Part Seven – Easter Sunday
Holy Week and The Paschal Mysteries: Living Freedom, Living Peace
In preparation to write this seven-part Holy Week Homily series, I have spent much of the past two weeks studying the Scriptures which were proclaimed this past Holy Week, as well as a great deal of time refreshing my memory of and studying European History as well as reflecting on what I learned from those studies. Given recent events in Eastern Europe, I have also considered all these things as I reflected on the experience of the children of Fatima and the words of the Blessed Mother, shared with them during what was once called the Great War, the war to end all wars.
The Word of God during this week spoke of prophesy and fulfillment, tragedy and triumph, sin and salvation. Additionally, it has spoken of covenant and betrayal, love and hate, humility and pride. European history can be said to speak of all these same things. In brief, the scriptures testify to God’s enduring love which ceaselessly offers by way of the Cross of Christ, the only way of freedom for us and peace in the world. European history, indeed, the history of mankind from its outset, attests the wretchedness and oppression born of the human heart as a consequence of the abuse of freedom. History testifies to man’s great in humanity to man, sometimes in the name of God and always contrary to the way, truth and life of Christ.
On May 5, 1917, Pope Benedict XV wrote a pastoral letter to the world, asking the faithful to petition Mary to bring an end to the war, "that her most tender and benign solicitude may be moved and the peace we ask for be obtained for our agitated world." Eight days later, Mary appeared for the first time, on May 13, to three shepherd children.
In 1947 speaking of Fatima, a Dominican Priest named Fr. Vincent Ferrer McHenry said, “To overcome these causes [of war], Mary had to lead souls to peace. How profoundly did she understand that true peace flows only from union with God! From the moment the Lord had done great things to her, Mary had realized the meaning of peace. She knew that without Christ, the “way and the truth, and the life” Jn 14:6, there could be no peace in the souls of her children and none in the world. Despite the present indications of the nearness of war, the world can still obtain the peace promised by our Lady at Fatima, if enough souls meditate on the mysteries of her Rosary and imitate the goodness it contains.”
I agree with Fr. McHenry, Despite the present indications of the nearness of war, the world can still obtain the peace promised by our Lady at Fatima, if enough souls meditate on the mysteries of her Rosary and imitate the goodness it contains.”
One of the key elements of the message of Fatima is the summoning of the children of God to make reparation for personal sins and the sins of others, to become conduits of the mercy of God so that, if we can help it, no soul will be lost. Our Lady showed the 3 children the fires of hell and asked them to pray and offer penance for the conversion of sinners. “You see Hell, where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If they do what I will tell you, many souls will be saved, and there will be peace. See, my daughter, my Heart encircled by thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. Do you, at least, strive to console me. Tell them that I promise to assist at the hour of death with the graces necessary for salvation all those who, in order to make reparation to me, on the First Saturday of five successive months, go to confession, receive Holy Communion, say five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for a quarter of an hour, meditating on the ... mysteries of the Rosary. “When you pray the Rosary, say after each mystery: ‘O my Jesus, forgive us, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.’”
Mary also said to the children of Fatima, that “To prevent this [grave consequence of sins], I shall come to the world to ask that Russia be consecrated to my Immaculate Heart, and I shall ask that on the First Saturday of every month communions of reparation be made in atonement for the sins of the world. If my wishes are fulfilled, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, then Russia will spread her errors throughout the world, bringing new wars and persecution of the Church; the good will be martyred, and the Holy Father will have much to suffer; certain nations will be annihilated.”
The reference to Russia was not the county whose borders we know today. The Russia of those early days of the 20thCentury was much vaster, extending farther north, west and south. Nor is it a general reference to the Russian people of the time. Many of the people within its borders and reaching back into history were faithful disciples of Christ. It is undeniable and incredible that the faith gave rise to a great devotion to Mary Mother of God, as is evidenced in the number of shrines and Churches dedicated to her as well in art, and architecture. Prior to our modern age, no one would be surprised to hear of Russia being described as the ‘house of Mary’. No, the reference is much more focused on the ideologies, philosophies and governing systems that would seek to separate the children of God from their Father and annihilate the knowledge of the love of God within them, represented most clearly and immediately by the leaders of the Bolshevik revolution who were soon to take power and usher in an as yet unended tyranny of the Godless, the unrepentant carriers of the heart of Cain.
Before she died Sister Lucia, the last surviving of the three children of Fatima said that this third part of the secret is a symbolic revelation, conditioned by whether we accept or not what the message itself asks of us. And that, Since we did not heed this appeal of the Message, we see that it has been fulfilled, Russia has invaded the world with her errors. And if we have not yet seen the complete fulfilment of the final part of this prophecy, we are going towards it little by little with great strides. If we do not reject the path of sin, hatred, revenge, injustice, violations of the rights of the human person, immorality and violence, etc. And let us not say that it is God who is punishing us in this way; on the contrary it is people themselves who are preparing their own punishment. In his kindness God warns us and calls us to the right path, while respecting the freedom he has given us; hence people are responsible.
Mary also said, “But in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she will be converted, and the world will enjoy a period of peace.” At this promise of Mary we are reminded that Sister Lucia described an affirming vision in which she saw, “At left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendor that Our Lady radiated toward him from her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the angel cried out in a loud voice: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!’”
Thus, on this day of the resurrection of our saving Lord, on this day on which we celebrate our own rebirth as children of God, we are reminded of our mission in the world. We are reminded of our great and ever-present responsibility as members of the Body of Christ the Church.
The suffering sacrificial love of Christ is possible because of the humility and obedience of Jesus to the will of the Father. In the freedom of Christ, which is ours, our only escape from the horrors of a darkened world is the increase of the family of God and among them an increase of humility and obedience to the will of the Father so as to live freely that same salvific sacrificial love of God.
Christ is for us an example of what is necessary for our triumph over sin and to live in freedom and peace. Jesus heard and did what the Father desired, he listened and was obedient. He was and remains moved by his love to encounter us in our depravity and communicate grace so that we might be transformed and enter that new life of freedom in truth.
In the garden, Jesus stands authoritatively firm and charitable to those who came to arrest him, even to Judas who betrays him with a kiss. In the face of ridicule and interrogation, he maintains his dignity and remains steadfastly resolved. During the betrayals of Peter, the silence and absence of the other apostles and the lukewarm faith of the ones who followed him; he continues to think of nothing but the needs of humanity, forgiveness of the persecutor’s crimes, and the coming victory of his love over death and darkness.
