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Scripture Reflection - April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23 Colossians 3:1-4 or 1Corinthians 5:6b-8 John 20:1-9

“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad” (Psalm 118:24) Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

This is the day the Lord has made! After forty days of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, we have arrived at our Church’s most important and joyous celebration, the great Feast of Easter! “Have you thanked your Lord today” with the same awe and wonder of the first witnesses of the empty tomb—the first to grapple with the deep meaning of its reality in salvation history?

As we embrace this great gift of Easter, I’d like to tell you a story about a man named Michael. Michael was a familiar figure and military veteran from my local area. I first noticed him several years ago. Actually, he was hard to miss with his scraggly long gray hair, beard, and long, tattered army overcoat as he stood near the roadway entrance to a supermarket. In one hand, he held a tall wooden staff and weathered cardboard sign that proclaimed “Have you thanked your Lord today?” As he looked upward, two fingers on his other hand repeatedly traced the path of his gaze. I came to learn that Michael had several “posts” around the county where he would faithfully stand and witness, his image reminiscent of that of a “prophet.”

The first time I stopped to offer him something to eat he said, “No thank you, I have kidney cancer and it’s getting bad, I can’t tolerate many foods. He smiled briefly and then quickly returned to his “work.”  From then on, I just honked and waved as I passed him by. About six months ago, Michael began to regularly attend Mass at the parish where I interpret for the Deaf. He would sit front and center, staff in one hand and arms wide open; his eyes either closed in deep reflection or gazing heavenward. The parish community embraced Michael—someone always gave him a ride to Mass and one parishioner, a cancer survivor himself, bought Michael a new warm coat.

As time passed, Michael appeared to be in increasing pain and each time I asked him how he was doing, he would say the cancer was getting much worse. Despite his pain, Michael continued to attend Mass every Sunday and could still be seen positioned at his posts around the county. Whenever you saw him, his arms were always wide open to Jesus and two weeks ago, Jesus gathered Michael up into his waiting arms. Michael’s obituary in part reads, “Michael spent many years as a devout Catholic, spreading the ‘Word of God.’” I definitely believe Jesus is smiling as Michael “thanks his Lord” everyday face-to-face.

Even though he is no longer with us, his gentle presence remains commanding and challenging. His story is truly an Easter story—his roadside witnessing an example of great hope and unwavering faith. Michael was not afraid to be different as he shared a message that can be considered radical in today’s world. His simple question in reality showed a deep longing for union with his Lord, a union made possible by the empty tomb.

While Michael appeared to struggle greatly in life, he did not allow his suffering to prevent him from carrying out his mission. Instead, like Jesus, he acknowledged and embraced suffering, prayerfully keeping his focus on his Lord at the center. Jesus’ followers journeyed with him to Calvary, companions to the end, even after Jesus’ body was entombed. Michael trusted that his Lord was great and deserving of praise. He faithfully proclaimed his message and was true to his role as an evangelizer, even to the end.

As we enter into the joy of this Easter Season, we are invited to ponder the richness of its readings. May the awe and wonder of those who witnessed the empty tomb, along with the lessons of Michael’s story challenge us to become a more reflective, prayerful and active Easter people in all of life’s circumstances. In today’s Gospel, the disciple saw and believed. May our struggles in life be springboards for deepening our faith and may we be willing to radically proclaim and spread our love for the Lord through global concerns and actions as we strive for the ultimate union with God that is made possible by Christ’s suffering, death and Resurrection. Have you thanked your Lord today?  “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad.” Alleluia and Blessed Easter!

​Sister Barbara Ann Sgro, OP

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