Evangelii Gaudium Catholic Diocese of Richmond Office for Evangelization Permission required for duplication

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1 Evangelii Gaudium 276

2 Sunday of the First Week of Easter Belief Then the other disciple, who had 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 20:8-9) Reflection What does it mean to believe? This is an important question for us to look at as we begin this Easter journey. Do I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died and rose from the dead? This is a tough question. Even the Apostles at times had a very difficult time believing in Jesus true identity as God. So what was it that finally convinced them that Jesus was the Messiah? This is a question we will break open throughout this Easter journey however; to give a short answer to the question it s the Resurrection! The Apostles came to believe in the Resurrection of their Lord the reality that Jesus defeated death and sin and rose from the depths of death s grip. We can begin to see the reality of the resurrection of our Lord take over the lives of the Apostles. The Apostles believed in Jesus mission before He died, but they still carried doubt in their hearts. However, after the Resurrection their lives were forever transformed. Their doubt was conquered with a convincing belief that Jesus was who he said He was. Before the disciples could ever go out and proclaim the truth of Christ and His mission they had to believe. They could not have gone out into the world to preach about the life of Christ and the salvation He brought if they had no belief in the Resurrection. Jesus time on earth and his time of ministry with the Apostles was building up to the summit of his mission the paschal mystery (passion, death and resurrection). Through Jesus suffering and death sin buried and we are forgiven. Through the Resurrection of his body sin and death are defeated forever. The good news is that through Christ we are no longer slaves to our sin. We are stuck in the tomb no longer. Through the resurrection there is hope to come out of the darkness. Through the resurrection we aren t afraid to come out of the tomb of our sins, our past, our hurt, and our pain. The resurrection gives us the courage to leave it all in the tomb and begin the journey out into the light with Christ. The first step out of the darkness the first step to believing is being transformed by the revelation of Christ through the reality of His resurrection. Welcome to Pascha welcome to Easter step out of the darkness and begin to walk with Christ every day. Take some time to pray with today s Gospel reading from John Chapter 20. Follow the disciples to the tomb. Ask some important questions in your prayer. Where in my life do I struggle with believing in Christ? What are things in my life that are still lying in the tomb? What does it mean to look at an empty tomb knowing the Christ is no longer there? The resurrection brings joy to our lives. Try today to allow the joy of the resurrection to take hold of your life. Take some time to write out things you are thankful for through graciousness comes joyfulness! Daily Log As you begin this Easter journey how would you describe your relationship with Christ? Do you struggle with unbelief? Explain.

3 What are some spiritual goals you would like to set as you begin this 50-day Pascha resource? Reflection Monday of the First Week of Easter Fear Then Jesus said to them, Do not be afraid. (Matthew 28:10) Yesterday we talked about the word belief and the difficulty of believing in Christ and His mission. Today we look at another important question. What is the root cause of our unbelief? If we had to sum this question up in one word it would be the word fear! Fear is a very powerful emotion. Fear of course can be good and fear can also be bad. Good fear is a fear that allows us to be prudent in our decisions, to stay away from something that might be dangerous for us. We can have a healthy fear of what harms us, physically or spiritually and avoid these things. Yet, bad fear, for lack of better words, is the type of fear that keeps us from moving forward in our life it s a fear that keeps us holding on to the past and a fear that doesn t allow us to live life to its fullest. We all know the reality of fear both good and bad. We see this reality of fear all throughout Sacred Scripture. We see fear constantly grabbing at he heels of the disciples keeping them from truly following Christ. Fear paralyzes them and prevents us from living in freedom. In today s scripture passage from Matthew Jesus approaches the disciples and says to them, Do not be afraid. What are they afraid of? The disciples at this time are still afraid of many things most importantly they are afraid for their lives. Fear is a reality for them. Yet, Jesus says to them to not be afraid. So how do we overcome fear? We hear people say this often, I overcame my fear. How? I faced it head on. Have you ever heard this? In part this is true. If we look at the story of St. Peter and his attempt to walk on water (Matt 14) we see Peter facing fear head on. It s a powerful scene of facing fear. Yet he sinks. Fear creeps back in! Do you ever feel this way? Facing our fear is one thing, but overcoming it, experiencing triumph, that s another thing. The apex of this story comes when Jesus grabs Peter by the hand and lifts him up. He lifts Peter out of his fear, his failure and together they move forward into safety. You see we can t overcome our fear on our on we need Jesus just as Peter needed Jesus. We can face fear, we can even look it in the eye, but only the Power of Jesus can destroy our fears. This is great news because we have a God who in Christ, faced fear in the face and defeated it through His death and resurrection. Thus nothing stands in the way between God and us nothing! Will life throw fear in our face, certainly, but do we have overcome it on our own, absolutely not. Jesus will say to us, as He said to the disciples, do not be afraid. Read Matthew Chapter 28 or Matthew Chapter 14 Examine yourself to see what fears you have in your life. What fears are good? What fears keep you away from sin and danger? What fears are negative and keep you away from freedom and living life to its full? If any, what fears keep you from a authentic relationship with God. Ask Christ to come speak to those fears. Pray to overcome these fears so that there is room in your heart for Jesus Christ, that He may replace your fear with love, hope and joy. Think of someone you know that is facing a difficult situation. Write them a letter of encouragement with a scripture verse on it and send it to them. Remind yourself with week of the words of Christ, Do not be afraid.

