Our young priest, filled with faith and fervor, opened his homily on Easter morning with a very enthusiastic, “Our Lord is risen! Amen! Alleluia!” With a huge smile, he then urged, “Can I have an Amen?” I excitedly opened my mouth, ready to shout out an—when the sharp elbow of our then thirteen-year-old son jabbed me in the side (yes, the one who had just told me he thought church was boring).
If there is ever a day for shouting out an “Amen” and for shaking things up, Easter is it! As sung in the Exsultet (Easter Proclamation) at the Holy Saturday Vigil: “Be glad, let earth be glad … knowing an end to gloom and darkness. Rejoice … let this holy building shake with joy, filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.” On Easter morning, Mary Magdalene could not be contained nor silenced after witnessing the stone rolled away and encountering men in dazzling garments, who proclaimed, “He is not here, but he has been raised.” Her world was rocked; she then shook up the apostles by voicing her stunning witness. Today, our parishes and homes are to be the holy buildings that shake; ours are to be the mighty voices that shout with joy!
Our culture tends to “celebrate” Easter with pastel candies, marshmallow peeps, chocolate bunnies, and new spring clothes. In fact, I suspect March Madness will be the highlight for many on Easter Day: shouting out for “nothing but net” baskets, shaking the floors for designated teams, rejoicing with extreme excitement over victories. Nothing wrong, but does our excitement over the resurrection—eternal life, ultimate victory—match our enthusiasm for a ballgame?
In many ways, even Christians have lost the power, beauty, and meaning of
Easter. Resurrection is earth shattering, mind-blowing, soul erupting, and order reversing. The One who has “wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness” has redeemed all of creation. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, the gates of Heaven have been opened, the chains of sin and slavery have been broken, endless mercy pours out, life springs eternal, and love conquers—even death. Grace upon grace. Our Lord is risen, and so shall we! Amen! Alleluia!
Parents/grandparents name grace in the domestic church as first witnesses to the Risen Jesus. We name grace on Easter Sunday when our homes shake with joy for Jesus and our participation at Mass praises Him with “Amen” and “Alleluia”—even if threatened by an elbow! We name grace—“that He be Visible”--as we make Jesus known as Savior and friend through our humble prayer and service. We name grace as we witness to an absolute belief in eternal life; God will bring healing, goodness, and new life out of any sin, suffering, darkness, and death. Through Baptism in Christ, victory is ours! We proclaim with St. Paul, “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?” Worthy of a shout out! Alleluia!
On Easter Sunday, our son, now in his thirties, will surely be cheering on a team for March Madness, but I pray he also shouts out an, “Amen” at Mass and receives Jesus in the Eucharist—the source of our salvation. Our victory lies not in a championship game, but in Jesus, who has rolled away the stone forever! Now, that’s GREAT news! Our Lord is risen! Amen! Alleluia!
Naming Grace in the Domestic Church reflects on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding parents in their vital task as “first witnesses” of the Good News in the home.
Third Sunday of Lent, Cycle C: Woman Caught in Adultery
She was guilty—caught red handed. Braced for hard stones, forced to stand in the middle, she had no defense. Without a doubt, she had dishonored her community with her flagrant disregard of purity. Honor, so critically important in the culture, that when broken, the guilty one must be shamed—excluded from the community—even to the point of death.
Guilty and shamed. Guilt, acknowledged behavior inconsistent with one’s own values, has the power of leading to repentance, reconciliation, and restoration—of something new. Shame, however, leaves one feeling unworthy of forgiveness and acceptance—of redemption. Prominent researcher and author on the issue of shame, Dr. Brene Brown clarifies: “Guilt is... powerful, but its influence is positive, while shame's is destructive. Shame erodes our courage and fuels disengagement.” Shame flings the guilty one on the downward spiral from “I did something unworthy” to “I am worthless.” Shame forces one outside of the community, standing in the middle of one’s own self-loathing and condemnation—unable to accept even mercy.
She was guilty, but not condemned. After the scribes and Pharisees dropped their stones, the woman once standing in the middle was now face-to-face with Jesus. “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” Though she was guilty, Jesus’ words allowed her to drop the hard stones of self-hatred. She had committed adultery, but she was not an adulteress—she was a daughter of God. Mercy and acceptance, not condemnation and shame, transforms the human heart.
I read of a culture where when one is found guilty, rather than shaming and excluding, the guilty one is encircled by the community. Hands are gently placed on the offender while members speak words of affirmation, love, and acceptance to the one standing in the middle. This gracious act allows the guilty one to recover, reconcile, and return to the community.
When our children are guilty, we should mirror Jesus and resist the wasteland of shaming. Dr. Brown warns: "Shame [is] highly correlated with addiction, depression, eating disorders, violence, bullying and aggression." With her own children, she acknowledges the guilt—sin or mistake—and then gently guides the child through it: "The first thing I try to say is, 'You made a mistake. You're human. You're okay. I love you. You're going to get through this.'” Never, “You are a mistake.”
We name grace in the domestic church when we encircle our children with words of affirmation and unconditional love—no matter their offense. We name grace as we help our children understand sin as going against God’s will and one’s true self. We name grace as we gently lead our children out of the darkness of condemnation into the new life of forgiveness, reconciliation, and redemption. We name grace as we model that everything in life is rubbish compared to the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus, who is Mercy.
We are all guilty. Yet Jesus neither condemns nor shames. Jesus never looks down to point a finger in condemnation, but bends down to write with mercy. Jesus respectfully, lovingly, lifts us up and invites us back into relationship, into community—into wholeness. The truth is we are all unworthy, but when He says the Word, our souls shall be healed—standing in the middle of God’s love. Now, that’s good news!
The blog on this page presents reflections on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding leaders of the domestic church in their vital task as “first heralds” or “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.