15th April Third Sunday of Easter
The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way,
and how Jesus was made known to them..." For Christians, the breaking of the bread and the sharing of a meal has been a key way to encounter the presence of Jesus.
The Gospel today challenges people to ask, "How is Jesus made known to me?" "What do I do that enables Jesus to be made known to others?"
Take some time for Journal writing to answer these questions:
Jesus, I find your presence when I...
Jesus, I can miss your presence sometimes when I...
Jesus, in my school, I help others see your presence when I...
Jesus, I just want to say...
Jesus, I think you are saying to me...
The Light of Jesus in our World
The first reading today states, "Stephen, filled with grace and power,
was working great wonders and signs among the people". The death and resurrection of Jesus had sparked a revolution. There were people like Stephen, who would not be quiet, who would not go into hiding in case he too, was put to death like Jesus. The story of Jesus had transformed Stephen, and his actions spoke of loudly of this transformation.
Let us light a candle today and focus on the flame, symbolising the light of Jesus still shining in our world, that death could not extinguish.
Let us focus on how the Jesus story transforms our lives, and how does it make us different, as Catholic school communities?
Breathing in, silently pray 'Jesus'.
Breathing out, silently pray 'transform me'.
Alternatively, pray: Jesus, live in me, or Jesus, change me.
Keep the mantra going as long as you can.
If we were able to work great wonders and signs among people that showed how God wants our world to be, what actions would people see in our school community? Let us pray to be the signs and wonders that the Easter story calls Christians to be.
The Reading on St Stephen's Fate.
The first reading today tells us how Stephen did suffer the same fate as Jesus.
"They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.
The witnesses laid down their cloaks
at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out,
'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.'
Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice,
'Lord, do not hold this sin against them';
and when he said this, he fell asleep.
Now Saul was consenting to his execution".
The reading today reminds us how challenging being a Christian can be. Sometimes it is easier to not speak out against injustice. Sometimes it is easier to keep the peace and say nothing. Sometimes it is easier to do nothing. But this wasn't the path Jesus chose, and nor was it the path that Stephen chose.
Today, we pray in thanksgiving for the men and women who have lived their faith courageously, in spite of the consequences. Today, we pray in thanksgiving for having St Stephen's Cathedral in the city of Brisbane, for all Catholics to worship and pray without fear.
"The stones of St Stephen’s Cathedral are silent witnesses to the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of generations of Catholic families". (Go to the website for more information)
Draw or write or state the names of people who have lived their lives courageously, and who have helped us to have our Catholic schools and churches today. Write individual or class prayers of thanksgiving for these courageous people.
Have Faith in the Darkest Moments
The first reading today speaks of the severe persecution of the Church in Jerusalem. Holy men buried Stephen. Saul was dragging men and women out of the houses and handing them over for imprisonment. Who would ever believe that this faith community could survive? At the same time we hear of Philip, who preaches, works signs by healing people, and brings great joy to a city in the midst of so much suffering.
The Easter story calls believers to have faith that in their darkest moments, hope, joy and love will still break through, somehow.
Provide students with circles or squares of paper and ask them to colour one half black and the other half yellow. Fold them in half to show one colour on each side. Place them all, dark side facing upwards, around a crucifix or cross, with a Bible open at the resurrection story. Each time a prayer is read, invite some students to turn their piece of paper over to show the yellow side, and continue until there is no black colour showing.
God, when we feel sad and lonely, help us to know that we will find love and friendship (turn paper over to yellow side). God, when we have been ready to give up and stop trying, help us to remember that you never give up on us. God, when we lose people that we love, help us to know that they have new life with you. God, when we don't feel very brave, help us to remember that we can always find someone to support us.
Students could write their own prayers following this format.
Prayer for Understanding Transformation
Like the caterpillar whose life plunged into darkness to emerge transformed as a butterfly, today we focus on Jesus' life being transformed through his death and resurrection. For believers it means that somehow, in some way, the presence of Jesus is still with us today, and can enable us to be far more than we ever could be on our own.
Make a single colourful butterfly, or make individual butterflies, and attach them to a cross or two sticks of wood put together in a cross shape. Students could write their own Easter prayers on the back of each butterfly, or paste onto the back of one large butterfly. For example:
Jesus, thank you for...
God, the Easter story helps me because...
Jesus, thank you for the gift of hope because...