4 Daily log Take some time to carefully journal about any fears in your life that are holding you back from experiencing freedom in Christ. Don t be afraid to be honest and to face any fears. After each fear you write down, write the words of Jesus next to them, Do not be afraid. Pray each day with the fear and with the reality of Christ words. Allow Jesus to help you overcome your fears.

5 Tuesday of the First Week of Easter Holding On Jesus said to her, Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God. (John 20:17) Reflection Jesus says to Mary, stop holding on to me. Why does Jesus tell Mary Magdalene to stop holding on to Him? Should Mary not cling on to Christ as tight as possible? Have you ever held onto something so desperately that you were blinded to the fact that there was something more? This is exactly what is happening to Mary Magdalene in this passage from the Gospel of John. While Mary is a believer in the Resurrection, the Ascension (Jesus s body physically ascending into heaven) has not yet been revealed to her. Mary does not yet realize the fruit that will come once Jesus ascends to the Father. Thus she does not fully understand that the Holy Spirit will be given to them to empower them to live a life of freedom. So Mary is holding on and not letting go. What are you holding on to? What is difficult for you to let go of? Is it your past, your present, your future? Is it a sin, an unmet expectation, a wound? Is it a state of life, a person, a thing, a want or a deep desire? The list can go on forever but what is it that you have a tendency to hold on to in your life? Mary Magdalene had to understand who and what she was holding on to and she had to let go. Yes, she was holding on to Jesus but what was it that she was really holding on to? Was she holding on to fear, worry or anxiety? The image of Mary holding to Jesus is powerful we should all cling to Christ. However, in this instance her holding on was keeping Gods greater plan from taking place. Mary eventually lets go of her worry and fear and allows Christ to do his work. The great news is that we have a God who is not dead but who is alive and who desires for us to let go of the old and embrace new life. Jesus said to Mary, stop holding on and he is saying the same to us. Read the scripture passage from today in John chapter 20. Allow the image of Mary and Jesus to guide your prayer. Examine your life your heart and see if there is anything you need to let go of to your life. What is Christ saying to you? Prayer support is something we all need. Something to consider during this Easter journey is to find a person or group of people who can pray for you and you can pray for them. Think about asking someone to pray for your needs during this journey and you do the same for them. Be specific about your prayer request. Daily Log Make a let go list of things you hope by the end of this Easter season to let go of or move past

