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Holy Week Made Present Today
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Year A)
The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road. The crowds preceding him and those following kept crying out and saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.” Matthew 21:8–9
Holy Week begins. What an important week that we begin to commemorate today. The Scripture passage above comes from the Gospel that is read at the beginning of Mass to commemorate Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem for the fulfillment of the Passover. That year, Jesus was to become the new Passover Lamb Whose blood was shed for us all and Whose flesh we now eat. Today’s Liturgy of the Word concludes with Matthew’s version of Jesus’ betrayal, arrest and death on the Cross. Since we are blessed to read this narrative in full detail today, it is helpful to call to mind the Church’s understanding of the Word of God.
“When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his word, proclaims the Gospel” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal #29). This is an important lesson to learn, especially today as we read the heart of the Gospel in detail. Though Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, His last supper, arrest, mock trial, suffering and death on the Cross happened 2,000 years ago, those historical events are made present to us today in a unique and real way. By participating in the proclamation of this Gospel at Mass today, we are mystically united to this saving action of our Lord. And though our minds might wander at times, God is truly present to us if we listen and see.
As you begin this Holy Week, try to walk through it with Jesus every step of the way. As you go about your days this week, fulfilling your normal duties in life, remind yourself of the spiritual truth that because the full Gospel of Jesus’ passion and death were proclaimed to you today, He is manifestly present to you in a special way. On Holy Thursday, we will ponder the Gift of the Most Holy Eucharist. On Good Friday, we will hear Jesus’ passion proclaimed from the Gospel of John. Thus, this week begins with the proclamation of the Passion and ends with the Passion as a way of drawing us more deeply into the mystery of Christ’s saving Sacrifice.
At the heart of the story of the Passion of Jesus is the manifestation of a love like no other. The love we witness this week is a love that is so pure, so selfless, so sacrificial and so transforming that it is beyond comprehension. The love that we witness is one in which God permits Himself to enter the deepest humiliation ever seen. He does this so that He can meet us in our lowliness, sin, and fallenness, and raise us up to the highest heights imaginable.
As we enter this Holy Week, know that it is more than a week of reflection. It’s a week of participation in the mystery of God’s pure and perfect love for you. As you reflect upon this love, allow it to confront you. Keep it on your mind and heart throughout the week. Allow that love, offered some 2,000 years ago, to become truly present to you so that you will be more present to our Lord and His love for you.
My saving Lord, You entered this week of Your Passion with courage and determination. You freely chose to embrace every suffering and every humiliation You would endure so that You could enter my life more fully. Please be present to me throughout this week and help me to not only ponder this mystery of Your love but to also encounter that love in a real and transforming way. Jesus, I trust in You.
Hosanna! To the Suffering Christ!
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Year B)
Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!” Mark 11:9–10
Throughout Jesus’ life, He traveled to Jerusalem many times. As a child, He was presented in the Temple. At age twelve, He was found teaching the teachers of the Law in the Temple. As He grew, He made regular pilgrimages to the Temple. During His temptation in the desert, the devil took Him to the pinnacle of the Temple. In the Gospels, we read of at least four different trips to the Temple during Jesus’ public ministry. However, the trip to Jerusalem that we commemorate today was unlike any other. As Jesus entered Jerusalem this time, His life was already being sought by the religious leaders. Despite that fact, Jesus entered Jerusalem with great solemnity and with much attention. “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” was the cry by the crowd as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey while palm branches and cloaks were strewn before Him.
Though this was the most fitting way for the people of faith to welcome their King, their warm welcome, their cries “Hosanna!” and their excitement were more beneficial to them than they were to Jesus. Jesus is God. He has no need of our praise and honor. But Jesus came to us to invite us to praise, honor and worship Him because it is good for us. We need to praise Him. This is what we are made for. This leads to the fulfillment of our lives.
As we begin Holy Week, try to spend time with this image of the people honoring our Lord with much enthusiasm. This is an image depicting who we must become. As we continue through this Holy Week, we must become increasingly aware of the God to Whom we offer our praise and worship. He is a God Who lowered Himself in the eyes of all, took on the form of a slave, permitted Himself to be labeled as a grave sinner, was rejected, beaten and killed. This week, especially, we worship the suffering Christ. We worship a Man Who was arrested and cruelly treated. We worship a Man who was hated and mistreated in the worst way possible.
