Monday, March 31, 2008

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord


Information about the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

Readings for the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1
Isaiah 7:10-14; 8:10

In the first part of this reading King Ahaz is offered a sign by the Prophet Isaiah. However, Ahaz refuses the sign because it would indicate that God was intervening on the prophet’s side and he did not want to do that.

The sign that would be given in spite of the King’s refusal is the oracle we understand referring to the perfect realization of the promise of a Davidic Dynasty in the birth of the Messiah – Christ Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 40:7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 11
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

The Psalm of thanksgiving in this selection is focused on the key elements of today’s feast. We hear first of God’s desire for obedience, above sacrifice and burnt offerings, and then acceptance of God’s will.

Reading II
Hebrews 10:4-10

The first strophe from the selection in Psalm 40 above is quoted here by the author and applied as if it were the Jesus addressing God, the Father. The intent is to stress that the Hebrew practice of animal sacrifice does not find favor with God and that Jesus sacrifice of his own body is the one and only sacrifice acceptable.

Gospel
Luke 1:26-38

In Luke’s Gospel we are given the actual story of the Angle Gabriel coming to Mary and telling her she has found favor with God (the eternal implication of this statement is made clear in the greeting which presupposes knowledge of Mary’s entire existence). Over her concerns she is told of her burden and privilege.

Not understanding Mary accepts her role and is told that the Holy Spirit will be the agent of the life within her and utters those amazing words: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."

Reflection:

The solemnity of the Annunciation usually falls within the Lenten season and has the profound affect of enhancing our zeal to conform ourselves more closely to the Blessed Virgin as she completely submits herself to the will of God. On this high feast day, however, we find ourselves still bursting with the joy of Easter. Coming here it takes us even higher in our commitment to follow her Son.

While cultural situations have changed and the present day stigma of having a child out of wedlock is not what it once was, we can still appreciate what Mary was accepting when she said to Gabriel "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."

It stimulates one of those questions which is right up there with the one we ask on Good Friday when we invariably ask ourselves "Would I have been shouting; 'Crucify him!'" Today we ask ourselves; "If it had been me, would I have said yes?" We ask ourselves this question knowing that in Mary's time, adulterous women were stoned to death.

Oh, and we know from the story, Mary knew those consequences. We can almost hear her inner voice when she tells Gabriel; "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" She knew all right.

Can you imagine a young girl today, even a very spiritual one, having a visit from an apparition that tells her – "You have been selected to become pregnant at the hand of God." What do you think would happen? Well fist she'd probably go and tell her parents –

"Guess what mom and dad, I've been chosen by God to get pregnant." And after dad picked mom up off the floor and told her she was stupid for having had premarital sex, they would probably start taking about adoption or worse.

So perhaps the girl goes and tells her boy friend, same thing – "Guess what Joe, God has picked me to get pregnant." Joe's response - "Hey it's not mine." And that's probably the last we see of Joe.

Things have not changed that much. This was an amazing event. When we think about the likely answer to the question posed above, the scenario could easily have been – Joseph rejects Mary's explanation, goes and tells the local elders, and Mary is stoned to death the next day.

This extraordinary event gives us not only an example of faith in God but an example of faith and love for one another. Mary could not have made the choice she did if she did not believe that her parents would believer her incredible story and that Joseph would be understanding of her unparalleled role in God's saving work.

Today we celebrate indeed. God has increased our Easter Joy, extending our solemn celebration by one more day The Mother of God has once more brought us an example of faith we can aspire to.

Pax


Please Pray for Esther.


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is “The Annunciation” by Francesco Albani, ~1600

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Second Sunday of Easter


Divine Mercy Sunday
Information about the Divine Mercy Chaplet

Commentary:

Reading 1 Acts 2:42-47

This selection is the conclusion of St. Luke’s pentecostal narrative. The Holy Spirit as descended upon the people, St. Peter has offered his speech declaring Christ risen and the messianic significance of that event. The people have reacted favorably to his words and we find many have been reached. The description of the early Christian Community in Jerusalem , the first of three summary passages (along with Acts 4:32-37 and Acts 5:12-16), reflects and idyllic communal life style that is focused on the teaching of the twelve Apostles and the Eucharistic liturgy. We note the reference to the continued attendance at the temple indicating that there was no thought of separating the Christian faithful from Judaism.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love is everlasting.

Psalm 118 has been in regular use during the Easter season. It is a liturgical song of praise and victory. The messianic imagery is so strong that it has been used for the past three days, reflecting the joy of the Church in the Easter Tide.

Reading II 1 Peter 1:3-9

St. Peter, following the introductory verses, addresses this letter to the churches of Asia Minor. He begins this selection with a prayer, thanking God for the grace given in Baptism (“…gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”). He continues exhorting the community, which is being persecuted, to hold fast to the faith in Christ risen for their salvation.

St. John gives us the picture of the disciples (now Apostles) in hiding immediately following the Lord’s crucifixion. Twice Jesus comes to them once with Thomas absent and then again when he is present.

There are a number of very important elements of this version of the story. First, the Lord’s greeting, “Peace be with you.” While this may have been a simple Shalom, it is more likely intended to emphasize the rejoicing sense of the meeting. Immediately the Lord sends them on their mission, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you." As part of this action we are told the Lord gives the gift of the Holy Spirit to strengthen them and gives them authority to act in his name.

The significance of Thomas’ absence is used as an evangelizing moment. Doubting Thomas is confronted in the second visit by the risen Christ and almost in recompense for his role as disbeliever; he provides the title with which Jesus is understood now as True God as well as True Man – “My Lord and my God.”

