Tag Archives: Easter

Why did Jesus rise from the dead?

April 18, 2019

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Jesus Risen, The Resurrection

After Jesus died and his body was placed in the tomb, he could have ascended to heaven without appearing to anyone. But Jesus rose and he appeared to his disciples, and he did so for a number of very important reasons.

Triumph and Victory. The Resurrection was emphatic proof that Jesus had decisively and convincingly conquered sin and death.

Glorification. God raised Jesus to glorify him. God was pleased that Jesus had become obedient, even unto death on the Cross; and to praise him, God greatly exalted him with the name above every other name (see Phil 2:8,9). Furthermore, the Father bestowed additional glory upon his Son by exalting him with a place at his right hand (Acts 2:33).

Fulfillment. Jesus had foretold that he would rise from the dead: “And three days after his death he will rise” (Mk 9:31; see also Mt 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; Mk 8:31; 10:34; Lk 9:22; 18:33). When Jesus rose, he proved that all he had promised was reliable and true.

Reconciliation. The disciples estranged themselves from Jesus when they fled and abandoned their Master at the time of his arrest (see Mt 26:56 and Mk 14:50). Moreover, they did not testify on his behalf at his trial, were absent during the crucifixion, and when it came to being faithful friends, they were miserable failures. Jesus rose so he could forgive them and reestablish a positive relationship with them. Reconciliation was such an urgent necessity that only moments after his Resurrection, Jesus appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you” (Lk 24:36; Jn 20:19,21,26), words that are tantamount to “I forgive you.”

Teaching and Re-instruction. The disciples were still confused about Jesus’ true identity. “They doubted” (Mt 28:17). Jesus rose and appeared to Cleopas and Simeon on the road to Emmaus to reinterpret for them all that referred to him in the scriptures (Lk 24:27; see also Lk 24:45). For forty days Jesus spoke to them about the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3b).

Faith-Strengthening. After Jesus died, the faith of his disciples continued to waver. Seeing is believing! The risen Jesus appeared in the Upper Room and said, “Look at my hands and my feet” (Lk 24:39) to confirm and strengthen their faith. Jesus showed himself to Thomas (Jn 20:27) so that, with faith strengthened, he could make his profession of faith, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28). “For many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem” (Acts 13:31; see also Acts 10:41 and 1 Cor 15:5-8).

Commissioning. Jesus rose to commission his disciples. He told them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15); “make disciples of all nations,” “baptizing them,” and “teaching them” (Mt 28:19,20). He also instructed Peter [and the others] to “Feed my lambs” (Jn 21:15), “tend my sheep” (Jn 21:16), and “feed my sheep” (Jn 21:17).

Reassurance. Jesus rose so that he could reassure his disciples that even though he would ascend to heaven and be physically absent, he would always be their constant companion: “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20b).

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Laetare Sunday: The Fourth Sunday of Lent

March 29, 2019

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Rose in Stained GlassA Joyful Term. Laetare is a Latin term for joy, rejoicing, or gladness. The Entrance Antiphon sets the mood. It begins, “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all you who were mourning; exalt” (see Is 66:10).

A Joyful Break. Lent is a somber, penitential season. It is unpleasant to spend forty days concentrating on our sinfulness. As we examine our consciences, it is sad and humbling to count the number of sins that we have committed. The process can be demoralizing. Laetare Sunday is supposed to be a bright and happy occasion, a one-day breather, not dwelling so much upon our sinfulness but upon the joyful promise of God’s mercy.

Joyful Progress. Laetare Sunday is the Fourth Sunday of Lent, roughly the midpoint of the season. Three and a half weeks are completed and only three weeks remain. This means that our Lenten disciplines, the fasting, abstinence, self-denial, and other rigors are over half completed, and that the end of our self-mortification is in sight.

A Joyful Outlook. It is uplifting to know that Easter Sunday is only three weeks from today.