“For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 Saint Paul, in Chapter 5 of the letter to the Galatians, speaks of freedom and calls for total commitment to Christ which is to be lived in total freedom by the power God’s grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Created in the image and likeness of God, we have a deep desire to know and a great capacity to understand. Freedom in fact, presupposes knowledge of the truth, the truth that sets us free. John 8:32 and ignorance is an obstacle to freedom.
We were created in the image and likeness of God. We were free. We fell from this original state of grace and entered the fallen state by original sin, which in our birth, no one escapes. Due to original sin, we, in our fallen state are inclined to sin. Christ died to set us free from sin. Our hope is in him, for having died in Christ I also rise in Christ, freed to fulfill the call to holiness, to remain free and unbound by sin. If we are to accomplish God’s plan for us, we will need His grace and abiding presence; "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
Saving and sacramental grace allows for the full exercise of human freedom, the proper use of which, enables us to gradually align our will with God’s. As this happens, we experience increased perfection of intellect, allowing us to determine good from evil and, free will increases in us the ability to choose between good and evil. As we choose more frequently the good, we increase in perfection. However, continued rejection of God through choosing of evil increases the chains of sin that bind and further disables us from recognizing, choosing and being able to do the good.
The freedom that we have been given by God, no person of state can take away. It is freedom for love. It is not freedom from responsibility or restriction. It is freedom to establish a loving relationship with Jesus Christ through the action of the Holy Spirit. A person who chooses to reject this call becomes a slave to his passions, and over time loses the freedom to choose.
We experience our freedom as limited precisely because we are limited. Original innocence and freedom were lost through original sin. Since true freedom is rooted in the truth about man, we must individually and as a human community constantly more deeply discover and rediscover our nature and identity in relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is the only way that true human freedom can and will be properly and ultimately oriented towards communion and the common good.
Freedom and truth are inextricably intertwined, but not inseparable. The intimate relationship between freedom and truth is broken when a person tries to determine what is right and wrong according to his likes and dislikes. The proper use of freedom increases our capacity to know the truth and grow in love of moral virtue.
The Christian believes that God set down the good we ought to do and to avoid the evil we ought not to do. Jesus clearly set out what is good by his words and the conduct of his life. Hence, Christian morality is the most effective means of acquiring the dignity proper to us because it is a morality of imitating Jesus Christ. This entails a development of all our faculties—being intelligent, free, and, consequently, responsible for our actions. Right moral conduct perfects the human being, and wrong moral conduct degrades the human being.
God created us free, and in Christ, God frees us once more. We cannot blame God for the human evils that find their origins in the abuse of our freedom. We are not puppets on a sting attached to a stick in the hand of God. As children of God, although we are inclined to sin, we are not bound to sin. Original freedom and freedom in Christ never mean that we are free from personal responsibility. There is no such thing as a freedom that is independent of responsibility. To abuse our freedom is to sin because in doing so, we are acting contrary to our nature which is against the will of God. Freedom makes man responsible for his acts and progress in virtue, knowledge of the good, and ascesis enhance the mastery of the will over its acts.
Freedom is the power that a person has over his own acts and this power can only be exercised to the extent that correct moral choices have been made habitually. In this way we become virtuosos of the moral life (saints) When the conscience is properly formed, one sees the true harmony between morally binding just laws and human freedom. To be free, we must plan to make the correct choices and carry them through. At the end of each day, one ought to examine his conscience to understand the results of all the moral choices and eliminate things that lead to sin, as well as seek the graces available in those sacraments through which we receive forgiveness and new strength.
A question that I often get asked by students and adults alike is, ‘how I can actually keep from sinning, from committing the same sins over and over again! They passionately and sincerely express desire to know the freedom that is promised in scripture.
There is no doubt, for anyone that has read scripture, that Christ sets us free, and would like us to stay that way. He’d like us to continue to be free from sin so as to grow in holiness and avoid ‘backsliding’. He would like us to be holy and stay holy. Seems like an impossible task! But what kind of God sets before us a call to what is impossible? Certainly not the God that we believe in. Our God calls as to be holy and promises that with our cooperation, God’s grace will get us there.
So, let’s focus on our part of this effort. There’s good news! We can cut the goal into realistic and reachable portions. So how do we do that one day, one week at a time.
Now you’re rooted in keeping your focus on Jesus and now you can be more sensitive to how the Holy Spirit is trying to guide you every single day. It’s really just one day at a time. Don’t look back to the ‘stuff’ that you’ve been freed from, rejoice in a brighter future. Whoever and whatever it is that makes you a slave to sin, walk away. If you need help, get some. Embrace the freedom and love that you were made for. Count your blessings every night and thank God for one more day, every morning.
Over time you’ll begin to notice the changes in you, your relationships and that you are more fully free than ever before. You’ll be able to say, even though I’m still struggling with overcoming a particular sin or temptation, by the grace of God, personal effort, prayer and prayerful support of others… I am living victory because I am better than before, stronger than before. I have a victory attitude, not a victim attitude!
Of course, if you happen to have really slipped, the Sacrament of Reconciliation can catch you and bring you back to solid ground and freedom.
To understand more about Grace: http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s1c3a2.htm
To understand more about Freedom: http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s1c1a3.htm
Part Six – Easter Vigil
Holy Week and The Paschal Mysteries: Being made Free
St. Anselm, who was the 11th century Archbishop of Canterbury, a ‘Doctor of the Church, said in his book entitled Cur Deus Homo (“Why God Became Man”), that human sin has “infinitely offended” God and that God requires an “infinite satisfaction” in order to restore divine honor. He taught that Christ's sacrificial death was necessary to liberate humanity from sin and restore communion with the Father, that the blood of Jesus was "payment" to God for human sin. The Scriptures foretold this divine plan of salvation and, citing a confession of faith that he himself had received, St. Paul professes that "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.”
Concentrating our reflections on the sufferings of Jesus only has meaning when they lead us into reflections on the resurrection, new life, and new joy. The pain and sufferings of our lives even when they are the consequence of our sins, in the plan of God can become sources of good. They help us to become more like Jesus when they lead to our own liberation and the liberation of others.