Our wholehearted worship of the suffering Christ is an important act to fulfill. In many ways, it is easier to worship God as He is in Heaven on His glorious throne. When we ponder the myriads of angels gathered around Him, the saints of all time bowing to the ground and glory and splendor radiating from His face, worship seems right. To worship a Man accused of being a criminal and suffering capital punishment while enduring the hatred of many is more difficult to comprehend. But if we are able to see Jesus through the eyes of faith and peer through the hatred and lies that surrounded Him, then we will be in awe of the humility of our God Who came to us this way.
Our worship of the suffering Christ also invites us to share in His virtue as He endured all that was inflicted upon Him. When we worship the humiliated Christ, our humiliations take on new power and meaning. When we worship the suffering Christ, our sufferings are elevated to share in His redemption. When we worship the rejected, despised and persecuted Christ, any ways that we share in these hardships are transformed.
Reflect, today, upon the God Whom you worship this Holy Week. Do not shy away from all that Jesus endured. Gaze at His rejection and passion. Look at the hatred He endured. As you do, see not only your glorious God, see also the remedy for all your ills. God descended to us in this most humble form so that He could meet us where we are at and raise us to new life with Him.
My suffering Lord, I worship You and praise You with all my heart. As You entered Jerusalem for the Passover, You intended to give new power to that celebration by becoming the New and Eternal Paschal Lamb. May I always worship You Who suffered for me and give to You all that I endure in life to be transformed by Your saving act. Jesus, I trust in You.
Following Him to the Cross
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Year C)
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He said in reply, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!” Luke 19:38–40
At the foot of the Mount of Olives was the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus agonized in prayer and was arrested. But several days before that happened, our Lord crossed over that hill next to the Mount of Olives with His Apostles and then approached the slope heading toward the Garden. As He descended, He encountered “the whole multitude of his disciples” who “began to praise God aloud with joy for all the mighty deeds they had seen.” They then cried out: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” They met Him within eyeshot of the gate of the city of Jerusalem. This must have left the Twelve in amazement.
Among those who were amazed were the Pharisees. But they were not amazed with joy. Their amazement was caused by envy and led to condemnation. Jesus’ response was very clear: “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!” That begs the question: If these disciples had not offered our Lord this glorious welcome, would the stones truly have cried out? Most certainly they would have! They did so just several days later after Jesus had been abandoned by the crowds.
Recall that when Jesus was crucified, almost every one of these disciples abandoned Him. They fled in fear. Even most of the Twelve ran and hid. Only our Blessed Mother, Saint John and a few others remained. Therefore, when Jesus died on the Cross, abandoned by the crowds, this prophecy of His came true. “And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Matthew 27:51–52).
We must never keep silent in praise and worship of God. There is an important lesson to learn from these two moments from that first Holy Week. At the beginning, as Jesus entered Jerusalem with much excitement, there were many who offered Him praise. It’s easy to give praise and glory to God when it is popular and when many others are doing so. Contrast this with the end of Holy Week when Jesus was persecuted and killed. Suddenly, praise and open acclamations were not that popular. Fear had the effect of silencing the crowds and ending their worship of our Lord. For that reason, the stones did cry out and the earth quaked.
As we enter this Holy Week, consider whether you are more like the “whole multitude” of Jesus’ disciples who praised Him when it was easy and popular, or whether you are more like our Blessed Mother and Saint John who remained faithful to Him when it was anything but popular to do so. Do you persevere in your praise and adoration of God during difficult times? Or do you allow fear of what others may say, fear of rejection and other forms of humiliation to deter you from your sacred calling?
Reflect, today, upon these two contrasting moments of that first Holy Week. Join, today, with the crowds as they acclaim Jesus as King. As you do, turn your eyes to the King Whom you worship. Choose to follow Him to His betrayal, His suffering and His death. Commit yourself to fidelity, especially when it is hard to do so. Do not waver in your commitment. Look at the love in the heart of Jesus’ own mother and pray to her that you will have the courage she had to remain faithful to our Lord, lest the stones be forced to cry out in your place.
Most glorious King, You were fittingly worshiped and adored as You entered Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. I commit myself to that adoration and praise, and I pray that I will honor and love You, not only when it is easy but also when it is unpopular. May I never allow fear to deter me from my love of You and follow You all the way to the glorious throne of Your Cross. Jesus, I trust in You.
Expressing Your Love of God
Monday of Holy Week
Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” John 12:4–5
Jesus was with His disciples at the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary. He regularly spent time at their home and was close to them. This meal took place just before Jesus entered into Jerusalem for the first Palm Sunday and Holy Week. It was six days before Jesus would die on the cross.
