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 March 30 , 2009   •   VOL. 47, NO. 6   •   Oakland, CA

  Commentary links
Easter message: In Jesus’ resurrection we receive the sign of hope for eternal life
The Eucharist – ‘Do this in memory of me’
Dialog on science and human values is responsibility of the Church
Easter message:
In Jesus’ resurrection we receive
the sign of hope for eternal life

When all is said and done, Christianity stands or falls on whether Christ has been raised from the dead. The fact is that if Christ is not raised from the dead, then neither will we be. We are just whistling to keep up our courage as we walk down a dark alley toward nothingness.

Without the Resurrection of Christ, what we have in Christianity is a very good set of moral principles and ways to conduct ourselves in this world, but once this life is over, it’s over forever. Oblivion only remains — eternal sleep.

That is why Sunday after Sunday we re-celebrate our faith in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Resurrection is far more than Jesus’ coming back to life. Jesus raised people from the dead during his time on earth — the daughter of Jairos, the widow’s son at Naim, and especially Lazarus. But though they came back to life, they lived a few more years and died again. We don’t meet them walking around today.

With Jesus it is totally different. He was not simply resuscitated back to the same kind of life He lived before the crucifixion. The Gospels try to communicate that to us. This is the same Jesus, but He’s different. He comes and goes at will. He passes through locked doors. He is not always recognized by His disciples. Yet it is the same Jesus.

“It is I, do not be afraid.” “Come, put your finger into the nail marks, your hand into my side and believe.” “Do you have something to eat?” “A ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”

The Risen Lord Jesus is totally transformed, filled with the Holy Spirit of God. As a human being, He is exalted to the right hand of the Father. He has assumed his rightful place in heaven and will never die again. All the limitations of human existence no longer have any hold on him.

As we who have faith experience, He is everywhere at once, dwelling within us, acting through the sacraments, more closely joined to us than our own bodies are joined to our own souls.

We who are joined to the Risen Christ by the Holy Spirit through faith and Baptism experience that same risen life of Christ now, already on earth — though in a beginning way. It will only be completed and brought to perfection in heaven when we are totally filled with the same Holy Spirit as is Jesus our Saviour and Lord.

Already we are “in Christ,” already we are “seated in Him at the right hand of the Father.” Though we are still far from perfect, we have been given a share in the Holy Spirit of God to strengthen us, to guide us, to heal us, to accompany us on our earthly journey until it ends in the heavenly realm.

The question we are asked each Easter Sunday then remains the only significant question: “Do you believe?” It is the Risen Lord who makes it possible through the gift of faith for us to answer, “I do!” and mean it with all our hearts. In fact we stake our whole lives, our whole future, on that belief.
As St. Augustine has said, “We are Easter people and Alleluia is our song.”

(Father Dan Danielson is administrator of the Oakland Diocese, a post to which he was elected by the diocesan consultors after Bishop Allen Vigneron was appointed archbishop of Detroit in January. He will remain as administrator until the May 5 installation of the newly appointed bishop of Oakland, Bishop Salvatore Cordileone. Bishop Cordileone has been auxiliary bishop of San Diego since 2002.)

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José Luis Aguirre photo
The Eucharist – ‘Do this in memory of me’

Frances Rojek

Why is the Eucharist important in my life? After some pondering and reflecting, what came to mind was Jesus telling me, “Love your enemies.”

Now I don’t consider myself having any enemies, but when I change the sentence to include — love those who don’t agree with you, love those whom you perceive as not liking you, love those whom you don’t even know, then I am challenged. At home, on the job, at church, there are people who fit the definition.

For me, loving people is not all about warm fuzzies. Loving takes a conscious effort at recognizing the dignity that every human being possesses, given to them by the creator. I must understand that God loves and cares for that individual as much as God loves me. I cannot do this by myself. I need the very food that is Jesus, to give me encouragement and strength to go into the world and treat others this very way.

Does it mean I try and become best friends? Do I embrace those I don’t know? How do I begin? I do what Jesus would do and that would be to treat others with the respect and dignity that I would like to receive. It’s about sacrificing and for me it’s dying to self for love of another.

As parents of four children, Steve and I did this every time we got out of bed in the middle of the night to feed them when what we really wanted to do was sleep. As a married couple, we are to defer to one another out of reverence to Christ.

Each time I receive Communion, at daily Mass or on Sunday, before I leave the church, I am reminded “To go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” I can only do this with the ultimate sacrifice (gift) Jesus gave to me — His body and blood.

(Frances Rojek is director of faith formation at Newman Hall/Holy Spirit Parish in Berkeley.)

Hector Cortes

The Holy Eucharist is Christ himself whose essence of everlasting love and mercy lifts the eyes of my soul “through him, with him, in him in the unity of the Holy Spirit” to the glory of the Father. Oh! What a heavenly banquet this is here on earth, where Christ, our high priest and oblation, becomes the very “bread from heaven” with which He nurtures his chosen people. What a privilege and honor to participate in his manifestation, presentation and communion of love.