Palm Sunday is both the beginning of Holy Week and the climax of our Lenten journey. The Eucharist we celebrated leads us into the depths of the Lord’s passion and to gaze into and through the cross with hope toward the resurrection, toward our Easter Hope. Why did Jesus become “one like us in all things but sin”; because “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” An unmerited gift through Christ who freely chose to “give his life as a ransom for many.” As St. Paul said, God “did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us,” “in accordance with the scriptures”.
The readings from Monday through Wednesday of Holy Week moved us to more firmly identify with the ‘mystery’ of Jesus’ suffering, and the challenge as his adopted brothers and sisters to love as he loved, sacrificially. Our celebration of Holy Week has been a deep reflection moving us toward the depths of each of the mysteries, together with Jesus. By prayerfully entering into these mysteries through guidance by the Holy Spirit, we are able to understand our brokenness and need for salvation more fully. We more deeply recognize that there can be no peace in the world until the peace of God reigns in our hearts. There can be no true freedom without having first been liberated from slavery to sin. In our baptism we die and rise in him, we are made free in rebirth, a new creation. The Word of God throughout this week has been increasingly pointing all the baptized to remember, repent anew and rejoice in this sacramental way salvation.
Holy Thursday spoke to us of the humility of the Savior who emptied himself for love of us. He was not a victim, but rather “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” The Scriptures are clear that what Jesus freely chose to experience for us; the ridicule, arrest, torture and death, is a preeminent manifestation of God’s boundless love. Out of love for his Father and all of creation, Jesus freely accepted his Passion and death to destroy the power of death: "No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord”. He says to all who hope in Him, “because I live, you shall live also”. "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous.” By being obedient to death, Jesus accomplished the substitution of the suffering Servant, who "makes himself an offering for sin", when "he bore the sin of many", and who "shall make many to be accounted righteous", for "he shall bear their iniquities". Jesus atoned for our sins and made satisfaction to the Father.
Good Friday spoke to us of the tragedy of the dark forces at work in human hearts, that inspired rage and hatred. And even in his closest friends, fear and despair. But as emotions raged, fueled by the words, "everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation," spoken by the Sanhedrin after the raising of Lazarus; the voice and plan of God could also be heard and seen in the words of the high priest Caiaphas as he unknowingly prophesied: "It is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.”
The sacrifice of Jesus "for the sins of the whole world” expresses his loving communion with the Father. From the first moment of his Incarnation the Son embraces the Father's plan of divine salvation in his redemptive mission: "My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.” God "did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all", so that we might be "reconciled to God by the death of his Son". Although Man's sins are punishable by death, we "were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers. . . with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot”.
John the Baptist looked at Jesus and pointed him out as the "lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world". By doing so, he reveals that Jesus is at the same time the suffering Servant who silently allows himself to be led to the slaughter and as the Paschal Lamb, the symbol of Israel's redemption at the first Passover. Christ's whole life expresses his mission: "to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” God "shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” In suffering and death, by embracing in his human heart the Father’s love for us, his humanity became the free and perfect instrument of his divine love which desires the salvation of men; that is, our freedom from slavery to sin.
It is love "to the end” that confers on Christ's sacrifice its value as redemptive and reparative, as atonement and satisfaction. He knew and loved us all when he offered his life. No person, not even the holiest, was ever able to take upon themself the sins of all and offer themself as a sacrifice for all. The existence in Christ of the divine person of the Son, who at once surpasses and embraces all human persons, and constitutes himself as the Head of all mankind, makes possible his redemptive sacrifice for all. (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
At the moment of His death, when Jesus "released the spirit", at that moment a power was released into the world, the power of the Love between the Father and the Son which proceeds, as the Holy Spirit. The power which would soon come to fill the Apostles and complete the work of giving birth to the Church. The Holy Spirit that leads us into the Truth of God and empowers we who believe that “He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” Saint Paul affirmed in his teaching that just as those who seek to live by the law must carry out all its contents, so those who have faith and live by promise must stand firm in their freedom. Galatians 3:10-12 “for freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
It is that same power of the Holy Spirit at work here tonight, in a special way, which makes these Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist – effective. The three sacraments of initiation which will be received by the catechumens and candidates here tonight and recalled with great affection and gratitude by all here who have received the same sacraments of their salvation.
The Sacraments of the New Testament were instituted by Christ the Lord and entrusted to the Church. As actions of Christ and of the Church, they are signs and means by which faith is expressed and strengthened, worship is offered to God and our sanctification is brought about. Thus, they contribute in the most effective manner to establishing, strengthening, and manifesting ecclesiastical communion. (The Code of Canon Law (CIC), 1983. Canon 840).
From the time of the apostles, becoming a Christian has been accomplished by a journey and initiation in several stages. This journey can be covered rapidly or slowly, but certain essential elements will always have to be present: proclamation of the Word, acceptance of the Gospel entailing conversion, profession of faith, Baptism itself, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and admission to Eucharistic communion. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1229)
The sacraments of Christian initiation lay the foundations of every Christian life. The sharing in the divine nature given to men through the sacramental way of salvation and outpouring of the grace of Christ bears a certain likeness to the origin, development, and nourishing of natural life. The faithful are born anew by Baptism, strengthened by the Sacrament of Confirmation, and receive in the Eucharist the food of eternal life. By means of these sacraments of Christian initiation, they thus receive in increasing measure the treasures of the divine life and advance toward the perfection of charity. Catechism of the Catholic Church 1212
Part Five – Good Friday
Holy Week and The Paschal Mysteries: The cost of Freedom
The Palm Sunday liturgy was both a reminder of triumph and tragedy. It is triumph as he entered Jerusalem and a bittersweet tragedy as his unjust persecution set in place the means of our salvation. For the followers and the curious, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was an occasion of great joy and celebration. They loved Him, shouting and waving branches and making a royal path. The people were joyfully celebrating Jesus the king, the Liberator of the heart and mind, the destroyer of sorrow and restorer of life and joy. There was a triumphant joy among his followers that Jesus himself joined to all of creation which had groaned for this moment of salvation, as he said "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out."