Recall that Lazarus had recently been raised from the dead by Jesus and also that Mary, Lazarus’ sister, was deeply devoted to Jesus and is recorded as the one who sat at His feet, while her sister Martha served. During this visit, Mary offered another act of devotion to Jesus when she anointed Him with “a liter of costly perfumed oil.” She offered Him an act of love and devotion. The Scripture passage above records Judas’ response as he also was at the meal. Jesus rebukes Judas and defends the act of devotion given by Mary, and the meal continues on.
One clear lesson this teaches us is that nothing is too good for our Lord. It’s true that we must do our part to help care for the poor, but Jesus’ response to Judas is quite interesting. He says, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” Jesus was not downplaying the importance of caring for the poor; He was emphasizing the importance of offering acts of love and devotion to Him.
As we enter into this the holiest week of the year, we are given this image of Mary lavishing upon Jesus this liter of costly perfumed oil as a way of inviting us to do the same. Though we serve Christ in others who are in need, we must also seek to regularly offer Him devotion and love directly, even in ways that others may think is excessive. Honoring Him, expressing our love, spending time with various devotions, praying for extended periods of time, and even offering Him our financial resources are all ways in which we give Jesus the glory that is due Him.
Reflect, today, upon ways in which you can imitate this act of loving devotion offered by Mary to Jesus. In what ways can you pour forth in an abundant way your time, money, talents, and energy upon our Lord? How can you best express your devotion to Him this Holy Week? Seek out ways to do this directly for the one and simple reason that you love our Lord and want to express that love this week.
My glorious Jesus, You are worthy of all praise and honor. You are worthy of our deepest devotion and love. As I enter into this Holy Week, I pray that it will be a time in which I may express my deepest love for You. Help me to pour forth that love in abundance this week so as to show You the glory and praise You deserve. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Glory of God in All Things
Tuesday of Holy Week
“Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once.” John 13:31–32
Jesus speaks this line about Himself being glorified immediately after Judas leaves the supper to go forth to betray Him. Jesus had just finished washing the feet of His disciples, and soon He would finish the Last Supper, go to the Garden of Gethsemane, be arrested, beaten and crucified. And this was to all take place through the betrayal of one of the Twelve. Yet rather than speak of these pending events in a fearful or anxious way, Jesus points to the glory He will receive through them.
Everything in life has the potential to become an instrument of the glory of God. Even our sin can end in God’s glory when we repent and receive God’s forgiveness. It will not be our sin that glorifies God but His mercy poured forth from the Cross upon us that gives Him glory.
The same is true with the events of Holy Week. When looked at from a purely human perspective, what Jesus endured was tragic and horrific. One of His closest companions betrayed Him. The religious leaders of the time betrayed Him. The civil authorities betrayed Him. And all of the disciples except John fled in fear as Jesus was betrayed. But Jesus did not look at any of this through human eyes alone. He saw it all from the eternal perspective and clearly taught that all of these seemingly tragic events would end in His glory.
When we commit ourselves to the following of Christ, we can be assured that we will also share in His Cross. We will experience the sins of others, encounter mistreatment, and have to endure various sufferings. The question for us all as we have these encounters in life is whether we will endure them in anger and despair or with the hopeful confidence of our Lord. Again, everything in life has the potential to become an instrument of the glory of God. Nothing in life has the power to steal away that glory when we keep our eyes upon the will of God and His power to use all for His glory.
Reflect, today, upon your call in life to see everything from the divine perspective. If you are upset, angry, despairing or confused at times, know that God wants to bring clarity and grace to every situation. He wants to show you how you can share in His divine mission of transforming every evil into God’s glory. Seek out the ways that your life must give glory to God in everything, especially those things that seem incapable of being used for good. The more an experience in life seems incapable of being used for God’s glory, the more that experience is capable of giving true glory to God.
My glorious Lord, You brought forth good from all things. Even the grave evil of Your betrayal was transformed into a manifestation of Your glory. I offer to You, dear Lord, all that I endure in life and pray that You will be glorified in all things, and that my life will continually become a manifestation of the glory due Your holy name. Jesus, I trust in You.
Rejecting Empty Promises
Wednesday of Holy Week
One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over. Matthew 26:14–16
The desire for money can become a powerful incentive to betray our Lord. In this Gospel passage, it seems clear that Judas’ betrayal was based on his desire for money. He most likely had some level of faith in our Lord, or he wouldn’t have become His disciple. But even if Judas did have some level of faith, his desire for money appeared to overshadow the faith he may have had.