6 Wednesday of the First Week of Easter Eyes But Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, Look at us. He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them. (Acts 3:4) Reflection If we made a list of our needs, desires, and wants the list would be very lengthy. We all have needs; it s part of being human. The questions we should ask ourselves is where or whom do we go to fulfill our needs and desires? In today s passage from Acts of the Apostles we see a powerful encounter take place between a crippled man and the Apostle s Peter and John. This story takes place after the ascension of Christ and the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Peter and John now filled with the Holy Spirit are walking to the temple to pray. As they approach the temple area there is a man who has been crippled from birth. The beggar, not knowing whom Peter and John are, asks them for money as he does everyone else who walks by. It states in Acts, but Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, look at us. The crippled man paid attention to them thinking that he was going to get just what he wanted money. How often do we want something so bad that we focus on it all the time? Yet what we really need isn t the thing we are asking for. Yes, the beggar did need money to live. Because he was crippled he probably had a difficult time working. However, what he really needed wasn t even what he was asking for. He really desired to walk, to be free, to have the life he always dreamed of since childhood. However, he had subscribed to the fact that his for the rest of his life he would be a crippled. His life got altered when he encountered Jesus through the Apostles. So let s go back to Peter and John. It says they looked intently at the man. Imagine the eyes of Peter and John, filled with the Power of Christ, looking intently at the beggar. So intently did they look that they were able to know what he really needed. In a moment Peter states, I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ, rise and walk. Jesus desires to look intently into our eyes. He desires to look past what we ve been asking for into the very thing we need most. Read the passage from Acts chapter 3 again. Pray with it. Imagine yourself as the beggar. What is it that you are asking for? What is it that you really desire? Allow yourself to move past the surface into the depth of your heart and allow Jesus to look intently at you. Find a way during your day to see more of what goes on around you, but do it with mindfulness of God. Try harder to look intently at people when you talk to them; don t just hear what they are saying but be present to them look them in the eye as Jesus would. Take time away from the computer or phone to be present to others. When you re driving, turn off the music and really see the places you re driving through you will begin to notice things, like the homeless. Think of these people during your prayer and reflect on what you ve seen that day.

7 Daily Log Take some time to journal today about what specifically you need God to look intently at in your life. Make a list. Be specific. Be honest. Answer these questions: When you pray do you take time to let Jesus look intently on you? Explain. How can you allow yourself to be more present to people around you?

8 Reflection Thursday of the First Week of Easter Recognize The disciples of Jesus recounted what had taken place along the way and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:35) Today s reading from the Gospel of Luke chapter 24 is the beautiful story of Jesus encounter with two disciples on the road to Emmaus. In today s passage the two disciples are recounting their experience of encountering Jesus to the others. On their journey they encountered Jesus however, they did not recognize Him when they first met him. They didn t realize who Jesus was until later that evening when Jesus broke the bread at supper. Thus it was in the breaking of the bread, in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, that Jesus revealed himself to them and they recognized him (this would have been the first Eucharist after the Resurrection). Jesus instituted the Sacraments during his earthly ministry. Jesus life was sacramental as he was a visible sign of the Father s love to the world. John 3:16 states, For 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. Jesus lets us himself, fully present, in the Sacraments. The sacraments are crucial to our identity as Catholics. The Sacraments are not just rituals that give us an archaic feel; rather, the sacraments remind us that the Most Holy Trinity transcends time. God s love for us is eternal. Christ s sacrifice on Calvary is eternal. The breath of the Holy Spirit is eternal. And as long as the sacraments are performed on this Earth, grace will be conferred from them to us. Thus, the same way that Jesus revealed himself to the disciples thousands of years ago in the breaking of the bread is the same way he reveals himself to us today at every Mass. Do we recognize Christ presence in the Sacraments? When we recognize Jesus in the sacraments, we then begin to grasp the full picture of who Jesus is and what his mission today is about. The disciples learned this when they recognized Him in the breaking of the bread. Today we have full access to the love, grace, and person of Christ in the Sacraments. May our hearts recognize Him as He continues to reveal Himself to us. Read Luke Chapter 24. Reflect on the story of Jesus encounter with the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Spend some time this week in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. Try to attend Mass this week outside of your Sunday obligation. Invite someone (friend, family member) to Mass this week. Daily Log How have the Sacraments had an impact on your life? How can you grow more in your devotion to the Eucharist?