The readings from Monday through Wednesday of Holy Week have helped us better understand that it was also a tragedy because of sin, disobedience, and of pride: our embracing affection for evil which wrought the necessity of our redemption through the greatest act of love and mercy. What Jesus experiences for us is a manifestation of God’s overwhelming love for each one of us. By identifying ourselves with the ‘mystery’ of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection we ourselves experience a great liberation, a ‘Passover’ from sin and enslavement to a life of joy and freedom. Our celebration of Holy Week has not been just a deep reflection on our need for redemption, nor of thanksgiving; but of entering into the depths of each of the mysteries, together with Jesus, so as to rise with Him, reborn, a new creation. It is meant to be real and not merely a religious, pious, or devotional ‘make-believe’. By prayerfully entering into these mysteries through guidance by the Holy Spirit, we are able to encounter God anew. We are able to understand our brokenness and need for salvation more fully. We more deeply recognize that there can be no peace in the world until the peace of God reigns in our hearts. There can be no true freedom without having first been liberated from slavery to sin.
At the Mass of the Lords’ Supper on Holy Thursday as we reflected together on how Jesus initiated the sacramental way of grace and salvation through the institution of the Sacraments of the Eucharist and the Priesthood through Holy Orders. We further this contemplation of the path made open to us today as we gaze upon Christ on the Cross. Christ, the paschal lamb without blemish who establishes a new testament, a new covenant in his blood in which we are washed just as the blood of the lamb was commanded by Moses to be sprinkled on the doors the saving power of which was not in the blood itself, but in the fact that it was a sign of the Lord’s blood. In those days, “when the destroying angel saw the blood on the doors he did not dare to enter, so how much less will the devil approach now when he sees, not that figurative blood on the doors, but the true blood on the lips of believers, the doors of the temple of Christ.” From the Catechesis by Saint John Chrysostom, bishop (Cat. 3, 13-19: SC 50, 174-177)
As we contemplate Our Lord crucified today, the words of God in Isaiah’s description of the Suffering Servant, the prophetic description forgotten and rejected by Peter, ought to ring true in our own experience of life in Christ, “…my servant shall prosper, he shall be raised high and greatly exalted…so marred was his look beyond human semblance…so shall he startle many nations, because of him kings shall stand speechless…” We find ourselves reminded and so humbled, that “he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins”. We are reminded that although we are made children of God through the Sacrament of Baptism, a pure and purifying experience, this was made possible because Jesus handed himself over to evil to be tortured and executed, a horrible experience for Jesus. And, lest we despair of our condition before God, Isaiah reminds us that by his wounds we are healed. His suffering is not in vain. He has won pardon for our sins.
We call this moment in the life of Christ, good, because through our suffering Christ a way was made for our salvation. Christ on the Cross reminds us that he was not then nor is He now, ignorant to our sufferings. We know everything he has endured for us; therefore, we know that when we’re truly sorry for what we’ve done he’ll grant us his mercy. We just have to ask.
If the execution of a guilty man doesn’t give us remorse, the execution of an innocent man should. To be actively cognizant of the joy of our salvation every day, is to be actively aware of our call to holiness and the ways in which we fail to live in the freedom for which we were made free. Jesus continually asks the Father to forgive us. And so, today is a day not to dwell solely on the tragedy but also to bask in the warmth of God’s mercy and love.
Christ wants us to know without any doubt that his love for each one of us is total, eternal, personal, and unlimited. We are loved simply because we exist, not for what we can do. However, we need not only to be loved, but also to love.
Mindful of the cost of our freedom and in light of the new commandment which Jesus gave “love one another as I love you”, our freedom, won at such great cost, must be lived in imitation of Christ. We must love each other freely, fully, and fruitfully. Unless we learn to love as Christ loves, selflessly, constantly, through storms and droughts, to the point of sacrificing our own comfort and dreams, we will remain spiritually immature. He loved us not only in important ways each day but as we heard last night, “he loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end”, even unto death. No longer slaves, we must be willing and become able to love more greatly; “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends… I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.” John 15:13-17
Today when we receive in Holy Communion the same body and blood that suffered for us on the Cross, let's thank Christ for our freedom by his love, and ask him for strength to continue to live free.
The gospel records that when Christ was dead, but still hung on the cross, a soldier came and pierced his side with a lance and immediately there poured out water and blood. That water was a symbol of baptism and the blood, a symbol of the Eucharist. Don’t allow this mystery of His divine mercy to be passed over so quickly in your reflections, since it is why we say that the Church is born from the wound of side. From the blood and water: from baptism, the cleansing water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and from the Holy Eucharist, Christ fashioned the Church. By one and the same food we are both brought into being and nourished. As a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, so does Christ unceasingly nourish with his own blood those to whom he himself has given life and freedom.
Part Four – Holy Thursday
Holy Week and The Paschal Mysteries: Preparing the Sacramental Way of Grace and Salvation
In the Gospel today we focus on the moment of the Last Supper when Jesus washes the feet of the disciples. While at the same time we recall that on this night Jesus celebrated and transformed the Jewish Passover Feast, leaving us the treasure of the Eucharist, ‘God with us’ and the gift of the Priesthood. He invited his Apostles to receive the “living bread that came down from heaven;” and they remembered his promise, “if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” He commanded them to continue to do the same, in remembrance of Him as they themselves become what they touch and must give what they have received. We recall as well that we were witness to the betrayals of Judas and Peter. We are reminded of our own betrayals. Peter and the other apostles couldn’t stay awake with Jesus in prayer, even as he pleaded with them to be united and to lift him up during his agony. We are reminded of own soft commitments, our inability to understand the mind and ways of God, and how easily we give up, get angry, blame God for our troubles and our failures. Far too many of the children of God are living their lives according to the wisdom of man and not formed according to the mind of Christ.
Although He prays “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.”Luke 22:42, Jesus embraces His ‘cup’. He embraces the will of His Father, even as he knows that those for whom He gives His life as a ransom, are not worthy. He does so, because he also knows that in this sacrifice, he creates the way to make us worthy; to reconcile us with God and heal our souls. Today’s liturgy combines both a sense of triumph and tragedy of a love so intense that Jesus was ready to sacrifice his own life for it. "Greater love than this no one has than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." John 15:13
Most Catholics are aware that Holy Thursday recalls and celebrates the institution of the Eucharist. But what some miss is that Holy Thursday also celebrates Jesus’ institution of the ministerial priesthood. The ministerial priesthood of the new covenant was established by Jesus when he asked his apostles to continue the ministries that he began. At the last supper when Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he told his apostles, “Do this in memory of me” Luke 22:19. According to the Council of Trent, Jesus’ command, “Do this in remembrance of me” was the moment of instituting the apostles as priests and that if anyone says Jesus did not ordain that they and other priests should offer his body and blood: let him be anathema Council of Trent, session 22, ch. 1.