A Joyful Exception. “During Lent, it is not permitted to decorate the altar with flowers” (Roman Missal, 70), but Laetare Sunday is an exception to this rule. On that day “the altar may be decorated with flowers” (Roman Missal, 106); the liturgical color is violet, but the color rose may be used; and the music typically is more subdued, but the use of instruments and more upbeat melodies is appropriate.

Joyful Orations. The Collect begins with the joyful news that the human race is reconciled to God, and it mentions the “solemn celebrations to come,” the joyous celebration of the Triduum, the Institution of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday, salvation and redemption on Good Friday, and the Resurrection on Easter, all reasons for joy. The Prayer over the Offerings states, “We place before you with joy these offerings which bring about an eternal remedy,” everlasting life in heaven with God. The Communion Antiphon repeats the joyful theme, “You must rejoice, my son, for your brother was dead and has come to life” (Lk 15:32). The Prayer after Communion makes the joyful observation that God enlightens everyone who comes into this world.

Joyful Scripture Readings. The first reading from Joshua recounts a joyful moment in the history of Israel when the forty year sojourn in the desert was over and they were about to cross over into the Promised Land (Jos 5:9a,10-12). The Responsorial Psalm says, “Look to him that you may be radiant with joy” (Ps 34:6a), and gives multiple reasons for joy: God listens to our prayers, delivers us from our fears, and saves us from distress. In the second reading St. Paul makes mention of two joyful realities, how through Christ we have been made into a new creation (2 Cor 5:17) and our trespasses are no longer counted against us (2 Cor 5:19).

A Joyful Gospel. The Parable of the Forgiving Father is a joyful description of the mercy of God. It should bring us great joy to know that as the father welcomed the sinful son, so God welcomes us when we go to him, and the way that the father embraced the son is the way that God embraces us, even after we have failed (Lk 15:20). It is reason for celebration and rejoicing when the dead sinner comes to life again (Lk 15:24,32).

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Easter Alleluias from the Mouths of Babes

April 1, 2018

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When I wrote about my Triduum reflection five years ago, I spoke about Easter Vigil and the unexpected death of my Father -in -law. This year we missed the Easter Vigil and went instead to an early morning Easter Mass.

The Vigil is filled with mystery and light and darkness and new Catholics coming into the church. It is a beautiful experience and if you have never attended a Vigil – you should!  The Easter Morning Mass however seemed to bring a different sense of hope.

As we drove to Mass both my husband and I reflected on the five years without his Dad and the upcoming one year anniversary of his Mother’s passing.

The Easter Sequence brought me words to ponder about life and death as the choir sang:

Death and life fought bitterly for this wonderous victory.

The Lord of Life now reigns on high. Alleluia!

But the greatest sign of love, life and hope that I heard at Mass was not from the priest or the Choir.  The parish was full of families with children dressed in their Easter best. A baby in front of me cooed and as if on cue a child from across the sanctuary babbled.  Soon it seemed to be a choir of babies cooing, babbling and singing from all corners of the church (and not a one of them crying).

Really, it was like one babe calling out to another and they were singing praises to God!

O LORD, our Lord,

how awesome is your name through all the earth!

I will sing of your majesty above the heavens

with the mouths of babes and infants.

Psalm 8:2-3

 

The only time I did not hear these children was when the choir sang the Hallelujah chorus  from Handel’s Messiah.  I am not sure which was more beautiful.

The sounds of these children made me smile and helped me remember that Easter is about new life no matter our age and we get to be born into the newness every Easter and every day.

That is the Easter story and we are Easter people!

Alleluia! Alleluia!

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Why did Jesus rise from the dead?

April 14, 2017

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Resurrection

After Jesus died and his body was placed in the tomb, he could have ascended to heaven without appearing to anyone.  But Jesus rose and he appeared to his disciples, and he did so for a number of very important reasons.

Triumph and Victory.  The Resurrection was emphatic proof that Jesus had decisively and convincingly conquered sin and death.

Glorification.  God raised Jesus to glorify him.  God was pleased that Jesus had become obedient, even unto death on the Cross, and to praise him, God greatly exalted him with the name above every other name (see Phil 2:8,9).  Furthermore, the Father bestowed additional glory upon his Son by exalting him with a place at his right hand (Acts 2:33).