The Lord then delivers a beatitude for future generations of Christians; “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

Reflection:

“Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

St. Peter reiterates this phrase in his first letter as he says’ “Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” With a gulf of two thousand years between us and Jesus’ active revelatory work, it is important that we see these words and know that God relies on those who follow to carry on the work started in Christ.
Jesus whole purpose in coming was to reveal the Father’s great love and mercy to us. From the very beginning of scripture, starting with Genesis, we were shown a picture of God. First was saw his creating hand and following this how he tried to get his favorite creation to understand. He use the patriarchs; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He tried to show us his mercy but these holy ancestors could not fully understand that there were other forces at work as well. Forces that took advantage of God’s gift of free will to corrupt his intent for humankind.

Next he called Moses to give the Law to the people of God. Although they fought against it, the Law was made known and with it right and wrong. But the people were only clinging to the word - not the spirit. The Law was God’s way of saying that we should love one another as he loved us. But what was understood by the people were the rules.

He sent prophets, great and lesser, Samuel was the first although he was not called a prophet at the time. He was followed by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and all the rest, each trying to convey God’s infinite love and mercy to a “stiff necked” people. What resulted, however, was an even more engrained set of traditions that focused on strict adherence to the Law of Moses

Trying to understand the mind of God is not something we do well and our understanding of his plan for us will never be fully understood. But, this we know, God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son, that who ever believed in him might not die but have life. Although we never knew Jesus the man, we know his purpose - the complete revelation of God. He was God’s love personified, His mercy completed in an act so passionate that the very world was shaken to its foundation.

Blessed are those who have not seen and believed.” Belief may be professed with words but the truth of that profession is expressed in actions. If we believe in Him, our actions must reflect our belief. If a person is convinced and believes that fire will burn them, they will avoid being burned. If a person believes that medicine will prolong their life and health, they will, without fail, take the prescribed dose. Belief is revealed in actions.

This conclusion constantly challenges us. If we believe in the Risen Lord and the promise his resurrection makes for us, then we must follow what he asked of us. Although it has been said repeatedly, this is summed up with “Love God and love one another.” We see it in the Acts of the Apostles as the early Christian community is described. We feel it in our hearts.

How hard it is to bring this simple promise to reality in life. Yet, if we truly believe, that is what we are called to do. The standard is set. Our season of joy invigorates us to renew our efforts. He is Risen!

Pax

Please pray for Esther.

1 After Links to Readings Expire
2 The picture used today is “The Incredulity of St. Thomas” by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1602-03

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Saturday in the Octave of Easter


Readings for Saturday in the Octave of Easter[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Acts 4:13-21

We hear today the conclusion of the story of the healing of the lame beggar at the “Beautiful” Gate. The Sanhedrin has a problem, too many people saw the miracle done in Jesus’ name. They attempt damage control by threatening Peter and John. This does not work and we hear the final word of their kerygmatic discourse as they proclaim once more Christ Risen. Significant is the fact that the reason the Sanhedrin could not punish them further was the event had been attributed by the people to God’s mercy not to the disciples themselves.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 118:1 and 14-15ab, 16-18, 19-21
R. I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me.

We continue to hear from Psalm 118, the great litany of thanksgiving in today’s selection. It leads nicely into the Gospel with “I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me and have been my savior.”

Gospel Mk 16:9-15

This Gospel selection is called “The Longer Ending” or “The Canonical Ending” of St. Mark’s Gospel. It captures pieces of the story we have from the Gospels of St. Luke and St. John. The emotion expressed is one of fear and determination rather than joy and confidence found in later writings. On this Saturday in the Octave of Easter we hear the story of the risen Lord encapsulated by Mark. This earliest of the Gospel accounts provides a very human account of Jesus’ friends immediately following his death and before their recognition of his risen victory.

Reflection:

Today we are stuck with an amazing contrast. Look at Peter and John in front of the Sanhedrin in the reading from Acts. They stand their boldly, facing down the very leaders who crucified the Savior of the world. Threatened with the same sort of fate, they unflinchingly proclaim Christ crucified and risen.

Now look at those same ordinary disciples who become extraordinary as they cower in St. Mark’s Gospel. Mary Magdalene comes to them after visiting the tomb and tells them what she has seen and they don’t believe her. Then the two disciples who encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus return and say they have seen the Risen Christ. The disciples do not believe them either. It is only when the Lord himself comes to them and stands before them.

The transformation is immediate and radical. Suddenly these fearful men become the fearless professors of the truth we see in Acts. Could just the appearance of Jesus have caused this transformation? Yes, there is a lot of the story that takes place between these two depictions of the Apostles. We look forward to Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit when the great work of evangelization begins in earnest. But Mark does tell us they were pushed into the world by this event.

What about us? We still revel in our Easter joy, the words of the Exultet, the Easter Proclamation still echoing in our minds. The Gospel reminds us that there is a consequence to our celebration that must manifest itself in action. Just as the disciples were sent into the world, we too are sent. There mission is our mission. Through our words, prayers and actions we pray that our light will join with the light of the Easter Candle that illuminates every heart. We hear His words: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

Pax

Please Pray for Esther.


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is “The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene” by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, 1638

Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday in the Octave of Easter


Readings for Friday in the Octave of Easter[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Acts 4:1-12

We continue to follow Peter and John as they proclaim Christ crucified and risen. As we hear today, their effective apology has now gained them an audience with Caiaphas and the rest of the Sanhedrin – the very same people who handed Jesus over to be crucified and Peter, having just performed a saving act in His name, reminds them with the famous cornerstone (in other versions the word used is “keystone” or “head of the corner”) speech using imagery from their own hymnal
Psalm 118:22 coincidently used as our psalm response below.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 118:1-2 and 4, 22-24, 25-27a
R. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.