One of the central lessons we can learn from Judas is that the desire for money is a powerful incentive for the decisions we make. So many of the great saints have taught us that the path to holiness consists, first, in a purification of all our disordered affections. And since one of the most powerful attachments that many struggle with is an attachment to money, this is an important desire to purify in all of our lives.
It’s true that material possessions are not evil when they are used for the fulfillment of God’s will. But the desire for more, for an excess, will always cloud our ability to see clearly the will of God and live for His glory alone.
Once Judas had betrayed our Lord and Jesus was arrested, recall that Judas “deeply regretted what he had done.” And during Jesus’ trial, Judas went back to the chief priests and said “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood” in an apparent attempt to stop the trial. But Jesus’ death was set in motion and could not be stopped. As a result, Judas returned the money and sadly went off to hang himself (See Matthew 27:3–5).
The desire Judas had for money clouded his thinking. And his sin did to him what sin always does. As soon as his sin of betrayal was done, Judas saw the consequences of that choice. And the consequences grieved him deeply. He learned that choosing sin ends with an empty promise. He realized that thirty pieces of silver was not worth the value of his soul. But of course, even then Judas could have repented and received the mercy of God. But he didn’t. He simply ended his life in ultimate despair.
Reflect, today, upon the witness of Judas. Use him as a source of meditation and self-examination this Holy Week. What is it in your life that you desire more than our Lord? What temptation clouds your thinking and leads you to choices that you know will end in emptiness? Strive to eradicate every disordered desire within you this day and choose wisely the will of God instead. Do not let yourself continue to believe the lies that keep you from making Jesus and His holy will the one and only focus of your life.
My divine Lord, You and You alone must become the focus of my life. You and You alone are of the greatest value in life. Help me to shed all earthly desires in life so that I will not fall into the temptations that lead to empty promises and so that I will embrace the true and fulfilling promises that come from You. Jesus, I trust in You.
The One True Sacrifice of the Mass
Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Year A)
Brothers and sisters: I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 1 Corinthians 11:23–24
We begin the most sacred Triduum, the greatest Feasts in the life of the Church. Tonight we celebrate the Last Supper with our Lord. The Church then keeps vigil in prayer until midnight. Tomorrow, though Holy Communion that was consecrated on Holy Thursday is distributed, the Mass is not celebrated and the tabernacle is empty. We venerate the Cross, recall the Passion, and experience the silence of the death of our Lord. On Holy Saturday, the Liturgy is not celebrated until the sun sets and we begin the Easter Vigil celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord.
Tonight we especially ponder the words of Jesus: “Do this in remembrance of me.” This is not only an invitation; it is a command. A command of love. A command to share in the Memorial Sacrifice of the Savior of the World. The word “memorial” is important to understand. When Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me,” He was not simply asking us to remember Him, or to celebrate the Eucharist as a memorial in the normal sense of a memorial. Normally, a memorial is something that is used only to remind us of something that previously took place. There might be a memorial plaque placed at a location of some important event, commemorating the event with a description and date. Or there might be a memorial ceremony where we honor someone who has gone before us. But the Mass is a memorial in a much different way.
As a memorial, or remembrance, our Church teaches that every time the Mass is celebrated, the saving events of the Paschal Mystery are truly made present. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in quoting the great Council of Trent, states it this way:
The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” “And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. . .” (#1367).
In other words, when we participate in the Mass we are participating in the Sacrifice of Christ; we are present at the Cross. It is His offering that culminated in His victory over sin and death. Thus, when we celebrate this “remembrance,” we do more than remember the Last Supper. We are truly there, truly participating in it, truly experiencing the saving grace of Christ’s gift. It is very easy to “forget” what we actually participate in. Sometimes we can become distracted at Mass. If Mass is celebrated in an irreverent way, if it is rushed or if our minds are somewhere else, then we are standing at the foot of the Cross more like a soldier or bystander than like the Mother of God or people of deep faith.
As we participate in the Last Supper and the saving Sacrifice of Christ this night, reflect upon what you participate in every time you celebrate the Most Holy Eucharist. Pray for the eyes of faith and for the gift of reverence and awe. Pray that the veil be lifted and you be invited to gaze upon the greatest act of love ever known. Allow this night to be a true reminder to you that the Mass is real, is the Holy Sacrifice, is the most important Gift you will ever receive. It is the Gift of the Sacrifice of the Savior of the World.
My Sacrificial Lord, this night You instituted the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in which Your saving Sacrifice became a permanent Memorial in which we are invited to share. Please open my eyes to the reality of the Mass and help me to always participate in it with deep faith, reverence and love. Jesus, I trust in You.
Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Year B)
“This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the LORD, as a perpetual institution.” Exodus 12:11
The holy Triduum begins. Today we fulfill this Old Testament passage, revealing that the Passover would become “a perpetual institution.” This passage concludes our First Reading instruction from the LORD given to Moses and Aaron on how to prepare for the Israelites’ liberation from Egypt. Plague after plague had been inflicted upon the Egyptians, and none of them resulted in the Israelites being set free. Therefore, the LORD instructed the Israelites to celebrate the first Passover by killing a year-old lamb, sprinkling its blood on their doorposts, and feasting on the flesh in preparation for the journey to the Promised Land. Today, we continue this Passover celebration as we share in the Sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Whose Blood has been shed, Whose flesh we consume, and Who leads us through the desert of life to the new and eternal Promised Land of Heaven.
Just as the first Passover was a prefiguration of the Sacrifice of the Lamb of God, so also the plagues that led up to the Passover present us with much meaning. At first, all the water in Egypt turned to blood. Then frogs, gnats, flies and pestilence covered the land. Boils covered the skin of humans and animals. Hail rained down, locusts covered the land, and finally darkness covered the land for three days. None of these plagues was ultimately successful in convincing Pharaoh to let God’s people go; therefore, the final plague to be inflicted was the death of the firstborn. It was the blood of the paschal lamb, sprinkled on the doorposts of the Israelites’ houses that signaled to the angels to pass over their homes.
The plagues inflicted on Pharaoh and the Egyptians were severe. But because of their obstinacy, God continued until they changed. Recall, also, that even after the Israelites were set free, Pharaoh changed his mind and pursued them into the Red Sea where his army perished.
Though these prefiguring events might not be that pleasant to consider, they must be reflected upon. We must see in them God’s tireless and relentless efforts to set us free from sin. The obstinacy and oppression of Pharaoh are clear signs of the oppressive evil within our world today, and within our own souls. When we seek to embrace the freedom to which we are called, we will be met with much temptation and oppression from the evil one, as well as from our own fallen human nature. But if we trust in God, as Moses did, then we will be given all we need to begin the journey to freedom. Most specifically, the Flesh and Blood of the Son of Man is our Paschal Lamb. The Eucharist, which was instituted on Holy Thursday, protects us from the final death. Consuming the Body of Christ also strengthens us for our spiritual journeys. Without it, we have no protection from the evil one and lack the strength we need to be faithful on our journey.
Reflect, today, upon God’s incredible commitment to set you free. He came to earth, took on human form, offered His life in sacrifice, and now feeds you with His sacred flesh. Without the Eucharist as your spiritual food and His Sacred Blood covering you, you will not survive. We all need the Eucharist. We need the Bread of Heaven. We need the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Savior of the World. God went to the greatest length to save you. Accept His Gift that we especially commemorate and participate in today.
My Sacrificial Lamb, You came to earth to set us free from the oppression of the evil one and from the disorders of our fallen human nature. Please feed me today and always with Your Sacred Body and Precious Blood. By the strength of this Food from Heaven, continue to lead me to the Promised Land of Heaven. Jesus, I trust in You.
Our Model for Holiness
Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Year C)
“Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” John 13:12–15
Do you want to be holy? Perhaps this question is not one that everyone will immediately answer with a resounding “Yes.” Sadly, holiness, for some, can seem boring and unattractive. The lure of evil is very enticing on a confused and superficial level. So what is your answer to this question? Do you want to be holy?
As we begin today the sacred Triduum, we enter into the holiest days of the Church year. We walk with our Lord through His final glorification today as He celebrates the Passover with His disciples and enters the Garden of Gethsemane to await His arrest. Tomorrow we walk with Him through the stations of His Cross. On Saturday, we sit in silent adoration of His tomb as we await the Resurrection.
In the Gospel quoted above, Jesus gives us a model for holiness by the witness of His actions. He Who is the God of the Universe, the Creator of all, the Eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, humbles Himself and takes on the form of a lowly servant by washing the feet of His disciples. He then offers them the Most Holy Eucharist for the first time, before He goes to meet His persecutors.
The model Jesus gives us is a prophetic action by which Jesus tells us that true greatness, that is, true holiness, is found in humility. Holiness is realized in our lives when we turn our eyes from ourselves and love others as their servants.
None of us are the Savior of the World, but each of us must become instruments of His saving act for others. As we accept Jesus’ gift, we must then turn to others and humble ourselves before them. We must help them to see our love and their dignity. We must serve them with humility and put them first. Doing so will then enable us to invite them to imitate us as we imitate Christ. Thus, our humble imitation of Jesus becomes a means by which Jesus invites others to follow Him.