Other scriptural affirmations of their ministerial Priesthood begun on this night, are also plentiful. Such as when the risen Jesus appeared to the apostles in the Upper Room, Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” John 20:21, and to equip them for their commissioning, Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the holy Spirit” John 20:22. Before Jesus ascended to heaven, he instructed the apostles, “Go, make disciples of all nations. Baptize them. Teach them” Matthew 28:19,20. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, asked Peter to continue his shepherding duties when he said, “Feed my lambs, tend my sheep” John 21:15,16. Jesus’ final words of instruction to his apostles were, “You will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth” Acts 1:8.
However, the beginnings of the ministerial priesthood are found in the Old Testament. Melchizedek was a priest of God, the first to offer bread and wine Genesis 14:18. Then beginning with Aaron, the Levites were set apart for priestly service Numbers 3:5-10, and they were consecrated for this sacred duty in a carefully prescribed ordination ritual Exodus 29; Leviticus 8. The Levites presided over the affairs of the Temple and served as mediators in the offering of sacrifice on behalf of sinners. The priesthood of the First Covenant anticipates Jesus, the one and only eternal high priest, “the one mediator between God and the human race” 1 Timothy 2:5, and ordained priests participate in his priesthood.
Offering sacrifice is a duty that belongs to priests Leviticus 9:7, 14:12; Hebrews 8:3. When Jesus commanded to “Do this” he was literally, according to the Greek, saying “offer” in the sense of offering a sacrifice. We are further affirmed in this understanding in Exodus 29:36-41 of the Septuagint, which was the Greek translation of the Old Testament used by Jesus and the apostles. This word poieo is used five times in reference to Moses offering sacrifice as part of the ritual for ordaining Aaron and his sons as priests. As well, the use of poieo in Leviticus 9:7 makes it clear that Moses transferred this priestly duty to Aaron and his sons. We cannot imagine that Jesus intended in that moment anything other than a new ministerial priesthood begun with his Apostles. However, we also have the second part of his command, “in remembrance of me”. The word remembrance as it is used by Jesus, translates in Greek as anamnesis. Anamnesis has sacrificial meaning in both the Old and New Testaments. The sacrifices of peace offerings in Numbers 10:10 are said to “serve you for remembrance [anamnesis] before your God.” Anamnesis is also used in Hebrews 10:3 in reference to the Old Testament sacrifices that serve as a “reminder” year after year. It would follow then that Jesus has in mind this scriptural understanding when he uses the word anamnesis.
What about the washing of the feet of the apostles by Jesus? In fact, this moment is more than just a demonstration of having a servant heart like Christ, that all of us should have. There is a reason that, historically, during this Mass, only the feet of 12 men are washed and we do lose an important aspect of the institution of the ministerial priesthood when we democratize this moment. It is true that this moment can be properly applied to the servant aspect of the royal priesthood which we all share, but that isn’t the main focus here.
In the Old Testament the ritual washing of Aaron and his sons played a prominent role in their ordination ceremonies. For example, God gave Moses these instructions: “Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the door of the tent of meeting, and shall wash them with water, and put upon Aaron the holy garments, and you shall anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve me as priest” Exodus 40:12-13. And more specifically, “And he set the laver between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it for washing, with which Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet; when they went into the tent of meeting, and when they approached the altar, they washed; as the Lord commanded Moses.” Exodus 40:30-32 As well Leviticus 8:7 describes how Moses carries out these washings before he dresses Aaron and his sons with priestly garments.
These Old Testament references to the Levitical Priesthood help us to understand that Jesus is embedding his action within this context, as he did many other times. Yes, any disciple of Christ can read this passage and glean that Jesus’ washing the apostles is an example of humble service but in this moment between Jesus and the Apostles following upon the command to “do this in remembrance of me”, we see the humble way in which they are to serve and to exercise authority as Priests of Jesus Christ. Priests who will be necessary in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
In response to Peter’s refusal to have his feet washed, Jesus answers, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me” John 13:8. The Greek word for “part,” meros, echoes the “portion” that Old Testament priests were to have in God and God alone. The Lord said to Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion [Greek, meris] among them; I am your portion [Greek, meris] and your inheritance among the people of Israel” Numbers 18:20. Which means that Levi has no portion [Greek, meris] or inheritance with his brothers; the Lord is his inheritance, as the Lord your God said to him Deuteronomy 10:9. Connecting this then to the exchange between Peter and Jesus as he prepared to wash his feet, it is not unlikely that Jesus meant that by saying Peter and the others would have no part in him, signals the apostles’ priestly status, and have a unique share in Jesus as Aaron and the Levites had a unique share in God, also affirming the divinity of Jesus… consistent with so many other moments during His three years of ministry.
Tonight, we celebrate the creation of two Sacraments, means by which we receive necessary graces, provide remedy for venial and mortal sin and the mandate to go, to teach, and to make disciples.
Part Three – Tuesday & Wednesday of Holy Week
Holy Week and The Paschal Mysteries: The Betrayals of Peter & Judas
Today and tomorrow, through listening to the scriptural accounts of the betrayals of Judas and Peter, we are invited to continue to reflect in various ways on our own relationship with Jesus, but also on the nature of the Church itself. That is, the Church not in its divine aspect of being holy because Christ Himself is the Holy One of God. But the human element which is the sinful members who cause scandal and because of whom many others turn away from the Church and worse, from Christ. We children of God, members of the mystical body of Christ the Church often do our best to destroy the Church from the inside out. We are not actively aware of the cost of our salvation, and we do not seek to increasingly ‘put on the mind of Christ’.
Many would even destroy the unity of the Church in the name of saving it, forgetting that it is not our mission to save the Church, rather it is our mission to be concerned about the state of our own souls and the salvation of the world. God will ensure the Church continues, we must trust, listen, and obey. Despite our sins and the scandals caused, it remains true that it is through the sacramental life of the Church that we are formed as God’s holy people. That it is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church over which the gates of hell will never prevail. It is through the Church that Christ continues His saving work of teaching, sanctifying, and governing His flock.