This litany of thanksgiving features the cornerstone image that, in addition to the Acts selection above, was also used in the Gospel of St. Mark (
Mark 12:10) and the first epistle of St. Peter (1 Peter 2:7) (there are 9 other references in the NAB as well).

Gospel John 21:1-14

The Gospel from St. John gives us the Lord’s third appearance to the disciples. Again he his not at first recognized. In typical Johannine fashion, the first to recognize the Lord was the disciple whom Jesus loved, presumed to be St. John himself.

Jesus tells them were to cast the net and, indeed, they net a great number of fish (153 probably symbolic of universal mission of the Church - the total species of fish known at the time or the sum of numbers from 1-17). Peter is so excited he jumps in and swims to shore, discovering Jesus with a fish already cooking and bread, a Eucharistic reference.

When they are joined by the other disciples they were so overawed that they could not even speak. Then the Lord broke the bread.

Reflection:

One week ago today we recalled the Passion of our Lord and felt the tragic pang of sorrow as he was laid in the tomb. It always seems odd to see the tabernacle bare and empty, the vigil light extinguished. Lots of folks can’t seem to understand or perhaps they are just so accustomed to reverencing the Eucharist they don’t think about what it is that‘s missing.

Today, that missing component is back, back in the tabernacle, back with the disciples who themselves are back fishing were many of them started. Now the Lord lets them and us know that, while he has fulfilled the Father’s plan, the mission has not completed. The Lord has made them and us, as he promised, “Fishers of men”. He directs us and we cast a net that is full of fish.

Knowing we need strength for such a difficult task he feeds us with his own body in the Eucharist – he says “Come, have breakfast.” The scripture story has one additional piece of symbolism for us after that invitation – the disciples, the ones he called and who had been walking with him for three long years, they were there and they too were afraid of the task that beaconed to them.

Today as we again pray in thanksgiving that “He is Risen!” we also ask God for the strength to carry on the work to which, like the disciples on the shore of Galilee, we are called. May his Holy Spirit guide us and His Body strengthen us.

Pax

Please Pray for Esther.

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is “St. Peter Preaching” by Masolino da Panicale, 1426-27

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thursday in the Octave of Easter


Reading for Thursday in the Octave of Easter[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Acts 3:11-26

Continuing the story started yesterday with the cure of the lame beggar, we find a crowd gathering in the temple area and Peter launching into the second kerygmatic discourse or proclamations about the nature of Christ. Peter uses a new title for the Savior, “The Author of Life.” He concludes this discourse with a call for conversion. He sites Moses prophecy using a paraphrase of
Deuteronomy 18:15.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 8:2ab and 5, 6-7, 8-9
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8 is another of the songs of thanksgiving. In this selection we hear the title “son of man” used. It is, in this instance referring to the people as opposed to Jesus. The song reflects on the creation account from Genesis and how God gave man dominion over the life he created.

Gospel Luke 24:35-48

This is the first appearance of the risen Christ to the disciples in the locked room. It is significant that Thomas was not with them. His role becomes important later. He shows the disciples his wounds and then to prove he is corporeal, he asks for food and eats in front of them.

Now satisfied that they believe, the Lord brings them to understand the prophetic significance of what had taken place. He concludes pointedly by saying; “You are witnesses to these things.”

Homily:

He is risen! The scriptures shout the good news from Peter’s great discourse in the temple precincts to the Lord’s own appearance to his friends. Are we still not amazed? Even when we see a fisherman (three years ago Peter was throwing nets into the sea and praying for fish!) boldly proclaiming Christ’s death and resurrection to the leaders of his faith?

Easter is a time when we should do our best to throw out our historical understanding of the events unfolding in scripture. Like a movie we love and have seen many times before, we allow ourselves to be caught up in events that played themselves out thousands of years ago. So great was the event we relive it each year and remember it each day.

He is risen! Our reaction to his appearance in the locked room (although St. Luke does not mention it is locked) is the final proof that all that was predicted has come to pass. The “Author of Life” as St. Peter so aptly titles him, has returned not just to those ten, but to all of us. We see him there, bruised, beaten and pierced for us. He is real, not a ghost. He eats before his friends to prove it.

He is risen! For us that means two important things. First if all he said about his mission is true, and how can it not be since he was dead and is now alive, then what he promised, salvation, remission of our sins and eternal life opened to us, must also be true. Second, all that he asked of us through his disciples must also apply to our part of his New Covenant. We too are called to follow his example, his path.

He is risen! We rejoice at our good fortune and rededicate ourselves to our own call.

Pax

Please Pray for Esther.


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture today is “Christ's appearance behind locked doors” Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1308-11

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wednesday in the Octave of Easter



Readings for Wednesday in the Octave of Easter[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Acts 3:1-10

This dramatic cure of the lame beggar begins a group of events that places the disciples in the footsteps of Jesus. In this first action, the beggar is cured in the name of Jesus and immediately led into the temple area. The symbolism here is Jesus heals and leads us to faith.

This event also serves a secondary purpose. In addition to demonstrating the power of God’s intense love invoked through the name of Jesus, it also served to draw a large crowd to hear St. Peter’s kerygmatic discourse.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 105:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8-9
R. Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord.

This song of praise links us to the first reading from Acts by emphasizing the saving power of the name of the Lord. In using the name of God, the speaker implicitly gives glory to God for the blessings that follow.