Fulfillment.  Jesus had foretold that he would rise from the dead:  “And three days after his death he will rise” (Mk 9:31; see also Mt 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; Mk 8:31; 10:34; Lk 9:22; 18:33).  When Jesus rose, he proved that all that he had promised was reliable and true.

Reconciliation.  The disciples estranged themselves from Jesus when they fled and abandoned their Master at the time of his arrest (see Mt 26:56 and Mk 14:50).  Moreover, they did not testify on his behalf at his trial, were absent during the crucifixion, and when it came to being faithful friends, they were miserable failures.  Jesus rose so he could forgive them and reestablish a positive relationship with them.  Reconciliation was such an urgent necessity that only moments after his Resurrection, Jesus appeared to them and said,   “Peace be with you” (Lk 24:36; Jn 20:19,21,26), words that are tantamount to “I forgive you.”

Teaching and Re-instruction.  The disciples were still confused about Jesus’ true identity.  “They doubted” (Mt 28:17).  Jesus rose and appeared to Cleopas and Simeon on the road to Emmaus to reinterpret for them all that referred to him in the scriptures (Lk 24:27; see also Lk 24:45).  For forty days Jesus spoke to them about the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3b).

Faith-Strengthening.  After Jesus died, the faith of his disciples continued to waver.  Seeing is believing!  The risen Jesus appeared in the Upper Room and said, “Look at my hands and my feet” (Lk 24:39) to confirm and strengthen their faith.  Jesus showed himself to Thomas (Jn 20:27) so that, with faith strengthened, he could make his profession of faith, “My Lord and my God” (Jn 20:28).  “For many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem” (Acts 13:31; see also Acts 10:41 and 1 Cor 15:5-8).

Commissioning.  Jesus rose to commission his disciples. He told them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15); “make disciples of all nations,” “baptizing them,” and “teaching them” (Mt 28:19,20).  He also instructed Peter [and the others] to “Feed my lambs” (Jn 21:15), “tend my sheep” (Jn 21:16), and “feed my sheep” (Jn 21:17).

Reassurance.  Jesus rose so that he could reassure his disciples that even though he would ascend to heaven and be physically absent, he would always be their constant companion:  “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20b).

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Prayer for the Sacred Paschal Triduum

April 7, 2017

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Resurrection

The three days of the Sacred Paschal Triduum are the three holiest days of the year:  Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter.  They celebrate the Paschal Mystery of our Lord Jesus Christ, the central mysteries of our faith, both the Passion, his suffering and death, and the Resurrection, his glorious triumph over sin and the grave.

Every day is a day for prayer, but the Triduum stands above all other days as three special days for prayer.  It is a time to enter these profound mysteries.  There are two principle ways to pray during this time, communal liturgical prayer at church and personal private prayer, and both are highly recommended.

There are three sacred liturgies over these days:  the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday evening, the Passion of our Lord on Good Friday, and the Resurrection of the Lord, first celebrated at the Easter Vigil and then also at the Masses on Easter Sunday morning.  If there ever was a time to go to church to pray, it is on these three days.  It is extremely important to make prayerful participation in these liturgies a top spiritual priority.

The other indispensable way to pray during these three days is personal private prayer.  Our lives are so hectic.  There are so many things to do and so many places to go.  And our lives are so noisy.  We talk, talk, talk, and the noise is amplified by television, radio, and all sorts of music media.  If there ever was a time to be silent and still, it is on these three days.   Turn off the TV or radio.  Set the gadgets aside.  Reserve the time.  Find a quiet place.  Center yourself.  Focus on God and listen, listen, listen.

There are a number of other special ways to prayerfully participate in the Triduum.  On Holy Thursday, at the conclusion of Mass, the Blessed Sacrament is carried in procession through the church and then transferred to another place where it is reposed, so one option is to spend a period of time in silent adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.  During the Last Supper Jesus gave his final words of instruction to his disciples, so it would be timely to reflect upon his Last Supper Discourse, John 13:31 to 16:33.  After teaching the disciples, Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and prayed, so it would be an opportune time to ponder the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus, John 17:1-26.  After the Last Supper Jesus went to Gethsemane, so it would be appropriate to pray the First Sorrowful Mystery, the Agony in the Garden.  Finally, mindful of the footwashing, it is the perfect day to pray about God’s call to humble service.

Good Friday is a solemn and somber day.  Fasting and abstinence set a prayerful tone.  The scourging at the pillar and the crowning of thorns took place on Good Friday morning, so it would be good to pray the Second and Third Sorrowful Mysteries.  Jesus hung upon the Cross for three hours, so an extended period of silent prayer between 12:00 noon and 3:00 p.m. is an excellent option.  During these three hours, or at any time on Good Friday, special ways to pray include reading the Passion, John 18:1-19:42; the completion of the Sorrowful Mysteries; the Stations of the Cross; a prayerful reading of the Suffering Servant Canticles (Is 42:1-4; 49:1-7; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12) or the seven Penitential Psalms (Ps 6; 32; 38; 51; 102, 130; 143); and to offer prayer for the Church, the world, and all those in need.  It is an ideal time to pray with a Cross, either before a crucifix or to take one in hand, to venerate it, and to gaze upon Jesus’ crucified body and to ponder the meaning of his redemptive suffering and death.

Holy Saturday is a day to keep vigil.  As Mary Magdalene kept watch at the tomb in somber silence, it is a time to remain subdued, observe the Triduum fast, and make preparation to celebrate the greatest feast of our faith, the Resurrection of the Lord.

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The Acts of the Apostles – Scripture for the Easter Season

April 6, 2016

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StLukeEaster Prominence.  The Acts of the Apostles is used at Mass during the Easter Season more than any other book of the Bible.  Excerpts from Acts serve as the first reading for every Sunday Mass from Easter Sunday to Pentecost, as well as for the first reading for every daily Mass for all seven weeks of the Easter Season.

One of a Kind.  The Acts of the Apostles is unique.  There is no other book like it in the rest of Sacred Scripture.  It is not a gospel or a letter, the two other main genres of the New Testament.  Acts is in a class by itself, and it records the history of the beginnings of the early Church.

The Ascension Dilemma.  The first generation of Christians was faced with a serious question:  now that Jesus has ascended to heaven and is no longer present on earth in physical or bodily form, where is the risen Christ to be found?  According to St. Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles, one of the primary and favored ways that the risen Christ continues to be alive, well, and present is in the community that Jesus formed, the Body of Christ, the Church.

The Risen Christ’s Fourfold Presence.  The first Christians “devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42).  The apostles taught about all that Jesus said and did, and the risen Christ is present when he is remembered and his story is told.  The communal life is the fellowship shared among believers, personal relationships based upon shared beliefs and values, work done jointly, and the companionship of fellow travelers on the spiritual pilgrimage through life; and the risen Jesus is present when his followers are together.  Christians assembled for the breaking of the bread, the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist; and the risen Christ is present in his Body and Blood.  Christians also devoted themselves to common prayer.  It may have been two or three individuals, or a family, or a group of families, and whenever Christians pray together, the risen Jesus is present in each other and in their prayer.

Witness and Miracles.  “Many wonders and signs were done through the apostles” (Acts 2:43; see Acts 5:12).  The apostles gave heroic witness, and the risen Christ was present in their excellent example.  The apostles also worked great miracles, such as when Peter cured a lame beggar (Acts 3:1-10), healed a paralytic (Acts 9:32-34), and raised Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:36-42); and the risen Christ was present in every mighty deed that they performed.

Mutual Concern, Generosity, and Unity.  Furthermore, “All who believed … had all things in common” (Acts 2:44; see also Acts 4:32).  Christians were attentive to each other and shared with each other so that no one among them would be needy; and the risen Christ was present in their mutual concern and in their generosity.  Finally, “the community of believers was of one heart and one mind” (Acts 4:32).  Unity is a distinguishing characteristic of Christians.  Oneness of mind is a common way of thinking and shared set of core beliefs, and oneness of heart is a common love and passion for Jesus and his gospel, God and neighbor.  When the Christian community exemplifies this sort of unity, the risen Christ is present.

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The Easter Season

April 1, 2016

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EasterCandleLength.  The Easter Season is fifty days, not forty days, like Lent, or four weeks or slightly less, like Advent.  The Easter Season extends from Easter Sunday to Pentecost.  It is sometimes known as the “Festival of Weeks,” seven weeks of seven days (49 days), plus one, the fiftieth day, Pentecost.

The Octave of Easter.  The first eight days of the Easter Season are known as the Octave of Easter.  Easter is the greatest Christian feast, so great, in fact, that it cannot be celebrated adequately on a single one day.  All eight days from Easter Sunday to the Second Sunday of Easter are considered solemnities, the Church’s highest ranking feast, and each day is celebrated with festivity and joy.

The Easter Novena.  The last nine days of the Easter Season extend from Ascension Thursday to Pentecost Sunday, a novem, Latin for “nine.”  Jesus instructed his disciples “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait … [because] in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4,5).  The nine days from Ascension to Pentecost are a novena, a period of prayer before the coming of the Holy Spirit.

The Easter Liturgical Color.  The liturgical color for the Easter Season is white.  Gold is not a liturgical color, but it may be used to accent the white.  Together, they are symbols of joy and glory, as well as the Resurrection.

The Easter Liturgical Word.  The special word for the Easter Season is Alleluia.  It is used for the dismissal from Mass, and it is added to the antiphons and responses for the Liturgy of the Hours.  It is only found in the Book of Revelation (19:1,3,4,6), and it is an exclamation of great joy that means “Praise God!” the sentiment of the Easter Season.

Easter Eating.  The self-denial of Lent is set aside during the Easter Season.  It is not a time of fasting, but rather a season of celebration, a time for “a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines” (Is 25:6).  Jesus once said that “As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast” (Mk 2:19b), and because Jesus was with his disciples for forty days from his Resurrection to his Ascension (Acts 1;3), it was not a time of fasting then, and so it is not a time of fasting now.

The Major Easter Symbol.  The foremost symbol of Easter is the Christ Candle, also known as the Easter Candle or the Paschal Candle.  It represents the Risen Christ who is the Light of the World (Jn 8:12; see also 1:4-5,9  and 12:46).  The candle is given a prominent location during the Easter Season, usually in the sanctuary or somewhere in the front of the church, and after Pentecost it is moved back to its usual place.

The Easter Sacraments.  The Easter Sacraments are the Sacraments of Initiation:  Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation.  Because these sacraments are celebrated at the Easter Vigil when catechumens and candidates are welcomed into the Church, they are also featured throughout the Easter Season.  It is the preferred season to celebrate Baptisms within Sunday Mass, and the ideal time to celebrate First Holy Communion as well as Confirmation.

Easter Scripture Texts.  The gospels of the Easter Season focus on the appearances of Jesus after his Resurrection, near his tomb, in the Upper Room, on the road to Emmaus, and along the Sea of Galilee. The featured New Testament book throughout the Easter Season for both the first reading on Sundays and every weekday is the Acts of the Apostles, a powerful statement that the risen Christ remains alive and well within the Christian Community.  The second readings on the Sundays of Easter are taken from the first letter of Peter in Year A, the first letter of John in Year B, and the Book of Revelation in Year C.

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Sprouting Green Plants Symbols of Easter and the Resurrection

March 23, 2016

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RisenChristStainedGlassGreen Plant Imagery.  A sprouting or fresh new green plant is a symbol of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Scriptural Basis for the Spiritual Symbolism.  The death of Jesus is not the last word, the final end.  After Jesus spent three days in the tomb, God the Father raised him from the dead (Acts 2:32a; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30; 13:30,34,37).  His death on the Cross resulted in new life, and because an emerging green plant is new plant life, it is a symbol of the Resurrection.  Jesus suggested this imagery when he said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (Jn 12:24).

The Seed Metaphor.  The seed represents Jesus.  The planting of the seed in the ground represents the burial of Jesus in the earth in a tomb.  The seed’s germination period represents the time that Jesus spent in the tomb.  The sprout breaking through the ground, finally visible in the daylight, represents Jesus breaking past the stone that covered the entrance of his tomb, his resurrected body seen clearly at daybreak in the rays of dawning sunlight on Easter Sunday morning. The plant arrayed in beauty represents Jesus’ glorified body.  The emergent green plant represents Jesus’ victory over death and his triumphant new life.

Plant Locations.  The most common location for a green plant that represents the Resurrection is at the foot of the Cross.  Some of the droplets of blood that Jesus shed fell to the ground immediately beneath him, and the blood that flowed forth as he died is the seed of new life (see Jn 19:34), not only for Jesus himself, but for all believers, not only new spiritual life and grace on earth but also eternal life in heaven with God in glory forever (see Jn 6:54).  The other common location for new green plants is along the ground at the entrance to his empty tomb.

Plant Varieties.  A wide variety of green plants are used symbolically for this purpose:  a tuft of sprouting new green grass, a new green shoot off of a vine, unfolding green foliage on the stem of a fresh flower, or budding green leaves on a shrub or tree.

Easter Art and Decorations.  Fresh greenery is widely used decoratively on Easter and throughout the Easter Season.  Green plants and flowers frequently are positioned around the base of an Easter Cross, prominently displayed either inside the church or outdoors.  Greenery is also commonly displayed in front of the altar or the pulpit, around the Easter Candle, or elsewhere in the sanctuary, as well as in other locations throughout the church building such as entrances, gathering places, meeting halls, and office reception areas.

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Top Holy Week and Easter Movies

March 31, 2015

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he took her to a movie. when I was a bird Creative Commons

© Creative Commons

With the premier of the movie “Killing Jesus” on National Geographic Chanel receiving over 3.7 million viewers, it got me curious about what movies people watch during Holy Week and Easter.

I took a very unofficial poll with friends and family and the results were:

1. The 10 Commandments – I think most of us grew up watching this every Easter.  Charlton Heston will forever be Moses in my mind.  One response I got from a friend was:  “It always seemed to be on TV during Holy Week growing up, but our bed times were so early we never saw them get out of Egypt.” Spoiler alert – They did!

2. The Passion of the Christ – No surprise here.  An absolutely great movie and so moving.  When my husband and I saw it at the theater we weren’t able to speak for hours. It hits you so deeply. A great choice to prepare you for Good Friday.  Not family friendly for little ones though.

3. Jesus of Nazareth – Full disclosure here – this is not a movie but a mini- series so you need to put in the time commitment! Worth the effort though as one friend said, ” The kids always looked forward to the movie time with the whole family and it generated many questions and good spiritual conversations during the three days to Easter.”

4. Jesus Christ Super Star – My personal favorite, but my husband and I really like the new 2012  Live Arena Tour version, but the 1973 version is great too. The singing is amazing!

5. Godspell – A modern-day song-and-dance recreation of the Gospel of St. Matthew. I always thought this was a hippy version of the gospel.  Great songs and imagery.

6. The Prince of Egypt – Animated version. Great for kids.

7. The Greatest Story Ever Told – The title says it all – How else do you describe the life of Christ?  An epic film but you better settle in as it is 225 minutes long.

Now to some of the more unusual responses.

8. Lilies of the Field – Who can forget Sidney Poitier as a traveling handyman who becomes the answer to the prayers of nuns who wish to build a chapel in the desert. Catch this video of Sidney Poitier singing Amen.  I dare you not to smile and sing along!

9. Quo Vadis  – The movie or the Mini-series. I have never seen either but the description is: A fierce Roman general becomes infatuated with a beautiful Christian hostage and begins questioning the tyrannical leadership of the despot Emperor Nero.

10. For Greater Glory -A chronicle of the Cristeros War (1926-1929); a war by the people of Mexico against the atheistic Mexican government. Not an outright religious movie but a story of bravery and a fight for religious freedom.  Given our current events in the news lately, this is something we all need to be thinking and talking about.

11 The Robe – One of my personal favorites.  A Roman official who was present at Christ’s crucifixion wins Jesus’ garment.  He becomes tormented at the memory of the man and his death on the cross. He eventually goes on a quest to relieve his torment but find he can only find peace in Jesus.

12. Groundhog Day – This was probably the strangest response.  It is the story of a weatherman who has to relive the same day over and over again until he changes his ways. My friend commented: “This is thinking a little out of the box, and its not a religious movie, but Groundhog Day has underlying Easter-related themes.” and another said “I guess I generally like any movie that has “moral to the story.” I like to see the guys in the white hats win!” All good reasons to include it in your Easter movie list.

What is your favorite Easter and Holy Week movie?  Share it below in the comments.

Addendum – I haven’t seen the “Killing Jesus” movie yet so I can make no recommendation.  They do have an awesome website though! Explore it here.

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Mark this Ukrainian’s prayer request as urgent

May 24, 2014

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Mykola and Tania Symchych with their daughter Olenka

Mykola and Tania Symchych with their daughter Olenka

We Americans know it’s important to vote but we don’t usually experience quite the sense of urgency about elections that Ukrainians feel right now.

On Sunday, Ukraine will elect a new president and other officials while Russia, their powerful and somewhat menacing neighbor looks on. With pro-Russian separatists inciting violence in the eastern part of the country and  several regions voting for independence from Ukraine, the country doesn’t exactly have ideal conditions for free and fair elections.

The outcome of the election—whether a peaceful transition to a new government or what some fear, social and economic decline and more violence—could help determine the country’s fate.

Despite the uncertainty, my friend Mykola Symchych has hope that the elections will bring stability. His Catholic faith has something to do with that hope. On May 25 he will vote for Ukraine’s president as well as for the mayor and city council of Kiev where he, his wife, Tania, and daughter, Olenka, live.

Last Sunday, the Easter season sermon in Mykola’s church, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC),  the predominant Catholic church in the country, was preempted by his pastor’s exhortation for the congregation to be sure to vote after carefully considering the candidates.

Identifying candidates who haven’t been involved in corruption or at least seem committed to avoiding it now is challenging as corruption has been systemic in Ukrainian government. To make matters worse, corrupt officials have simply formed new parties, said Mykola, who teaches philosophy at a UGCC seminary and does research. “They’ve just changed masks but they are the same.”

Good guys and bandits

While Mykola is watching or reading the news, three-year-old Olenka points to images of politicians and public figures and asks, “Is he a bandit or not?” She already knows there are good guys and “bandits,” he said.

But while there is unrest in areas of eastern Ukraine including Donets’k and Luhans’k which have resulted in deaths, and even fears of violence as far west as Kiev, Mykola said the capital remains fairly peaceful. Prices for food and other items are higher.

As he crosses Maidan square each morning on the way to work, it’s quiet compared to a few months ago when Ukrainians held mass demonstrations against the former government, he said. “It is a memorial of people who were killed there though there is no need for rallies now.”

Mykola and his family’s Easter celebrations were a bit more somber this year because of the political situation.  The UGCC, though part of the Roman Catholic church normally celebrates Holy Week and Easter with the Orthodox on the Julian calendar instead of with Rome on the Gregorian calendar in order to align with the Russian Orthodox church.

This year however, Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox observed the holy days on the same dates, something  that occurs about every four years and could be seen as a sign that greater unity among the churches and the country is possible.  “This year we were together with all the Christians of the world and it was very pleasant,” he said

Prayer is needed

Christians around the world will be watching as Ukraine elects a new government. Mykola asks us to join Ukrainians in praying for his country.

“We want to ask God to help us make the right choice,” he said.  “It is very difficult to make the right choice. Our wisdom is very limited. God knows what is best for us so we have asked him, we have prayed to Him.”

It’s not just about the election, he added.  “All our life we have to ask God to help us. “

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