Reflect, today, upon the invitation of Jesus: “…as I have done for you, you should also do.” Jesus gave us everything, so we must give everything to others. We must serve without counting the cost. We must love them, putting their needs before ours. We must become a model of the love of Christ for them. Ponder Jesus’ service today and throughout the Triduum and commit yourself to live the invitation given you by our Lord.
My humble Lord, may Your name be praised and adored above all things. May You be exalted by Your humility and lowly service. I see in Your humble act, dear Lord, the deep love You have for me and for all. May I imitate that humble love in my own life so that my imitation of You will help to share Your saving love with others. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Greatest Act of Love Unfolds
Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Year A)
Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and, carrying the cross himself, he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle. John 19:16–18
The Passion of our Lord begins. Our Gospel narrative today begins with Jesus going out to a garden with His disciples after the celebration of the Passover meal. It’s shocking to consider that the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity permitted such injustice to befall Him. Though perfect in every way, He allowed Himself to be treated as a criminal, to suffer at the hands of sinners, and to die an agonizing death.
One of the first shocking events to take place in the Garden where Jesus was arrested was the sheer number of soldiers sent to arrest Him. A “band of soldiers” could mean that as many as 600 soldiers were sent to accomplish this deed. Going out with “lanterns, torches and weapons” reveals that it was dark. The symbolism of darkness is significant in John’s Gospel, portraying the spiritual darkness that permeated that night. Within that darkness, one of Jesus’ own Apostles betrayed Him, leading this massive number of soldiers to arrest Him.
Upon Jesus’ arrest, Peter, the soon-to-be leader of the Apostles, denies, for the first time, that he even knows Jesus. This happens while Jesus is interrogated by Annas, a respected former High Priest. The fact that a High Priest was the first to question Jesus shows that even those who are “religious” can, at times, be brutal instruments of attacks upon the faith. After Annas, Jesus is brought to Caiaphas, then acting as High Priest. During that interrogation, Peter denied our Lord a second time and then a third. These religious leaders concluded that Jesus must die. Recall that Caiaphas had previously argued that “it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people” (John 11:50). In fact, those words of Caiaphas were an unintended prophecy, predicting the death of our Lord for all the people.
Since the Jewish authorities did not have the power to crucify someone, they relied on the Roman governor Pilate. Although Pilate shows little interest in meeting their request, He does so out of fear of an uprising and reprisals from Caesar. Pilate also humiliates Jesus, scourging Him and permitting his soldiers to mock Him. Little did they know that the purple cloak with which they covered Jesus and the crown of thorns they placed on His head were symbols of Jesus’ true Kingship, exercised by His defeat of death itself in the battle for the salvation of souls.
When Jesus was crucified, He hung on the Cross between two thieves. As He agonized for three hours, He permitted His mother to stand by Him, entrusted her to the disciple John and John to her, drank of the wine to quench His thirst, spoke His final words, “It is finished,” and then He bowed His sacred head and handed over His spirit.
John’s Gospel relates to us that after Jesus was dead, a soldier pierced His side with a lance, and blood and water flowed out. This final gift from our Lord has been understood as a symbol of the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. It was truly finished. The King had won the battle. Death was defeated, and the means by which we are to share in that victory was given by the institution of the Sacraments.
Reflect, today, upon this most sacred scene. There is no end to the depth and breadth of the meaning of every action that took place that holy day. Every detail reveals the love of God. Every symbol points to the reality of what took place. Every word our Lord spoke is for us to hear, to receive and to believe. The meaning of Good Friday is beyond our human comprehension. Nonetheless, on this holy day we are called to prayerfully penetrate the meaning of this perfect act of love, so that we will more fully share in the grace given to us by our Lord.
My crucified Lord, from the perspective of human beings, Your death was horrific. But from the perspective of Your Father in Heaven, Your death was the glorious fulfillment of His will. Through Your Passion and death, You exercised Your Kingship by taking authority over sin and death and commanding it to cease. May I stand with Your dear mother this day, dear Lord, and gaze with gratitude and awe on what You have done for me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Year B)
After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit. John 19:28–30
Consider the thirst of Jesus. Though His physical thirst must have been excruciating as He hung upon the Cross, pouring forth His precious blood upon the world, the spiritual thirst our Lord felt would have greatly overshadowed His physical thirst. His spiritual thirst is for you, for your soul, for your salvation. As He hung upon the Cross, Jesus did not think of Himself, His suffering or His wretched physical condition. Instead, He thought of you and of all those for whom He was giving His life.