9 Reflection Friday of the First Week of Easter Reveal Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of the Tiberias. (John 21:1) One of the ways we begin to feel desolate in our spiritual life is when we begin to feel distant from God. Throughout the Old Testament God s people often complained that He had abandoned them. Yet this wasn t the case at all. Woven throughout the Old Testament is the reality of a God who constantly pursued and revealed Himself to His people. The New Testament, the New Covenant, is a fulfillment of this reality in its completion through Jesus Christ. In the New Testament God has revealed Himself totally through His Son Jesus. So if God has revealed himself why do we often feel like He s not there distant? After the death of Christ the disciples experienced great desolation. They feared not only for their life, but they feared that God had abandoned them. They felt distant, alone, and abandoned. Sound familiar? However, the spiritual reality they were living in was not reality at all. Jesus had stayed true to his promise when he said, I will never leave you nor abandon you. We see Jesus continuously reveal himself to the disciples after the resurrection reassuring them each time that He was with them. Today s scripture from the Gospel of John states, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples. This verse is the reality of the spiritual life. Jesus reveals himself again to us. The disciples (who were under great distress after the death of Jesus) were consoled by Christ after the resurrection as he revealed Himself again and again to them. We too have reassurance that God is not distant from us! On normal days, stressful times and even on the days we feel most distant from God he still reveals Himself to us. Just as Christ promised He would not abandon the disciples so too does He promise the same to us. Jesus promises that throughout time and eternity he will be with us. Thus Christ continues to reveal Himself to us through Sacred Scripture, the Sacraments, the Eucharist, community, nature, beauty and much more. So where do we go from here? Well, we don t have to go anywhere! We don t have to try harder to make God love us more! He already loves us and pursues us. We simply need to adopt a posture of receiving what God has already revealed to us. Allow your heart and mind to slow down a bit this Easter Season so you can receive whatever it is God has for you. Read the passage from the Gospel of John Chapter 21:1-25. Pay attention in the reading how Jesus reveals himself to the disciples. What is Jesus trying to accomplish in these conversations? What is Jesus trying to say to you in prayer? Do something special for someone today or sometime this week. Reveal the love of Christ to them by the action that you take towards them. Daily Log What are ways that you have seen God reveal Himself to you in the past? How has God revealed Himself to you lately?

10 How can you adopt a posture of receiving Gods gift of Himself to you? Reflection Saturday of the First Week of Easter Go Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15) Wow, you made it to the end of week one congratulations! If you ve made it this far then it s worth taking the journey to the end. And if you ve missed a day or two, no worries, don t give up; you can always jump right back in. Let s recap our week. Our theme for the week is out of the darkness the idea that as Christians we are called out of the darkness of the tomb and into the light of the resurrection with Christ a journey out of sin and into freedom. Each day this week we chipped away with various themes moving slowly and methodically in our prayer with Christ. Hopefully, no matter where you are in your relationship with Christ you have experienced a deeper desire to pray, listen, receive and walk with Jesus. Today we end the week with a challenge. The challenge to GO out! This is the challenge Christ gave to his disciples and it is also the challenge He gives to us. The reason this theme is early in the Pascha Journey is because go isn t just a day, but journey, a goal and a calling. But what does Christ mean when he says go? What if I m not ready to go out? These are very valid questions. In the Gospel today from Mark chapter 16 Jesus says to the disciples, Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Sounds pretty straightforward doesn t it. As we ve seen in the previous readings so far, after the resurrection Jesus continues to appear to the disciples teaching them and giving them what they need so they can carry on His mission once He ascends to the Father. At the core of Christ teaching to the disciples is the reality that he will empower them through the Holy Spirit to share the Gospel throughout the world. This is called the great commission and each synoptic Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke) contains a variation of Jesus sending the disciples out. So when Jesus says to the disciples, go it s not a suggestion, but a commandment. Were the disciples fearful, worried and doubtful yes? Did Jesus teach them, empower them and give them every thing they needed yes! Just as Jesus commanded the disciples to go out so does he command us to go out. This commandment to go wasn t just for the Apostles in the early Church just like the commandment to love wasn t just for them either. The commandment to go is part of what it means to be a Christian. We are asked to go with Jesus and love those around us and those in the world with His love. We end this week with a goal in mind. The goal for us as Christians is to be so united to Christ and empowered by him that we are open to his promptings in our life. Don t be afraid to go Jesus will give you everything you need. Read the Scripture passage today from Mark chapter 16. Pay attention to what Jesus is saying to the disciples. Imagine that you are there with them what is He saying to you? What emotions come up in your prayer? What do you need from Jesus? How can Jesus begin to empower you to go? What fears or inadequacies come up? Make a private list in your journal of people in your circle of influence (family, work etc.) that you could be sharing the love of Christ with. Pray for each of them. Pray for opportunities to share Christ love with them.

11 Daily Log Read the first reading from today in the Book of Acts 4: Meditate on the actions of Peter and John. Especially meditate on their words to the Sanhedrin in verses 19-20: Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges. It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard. Can you be as bold as them? How is Jesus calling you to be bold in your faith?

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