Gospel Luke 24:13-35

This story of the disciples of the road to Emmaus is only found in Luke’s Gospel. There is a mention in Mark (
Mark 16;12) that is vague but probably refers to this event. The actual location of Emmaus is not known but it is estimated that it was between 7 and 18 miles from Jerusalem. The focus of the story is the unrecognized Jesus (remember yesterday, Mary Magdalene thought he was a gardener) interprets scripture and then his recognition in the breaking of the bread (the Eucharistic reference).

Reflection:

The scripture placed before us today as we continue to rejoice in the Easter feast (are the jelly beans gone yet?) is so full of meaning for us that it is difficult to compose an adequate post in the time and space allotted. Instead of my usual monologue I am going to put down a few topics on each of the three scripture selections and invite the readers to pick one or two for today and just pray for inspiration from them:

In the reading from Acts, the cure of the “Lame Beggar”

- The disciples Peter and John invoke the name of Jesus (“…in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk”). As modern disciples of Jesus what power and authority do we command in His name?


- Once they had cured him, they led him into the temple area. The Apostles lead, do we follow?

In Psalm 105 – ths great song of praise

- David sings to the Lord thanking him for all he has done. Have we prayed that way lately or are we just asking for things from him?


- Like Peter and John who invoked the name of Jesus, David sings; “Give thanks to the Lord, invoke his name.” Do we do so with purpose or only as an emphatic reference?

From Luke’s Gospel the Disciples on the road to Emmaus

- That road, shuffling along in the dust with Jesus, we all walk that way. When was the last time we looked for the Lord’s guidance as we encountered him in the breaking of the bread?


- The Lord interpreted “…to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures” He is there for us today in the Word – the Logos. Have we looked there for guidance? Have we taken to heart what we have heard?


- How lucky were those two disciples to have met the Lord on that road. We might ask; “How could they have not known him?” But then we must ask; “How many times have we, on our own journey been joined by the Lord and failed to recognize him?”

There is so much to contemplate today as we bask in the Easter Joy of this time.

Pax

Please Pray for Esther.

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture today is “Supper at Emmaus” by Caravaggiio, 1601-02

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter


Readings for Tuesday in the Octave of Easter[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Acts 2:36-41

The selection from Acts today continues the First Discourse by Peter concerning the Messiah. In this section he introduces Baptism in the name of Jesus. This is in accord with the instructions of all four Gospels found here for the first time. Peter’s arguments are compelling and we are told that three thousand accepted the call.

We note here also Peter called for “repentance” in addition to the call to Baptism. While Baptism washes away past sins, repentance is a call to on-going conversion of heart. This indelible change is a consequence of the gift of the Holy Spirit also given in Baptism.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 33:4-5, 18-19, 20 and 22
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.

Psalm 33 is a song of praise and thanksgiving. In this selection the emphasis is on faithfulness to God who has saving power combined with hope, a central component of faith in God.

Gospel Jn 20:11-18

Today we are given St. John’s account of the first meeting between Mary Magdalene and Jesus following the Lord’s crucifixion. In this account we get a distinct picture that the ascension had not been completed but the Lord is waiting to deliver his final instructions.

There is debate about when the Lord ascended to the Father. Clearly his last earthly appearance was fifty days following the resurrection. Most scholars believe Jesus ascended immediately following his meeting with Mary depicted here. His return and actions from this point to the Ascension (
Acts 1:1-11) were to accomplish the gift of the Holy Spirit he had promised.

Reflection:

While we are still deep in the joy of our Easter of hope In Christ Jesus, we reflect on some of the particulars of reconciling our faith with the physical world. Recognizing first that we will not understand how God did what he did to the Lord and that the resurrection of the body, while we accept it as part of our creedal faith, is something we wonder about.

At some level of logic, if we are to believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist we must try to reconcile what we know of the physical body and what we accept on faith. It is a difficult and sometimes painful process (while there are epiphanies, flashes of insight along the way, it is a process of understanding).

The Gospel today has helped me. I have long believed that Christ’s risen and glorified body is the one present in the Eucharist. It is that body that appeared to the disciples in the locked room (more about that in a couple of days). In his newly risen state, he did not want Mary Magdalene to hold on to him (physically, spiritually?) because he had not yet ascended to the Father.

The significance this story and specifically the ancient words “Noli me tangere” (Don’t hold me) rings clear to us. We must not keep the Lord of the World in a box. We cannot fully understand what he must do and we may not define him in human terms but must direct our minds and emotions to allow him to be what our logic abhors, a mystery.

We contemplate the resurrection event again today as we hope in our own salvation. Salvation promised in that same resurrection and sealed in the waters of our Baptism. We shake free of the pain and suffering of the Lord’s Passion and accept now his newly risen appearance. We are amazed at what God has done for us.

Pax
Please pray for Esther.

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is “Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene” by Lavinia Fontana, 1581

Monday, March 24, 2008

Monday in the Octave of Easter


Readings for Monday in the Octave of Easter[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Acts 2:14, 22-33

This is the first of the six professions (“kerygma” or proclamations) in Acts about the resurrection. In this proclamation, Peter, speaking to the Jews in Jerusalem (many of whom would have been in the crowd that saw Jesus crucified) reminds them that David had been made the promise of an eternal dynasty that had been fulfilled in the resurrected Messiah, Jesus.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 16:1-2a and 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.

Psalm 16 is the song quoted in the Acts above. A song of thanksgiving that has become prophetic, it speaks clearly of the resurrection accomplished now in Christ. (“Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world, nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption”.)

Gospel Mt 28:8-15

From Matthew’s Gospel we are told of Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Christ as she returned from the empty tomb. In this account, Mary is described as actually touching him. This differs from the description in the Gospel of St. John where Jesus asks Mary not to hold on to him because he has not yet ascended to the Father.