Today and tomorrow the living Word of God speaks to us of the betrayals of Judas and Peter and through reflection on their relationships with Jesus we can be moved to a deeper contemplation of the freeing and reconciling mercy and love of God for ourselves as well as the alternative option to reject God’s love and mercy.
We can see more clearly that if we do not remain open to God, seek healing and forgiveness, we will not experience the fullness of life in the Spirit but rather we will find ourselves increasingly bitter and angry toward God and others, unforgiving and ultimately becoming mired in our despair. If we are to continue to enter more deeply into the paschal mysteries which we celebrate in the liturgies of this Holy Week, the institution of the Eucharist, the Sacramental Priesthood, the passion and death of the Lord, and His Resurrection; we must increasingly realize our need for God and the destruction which is wrought in the Church and the world by our individual, communal and institutional sins.
In today’s Gospel reading we are introduced to the coming betrayals of two of Jesus’ closest friends. Tomorrow we will hear a little bit more about the betrayal of Judas, who, looking into the eyes of Jesus, dares to say ‘surely it’s not I Rabbi’ even as the 30 pieces of silver weigh him down. Although we don’t have the rest of their stories in these Gospel readings, we are very well familiar with how their stories end.
In all four Gospels, Judas is mentioned by name as one of the twelve prayerfully chosen apostles. He had a position of trust. How is it possible that a disciple chosen to be an Apostle could have possibly betrayed the Savior? How could he be deceived into betraying God’s only Son for 30 pieces of silver? He was among a select few who spent more time with Jesus than anyone else, privileged to be around Jesus during His three and a half years of ministry on Earth. They prayed with Him, ate with Him, and enjoyed deep, personal conversations with Him. He went out with the others to spread the Good News, to repent and believe, the Kingdom of God was at hand.
St. John notes that Judas was the treasurer, he held the apostle’s moneybag, which we could rightly expect to be a position of trust given to a person with integrity. Yet, John also notes that Judas was without integrity having no concern for the poor and who would help himself to the money. John 12:6 This sin appears to be the one that he struggled with the most, and ultimately, failed to overcome.
And, what of Peter? Peter and Judas both struggled with sin throughout their time with Jesus during His earthly ministry - one with pride and a quick temper and one with greed. Yet both were blessed, and both were chosen. Judas might have argued that the denial by Peter was in fact a great sin than his own since Peter knew who Jesus Christ was, though without full understanding. The Holy Spirit had given insight to Peter about the true nature of Jesus, and he was present at Jesus’ transfiguration! He knew he was the Son of the Living God. It seems Judas was not so sure and combined with his greed and zealous desire for Jesus to fulfill his messianic expectations, was not able to overcome his anger and disappointment but rather succumbed to the working of the enemy.
There are several times in the Gospels where Peter boldly claimed He would go to war for Jesus. That arrogance was so strong that even when Jesus predicted his denial, Peter didn’t flinch. In Matthew it says, “Peter answered him, ‘Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!’’ And all the disciples said the same” Matthew 26:33-35 And yet, Peter disowned his Savior to save himself pain and struggle, no less a betrayal than that of Judas.
They witnessed the same miracles, were taught the same truths, experienced the same rejection, and had the opportunity to ask Jesus anything about the Kingdom of Heaven. But on the night of Passover, both chose to betray Jesus. Judas handed the Rabbi over to the religious leaders for financial gain; Peter denied knowing the Lord. What made the difference between these two is one saw Jesus Christ as his Savior, the other failed to see who his savior was, and moved to despair, hung himself. Both betrayed their Lord, but only one repented. Judas saw the same wonders and learned the same lessons from Jesus as the other apostles and disciples. He did not put his faith in Jesus like Peter. This difference in belief about who Jesus was is the crucial difference between Judas and Peter.
Perhaps the clearest indication that Judas felt differently about Jesus than the other disciples is how he addressed Jesus. Judas failed to understand who Jesus really was, even to the end. When John and the other apostles, including Simon Peter, were faced with the possibility of betraying Jesus, they called Him “Lord.” Judas called Him “Rabbi.” While this Hebrew word for teacher was a title of honor, of distinction, and acknowledging Jesus’ knowledge of the Old Testament, it did not acknowledge Jesus’ deity, power, and proper place as the Son of God. It does not even concede that Jesus may have been the Messiah. To Judas, Jesus was just a man. Even when he recanted his betrayal, and went back to the religious leaders, he says, “‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood’” (Matthew 27:3a). He felt guilty that he betrayed someone who did not commit a crime, who was condemned rather than the murderer Barabbas. He did not acknowledge that he betrayed the Messiah. He did not repent.
In our focus up to this point maybe some here today, reflecting on the scriptures of today and tomorrow might see themselves in the betrayal of Judas. Possibly because of their past and maybe even in their present sinful actions. Others may see themselves in the betrayal of Peter. Two very different kinds of portrayals, but betrayals, nonetheless. But we can also consider their betrayals in a communal sense as they relate to the ‘Mystical Body of Christ’ the Church.
Remember, these accounts take place during the last supper. What do we celebrate on Holy Thursday in commemoration of that event? We celebrate the institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood. It’s certain that for a variety of reasons and most especially timing, Judas did not become a priest that evening, but Peter did. So, we can say that they not only are representative our personal sins and need for God, but also represent the Church in the sense of the sinfulness of the human element of the Church. Judas can be seen as representing the laity, and Peter the Priests.
From its very inception the Church was made of broken people that the Lord has chosen for his own, which makes no sense to us. But it ought to move us to recognize our own sins, whether Priest or laity and come to a deeper understanding of the effects in our world and our Church. The incredibly devastating, destructive effects. We could speak of the ‘sins’ of all people, but we must most especially remember the sins of the children of God, disciples who are held to a much higher account because we know the truth. We the members of this body of Christ willfully fall short of the glory of God and this effects the Church. It affects the witness of the church in the world. It affects the way in which God can work. We know there are people who reject the church worse, even Christ because of the sins of the children of God, both in the pews and Priests. That we cause scandal.