Psalm 69:22 says, “Instead they gave me poison for my food; and for my thirst they gave me vinegar.” Jesus fulfilled this Scripture passage as He thirsted on the Cross. The vinegar symbolically refers to each one of us. The vinegar given to our Lord on the Cross was spoiled wine. Each one of us, symbolically speaking, is this spoiled wine. The purity of our humanity has been corrupted by original sin. As a result, we are not the people God intended us to be by nature. But in our fallen state, we have the potential to satiate Jesus’ spiritual thirst.
As you think about your own life, what do you see? Can you see yourself as spoiled wine? Perhaps it is a bit humiliating to think of yourself this way. But humility is good, especially when we understand that our Lord longs for us in our brokenness. Upon the Cross, Jesus did not cry out for the best of wine, the finest and most delicious. As He thirsted on the Cross, He longed to be satiated by you, in your weakened and broken state, just as you are, so that He can pour forth His cleansing mercy upon you.
As soon as Jesus tasted the sour wine, He cried out, “It is finished.” This symbolically represents His soul being satiated by you every time you turn to Him in your need. It’s amazing to consider the fact that you have the ability to console the Heart of Jesus and satiate His thirst this way. Saint Thérèse of Lisieux was very fond of a devotion dedicated to consoling Jesus’ Heart. As a child, she was given a prayer card that pictured Jesus in prison, looking out at one small flower. Thérèse saw herself as that one small flower who was given the mission to console Jesus’ Heart by visiting Him regularly in the prison of the tabernacle.
Spiritually speaking, that moment of Jesus’ thirst on the Cross permeates all time and continues today. Every time you come to Him in your need, especially when you come before Him in the Eucharist, He turns His eyes to you and calls to you, inviting you to console Him by offering Him the humility and brokenness of your life.
Today our churches are empty. The Blessed Sacrament has been removed. As a result, we should seek to satiate the thirst of our Lord by thirsting for His divine presence that will return on Easter when the Mass is celebrated once again. Today is a day to grow in our desire for the presence of our Lord in our lives. We must allow ourselves to feel His loss, experience His death, and mourn His suffering. As we do, we must open ourselves to a deep spiritual longing to consume His broken Body and precious Blood once again. Doing so will not only prepare us to be satiated ourselves, it will also enable us to satiate the Heart of our Lord.
Reflect, today, upon Jesus on the Cross. Gaze at Him as He gazes at you. See the longing in His Heart for you. Know that He gave His life for you, so that you could receive the gift of new life. Know, also, that your openness to this gift of His life poured out for you will console our Lord’s Heart and bring His divine mission of salvation to fruition. Satiate our Lord’s thirst today so that He can once again say, “It is finished.”
My thirsting Lord, Your Sacred Heart longs for me with a love that is infinite and incomprehensible. You desire that I come to You, receive Your love and satiate Your thirst. As I gaze upon You in Your suffering state, I open myself to You and to the gift of Your Precious Blood poured out for me. May my openness to You be a consolation to You as I receive Your divine love. Jesus, I trust in You.
Standing by the Cross with Love
Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Year C)
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. John 19:25–27
If you spent time this Lent pondering the beautiful image of Jesus’ mother standing by the foot of the Cross, then you have some insight into her motherly love and experience on Good Friday. She was faithful to the end. She would have been no other place than at the foot of the Cross, gazing upon the sacrificial death of her own divine Son for the salvation of the world.
From all the perspectives that we can use to gaze upon the Cross, the perspective of Jesus’ own mother is the best. The soldiers stood there mocking our Lord, perhaps some confused and perhaps some even feeling pity for Jesus. The scribes and Pharisees looked on with contempt and self righteousness, doubling down on their hatred and jealousy. Most of the Apostles had fled, one of them betraying Jesus and another denying that he even knew our Lord. But Jesus’ own mother, accompanied by some other holy women and the beloved disciple, John, stood there with love, offering consolation to the Heart of Jesus.
The love shared between mother and Son at the foot of the Cross was twofold in the heart of Mary. Her love for her Son expressed her unwavering fidelity to Him. It dispelled all fear. It was singularly focused. It was all-consuming. As she shared this love for her Son, she truly consoled Him. This is a significant fact to ponder. Since Jesus was the Son of God, He didn’t need the human consolation of His mother’s love at that moment. But by becoming human, Jesus chose to accept her love. In that act of acceptance, He allowed her human love to console His human heart. This consoling and steadfast love expressed the perfection of human love.
The second form of love shared between mother and Son at the foot of the Cross was the love given by Jesus to His mother. At its core, this love was the gift of salvation. For her, the grace of His Cross transcended time to the moment of her conception, freeing her from Original Sin. Jesus’ love on the Cross transformed her, retroactively, into the Immaculate Conception and enabled her to know Jesus not only as her Son but also as her Savior. Jesus’ love in that moment on the Cross is also expressed in His unwavering commitment to care for her in her human state. He gave her to John to care for her as his own mother and, in so doing, He gave her to all of us who stand at the foot of the Cross with her as our own spiritual mother.
If you want to understand the love of God, look no further than this immaculate and perfect love shared between mother and Son at the foot of the Cross. Today, especially, you are invited to stand with the Apostle John and gaze upon this shared love of mother and Son. John is there as an invitation to you to stand with them and to share in this holy exchange of love.
As you witness this love, think about your own life and what it would take for you to participate in such love. Consider the courage and strength you need. The ability to forgive all who harmed you. Freedom from all bitterness. Unwavering commitment. Perfect affection. These, and many other qualities that were present in the hearts of mother and Son at the Cross are all qualities that God wants to bestow upon you. He wants you to bring them into every relationship in your life. He wants the perfection of this love to come upon you and for you to express this love always.
Reflect, today, on this Good Friday, upon this most holy scene of the love of this mother and this Son. As you do, try to examine your own life. As you look at this mother and Son’s many virtues, allow that gaze to reveal to you the ways you need to grow in virtue. The Mother of God is now your mother, and the Son of God is now your Savior. Speak to them, listen to them, love them and allow the love that flows from their hearts to penetrate your own so that you can receive their love and share it with others.
My dying Lord, You freely embraced human death for the salvation of the World. It was the greatest act of love ever known. As You hung upon the Cross in agony, Your own dear mother, the Immaculate Conception, stood by You, receiving Your love in its fullness and offering her love to console Your suffering soul. Please draw me into that love and help me to not only receive it but also to offer it to all in need. Jesus, I trust in You.
Holy Saturday with Mother Mary
The Savior of the World died a cruel death upon the Cross. His broken body was laid in the tomb. His disciples scattered and were fearful that they would be next. But our Blessed Mother kept vigil in the perfect hope that her Son would soon rise.
Traditionally, Saturdays within the Church year are dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. This ancient tradition developed in part due to the belief that, as others were filled with fear and confusion, Mother Mary kept vigil on Holy Saturday in prayerful anticipation of Jesus’ resurrection. She knew her Son would rise. She had hope beyond hope. Her faith was certain. Her love kept her vigilant as she awaited the return of her Son.
For many centuries, it has been suggested that the first person to whom Jesus appeared after His Resurrection was His own mother. Pope Saint John Paul II believed this. Saint Ignatius of Loyola believed it. And many others throughout the centuries shared this belief.
For these reasons, Holy Saturday is an ideal day to ponder the pondering heart of our Blessed Mother. There are several times in Sacred Scripture where we are told that Mother Mary pondered the mysteries of her Son’s life in her heart. She was one of the few who stood by Him in His agony and death. She stood before the Cross and prayerfully pondered His perfect sacrifice. The Blessed Mother held His dead body in her arms and pondered where His spirit had gone. And today she keeps vigil, pondering His imminent return to her.
Ponder her pondering heart. Try to unite your own heart with hers. Try to understand what she was thinking and hoping. Try to feel what she felt this sorrowful day. Try to experience her faith, her trust and her joyful expectation.
So many people in this world walk in despair and confusion. So many have lost hope in the new life that awaits them. So many have their own form of interior death without allowing God to draw them into His Resurrection. So many people today need the hope that was so alive in the heart of our Blessed Mother that first Holy Saturday.
Ponder the reality of Holy Saturday in silence this day and allow the glorious heart of our Blessed Mother to inspire you and draw you more deeply into her life of faith, hope and love.
Dearest Mother Mary, on that first Holy Saturday, you kept vigil for your Son. You allowed the divine gift of hope to grow within you, and you allowed that hope to be your strength in the midst of the horror of the Cross. Pray for me that I may ponder your beautiful heart this day so that I, too, may be filled with hope as I endure the challenges of this earthly life. Give me a heart of joyful anticipation as I await the grace of new life our Lord so deeply desires to bestow upon me. Mother Mary, pray for me. Jesus, I do trust in You.
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