This scripture also tells us something we would expect of those who did not want to believe, that is the rumor that it was the disciples of Jesus who took the body rather than letting the truth get out.

Reflection:

For the modern world and many in it, Easter of 2008 has come and gone. For the Church and the faithful who recognize this as the most important event of all time, our celebration continues. For us the echoes of the Exultet, the Easter Proclamation still rings in our ears. Recall the third strophe;

Rejoice O Mother Church, exalt in glory. The risen Savior shines upon you. Let this place resound with joy, echoing the mighty song of all God’s people.

The tears and remorse of Good Friday have left and indeed that joy filled realization that the Savior has conquered death and fulfilled his promise has burst upon us. Has it really sunk in? Or, perhaps a better question might be, since we have relived this event each year for as long as we have been alive, has its meaning changed for us? Has it gotten closer to bringing us the joy of Mary Magdalene who first saw that empty tomb and understood?

When we were children, we had been told the story from our earliest years of how Jesus was seized by evil men and nailed to a cross. We were hurriedly told, probably by our parents, that just three days later Jesus rose from the dead. We did not understand what it truly meant back then. Perhaps what Easter truly meant was the Easter Basket with chocolate bunnies and perhaps new clothes to wear to church.

As we grew older the meaning of the Easter story changed for us. Probably in our early teen years it became an emotional event. The Stations of the Cross during Lent were very moving and the mood of Good Friday was embraced. Easter was almost anticlimactic.

In our adult years the promise of Easter becomes more important. The sacrifice of the Lord becomes more real to us as we understand more completely the pain the Lord endured for us so that promise might be fulfilled. It is, in many ways like getting to know one’s spouse or a close friend; the process is on-going and never reaches its end because our own experiences continually sharpen our understanding.

This year we pray our appreciation and joy over the saving work that is Easter brings us closer to the true joy that is due to God’s children who have seen once more the Lord of Life conquer death and rise in glory. May our Alleluia reverberate throughout our lives in the season now upon us.

Pax

Please Pray for Esther.


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture today is “Noli Me Tangere” by Correggio 1525

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Sunday


The Resurrection of the Lord
The Mass of Easter Day

Readings for Easter Sunday[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Acts 10:34a, 37-43

This is part of Peter’s speech to the Cornelius and his family (Gentiles). Peter (according to St. Luke) assumes the people know what has happened – namely that Jesus who was thought to be the Messiah, had proven that fact in the resurrection. Now he reminds them, before the creed was written that Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
R. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
Or Alleluia.

Psalm 118 is a song of thanksgiving emphasizing the fidelity of God. The final strophe gives a reminder that God’s only Son was rejected and, in the resurrection, revealed to all the word that he is the cornerstone of all creation.

Reading II Colossians 3:1-4

Paul gives assurance to the Colossians that they too have a home with Christ who now is seated at the right hand of the Father. In saying this, he points their aspirations to the things of heaven.

Or
I Corinthians 5:6b-8

Paul calls the Corinthians to conversion with a metaphor. He uses the duel meaning or implication of leaven bread and the feast of the Passover to symbolize the new covenant. The traditional Passover meal or Seder is lamb and unleavened bread. Christ, the Lamb of God in the unleavened bread of the Eucharist is their meal.

Gospel John 20:1-9

In St. John’s account of the discovery of the “Empty Tomb” we hear how the disciple whom Jesus loved understood what had come to pass before Peter. Found also in Luke, this story furnishes the testimony that confirms Christ’s resurrection.

Reflection:

He is Risen!

The forty days of preparation have ended and we celebrate the greatest feast of the Church. Jesus Christ The Gospel of St. John tells the story of the foot race between St. Peter and another (much younger) disciple, probably St. John himself. They rush to the grave because Mary Magdala has told them something astonishing. She has been to the Tomb and it was empty!

They had to see for themselves. It had been three days and they could not have gone earlier because they were forbidden to make that journey on the Sabbath. What did they think as they ran? Were they fighting with their faith? Did they believe that what Jesus had been telling them all along had come to pass or could have been the Romans or even the Temple guards that took the body, still not prepared for proper burial to some other place, further humiliating the Lord after his death.

The truth of that event has come to be known. Centuries past and the debate raged. The Lord came to reveal the truth; that God loves us, created in His image, an impulse of his love. And when he saw that we did not understand, he sent his Son that we might come to see that he was not simply a parent who punished his children when they were in error. He was not simply, as the Jews had come to believe, a strict disciplinarian, rather he was a loving Father who cared deeply for his children and wanted to be with them always.

His Son came to us knowing that many would not accept the Love of the Father; knowing that they would reject him so violently that it would result in humiliation and horrible, painful death. Molding flesh in the Virgin Mary’s womb, Christ came to us with all of the frailties that make up a true man. What good would God’s sacrifice have seemed if his unending Godhead descended? He showed us with his actions the life God wanted for us; a life without contest, in harmony with one another and all creation. He gathered all Sacred Scripture to himself and showed us how it fit together – he was the Epiphany.

In the end, when he had shown us all the love he could, he took the path preordained. It was a path the man Jesus did not want. It was the path the God, Jesus, knew was necessary. It fulfilled the new covenant. The sacrifice was God himself, the seal of that covenant was his blood. And now, so we might not be like those who live in darkness and have no hope, He has Risen!

What do we believe and what does that mean for us? If we believe that Christ has risen as he told us repeatedly that he would, then we understand him the be the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God who as Paul and Luke both tell us, now sits at the right had of the Father in the seat of Justice. If that is our belief, first we celebrate that event joyfully today. Not just because our long fast has ended, but once more the Church proclaims throughout the world that salvation is there for the asking. The great “Alleluia” has sounded and we are called to echo that joyous sound that the world will know and come to believe, “For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”

Pax


Please Pray for Esther.


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture today is “The Resurrection” by Vecellio Tizano, 1542-44

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Vigil


Easter Sunday
The Resurrection of the Lord
At the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter

Readings for Easter Vigil[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Genesis 1:1—2:2 or 1:1, 26-31a

Scripture begins with the first creation account from Genesis. God creates the universe, the earth, and all living things. His final creation is the Sabbath, a day of rest and worship.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 104:1-2, 5-6, 10, 12, 13-14, 24, 35
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.

Psalm 104 is a song of thanksgiving supporting the creation event just related. A constant theme through the psalms is thanks for the gift of creation.

Or
Psalm 33:4-5, 6-7, 12-13, 20 and 22
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.

The alternate psalm is also a song of thanks giving for God’s creative majesty. In this song the Logos is also mentioned tying the creative event to Jesus – the Word of God – the Logos.

Reading II Genesis 22:1-18 or 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18

In the second reading we find Abraham put to the test. He is to offer his son Isaac as a holocaust – an offering completely burnt on the altar. Abraham, though reluctant, is faithful to God and follows his instructions. At the last moment, when God is sure that Abraham has greater love for God than even his beloved son Isaac, he stops Abraham and “blesses him abundantly”, making him the father of nations.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.

Following Abraham’s demonstration of love, Psalm 16 is another song of thanksgiving, this time for presence of the Lord and His saving power.

Reading III Exodus 14:15—15:1

This selection of Exodus is the crossing of the Red (Reed) Sea and the destruction of the Egyptian army following them. While this was the beginning of the Exodus story, it is the most spectacular intervention by God of the journey and, coupled with the striking of the firstborn of Egypt, the most forceful act, freeing the Hebrews from further retribution and harassment.

Responsorial Psalm Exodus 15:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 17-18
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.

This hymn is another account of the saving event that ended the threat of the Egyptians. This canticle was frequently used in early Christian liturgy to celebrate God’s saving power.

Reading IV Isaiah 54:5-14

Isaiah paints Jerusalem as the wife in relationship with God. This passage is understood by the Christian faithful to refer to the New Jerusalem – Zion the Church. In this oracle the Prophet speaks of the everlasting covenant that would be the Messiah.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.

Still another psalm of thanksgiving recalls the saving power of God. The image of the resurrection is clearly evident I the first strophe, “O Lord, you brought me up from the netherworld; you preserved me from among those going down into the pit.”

Reading V Isaiah 55:1-11

In the second reading from Isaiah we hear how God’s salvation is given to all peoples. We recall as the Prophet reminds us that salvation flows from his promise to extend David’s line, that the Messiah comes from that linage in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.

Responsorial Psalm Isaiah 12:2-3, 4, 5-6
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.

This song of praise and thanksgiving takes the tone of a profession of faith; “God indeed is my savior; I am confident and unafraid. My strength and my courage is the Lord, and he has been my savior.”

Reading VI Baruch 3:9-15, 32

Baruch, the secretary of Jeremiah, composes this poem in praise of the Law of Moses. The poem rejoices in the saving power of God for those who are faithful using Wisdom like references to speak of divine intervention.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 11
R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.

Supporting Baruch’s praise of the Law, Psalm 19 echoes praise for the Law that Jesus came to fulfill.

Reading VII Ezekiel 36:16-17a, 18-28

Contained within this selection from Ezekiel is one of the earliest and most complete descriptions of the theology of Baptism (Ez 36; 24-28). We see the Lord’s great love for the people manifest in first purifying them (“I will sprinkle clean water upon you…”) and then giving them a conversion of heart (“I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you…”).

When baptism is celebrated
Responsorial Psalm Psalm 42:3, 5; 43:3, 4
R. Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God.

The water theme in this song of thanksgiving reminds us of the life-giving bath that is Baptism. Those receiving the sacrament will be moved by the obvious invitation to join with God fully in this holy place.

When baptism is not celebrated.
Responsorial Psalm
Isaiah 12:2-3, 4bcd, 5-6
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.

If Baptism is not celebrated at the vigil we may hear this hymn from the Prophet Isaiah that reminds us, through his profession that we have all be baptized in Jesus life and death.

Or
Psalm 51:12-13, 14-15, 18-19
R. Create a clean heart in me, O God.

This personal lament is the alternate to Isaiah’s hymn. We are also reminded of Baptism and the purifying effect of that bath.

Epistle Romans 6:3-11

This reading from Romans reminds us that we have been joined to Christ in Baptism and in doing so we are also joined to his death. Without inevitable death of the body there is no resurrection and we are reminded by Paul that, since Christ came so we could be absolved from sin, the great promise is that we will rise with him, free from all sin.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
R. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

The final psalm is another song of thanksgiving. It sets the stage for the great event that demonstrates God’s love and power as the Lord, His Son, the “stone the builders rejected” conquers death and joins Him in new life.

Gospel Matthew 28:1-10

St. Matthew’s account of the empty tomb has much in common with Mark and Luke. Unique in this account is the dramatic action which rolls the stone away from the tomb and the proactive angelic presence announcing the resurrection. In none of the Gospel accounts do we actually see Christ rising from the dead. The empty tomb and the reminder that Jesus told his disciples that he would rise after three days is the evidence of the great salvific event.

The two women’s encounter with Christ as the ran to tell the disciples is unique in the synoptic Gospels but is similar to the account from St. John. They embraced him- a physical form, raised from the dead.

Reflection:

As has been the custom on this Vigil day, we offer you for your reflection the great proclamation of Easter which announces the Risen Lord throughout the Church this evening. I ask you to pray it we me today:

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!

Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes for ever!

Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God's people!

My dearest friends,
standing with me in this holy light,
join me in asking God for mercy,

that he may give his unworthy minister
grace to sing his Easter praises.
(followed by the usual exchange asking that we lift up our hearts)

It is truly right
that with full hearts and minds and voices
we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.


For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam's sin to our eternal Father!

This is our passover feast,
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

This is the night
when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.

This is the night
when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!

This is night
when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

This is the night
when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.

What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.

O happy fault,
O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!


Most blessed of all nights,
chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!


Of this night scripture says:
"The night will be as clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy."

The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
washes guilt away, restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.

Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth
and man is reconciled with God!

Therefore, heavenly Father,
in the joy of this night,
receive our evening sacrifice of praise,
your Church's solemn offering.

Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.

(For it is fed by the melting wax,
which the mother bee brought forth
to make this precious candle.)

Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
and continue bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night!

May the Morning Star which never sets
find this flame still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star,
who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on all mankind,
your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Amen.

Please Pray for Esther.

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture today is “The three Marys at the Tomb” by Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1308

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion


Readings for Good Friday[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Isaiah 52:13—53:12

The last of the four “Servant of the Lord” oracles is used on Good Friday. A lament for the prophet’s own ill treatment and A prediction of the passion is seen here beginning with the scourged servant and flowing into the salvific image (“Yet it was our infirmities that he bore”). We are reminded that what the servant bore, he took upon himself willingly (“Though he was harshly treated, he submitted”).

The later paragraphs describe how the servant becomes the “sin offering”, a sacrifice in the Jewish tradition in atonement for sins. In this case we are told, “…he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses.”

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25
R. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

The psalm response is taken from the Gospel of Luke (
Luke 23;46) and the psalm selection is a lament of the people. It echoes the willingness with which the servant submits in Isaiah’s narrative. We also hear of the Lord’s mercy and strength.

Reading II Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9

In the Book of Hebrews we hear St. Paul comparing Christ to the Jewish High Priest who is esteemed and pampered because of his rank. Jesus, on the other hand was tested and found to be sinless.

In the second paragraph we see that while Jesus was afraid of the passion, he submitted to the will of the Father. In doing so he became the source of our eternal salvation.

Gospel
John 18:1—19:42

Many of the specific details of the Passion accounts found in Matthew, Mark and Luke are omitted in St. Johns account (the agony in the garden and the kiss of Judas, nor does he identify the place as Gethsemane or the Mount of Olives.
[3]) Also unlike the synoptic Gospels, St. John suggests Roman participation in the arrest of Jesus.

In St. John’s account we are also told that Jesus went through several interrogations (first by Annas and then by Caiaphas) before being taken to Pilate. The philosophical debate between Jesus and Pilate in John’s Gospel is rich with logic and it is easy to understand why Pilate wanted to release him. In the end (without sending him to Herod) Christ is condemned.

The role of Mary in John’s narrative is significant in that her role represents the Church, the mother of Christians now being given to the care of the Disciple whom Jesus loved. This hand off of the Church was the Lord’s last dying act. Finally we are given the final symbols of the perfect sacrifice; Jesus’ legs are not broken (because according to Jewish Law, the legs of a sacrificial animal are not to be broken) and water (representing baptism) and blood (representing Eucharist) flow from his side.

Reflection:

Our reflection today places us deep within the Passion itself. All that has been foretold by the Prophets has come to pass. The Lord, the Son of God, has given us his great gift and we are filled with the bitter sweet understanding of what this means. We know that what he did was what must have happened and we know that it is for us that this light was extinguished. Yet we feel the loss of the man, Jesus. We feel the pain of his human mother, Mary.

We conclude our reflection this day with the “Reproaches” that will be sung today all over the world:

For your sake I scourged your captors and their firstborn sons,
but you brought your scourges down on me.

My people what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

I led you from slavery to freedom
and drowned your captors in the sea,
but you handed me over to your high priests.

My people what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

I opened the sea before you,
but you opened my side with a spear.

My people what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

I led you on your way in a pillar of cloud,
but you led me to Pilate’s court!

My people what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

I bore you up with manna in the desert,
but you struck me down and scourged me.

My people what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

I gave you saving water from the rock,
but you gave me gall and vinegar to drink.

My people what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

For you I struck down the kings of Canaan,
but you struck my head with a reed.

My people what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

I gave you a royal scepter,
but you gave me a crown of thorns

My people what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

I raised you to the heights of majesty,
but you have raised me high on a cross.

My people what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!


Pax

Please Pray for Esther

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture selected for today is “Descent from the Cross” by Bartolom√© Carducho, 1595
[3] Taken from the footnotes to the NAB at usccb.org

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Holy Thursday


Mass of the Lord’s Supper

Readings for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14

This passage from Exodus established the Feast of Passover for Jewish people. It is the feast Jesus was celebrating in the upper room. We are told of the tenth and final plague to strike Egypt as God struck down the first born and caused the Pharaoh to release the people from bondage. The image of the “Lamb” is reminiscent of the “Lamb of God”, who is also without blemish, whose blood consecrates those who believe in him.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 116:12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18
R. Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.

This psalm of thanksgiving gives us the image of the “Cup of Blessing” used in the Passover celebration. It is this cup that the Lord first blessed and used as our communion cup.