They are in our families and witness our hypocrisy. They see what we say to each other on social media. They read about our sins and lack of love for each other in the news. New disciples, new members of the parishes see and hear the way in which we even treat each other in Church, the way we categorize each other as being so called good Catholics or bad Catholics, liberal Catholics or conservative, Orthodox, or not. Although those may be in some ways accurate descriptors of where we stand at a given moment in our journey with God, they don't define us. The way we love each other in our brokenness and in our failures that defines us.
If we were truly loving each other and seeking the mercy of God, then like Peter who humbled himself after his betrayal we would seek the forgiveness, mercy, and healing of God for ourselves and freely offer forgiveness, mercy to others and petition God in prayer for others so much more than complain about their sinfulness. There are many in the Church today who argue it is their responsibility to call out and oppose in any way necessary, those who are not true Catholics. But it does seem interesting that there is no word in the gospel about the brothers of Peter or other disciples publicly shaming him for his denial. The church was still built upon that rock. Even Judas, other than an objective articulation of his character, there is no ‘bashing’ of Judas in scripture.
I wonder, if choosing the first Pope had been a democratic process like we seem to think the church ought to function today; how much would people be saying about Peter? What sorts of vitriolic abuses would be hurled in his direction. As disciples of Christ, we need to be like Peter. Because if we're not authentically open to God’s mercy and love then we will never have the fullness of life in the Spirit. God's work in the world for the salvation of all will be highly impacted by our actions. We, brothers, and sisters, we stand in the breach. You and I, we are the difference. We're the difference in our families. We are the difference at our workplace. We are the difference in our world. We are the difference in the Church.
So let us be more like that Church of the early days. Let us be more like Peter. Bend the knee at the name of Jesus. And knowing his unworthiness says. I love you. You know I do. I received that healing life in God. Be raised up to do that which God has called us to do. Even in our brokenness let us see that we are not each other's enemy. We're a Pilgrim church. On the Pilgrim way. Toward the Holiness to which we are called. Each at our own pace. If we truly are the disciples of Christ then we will march together on this journey and we will build the Kingdom of God here on Earth, in His name by His power and we will make a difference.
Two men, two betrayals, two different outcomes with one lesson - Jesus is Lord, and stands ready to forgive us, if we will come to Him in faith and earnest repentance. It is important to understand from the life of Judas that it is not enough to see Jesus as a wise man who had nice ideas about loving your neighbor and doing the right thing. Jesus made bold claims about Himself – ones that were supported before the crucifixion with miracles of healing, feeding the hungry, and resurrecting the dead. Judas saw all these first-hand but could not call Jesus “Lord.”
Peter put his faith in His Lord, though on the outset he appeared to struggle with outward sins, and Jesus asserted that Peter did not always understand His teachings. He understood what the Holy Spirit revealed to him and followed his Lord. Even after he betrayed Jesus by denying Him, and not standing up for Him at the trial, he came back. He repented. He kept growing spiritually, learning to lead as a servant having the mind of Christ. This example is one for Christians to follow today. Answer the call from God to follow Him, and then go to Him during the good times and the hard times. Sin and mistakes will happen, but God is ready to forgive.
Part Two – Palm Sunday Noon Mass
Holy Week and The Paschal Mysteries: Put on the mind of Christ
Yesterday I focused on the ‘Passion of Christ’ as told us in the Gospel reading from Luke. To briefly recap, in the first part of the Palm Sunday Liturgy there is an atmosphere of joy as we listen to the reading from the Gospel recalling the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem as King. He gets a rock star, tik tok influencer, Hollywood celebrity reception from the crowd. They acclaim him with words we are very familiar with, “Holy, holy, holy.” Yet, how quickly the tide did turn. Although many of those who were singing Hosanna had become disciples, their voices are deafeningly silent as the opposition and clamor for His death rose around them. Cowards, they remained hidden. Not unlike ourselves when in hard times and difficult days or even more sadly in merely tough moments, we lose faith.
As we listened to the account of Jesus’ triumphal entry, we are aware that there is also a shadow over the moment. Palm Sunday is both the celebration of the joy of recognizing who Jesus is, but also the sorrowful reminder of our fallenness and the price of our redemption. Not everyone who was there were spreading their clothes on the ground for Jesus to walk over or waving their branches. This moment has never ceased to end as human history unfolded to this day. The controversy that is Jesus Christ, Son of God, fully human and fully divine, incarnate of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin… rages on – in us. We like they; all too often do not have the ‘mind of Christ’.
Though we process through the church with palms in our hands singing “Christ conquers, Christ is king, Christ is our ruler” (Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat), we are mindful that to sing this as an authentic disciple of Christ is to sing, it must be with greater conviction about the greatness of Jesus and ever deeper realization of just why he is our King.
Today I want to focus on the second reading, which is key to our fruitful experience of Holy Week. It speaks of the “mind,” the thinking of Jesus, a “mind” which Paul urges us to also have if we want to identify fully with Jesus as disciples. “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”
The ‘mind of Christ’ is no more clearly evident than in the events of His passion where we also witness the heights of the manifestation of the evil in the hearts of men that seeks to secure a culture of death, the establishment of lies as truth, darkness as light and man as god. A society where the children of God rebel against the love, wisdom, truth, and beauty of the Father, and seize for themselves the power to create a new world in their own fallen image and likeness.
The key word in this key passage is “emptied.” This kenosis, or emptying, is at the heart of Jesus’ experience during his Passion. Despite Jesus’ identity as Son of God, he humbled himself and became man, “like us in all things, but sin”. But, even more, he reached down to the lowest level, the lowest class of human beings – the servant, the slave. And yet more, He allowed himself to be mocked, beaten, tortured, unjustly tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. Not any “respectable” form of death, but the death of a convicted criminal in shame and nakedness and total abandonment.