This common union of love not only reveals our earthly vocation but also escorts us to our celestial destination. Purified by his blood and sanctified by his flesh, we can communicate his spirit of love.

Christ whose glory continues in the Eucharist nurtures me simply, profoundly and mysteriously, causing my hunger to discover in Christ who I am. And what I am is the glory of God! As St Augustine indicated to the baptized, “For we have not become only Christians, but Christ. . . .”

Recognizing Christ, as He is and not as I would like him to be, is the essential foundation in the process of incarnating Christ who is our “food of truth and love.”

(Hector Cortes is a recent graduate of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley and a lector for the Spanish Masses at the Cathedral of Christ the Light. He works full time as an orthopedic technician at Children’s Hospital in Oakland.)

Melissa and Hank Hyatt

Melissa: I was raised as a Protestant, and when Hank and I decided to marry, I wanted to learn about Hank’s Catholic faith. The Eucharist drew me into the Catholic Church. I longed to receive Holy Communion, and it was with great joy and gratitude that I finally was able to receive the Eucharist on Easter Vigil.

At Mass after Communion, when I pray to Jesus whom I have received, I know that there is no greater gift that God could give me: He has already given me himself. I want to respond in gratitude by giving myself away, especially to my husband. My personal encounter with Christ in the Eucharist at Mass constantly challenges me to conform my life to his will.

Hank: When Melissa started asking questions about the Catholic Church and I resolved to learn more about my faith, the Mass became profoundly meaningful. I realized that the Eucharist is Jesus, really present, body, blood, soul and divinity. Christ gave up his body for his bride, the Church.

The Eucharist reminds me that my vocation as a husband is to give up my body for my bride, to think beyond myself for the good of another, live my life as an act of love and hold nothing back.

When Melissa and I receive the Eucharist together at Mass, that act of profound unity draws us closer together as a married couple — it reminds us of our wedding vows, that we are one body.

(Hank and Melissa Hyatt will celebrate their sixth wedding anniversary in June. They lead diocesan marriage preparation weekends and are members of the Confraternity of Eucharist Devotion, Diocese of Oakland (CEDDO). They live in Oakland.)

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Dialog on science and human values is responsibility of the Church

Earlier this month I participated in a conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, offering a critical appraisal 150 years after the publication of Darwin’s “The Origin of Species.” It was a full five days of presentations; on one day the number of presentations reached nine. Subjects included paleontology, biomolecular evolution, human lineage, history of culture, as well as philosophical considerations.

More than one friend has teasingly asked me why I was there. The beginning of an answer came from Ron Olowin of our St. Mary’s College who looked around the room the first day and was delighted to see so many clerical collars among the few hundred attendees. It reminded me of a day at St. Mary’s when a woman connected to NASA told me that scientific developments come very quickly and that it is disappointing to look to the Church for moral evaluation and find the Church not there.

For me, this event in Rome follows the experience of more than a dozen years with one of the national bishops’ committees entitled Science and Human Values. From my beginning years there in the early 1990’s, we discussed genetic testing and screening, end of life issues, stem cell research, evolution and spent one particularly interesting weekend on “Brain, Mind and Spirit”.

There were 11 people of science and 11 bishops engaged in a good-will search through respectful dialogue for the moral appraisal of the issues before us and the implications for public policy. In this diverse group there were areas of agreement, times of divergence, and judgment that further reflection was desirable.

The presence of bishops on the national committee as well as at the conference in Rome this month is rooted in the teaching of the Second Vatican Council document on “The Church in the Modern World.” It stated the responsibility for entering into dialogue with the world and cultures.

My experience has been that though we approached subjects with great modesty, we sensed the words of Pope Paul VI that the Church has much to say. Indeed this dialogue, as Pope Paul VI stated, allows Church people to learn as well as contribute “to the world outside the Church as helpmate and beacon of hope.”

Unhappily, the committee on science and human values did not survive the down sizing of the bishops’ conference offices in Washington. One of the staff explained that the committee’s work was not of primary significance. Such a judgment may yield differing interpretations.

In any case, one has to be grateful to the Gregorian University, the University of Notre Dame and particularly the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture for the recent conference. Of decided value for me were the perspectives offered the last two days.

A Dominican cardinal offered a clear Thomistic reflection on creation and evolution. Jesuit Father William Stoeger, a Southern California native, explored the emergence of systems through the eons, noting tendencies toward complexity and “directionalities and finalities in nature.”

Dr. Robert Russell of Berkeley offered an expansive and profound theological orientation of evolution, situating it from historical reflections and pointing to issues of creation and redemption raised. A West Coast observer would feel some pride in the contribution of our local people at this conference in the Eternal City.

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