Reading II 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

St. Paul gives us the earliest written account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper. This account is used by many protestant denominations to define their understanding of this event as symbolic rather than efficacious, that is, they believe the Lord’s actions did not transubstantiate the bread and wine, but that the action was simply a “remembrance”. The Church looks at the whole body of scripture, especially St. John’s Gospel and understands the Sacrament as the gift of Christ’s Body and Blood.

Gospel John 13:1-15

We find in St. John’s Gospel the Lord’s great act of humility as he washes the feet of his disciples, something that would not even have been done by a slave. In another sense it also carries with it the image of Baptism as well as the humiliating death the Lord was about to suffer.

Reflection:

There is an interesting paradox found in the event we celebrate today. The Mass in which these readings are foundational is the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, yet the Gospel focuses our attention on an act of humble service by the Savior of the world. As a community we come together for this first installment of the great Easter celebration.

As in the usual Mass, we will participate in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. But something special happens. It is traditional for twelve members of the community to come forward and the Priest, who stands in the place of Christ in sacramental celebrations will follow Christ’s example literally by washing the feet of those selected.

It is a humbling position to be placed in, as one of those whose feet are to be washed. For many, it is too much to bear. Why would they feel such embarrassment, such unworthiness in the face of an act of love such as the Lord felt for all of us? These volunteers would almost certainly do as the Lord asked in the Gospel, “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.” Could it be the reason we, whose feet are to be washed, feel embarrassed is that we have never assumed that humble role for another and are therefore ill at ease? Is it because the Priest, someone we know and respect, has demonstrated that he believes the word of the one who called him?

What the Church reminds us of by placing the re-enactment of Christ washing the feet of the disciples centrally in the Feast of the Lord’s Supper is that the one who laid down his life for us also laid down his glory for us. He did not just give up his life; he gave up his dignity, becoming the lowest of servants. The Son of God washes our feet daily; can we do less of one another?

Pax

Please Pray for Esther


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is “Washing of the Feet” by Giovane Palma, 1591-92

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Wednesday of Holy Week


Readings for Wednesday of Holy Week[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Isaiah 50:4-9a

This is the third of the four “Servant of the Lord” oracles from Isaiah. These four comprise the “Suffering Servant” that is the prophetic vision of the Messiah describing the humble ministry of Christ.

In this passage the prophet describes his mission to “…speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.” The “weary” are those born down by oppression and the “Word” that will rouse them is hope in God. In doing this he has incurred the wrath of the powerful, the oppressors but he is steadfast in is mission as his faith in God sustains him, in spite of the persecution he suffers.

We head this same reading on Passion Sunday just four days ago. It sets the tone for what begins tomorrow evening with the Feast of the Lord’s Supper.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 69:8-10, 21-22, 31 and 33-34
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.

This selection is an individual lament, again drawing heavily on the image of the faithful servant who suffers but remains dedicated to God’s law and works. Even in the face of this intense social embarrassment, the psalmist must be faithful because “…because zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me.” The imagery in this song forces us to look forward to the passion as Christ’s punishment is prophetically envisioned.

Gospel Matthew 26:14-25

We break away from St. John’s account and today hear Judas striking the bargain with members of the Sanhedrin. The thirty pieces of silver is reminiscent of the price paid for the shepherd of the flock to be slaughtered in Zechariah (
Zechariah 11:12).

We then hear Matthew’s account of the story we heard yesterday. Jesus again tells the disciples that one of them will betray him. This time Judas, who has already struck a deal to turn him over to his enemies, answers, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?”

Reflection:

Avarice and his own misguided view of what the “Royal Messiah” should be have overcome Judas and he strikes a deal with the Sanhedrin. How difficult it must have been for him to go to recline at table with Jesus, knowing what he was about to do. He is like a child who has done something wrong. He is too quick to jump when the subject of his next action is brought up by Jesus.

We must wonder if this is for our benefit. Judas was so obvious. The Lord told all of his closest friends; “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” The Gospel says they started arguing, saying one after the other, “Surely it is not I, Lord?” Note the question mark. Were they all thinking they could betray the Son of God? Was the Lord’s hold on them so tenuous that at any moment they worried they might fall away? Or was it perhaps that they misunderstood? There are many ways, as we all know, to betray the Savior of the World.

Perhaps we should focus on Judas again. His turn came and like the others he said, “Surely it is not I, Lord?” to which the Lord responded. “You have said so.”

In the next moment the mystery was solved as we are told Judas left the celebration. He did not sneak out, he left. In St. John’s Gospel yesterday the Apostle said they assumed he was going out to get more food or on some errand of charity. Did all of the disciples think so? Did none of them suspect the depth to which one of their own had sunk? Why didn’t someone stop him?

The question is actually amusing. In reflecting on that moment in the upper room, we get caught up in events that took place two thousand years ago and were prophesied long before that. Judas had to betray the Lord – he stood in the place of the advisors to Pharaoh who sent his army to destroy the Hebrews as they fled through the Red Sea. He cheered the golden calf while Moses was receiving the Law. He plotted against Jeremiah and against Isaiah. His act was the most predictable part of the whole Jesus story.

For us, even as some cord deep within us hopes that Jesus will somehow escape the plot, we pray more deeply that we have so conformed ourselves to the Lord that we could not be tempted to violation of the love of the Lord that Judas now violates. We pray that, through our faithful service and love of one another, we will stand with the “disciple whom Jesus loved” at the foot of his cross. We take a breath as tomorrow we plunge into the Garden.

Pax

Please Pray for Esther


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is “The Last Supper” by El Greco, 1568