To understand the sufferings, death, and resurrection of Jesus one must fully grasp what Paul is saying here and not only grasp it, but totally appropriate it into one’s own thinking so that one would be prepared, with God’s help, to go exactly the same way. “Put on the mind of Christ”
Jesus seems to be the victim but all through he is, in fact, the master. Emptying himself and freely making himself subject to the cruelty of His creation, Jesus doesn’t seek vengeance or retribution by an Angelic Army, but rather he prays for them and seeking mercy and forgiveness, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Jesus does not strike back – he never did. He does not accuse or blame – he never did. He begs his Father to forgive those who “do not know what they are doing.” He is master of the situation because he is master of himself. “Put on the mind of Christ”
As we celebrate the triumph and share in that victory, we must recall that when we were baptized, we became sharers in Christ's own mission. We became children of the King and soldiers of the Kingdom. We are called, therefore, to consciously carry Christ's victory into every city of the world, every community, every household, and every human heart. And we can only fulfill this mission by doing what Christ did on the first Palm Sunday, by laying our greatness in God, down. Called to become servants, slaves as it were. For the sake of the salvation of the whole world. We can extend his victory and his Kingdom by living the ordinary things of life with extraordinary love and faith. “Put on the mind of Christ”
Although sometimes the mark that we are living these realities as authentic Christians is barely perceptible to anyone except us and God, we must always strive in our daily responsibilities, our day-to-day relationships, our everyday troubles, and sufferings - to bring Christ into our world, where he so desperately wants to be. All we must do is live them with patience, with self-governance and generosity, with faith, with perseverance and fidelity, as Christ himself lived his daily life in Nazareth, and as he lived his Passion. “Put on the mind of Christ”
If we are to be his disciples, he invites us to walk his way, to share his sufferings, to imitate his attitudes, to “empty” ourselves, to live in service of others – in short, to love others as he loves us. This is a call to a life of deep freedom, peace, and happiness. Living with the ‘mind of Christ’ we are not the victim but like Him, in fact, we are master. We are masters of any situation because like Him we are masters of ourselves, because it is in Him that each of us lives, moves and has our being. “Put on the mind of Christ”
Part One – Palm Sunday Vigil Mass
Holy Week and The Paschal Mysteries: The Passion and Death of Christ
After these past five weeks of preparation, we are now entering the climax of the Lenten season, Holy Week. The richness of these readings includes numerous phrases and expressions that have become part of the Sunday liturgy and other devotions. But, most of all, they reveal how each event of the Passion of Christ had been announced by the prophets in the Scriptures and by Christ himself, thus confirming that he was the One “who was to come.”
In a way, the whole week from today until Easter Sunday should be seen as one spiritual movement within the Paschal Mystery and then the 50 days of Easter Celebration as a new opportunity for another spiritual movement of freedom and a fuller life in the Spirit, since that Paschal Mystery includes the sufferings, death, resurrection, ascension of Jesus into glory and the sending of the Spirit on the disciples of Jesus to continue the work he began. This week is the earthly climax of the mission of Jesus Christ and the renewal of ours.
With that in mind, let’s begin this week’s reflections with a question, the answer to which will hopefully lead our hearts into deeper contemplation of our salvation. Many wonder why, on Palm Sunday, we only spend a little bit of time hearing about the theme of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and instead focus on his passion and death when we have the rest of Holy Week for that. The answer to the question might be related to our lives. You know how lots of good things that happen, like God's grace being poured out, the blessings we received, the good that's been done in the world. We focus on that for about 5 minutes, but we focus most of our time thinking about all the stuff that's goes wrong.
Now, I want you to think about that as related to the themes of the cult of personality and cancel culture of our own time. As Jesus arrives at Jerusalem the crowds are excited, and everybody is crying out about how awesome Jesus is because of what they think are some really cool tricks. Jesus, you're awesome. You healed my child. Jesus, you're awesome. You raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus, you're awesome. I don't know why, but everybody else is really excited so I am too. It’s a big party, the King of the Jews has arrived! Yet, how quickly does that fanfare dissipate? You know, if the excitement was authentic, if those folks really were believers, followers, disciples, and not just caught up in the cult of personality; they wouldn't have been so quick to turn on him, in a matter of days. Jesus Christ, we love you and, in the next minute… we don't like you anymore. And two days later they’re screaming for his crucifixion.
Good and not so good people have fickle hearts. Isn't that kind of the way we live our faith? With fickle hearts. We're all about Jesus one minute. Praising the Lord, King of my life, I had a great retreat. This is awesome. But two months later, your wife is asking what happened to that guy who came home from retreat so fired up about Jesus? Or your kid comes back from Steubenville or some other great conference and they're so excited about Jesus, full of joy, so helpful, loving, and grateful. Two weeks later you’re wondering where that kid went.
God might say the same thing to us. Two months ago, you were in confession saying, God forgive me. I'm so sorry. I want you to be the Lord of my life. I really love you. Forgive me, I have sinned. God forgives and you’re determined to go and sin no more. Yet, maybe even before the end of that day God is wondering what happened to your gratitude, joy, and resolve.
It's our brokenness, right? It's our inclination to sin. That’s our struggle. And that's why, God who so loved us, sent his only Son to be one among us and like us in all things but sin. He came to pay the price of our sin and paves the way for us to always be able to come back to God.
That's why we focus on his passion and death on Palm Sunday. Because the reality is we too easily forget the cost of our salvation, his suffering on the cross. We too easily forget who to thank for those blessings. We too easily forget to teach our families our children all the amazing ways that God has blessed us and poured out grace upon our families. The times God has gotten us through tough days and nights. We forget to easily the prayers that God has answered. We too easily forget the details of the story of God's great, passionate love for his creation. Way too easily passover the Father, passover Christ, passover the Holy Spirit, the Angels, and the Saints. When that happens, we see ourselves as the star of the story. We believe the lie that we are self-made. We are reminded today that we're not self-made. Neither did we create ourselves, nor did we get to wherever we are without God's help. And so, solemnly today we're reminded of our fickleness so that we can take what God has given us through this lent, no matter how faithful we've been during this Lenten journey, that God can take that today and open our hearts and minds during this most Holy of Weeks. And coming to Easter Sunday of his Resurrection in greater fullness of love for God and understanding of our salvation in him.
God so loved me; he sent his only son that I might live. That I might be free from sin. That I might glorify God with my life, my words. That I would be an eager builder of the Kingdom, fisher of men and women. A disciple who desires to actively bring others closer to the heart of Christ and the joy of salvation. That's what we celebrate next Sunday. This Sunday, we are reminded of how it is we get to next Sunday. And that, my friends. Is why we focus a little part of today's readings on that moment of triumphal entry and the rest of the time soberly reflect on who we are and how much we need God.
Fr. Blair Gaynes has been in the Diocese since 2008.