J.C.? The New Testament, you say? Of course you're
right, but you could also be watching the movie The Green
Mile, one of the biggest video rental movies of past months.
The story is told in flashback, taking us back to 1935. Paul
Edgeworth (Tom Hanks) is the lead officer of a cellblock housing
condemned prisoners. But the pivotal character is a black
giant of a prisoner, John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan),
who is first seen escorted to the cellblock by the main antagonist,
Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchison), chanting, "Dead man walking.
Dead man walking." Coffey's arrival unleashes a battle between
the forces of good and evil, leading to an explosive climax
and a multi-layered surprise ending.
Based on the novel by Stephen King, The Green Mile
places preternatural powers in the hands of an unlikely person
in an unlikely placea convicted murderer on Death Row,
or "The Green Mile." A leisurely introduction to the characters
establishes Paul as a man of compassion and fairness who respects
his charges. Percy, on the other hand, goes out of his way
to be cruel to the two meek and remorseful prisoners whose
executions are fast approaching: John Coffey, who is naive
and gentle, and "Billy the Kid," another new prisoner who
is as violent as Coffey is gentle. The stage is set.
In one of the movie's many ironic twists, the prison warden,
a decent sort who clinically watches prisoners face death
in the electric chair, discovers that his wife has developed
a brain tumor. He bursts into tears as he tells Paul, "I don't
know how I'm going to tell my wife she is going to die." In
the course of events her life will be saved by John Coffey,
who, it turns out, is endowed with extraordinary healing powers
he uses on behalf of just about everyone except himself.
"The things that happen in this world. It's a wonder that
God allows it," says Paul, when he first learns of the horrible
crime that Coffey has been convicted of. These words take
on a new twist, however, when he suspects that J.C. is innocent
and destined to die for someone else's crime. How can God
Using visual conventions of the horror genre, screenwriter-director
Frank Darabont gives bold physical expression to spiritual
powers that in the Catholic tradition we recognize only through
their miraculous results. Coffey's powers are visualized as
the ability to absorb, or "take back," evil that has entered
a person, which he then exhales as a cloud of dark menacing
particles. King's/Darabont's definitions of heaven and hell
are also quite different from our tradition. But at bottom
the values expressed in the film serve to reinforce our belief
in justice, love and the ability of good to triumph over evil.
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AND HEROES AMONG US
By Judy Ball
Blessed Luchesio and Buonadonna
Luchesio and Buonadonna Modestini knew just what they
wanted out of life in 13th-century Tuscany: material success
and the worldly goods that flow from it. But along came
St. Francis of Assisi, whose preaching and practice so
moved the couple that they turned their lives and their
hearts toward prayer and service to the poor.
Luchesio, once a successful merchant, gave up his business.
Buonadonna, his wife, initially unsure, soon agreed they
should share their property with the needy. The couple,
whose children had died, kept only a small amount of land
for themselves; Luchesio tilled it with his own hands.
But they wished to give themselves over more fully to
God. Luchesio and Buonadonna were welcomed by St. Francis
himself into his newly established Third Order, designed
especially for laypersons, including married couples,
who wished to follow his way but without religious vows.
According to tradition, Luchesio and Buonadonna are the
first members of the Secular Franciscan Order, which thrives
to this day.
News spread about the generosity of Luchesio and Buonadonna.
The poor who came to them for help were never turned away.
Somehow, there was always enough to share. Their lives
as Secular Franciscans also called for penitential practices,
which they embraced as well.
As Luchesio neared death, Buonadonna asked him to pray
that she, his companion in life, could join him in death
as well. He prayed as requested. The husband and wifedevoted
to one another, to the poor, to Godboth died in
1260 on April 28, now observed as their feast day. Luchesio
was beatified 13 years later. Buonadonna is often called
"blessed," though the title has never been given officially.
Jim and Lois Flickinger
Like their 13th-century counterparts Luchesio and
Buonadonna, Jim and Lois Flickinger became Secular Franciscans
later in life. Raising their five children in Grand Rapids,
Michigan, came first. But once they joined the Third OrderJim
in 1994, Lois three years laterthey made up for
What drew them to embrace the Third Order, says Jim,
an attorney, was the example of St. Francis. "His life
was a combination of prayer and action." The Flickingers
are a blend of gospel and life themselves.
For Lois, the primary focus is on prayer. Sensing "spiritual
poverty" in so many people's lives, she continually finds
ways to offer opportunities for prayer and the nourishment
it brings. These include introducing and overseeing eucharistic
adoration at one of the local Catholic high schools, serving
on a retreat house board, organizing a 12-hour prayer
event on the shoreline of Lake Michigan attended by hundreds.
Jim's call to work with the poor takes him to the Balkans
to deliver medicines and equipment and to the Amazon region
of Brazil to help establish schools in the interior and
to deliver food, medicines and clothing to residents there
with leprosy. For close to five years Jim has helped coordinate
the free lunch program for the poor who congregate in
the park near his office. The food lovingly distributed
by him and volunteers is meant to sustain hearts and spirits
as well as bodies.
As Secular Franciscans together, the Flickingers have
drawn "closer to each other and to God," says Lois. "There
is no stronger bond as a couple than seeking together
to deepen your spirituality," she told Every Day Catholic.
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to this month's themes:
The following articles
are available in full text at AmericanCatholic.org:
The following products are available from St. Anthony
Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications at AmericanCatholic.org: