Why Did St. Paul Get Arrested at Philippi?

At daily Mass, we are reading the story of St. Paul’s arrival in Philippi and later of his arrest, beating, and imprisonment. It serves as a kind of metaphor for the radical nature of true Christianity and why it so perturbs many in this world. The Christian faith, its message, and the transformation it can effect can be very unsettling to a world that literally and figuratively “banks on” sin. Let’s consider this lesser- known story and see what it ought to mean for us if we take our Christian faith seriously and do not try to “tame” it.

Philippi was the first “European” city that Paul evangelized when he came across from Asia Minor. Arriving at the port of Philippi in Macedonia, Paul and Silas went right to work evangelizing. One of their first converts was Lydia, a wealthy woman from Thyatira who was a dealer in purple cloth; other converts followed.

Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally, Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks (Acts 16:16-24).

Note the heart of the problem: St. Paul, in setting the slave girl free of her demon has deprived her “owners” of the income they derived from her sad state. They were banking on her bad condition and profiting from her trouble. In the name and power of Jesus Christ, St. Paul sets her free. His action draws deep anger from the “owners.” He has rocked their world; he has touched their pocketbooks. They find the Christian message, for it is revolutionary, to be disconcerting, threatening, and deeply unsettling.

It is a threat not only to profit but to power. In having Paul and Silas arrested, they stir up the hatred and fear of others as well, accusing them not only of preaching some strange new religion but of advocating customs forbidden to Romans. The word translated here as “customs” is ἐθη (ethe) in Greek, and refers to “religious rites or forms of worship.” In De Legibus, ii. 8, Cicero wrote, “No person shall have any separate gods, or new ones; nor shall he privately worship any strange gods, unless they be publicly allowed.” While the Romans often overlooked the private worship of unapproved gods, publicly proclaiming new and unapproved deities was an occasion for dissension and controversy and was strictly forbidden.

Frankly, the charges against Paul and Silas are true enough. In the healing they brought about, they have hindered profit. Further, they were openly proclaiming that Jesus was Lord. To our ears that is a religious proclamation, but to Roman ears it was a provocative and revolutionary statement. It was directly contrary to their proclamation that Caesar was Lord. Yes, Paul, Silas, Luke, and the others were shaking the ground in Philippi! While they were not advocating the overthrow of any government, they were announcing a power greater than Caesar, a higher King who demanded our first loyalty.

This is not the “tame” proclamation of the faith so common today. This is not a faith that is adjusted to fit into worldly categories. This is not a faith tucked in after political, philosophical, and moral preferences. This is a faith that shakes the world and brings a revolutionary challenge to its priorities. Yes, Paul and Silas pose a serious threat.

What of us today? We have gone through a long period during which we have lived the faith quietly; it generally fit quite well into the world in which we lived. Harmony and “getting along” were highly prized. Particularly here in America, Catholics wanted to reassure the general populace that our faith in no way hindered us from being full participants in the American scene and that we could fit right in and be just like everyone else. With the election of the first Catholic president back in 1960, we could say that we had made it and had been fully accepted. Finally, we fit in.

Of course the culture was not in such disrepair in those days. There was still a fairly wide moral consensus rooted in the Judeo-Christian vision. Having finally “made it,” though, we have assumed room temperature; the fire of our distinctively Catholic culture seems to have faded away. At the same time, Western culture has also largely died. (Is that really a coincidence?)

In recent years, so-called Catholic universities and other Catholic institutions have begun caving in: giving marriage benefits to same-sex bedfellows and succumbing to the HHS mandates to provide contraceptives and abortifacients. It is sad, pathetic, wrong, and cowardly—hardly the revolutionary faith that got Paul arrested.

Now we are coming full circle. We must rediscover how revolutionary our Catholic faith truly is to this world gone mad. As we proclaim healing and an allegiance to something other than this world, however, we will become increasingly obnoxious to the world around us.

Let’s consider more thoroughly the two offenses for which Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned:

  1. They ate away at profit – Paul drove a terrible demon out of a slave girl, a demon that afflicted her but profited her “owners.” There is a great deal of trafficking in sin and addiction today. Terrible demons afflict many people in the areas of sexuality, drugs, and alcohol. There’s a lot of money to be made peddling pornography; sex sells. Hollywood movie producers, purveyors of contraceptives, pimps, escort services, abortionists, and even traffickers in the sex slave industry also feed at the trough. Drugs and alcohol are big money makers as well. Huge numbers of products are sold using the demon of fear that says, “You’re not pretty enough,” “You’re not healthy enough,” “You’re getting old,” “You don’t drive the right car,” “You don’t wear the right clothes.” The demons of fear, low self-esteem, and greed all work together.

What would happen if the Church were to start effectively preaching unabridged Christianity? What if we started saying, “You don’t need to be afraid of your health, your age, or what people think of you. You can find serenity in Christ so that you won’t feel you need for those drugs. You can be set free from your enslavement to sex, take authority over your passions, and discover the beauty of traditional marriage.” What if we got back in the business of driving out demons?

Well, of course the answer is that we, like Paul, would be under attack. In fact, we are under attack. We are especially hated by the sex industry and the abortionists because that that issue has so much focus these days. To them we are public enemy number one. We threaten the vision, the addiction, and the despair that fills their coffers. If we are too successful (and for now our successes are meager) their profits might dry up. Yes, we must be dealt with.

We will only be effective if we preach the unabridged faith, not a faith that is adjusted, not a faith that is subordinated to worldly priorities, not a faith that insists on being “realistic,” not a faith that apologizes to the world no matter how much we water things down. The true faith is revolutionary in the freedom it offers from sin and demons.

Paul and Silas didn’t wind up in prison by preaching a watered-down, domesticated moral vision. They unabashedly drove out a demon that was afflicting a girl; in so doing they engaged in a revolutionary threat to a world that profits handsomely from sin.

2. They threatened power – Calling Jesus “Lord” was a revolutionary threat to the incumbent power that demanded first and full loyalty. Today, many try to make Catholics fit into tidy political categories. Both Republicans and Democrats want the Church to march in lockstep with their party platform. Even many Catholics in those parties want the Church to conform. Many Catholics in fact are more loyal to their party than to the Church; they are more passionate about their political views than their faith. If there is a conflict between Church teaching and the party line, guess which one usually gives way!

In the end, the Church will not just fit into some neat political category. The true faith is too revolutionary to fit into some worldly box.

Thus there is a lot of hatred and anger directed at the Church. Republicans say we’re too liberal; Democrats say we’re too conservative. More and more we are being shown the door, kicked to the curb; our very right to religious liberty is being threatened. Religious exemptions to increasingly pernicious laws are slowly being removed and lawsuits against Catholic institutions are increasing. It will surely get worse as secular systems demand increasing loyalty. The Church must refuse to give that loyalty.

Jesus (not the federal, state or local government) is Lord. Jesus is not Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal. He is God, and the faith He announces cannot be watered down or compromised to fit into a friendship with the world.

No domesticated Christianity will change the world. When Paul preached, the people rioted. Modern preaching too often incites only yawns and indifference.

What should we learn from St. Paul’s arrest at Philippi? That the true faith is revolutionary and threatens the world right where it hurts: in the profit and power centers. As the world becomes increasingly secular, the revolutionary aspect of the faith will become more evident.

Are you ready?

Is Love the Cause of Hatred? The Answer May Surprise You

There is an old saying that the opposite of love is not hate; it is indifference. Indeed, it’s pretty hard to hate or even to have a strong aversion to something or someone we don’t really care about. But when we do love, we care. And the stronger our love, the more intense our concern, anger, or even hatred for what is wrong.

But does this mean that love is the cause of hatred? Our instinct is to recoil and say, “Of course not!”

As usual, St. Thomas provides help in sorting out some of the details and making proper distinctions. He takes up the question in the Prima Secundae (question 29 and Article 2): “Is Love the Cause of Hatred?”

Love … precedes hatred; and nothing is hated, except through being contrary to a suitable thing which is loved. And hence it is that every hatred is caused by love (Summa Theologica, I IIae 29.2, respondeo).

In other words, St. Thomas is saying that we would not hate that which is wrong, deformed, unjust, or dissonant unless we first loved what it was supposed to be. And thus love precedes hatred. It causes hatred by first instilling the love for what is right and then engendering a detestation of what is wrong.

An important distinction – If the word “hate” is tripping you up, understand that “hate” as used here is not referring to a vengeful wrath that seeks to destroy others. That sort of hate is, of course, forbidden; it flows not from wanting the good, true, and beautiful for others, but from a desire to destroy them. This is diabolical hatred: a hatred that hates, not the sin, but the sinner.

The hate referenced here is more akin to grief, or to the sorrow and anger we feel when someone or something is not as it should be. It is grief and a passion to set things right. This is the sort of hatred that love causes.

St. Thomas adds in his reply to objection 2:

Love and hatred are contraries … [and so] it amounts to the same that one love a certain thing, or that one hate its contrary. Thus love of one thing is the cause of one’s hating its contrary (I IIae 29.2, ad 2).

If we don’t love, we don’t care. But when we love, we care, and we experience indignation when what we care about is deformed, cast aside, or contrary to what it should be. And in this way loves causes hatred.

Love wills the good of the other, for his or her own sake. Love does not will the good of the other in order to win an argument or to be proved right. It wills the good simply for the sake of the other. St. Thomas says that love hates what is contrary to what is suitable and proper. But since no person, human or angelic, is in himself contrary to what is proper, we do not hate the person but rather what is deformed or contrary to what it should be. Therefore, a human (or angelic) person can never be the object of our hatred, per se.

One might object that correlation is not causation, and that is true, but in this case the hatred would not exist at all were the thing not first loved in its ideal form. It is this love of the ideal that causes the hatred of what is deformed. Thus love is the cause of the hatred, not merely correlated to it.

Why is this important for us to grasp? There are many reasons, but of special importance is understanding it in relation to one another.

In modern times, we have tended to reduce love to kindness, warm feelings, affirmation, and approval. But this is a drastic reduction of love. Kindness is an aspect of love, but so is rebuke. Approval and affirmation have their place, but so do forbiddance and insistence on what is right. Love can produce warm feelings but it can also bring about the deepest indignation.

When we love others we want for them what is good, true, just, proper, and beautiful—not what is deformed. And given the fact that we live in a fallen world, governed by a fallen angel, and are ourselves fallen and prone to sin, true love for others will have tensions. But tension is not always bad. No tension, no change. And change is going to be necessary for us to reach the perfection to which we are called.

So true love, properly understood, is capable of great indignation—yes, even of hatred. We ought to hate anything that is deformed or that is less than that to which we are called. Scripture says that if we love the world (a lesser thing) then we are enemies of God—yes, even adulterers! For God is our true love; anything less than loving God above all else is to be hated. Jesus gets even more personal when he says, If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sistersyes, even his own lifesuch a person cannot be my disciple (Lk 14:26). Jesus is insisting on the same truth: that He is to be loved above all. Any lesser love that takes His place is a hateful and harmful thing.

Such strong language! And we in these dainty times wince at it. But vigorous love causes a hatred of deformity and a jealousy for the fullness of what love should be. Much of our problem today is that we do not hate our sins or those of others nearly enough. From this perspective, our modern notion of kind, tolerant “love” is really slothful, weak love that seeks what makes everyone feel good rather than what is best. Feeling good becomes more important that doing good or being good. The ancient motto esse quam videri (to be rather than to seem (to be)) is reversed and it becomes more important to seem to be than it is to actually be.

Thus our modern notion of love is weak at best and a lie at worst. St. Thomas’ teaching that love is the cause of hatred indicates that our lack of hate for sin and other deformities of what is good, true, and beautiful is caused by a lack of love. It is not a display of open-mindedness or tolerance; it is a lack of love.

True love admits of jealousy, indignation, and hatred for what is deformed, deficient, untrue, or obtuse. True love is fiery; it has a passion to set things right and to insist on what is truly good rather than what is merely adequate.

How deep is your love? Is it capable of being the cause of hatred? It ought to be (if properly understood). Militiae species amor est (Love is a kind of war)!

Does this sort of talk unnerve you? Let me finish by simply requoting St. Thomas:

Love … precedes hatred; and nothing is hated, except through being contrary to a suitable thing which is loved. And hence it is that every hatred is caused by love.

In the Darkness We See Farther – Pondering the Paradox of the "Dark Knowing" of Faith

As human beings we are very visual and there is a certain demand of our flesh to see on its own terms. But of course God, who is pure spirit, will not be seen in this way.

How can the human eye perceive what is spiritual? It is not designed to do so. We cannot see God, as God, any more than we should expect to be able to see justice sitting down to lunch with humility. These are not physical concepts; they are metaphysical ones. We may see evidence of their existence, but we do not physically see them. And so also with God. We see lots of evidence of His existence, but we do not see Him with our earthly eyes.

There is a well-known (but inaccurate) saying, “Seeing is believing.” But actually it is not; seeing is only seeing. When we see physical things or events, one of two things happens, either of which eliminates the existence of any sort of faith:

1. We see something and accept it as true, in which case faith is no longer necessary, for it is not necessary to believe what we can plainly see.

2. We scoff or act bemused and continue to disbelieve, saying (for example when we see a magic trick), “There’s a way of doing that; it’s just an illusion.”

In either case, faith (human or supernatural) is set aside when we see something with our earthly eyes.

Therefore, as Scripture insists over and over again, faith is not a matter of seeing in a physical way.

  1. Now faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not (Hebrews 11:1).
  2. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor 4:18).
  3. For we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7).
  4. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? (Rom 8:24)
  5. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known (1 Cor 13:12).
  6. And though you have not seen [Jesus], you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).
  7. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe (John 20:29).
  8. So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Rom 10:17).

St. Thomas Aquinas says, Faith is a habit of the mind whereby eternal life is begun in us, making the intellect assent to what is non-apparent (Summa IIa IIae 4 ad 1).

Therefore faith is not about what is seen with our earthly eyes. It comes from hearing—hearing the Word of God.

That said, faith is a way of knowing and thus also a way of “seeing,” but more in the intellectual sense, as when we say, “Oh! Now I see” when we grasp a point intellectually. And though we know and “see” by faith, spiritual theologians such as St. John of the Cross remind us that the seeing and knowing by faith is “obscure.”

Now usually we think of the word “obscure” with a negative connotation. If something is obscure, it is tricky or hard to figure out and we look for something to illumine the darkness, to scatter the obscurity.

Not so fast. Consider the deeply paradoxical notion that the darkness, the obscurity actually helps us to see better! Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange explains it this way:

Obscure faith enlightens us somewhat like the night, which though surrounding us with shadows, allows us to see the stars, and by them, the depths of the firmament. … That we may see the stars, the sun must hide, night must begin. Amazingly, in the obscurity of the night we see to a far greater distance than in the day; we see even the distant stars which reveal to us the immense expanse of the heavens. … [And so] faith, although obscure, opens up to us the supernatural world and its infinite depths: the Kingdom of God, His inner life, which we shall see unveiled and clearly in eternity (The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Tan Publications Vol 1, p. 361)

In the darkness we see farther and deeper into space. Sunlight is precious, but it envelops us; it closes us in a much smaller world. We see better what is near; what is farther off and higher up is lost to us. From the perspective of our physical senses, faith is a “dark” knowing or seeing. By it we see farther and higher, longer and deeper.

Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange continues,

Faith is obscure but it illumines our intellect … in a way very superior to the senses and to reason. … What is evident for our senses is sensible, not spiritual; therefore it is not God himself. … Now faith makes us attain here on earth the inner life of God in the penumbra, in obscurity. Consequently a man who preferred visions to infused faith would deceive himself … for he would prefer what is superficial and exterior, and what is accessible to our faculties, to what surpasses them. He would prefer figures to the divine reality (Ibid).

And therefore we must beware of the strong demand of our flesh to see on its own terms. Our earthly eyes are not going to see God on the terms that our flesh demands. He is just too immanent, too transcendent for that. Our eyes see what physically exists but not Existence Himself. If we yield to this demand of our flesh we are going to limit our world immensely. We will certainly see worldly and physical things well, but we will miss the greater portion of reality: the Kingdom of God and God Himself!

Welcome to the modern world; a small world increasingly closed in on itself; a world no longer enchanted and charged with mystery; a world that demands to see only in physical terms, preferring what is superficial and exterior, preferring the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.

Ponder the great paradox of the “darkness” and “obscurity” of faith. For in the humility of accepting the darkness, we see farther, higher, deeper, and longer. Jesus is the Light of the world. But we see Him in the “darkness” of faith and understand Him most clearly not by the false light of this world, but by faith. Faith is obscure to our senses, but understood by our souls as a necessary condition to loving Him as our only and true Light.

100 Questions Jesus Asked and You Should Answer

One of the bigger mistakes one can make is to read Scripture as a spectator, treating it as merely a collection of stories and events that took place thousands of years ago. While these are historical accounts, they are much more than that.

Truth be told, these ancient stories are our stories. We are in the narrative. We are Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Deborah, Jeremiah, Ruth, Peter, Paul, Magdalene, Mother Mary, and, if we are prepared to accept it, Jesus. We cannot simply read about what others said or did. For what Peter and Magdalene and others did, we do. Peter denied and ran; so do we. Magdalene loved and never gave up; so should we. Magdalene had a sinful past and a promising future; so do we. Peter was passionate and had a temper; so do we. But Peter also loved the Lord and ultimately gave his life for the Him; so can we. Jesus suffered and died but rose again and ascended to glory; so have we and so will we.

The Scriptures are our own story. To read scripture as a mere spectator is to miss the main point.

In the light of this, there emerges another key to unlocking the meaning of the Scriptures: Answer the questions! One of the many things Jesus did was to ask a lot of questions. Whenever you read the Gospels and Jesus asks a question of someone, answer it. Do not wait to see how Peter, or Magdalene, or the Pharisees, or the crowd respond. You answer the question, in your own words. This brings Scripture powerfully alive.

In 2000, John Marshall, bishop of Burlington, Vermont (and later of Springfield, Massachusetts) compiled a book: But Who Do You Say That I Am? In it, he presented a list of all the questions that Jesus asked in the Gospels, encouraging readers to answer each of them. Along with each question, Bishop Marshall adds a brief commentary and some additional Bible verses to provide context. I have selected 100 of the questions in the book and listed them below. While it is not the complete list, it should certainly provide sufficient food for thought.

In the list below, I have shown the question itself along with a reference to the verse in which it can be found. But unless you really think it necessary, avoid looking it up at first. Let the question meet you where you are right now. It may mean something for you that is very different from its original context, but that is OK. Answer each question prayerfully and reflectively. Just pick a question, consider it, and answer it by talking to the Lord.

100 questions that Jesus asked and which you must answer:

  1. And if you greet your brethren only, what is unusual about that? Do not the unbelievers do the same? (Matt 5:47)
  2. Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your lifespan? (Matt 6:27)
  3. Why are you anxious about clothes? (Matt 6:28)
  4. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye yet fail to perceive the wooden beam in your own? (Matt 7:2)
  5. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? (Matt 7:16)
  6. Why are you terrified? (Matt 8:26)
  7. Why do you harbor evil thoughts? (Matt 9:4)
  8. Can the wedding guests mourn so long as the Bridegroom is with them? (Matt 9:15)
  9. Do you believe I can do this? (Matt 9:28)
  10. What did you go out to the desert to see? (Matt 11:8)
  11. To what shall I compare this generation? (Matt 11:6)
  12. Which of you who has a sheep that falls into a pit on the Sabbath will not take hold of it and lift it out? (Matt 12:11)
  13. How can anyone enter a strong man’s house and take hold of his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? (Matt 12:29)
  14. You brood of vipers! How can you say good things when you are evil? (Matt 12:34)
  15. Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? (Matt 12:48)
  16. Why did you doubt? (Matt 14:31)
  17. And why do you break the commandments of God for the sake of your tradition? (Matt 15:3)
  18. How many loaves do you have? (Matt 15:34)
  19. Do you not yet understand? (Matt 16:8)
  20. Who do people say the Son of Man is? (Matt 16:13)
  21. But who do you say that I am? (Matt 16:15)
  22. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life and what can one give in exchange for his life? (Matt 16:26)
  23. O faithless and perverse generation, how long must I endure you? (Matt 17:17)
  24. Why do you ask me about what is good? (Matt 19:16)
  25. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink? (Matt 20:22)
  26. What do you want me to do for you? (Matt 20:32)
  27. Did you never read the scriptures? (Matt 21:42)
  28. Why are you testing me? (Matt 22:18)
  29. Blind fools, which is greater, the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? … Which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? (Matt 23:17-19)
  30. How are you to avoid being sentenced to hell? (Matt 23:33)
  31. Why do you make trouble for the woman? (Matt 26:10)
  32. Could you not watch for me one brief hour? (Matt 26:40)
  33. Do you think I cannot call upon my Father and He will not provide me at this moment with more than 12 legions of angels? (Matt 26:53)
  34. Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to seize me? (Matt 26:53)
  35. My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? (Matt 27:46)
  36. Why are you thinking such things in your heart? (Mark 2:8)
  37. Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket or under a bed, rather than on a lamp stand? (Mark 4:21)
  38. Who has touched my clothes? (Mark 5:30)
  39. Why this commotion and weeping? (Mark 5:39)
  40. Are even you likewise without understanding? (Mark 7:18)
  41. Why does this generation seek a sign? (Mark 8:12)
  42. Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and still not see? Ears and not hear? (Mark 8:17-18)
  43. How many wicker baskets full of leftover fragments did you pick up? (Mark 8:19)
  44. [To the blind man] Do you see anything? (Mark 8:23)
  45. What were you arguing about on the way? (Mark 9:33)
  46. Salt is good, but what if salt becomes flat? (Mark 9:50)
  47. What did Moses command you? (Mark 10:3)
  48. Do you see these great buildings? They will all be thrown down. (Mark 13:2)
  49. Simon, are you asleep? (Mark 14:37)
  50. Why were you looking for me? (Luke 2:49)
  51. What are you thinking in your hearts? (Luke 5:22)
  52. Why do you call me “Lord, Lord” and not do what I command? (Luke 6:46)
  53. Where is your faith? (Luke 8:25)
  54. What is your name? (Luke 8:30)
  55. Who touched me? (Luke 8:45)
  56. Will you be exalted to heaven? (Luke 10:15)
  57. What is written in the law? How do you read it? (Luke 10:26)
  58. Which of these three in your opinion was neighbor to the robbers’ victim? (Luke 10:36)
  59. Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? (Luke 11:40)
  60. Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbiter? (Luke 12:14)
  61. If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest? (Luke 12:26)
  62. Why do you not judge for yourself what is right? (Luke 12:57)
  63. What king, marching into battle, would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king marching upon him with twenty thousand troops? (Luke 14:31)
  64. If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with worldly wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? (Luke 16:11)
  65. Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God? (Luke 17:18)
  66. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? (Luke 18:7)
  67. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth? (Luke 18:8)
  68. For who is greater, the one seated at table or the one who serves? (Luke 22:27)
  69. Why are you sleeping? (Luke 22:46)
  70. For if these things are done when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry? (Luke 23:31)
  71. What are you discussing as you walk along? (Luke 24:17)
  72. Why are you so terrified and why do such thoughts arise in your hearts? (Luke 24:26)
  73. Have you anything here to eat? (Luke 24:41)
  74. What are you looking for? (John 1:38)
  75. How does this concern of your affect me? (John 2:4)
  76. You are a teacher in Israel and you do not understand this? (John 3: 10)
  77. If I tell you about earthly things and you will not believe, how will you believe when I tell you of heavenly things? (John 3: 12)
  78. Do you want to be well? (John 5:6)
  79. How is it that you seek praise from one another and not seek the praise that comes from God? (John 5:44)
  80. If you do not believe Moses’ writings, how will you believe me? (John 5:47)
  81. Where can we buy enough food for them to eat? (John 6:5)
  82. Does this (teaching of the Eucharist) shock you? (John 6:61)
  83. Do you also want to leave me? (John 6:67)
  84. Why are you trying to kill me? (John 7:19)
  85. Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? (John 8:10)
  86. Why do you not understand what I am saying? (John 8:43)
  87. Can any of you charge me with sin? (John 8:46)
  88. If I am telling you the truth, why do you not believe me? (John 8:46)
  89. Are there not twelve hours in a day? (John 11:9)
  90. Do you believe this? (John 11:26)
  91. Do you realize what I have done for you? (John 13:12)
  92. Have I been with you for so long and still you do not know me? (John 14:9)
  93. Whom are you looking for? (John 18:4)
  94. Shall I not drink the cup the Father gave me? (John 18:11)
  95. If I have spoken rightly, why did you strike me? (John 18:23)
  96. Do you say [what you say about me] on your own or have others been telling you about me? (John 18:34)
  97. Have you come to believe because you have seen me? (John 20:29)
  98. Do you love me? (John 21:16)
  99. What if I want John to remain until I come? (John 21:22)
  100. What concern is it of yours? (John 21:22)

After all this you might have a few questions for God!

Four Qualities Manifest By The Apostles Just After Pentecost

It is worthwhile to look back at a text that was read on Saturday (Saturday of the Octave of Easter). It is from Acts and sets forth a picture of courage and holy boldness that is too little evident in many Catholics. Let’s look at the passage, which takes place just after the healing of the paralyzed man at the gate called beautiful. And then let’s reflect on four qualities that the Apostles Peter and John manifest.

Now when [the Sanhedrin] saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened (Acts 4:13-21).

Their Authority The text opens with a reference to the “boldness” of Peter and John to the fact that the religious authorities are “astonished.” How could such uneducated and common men speak and act this way?

The Greek word translated here as “boldness” is Παρρησία (parresía or parrhēsía) from pás, “all” + rhēsis, meaning “a proverb or statement quoted with resolve.” In other words, parresía means to speak with confidence and exhibit strong resolve; it means to speak plainly, publicly, or effectively. It is from the root rhēsis that the term rhetoric comes. Rhetoric is the art of effective or persuasive speaking and in its more technical sense usually requires training in logic and poise.

Thus, the boldness described in this passage shows the transformation that that the resurrection and Pentecost have effected. Prior to Pentecost, the Apostles, though often zealous and willing to make sacrifices to follow Jesus, were also slow to understand and often confused. Beginning with Easter Sunday (e.g., Luke 24:32,45) and most likely throughout the forty days before ascending, the Lord instructed and formed the Apostles in the Gospel. It would take Pentecost, however, to fully quicken their minds and confirm their hearts. Jesus had said, I still have much to tell you, but you cannot yet bear to hear it. However, when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth (Jn 16:12-13). Elsewhere, He added, All this I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have told you (John 14:25-26).

Prior to Pentecost, the Apostles and disciples gathered in fear, behind locked doors. Afterwards, though, they go about with the boldness described here. The religious leaders are “astonished” and marvel that such common and unlearned men can have such a sweeping command of their topic, and such serene courage. Peter and John have healed a man who had been lame for forty years, a man they knew was lame and had seen in the temple. The religious leaders cannot explain it; further, the usual threats do not seem to have the desired effect on them.

Yes, Peter and John are bold, confident, and unafraid. They are manifesting the gift that the Lord promised when he said, On account of My name, they will deliver you to the synagogues and prisons, and they will bring you before kings and governors. This will be your opportunity to serve as witnesses. So make up your mind not to worry beforehand how to defend yourselves. For I will give you speech and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict (Luke 21:12-15).

Such a change in these men, especially Peter! It is clear that the Lord has gifted them just as He promised. Their boldness is God’s grace. May that grace reach Church leaders today, both clergy and lay. Holy boldness such as this is needed more than ever.

Their Association The text says that the Sanhedrin recognized that they had been with Jesus. What a magnificent line. While this may have meant they recalled that these men had accompanied Jesus, for the reader the expression has far more depth. Peter and John, by their transformed lives, are manifesting that they have been with Jesus. They are showing forth the fruit of a life-changing, transformative relationship with Jesus Christ. Yes, these men have been with Jesus; it is obvious!

How about you and me? Would someone be able to look at us and conclude that we have been with Jesus? Is this not a description of what should be the normal Christian life? Is your association with Jesus Christ obvious to others? It ought to be.

It is, of course, a sad reality that most Christians are content to hide out or to blend in with the culture. They are undercover Christians, secret-agent saints, and frozen chosen. There’s no real fire to attract attention, no bold proclamations or visible signs of spiritual life. Few would ever conclude that they had been with Jesus.

Where are we on the light spectrum? Is the Light of Christ in us visible (Mat 5:14)? Do we bear the brand marks of Jesus (Gal 6:17)? Do we love our enemies (Mat 5:44)? Do we shine like the stars in the midst of a twisted and depraved generation (Phil 2:15)?

Their Arresting Ability Although Saints Peter and John have been arrested, they have, in effect, turned the tables and arrested the Sanhedrin. As remarked above, Peter and John do not seem cowed by the usual threats and their arguments are not easily set aside, for they speak with sincerity and authority. Further, the crowds are amazed and the leaders themselves cannot explain how a man, known by them to have been lame for forty years, now walks and even dances!

They don’t really know what to do. They are arrested by the winsome and courageous witness before them.

True holiness can have this effect, at least in certain conditions. St. Teresa of Calcutta was like this. Though many did not share her faith, even enemies of the faith admired her. This was not because she was a people pleaser; in fact, just the opposite. She had a boldness to scold even the most powerful, but a love that could not be denied. Her reflection of the glory of Christ arrested one and all.

This is perhaps one of the rarest gifts of all, yet still one to seek, so that at least some in every age have a holiness and a goodness that is arresting in its purity.

Their Assertiveness – To be appropriately assertive is to get one’s needs met without trampling others. And what is the greatest need of any saint? To proclaim Christ and Him crucified and risen. Thus, when Peter and John are warned to stop proclaiming the name of Jesus, they assert their need and right to continue doing so. However, they do so without disrespecting the leaders before them. They do not shout, “We won’t listen to you!” They do not personally disrespect them at all. Rather, they commend themselves to the conscience of these leaders as a way of respectfully declining a command they cannot follow:

Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.

In other words, they say, “Brothers, Elders, would you not agree that a man must obey God before obeying any man? Do what you must do. Make your judgments. But we must obey the Lord and speak of Jesus until our last breath.”

They are respectful but clear. They assert themselves and their mission but do not attack and trample the reputations or lawful authority of those in the community or state. They cannot cooperate in an evil directive, but they do not attack or stage an attempted overthrow of power. They stand before their opponents and look them in the eye. They will not flee or yield to fear, but neither will they become like them in arrogance and unrighteous demands.

This is a good model for us who are entering into increasingly difficult days, in which the pressures made upon us by the culture and the government may require that we refuse to cooperate with evil demands. Our goal is not to humiliate and overcome our opponents, but to convert them; and if not them then the culture around us. As St. Paul says, We do not use deception, neither do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God (2 Cor 4:2).

So here is a model for us and a set of challenges. We are to manifest a bold and sincere confidence in the Gospel we proclaim, because we have met Jesus and are being transformed into His likeness. Indeed, we should ask and strive for that rare holiness that is arresting in its purity but also assertively announces Christ Jesus without compromise or hypocrisy.

Help us, Lord!

An Easter Exhortation for Tough Times

As we all know, this was perhaps the strangest Easter that any of us have experienced  at least collectively. The liturgical calendar shouts new life and victory over the grave, and yet throughout the world, many are hunkered down in the fear of death. Despite the Easter glow these are dark days for many who suffer illness or economic stress. But, to be sure, the first Easter was experienced in great uncertainty and danger. 

Recent readings from Scripture have this theme. The readings in daily Mass this past week (from the Acts of the Apostles) show the joy of a poor, lame man healed by Peter and John at the Gate called Beautiful. By week’s end Peter and John were arrested for the “dangerous” act of glorifying Jesus and forced to appear before the Jewish court. More suffering and arrests would follow.

In the Office of Readings, we are reading from the First Letter of Peter, which is a kind of survival guide for those who suffer on account of Jesus. Consider these excerpts from this past week:

Do not be surprised, beloved, that a trial by fire is occurring in your midst. It is a test for you, but it should not catch you off guard. Rejoice instead, in the measure that you share Christ’s sufferings. When his glory is revealed, you will rejoice exultantly. Happy are you when you are insulted for the sake of Christ, for then God’s Spirit in its glory has come to rest on you ….

The season of judgment has begun, and begun with God’s own household. If it begins this way with us, what must be the end for those who refuse obedience to the gospel of God? And if the just man is saved only with difficulty, what is to become of the godless and the sinner? Accordingly, let those who suffer as God’s will requires continue in good deeds, and entrust their lives to a faithful Creator….

Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, solid in your faith, realizing that the brotherhood of believers is undergoing the same sufferings throughout the world. The God of all grace, who called you to his everlasting glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish those who have suffered a little while. Dominion be his throughout the ages! Amen (1 Peter 4:12-5:14).

The ancient Church had little time for the sentimentality of Easter Bunnies and Easter egg hunts. Jesus was born to do battle and rose to show forth the victory. But a victory presupposes a battle and a struggle.

The Sequence that should be sung during the Easter Octave is as follows:

Mors et vita duello,            (Death and life have contended)
conflixere mirando:           (in a stupendous conflict)
dux vitae mortuus,             (The Prince of life having died)
regnat vivus!                         (Now reigns living).

Easter is serious business with a message that summons us to the battle with confidence. In effect the message is this:

The Pentecost experience seemed to convict and encourage them and us: Enough of all this cowardice. No more hiding out in upper rooms. Get out there like soldiers who know you are on the winning team. Manfully engage the battle and win some souls for Christ. As in any war, there is going to be suffering. Jesus says, In this world you shall have tribulation; but have confidence I have overcome the world (John 16:33). The Easter message is not that there is no battle, but rather that the battle is a glorious one whose outcome has already been decided. Choose sides!

Scripture says,

Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His Blood, who has made us into a Kingdom, priests for His God and Father, to Him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen. Behold, He is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him. All the peoples of the earth will lament Him. Yes, Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the One who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev 1:5-8).

Make sure you are on the winning team. Some people foolishly choose the wrong side, thinking that winning means having power, popularity, money, and possessions—that is not victory. A team can be ahead until the final play of the game yet still lose. You already know who is going to win; present appearances mean nothing. Choose the winning team even if, for now, it means being subjected to suffering, ridicule, disapproval, and desertion. Be ready and willing to suffer for the Kingdom. The Easter message is not that there is no suffering, but that our suffering, united to Jesus’, will lead to glory and victory.

Stop acting like a loser, hiding out and being afraid to announce the truth of the gospel. Stop being so anxious about what others are saying. You may be called hateful, bigoted, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, backward, and uptight—anything but a child of God. Do not hate them, but keep on summoning them to join us; know that some will do so if you persevere. Be willing to suffer for the truth and still remain joyful.

Peter and John were arrested in the first week after Pentecost; can’t we at least tolerate a raised eyebrow or some laughter at our expense? The martyrs stared down deadly threats; they endured the swords and lions of a hateful, scornful world. Must they bear the cross alone?

The Easter message is not one of cheap joy. It is about a courageous transformation that equips us to be willing to face down death in order to proclaim the truth of the gospel. Even after this plague ends, we are going to need courage and perseverance in the months and years ahead. This fallen world has been getting darker, and a people who are used to the darkness despise the light. To those who hate the truth, the truth seems hateful; they will call themselves righteous as they expel us from the public square. They already label themselves victims at the mere utterance of moral truth. “Safe zones” have no room for us. Despite all their calls for tolerance, there will be no tolerance shown to us. Our speech and our actions will be increasingly criminalized. Thus, beyond the plague, these challenges still face us. 

So here is an Easter exhortation in tough times. But remember, Jesus is risen from the dead and He is not going away. He has won the victory and we will either gather souls with Him, or we will scatter and squander. I will work for Him and win, or I will contend with Him and lose. I think I’ll choose Jesus!

The song in the clip below has these lyrics:

I told Jesus it would be alright if He changed my name
I told Jesus it would be alright if He changed my name
I told Jesus it would be alright if He changed my name
And He told me that I would go hungry if He changed my name
And He told me that I would go hungry if He changed my name
Yes He told me that I would go hungry if He changed my name
But I told Jesus it would be alright if He changed my name
I told Jesus it would be alright if He changed my name
So I told Him it would be alright and the world would hate me
That I would go hungry if He changed my name

 

A Chronology of the Resurrection Appearances

Each Easter, I post this “chronological account” of the resurrection appearances, tough I tweak it as others offer insights I might have missed. It is helpful to try and weave the many strands together for the reasons I state below. 

When we encounter the resurrection accounts in the New Testament, we face a challenge in putting all the pieces together in such a way that the sequence of events flows in logical order. This is due to the fact that no one Gospel presents all or even most of the information. Some of the accounts seem to conflict. I have opined before (HERE) that these apparent conflicts are usually not in fact true conflicts. Another difficulty with putting all the facts together in a coherent manner is that the timeline of the events is unclear in some of the accounts. Luke and John are the clearest as to the timing of the events they describe; Matthew and Luke give us very few parameters. Both Acts and Paul also supply accounts in which the timeline is not always clear.

Nevertheless, I want to propose to you a possible, dare I claim even likely, sequence of the resurrection events. The work is my own and I make no claim that this scenario is certain or backed up by recognized ancient authority. St Augustine has done quite a lot of work in this matter and you can read that by clicking HERE.

Jimmy Akin has also done a wonderful study here: How the Resurrection Narratives Fit Together. He goes into greater detail than my brief summary here and if there are any differences with my conclusions, trust Jimmy and St. Augustine first!  🙂

My proposition here is simply the fruit of 31+ years of praying over and pondering the events of those forty days between the Lord’s resurrection and His ascension. My reflections are based as solidly as possible on the Bible, with a sprinkling of speculation.

I realize that my attempt to do this will irritate some modern biblical scholars who seem to insist that it is wrong to attempt any synthesis of the texts since the authors intended no such synthesis.

Nevertheless, I press on boldly, hoping that the average believer will benefit from it and find such a synthesis interesting. Take it for what it is: the work of an obscure pastor who has prayed and carefully sought to follow the sequence of the forty days. You may wish to offer correction or an alternative interpretation; I encourage you to do so in the comments. I have posted a PDF of this document here: The Resurrection Appearances Chronologically Arranged.

In this year’s version I have included hyperlinks to the biblical texts so that you can simply click on them to read the text and then press back to return here.

  • I. The morning of day one
    • A. Very early in the morning a group of several women, including Mary Magdalene, approach the tomb to complete burial customs on behalf of Jesus (Matt 28:1; Mk 16:1; Jn 20:1).
    • B. They behold the tomb opened and are alarmed.
    • C. Mary Magdalene runs off to Peter and John with the distressing news of likely grave robbers (Jn 20:2).
    • D. The women who remain at the tomb encounter an angel, who declares to them that Jesus has risen and that they should tell this to the brethren (Mk 16:5 Lk 24:4; Mt 28:5).
    • E. At first the women are filled with fear and depart from the tomb afraid to speak (Mk 16:8).
    • F. Recovering their courage they decide to go to the Apostles (Lk 24:9; Mt 28:8).
    • G. Meanwhile Peter and John go to the tomb to investigate Mary Magdalene’s claim. Mary follows behind them, arriving back at the tomb while Peter and John are still there. Peter and John discover the empty tomb; they encounter no angel. John believes in the resurrection; Peter’s conclusion is not recorded.
    • H. The other women report to the remaining Apostles what the angel at the tomb said to them. Peter and John have not yet returned from the tomb and these remaining apostles are at first dismissive of the women’s story (Lk 24:9-11).
    • I. Mary Magdalene, lingering at the tomb, weeps and is fearful. Peering into the tomb, she sees this time two angels who wonder why she weeps. Jesus then approaches her from behind. Not looking directly at Jesus, she supposes Him to be the gardener. When He calls her by name, Mary recognizes His voice, turns, and sees Him. Filled with joy she clings to Him (APPEARANCE 1) (Jn 20:16).
    • J. Jesus sends Mary back to the Apostles with the news to prepare them for His appearance later that day (Jn 20:17).
    • K. The other women have now departed from the Apostles and are on their way, possibly back home. Jesus appears to them (Mt 28:9) (after having dispatched Mary). He also sends them back to the Apostles with the news that He has risen and that He will see them (APPEARANCE 2).
  • II. The afternoon and evening of day one
    • A. Later that day, two disciples on their way to Emmaus are pondering what they have heard about rumors of Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus comes up behind them but they are prevented from recognizing Him. First Jesus breaks open the word for them; then He sits at table with them and celebrates the Eucharist, whereupon their eyes are opened and they recognize Him in the breaking of the bread (APPEARANCE 3) (Lk 24:13-30).
    • B. The two disciples return that evening to Jerusalem and go to the Eleven. At first the Eleven disbelieve them just as they had the women (Mk 16:13). Nevertheless they continue to relate what they have experienced. At some point, Peter draws apart from the others (perhaps for a walk?). The Lord appears to Peter (APPEARANCE 4)(Lk 24:34; 1 Cor 15:5). Peter informs the other ten, who then believe. Thus the disciples from Emmaus (still lingering with the Apostles) are now told (perhaps by way of apology) that it is in indeed true that Jesus has risen (Lk 24:34).
    • C. Almost at the same moment, Jesus appears to the small gathering of Apostles and the two disciples from Emmaus (APPEARANCE 5). Thomas is absent (although the Lucan text describes the appearance as being to “the eleven,” this is probably just shorthand for the Apostles as a group). They are startled but Jesus reassures them and opens the scriptures to them (Lk 24:36ff).
    • D. There is some debate as to whether He appeared to them a second time that night. The Johannine and Lucan accounts have significantly different descriptions of the appearance on that first Sunday evening. Is it merely a different recounting of the same appearance or is it a wholly separate appearance? It is not possible to say for sure. Nevertheless, since the descriptions are so different we can call it APPEARANCE 6 (Jn 20:19ff), though it is likely one and the same as “Appearance 5.”
  • III. Interlude
    • A. There is no biblical account of Jesus appearing to anyone during the week that followed. The next account of the resurrection says, “Eight days later,” namely the following Sunday.
    • B. We do know that the apostles exclaimed to Thomas that they had seen the Lord, but that he refused to believe it (Jn 20:24).
    • C. Were the apostles nervous that Jesus had not appeared again each day? We do not know; there are no accounts of what happened during this interlude.
  • IV. One week later, Sunday two
    • A. Jesus appears once again (APPEARANCE 7) to the gathered Apostles. This time Thomas is with them. He calls Thomas to faith, and Thomas now confesses Jesus to be Lord and God (Jn 20:24-29).
  • V. Interlude two
    • A. The apostles had received instructions to return to Galilee (Mt 28:10; Mk 16:7) where they would see Jesus. Thus they spent some of this interlude journeying 60 miles to the north, a trip that would have taken a considerable amount of time. We can imagine them making the trek north during the intervening days.
  • VI. Sometime later
    • A. The time frame of the next appearance is somewhat vague. John merely says “after this.” It is likely a matter of days or a week at best. The scene is at the Sea of Galilee; not all of the Twelve are present. They have gone fishing and Jesus summons them from the lakeside. They come to shore and see him (APPEARANCE 8). Peter has a poignant discussion with Jesus and is commissioned to tend the flock of Christ (Jn 21).
    • B. The Appearance to the 500 – Of all the appearances, you might think that this one would have been recorded in some detail since it was the most widely experienced. It would seem that many accounts would have existed and that at least one would have made its way into the Scriptures. Yet there is no account of it other than that it did in fact happen. Paul records the fact of this appearance in 1 Cor 15:6: Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep (APPEARANCE 9). Where did this take place? What was it like? What was the reaction? We simply do not know. Proof once again that the Bible is not a history book in the conventional sense. Rather, it is a highly selective telling of what took place, not a complete account. The Bible makes no claim to be something it is not. It is quite clear that it is a selective book (Jn 20:30).
    • C. The Appearance to James. Here again we do not have a description of this appearance, only a remark by Paul that it did in fact happen 1 Cor 15:7: Then he appeared to James (APPEARANCE 10). The time frame of this appearance is not clear, only that it happened after the appearance to the five hundred and before the final appearance to the apostles.
  • VII. The rest of the forty days
    • A. Jesus certainly had other appearances to/with the disciples. Luke attests to this in Acts when he writes, To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).
    • B. During this time there is perhaps the one appearance we can attribute specifically to this time period as recorded by both Matthew (Mt 28:16ff) and Mark (Mk 16:14ff). It takes place on “a mountaintop in Galilee.” Mark adds that they were reclining at table. I refer to this appearance (time frame uncertain) as APPEARANCE 11. It is here that Jesus gives the great commission. Although Mark’s text may seem to imply that Jesus was taken up from this mountain, such a conclusion is rash since Mark only indicates that Jesus ascended only “after he had spoken to them” (Mk 16:19).
    • C. Evidently Jesus had also summoned them back to Jerusalem at least toward the end of the period of the forty days. There they would be present for the feast of Pentecost. We can imagine frequent appearances with ongoing instruction, for Luke records that Jesus “stayed with them.” Most of these appearances and discourses are not recorded. Luke writes in Acts, And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4).
  • VIII. The final appearance and ascension
    • A. After forty days of appearances and instructions we have a final account of the last appearance (APPEARANCE 12) wherein He leads them out to a place near Bethany and gives them final instructions to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit is sent. And then He is taken up to Heaven in their very sight (Lk 24:50-53; Acts 1:1-11).

So here is a possible, and if I do say so myself likely, chronology of the resurrection appearances. It is a synthesis that attempts to collect all the information and present it in a logical sequence. There are limits to what we can expect of the Scriptural accounts; fitting perfectly into a logical sequence is not what the texts primarily propose to do. Yet such a chronological sequence can prove helpful and it is in that spirit which I present it.

Here is a video I put together based on a song performed here at my parish on Good Friday. It is sung by one of our Sopranos, Marjorie Boursiquot. It is arranged by our director, Kenneth Louis, and composed by Long and Pote. The song is entitled “You Love Me.” Prepare yourself for a real treat!

What was the Lord Doing on Thursday of Holy Week?

According to the Synoptic Gospels, sundown of Holy Thursday ushered in the Passover. Later on this evening, the Lord will celebrate the Passover meal with His disciples. We ought to be mindful that the unleavened bread Jesus will take in His hands is called “the bread of affliction.” Scripture says, You shall eat [the Passover] with unleavened bread, the bread of affliction—for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste—that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt (Dt 16:3).

Indeed, this is an evening of affliction for Jesus. Much transpires at the Last Supper that is emblematic of our human foibles and sinful tendencies, but thanks be to God, He takes this “bread of affliction” we dish out to Him and lifts it to the glory of the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.

Before being too critical of the Twelve, remember that we can be like them in many ways. Keep that in mind as you read through the commentary below; A large part of what I’ve written about the apostles applies to us as well. Indeed, they are we and we are they; and the Lord loved all of us to the end.

So on Holy Thursday let’s examine the sequence of events. It illustrates pretty well why the Lord had to die for us. We will see how earnest the Lord is about this Last Supper, how He enters it with an intense love for His disciples and a desire that they heed what He is trying to teach them. We shall also see, however, that they show forth a disastrous inattentiveness and a terrible lack of concern for the Lord.

COMING CLOUDS Jesus knows that His hour has come; this will be His last meal. Judas has already conspired and been paid to hand Him over. Scripture says, Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come. He always loved those who were his own, and now he would show them the depths of his love. The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over (John 13:1). Thus, in the gathering storm Jesus plans His last meal, which will also be the first Holy Mass. He sent two of His disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the householder, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room, where I am to eat the Passover with my disciples?”’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us” (Mark 14:13-15).

CARING CONCERN This last supper is obviously important to Jesus. Luke records these heartfelt words: And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15-16). Yes, this will be a very special moment for Jesus.

COSTLY COMMUNION – Jesus, reclining at table, will now celebrate the Holy Eucharist for the first time—but it is to be a costly communion. He has already lost many disciples because of what He taught on the Eucharist (cf John 6:50ff). After the consecration at this Last Supper/first Mass, Jesus looks into the cup at His own blood, soon to be shed, and distributes His own body, soon to be handed over. This is no mere ritual for Him. Every priest before Jesus has offered a sacrifice distinct from himself (usually an animal, sometimes a libation), but Jesus the great High Priest will offer Himself.

COLLABORATIVE CONDESCENSION – During the meal Jesus rises and then stoops to wash the disciples’ feet. He instructs them to see in this action a model for those who would collaborate with Him in any future ministry. John records it this way: He rose from the supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded (John 13:5).

Jesus then teaches the disciples: Do you know what I have done for you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you (John 13:12-15). Just moments from now, we will see them demonstrate a complete disregard for what Jesus has just tried to teach them.

CALLOUS CRIME Back at table after having taught them that they must wash one another’s feet, Jesus suddenly becomes troubled in spirit and says, I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me (John 13:21). This causes a commotion among the apostles, who begin to ask, “Who can it be?” As the anxiety builds, Simon Peter motions to John and says, “Ask Him which one He means.” Leaning back against Jesus, John asks Him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus responds, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. “What you are about to do, do quickly” Jesus told him (John 13:24-30).

CONFOUNDING COMPETITION As Judas takes the morsel of bread and heads out into the night, no one even tries to stop him! Despite the fact that Jesus has clearly identified His betrayer, no one rises to block the door or even utters a word of protest. Why not? Luke supplies the answer: A dispute arose among them as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest (Luke 22:24). They should be concerned about Jesus’ welfare but instead they argue about which of them is the greatest.

How confounding! How awful! Yet is that not our history? Too often we are more concerned with our own welfare or status than with any suffering in the Body of Christ. So much that is critical remains unattended to because of this. Jesus has just finished teaching the apostles to wash one another’s feet, and the next thing you know, they’re arguing as to who among them is the greatest. Jesus patiently reminds them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For which is the greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves (Luke 22:25-27). Meanwhile, due to their egotistical response, Judas has escaped into the night.

CAUSTIC CONTENTIOUSNESS Jesus continues to teach at the Last Supper. He surely wants to impress upon them His final instruction. How He must long for them to listen carefully and to internalize what He is teaching! Instead, all He gets are arguments. Both Thomas and Phillip rebuke Him. John records this outrage:

Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” But Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “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 (Jn 14:1-8).

Thomas rebukes the Lord by saying, in effect, “We have no idea where you’re going; when will you show us the way?” Jesus answers, but Philip will have none of this promise to see the Father and boldly says, “Lord, show us the Father, and then we shall be satisfied.” Jesus, likely saddened by this, says 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’? (John 14:8-9) Jesus’ own apostles are being argumentative and contentious. They are caustic and seem to rebuke Him.

COMICAL CREDIBILITY GAP Undeterred, Jesus embarks on a lengthy discourse (recorded by John) that has come to be called the priestly prayer of Jesus. At the end of it, the apostles—perhaps ironically, perhaps with sincerity—remark, Now at last you are speaking plainly, not in any figure. Now we know that you know all things, and need none to question you; by this we believe that you came from God (John 16:29-30). However, Jesus knows that their praise is hollow and will not withstand the test.

There is a quite a lack of credibility in what the apostles say; it is almost comical. Jesus replies to them, Do you now believe? The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, every man to his home, and will leave me alone (John 16:31-32). Peter protests, saying, Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away (Matthew 26:33). Here is another almost comic lack of credibility: [Jesus says to Peter,] Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times. [Still insistent, Peter replies,] “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples (Matthew 26:34-35). Well, you know the story, and you know that only John made it to the cross.

CLUELESS CATNAP They finally reach the garden and the foot of the Mount of Olives. Jesus says to Peter, James, and John: My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me (Mat 26:38). They seem oblivious to His suffering, though, and doze off. Attempts to arouse them are unsuccessful; they sleep on.

Here we are at the pivotal moment of all human history and the first clergy of the Church are sound asleep. (Things have not changed, my friends.) Indeed, many are in a state of moral, spiritual, and emotional sleep as Christ still suffers throughout the world and is conspired against. Jesus says,

Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go. See, my betrayer is at hand” (Mat 26:45-46).

COMPASSIONATE CONSTANCY Jesus went on and died for the likes of them and all of us. I wonder if He had this Last Supper in mind when He said to the Father, Forgive them, they know not what they do. It is almost as if He is saying, “They have absolutely no idea what they are doing or thinking, so have mercy on them, Father.”

What a grim picture the Last Supper paints of us! It’s a disaster, really, but the glory of the story and the saving grace is this: The Lord Jesus Christ went to the cross regardless. Seeing this terrible portrait, can we really doubt the Lord’s love for us?

May your Holy Thursday be blessed. Never forget what Jesus endured!