Holy Week: 2021

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Sunday, March 28, 2021

From Glory to Glory

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Year B)

Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out:
  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

As Jesus entered Jerusalem at the beginning of the first Holy Week, He was welcomed with much enthusiasm, and He accepted the love and devotion of those who welcomed Him. He was their King. He was the Messiah, and the welcome they gave to Him was but a pale gift of the true adoration He deserved. And though Jesus entered Jerusalem with this glorious welcome, less than a week later He would leave Jerusalem with a heavy cross on His shoulders, carrying it outside the city walls to die.

When we contrast the entry of Jesus on Palm Sunday with His arrest, abuse, mock trial, carrying of the cross and death, these two extremes do appear to be at the opposite ends of the spectrum. There is rejoicing and praise as He enters, and sorrow and shock as He leaves. But are these two events all that different from a divine perspective? From the perspective of the Father in Heaven, the end of the week is nothing other than the ultimate culmination of the full glory of His Son.

Today we read the long and beautiful account of the Passion of Jesus as told in Mark’s Gospel. But on Friday we will read the account of John’s Gospel. Mark’s Gospel tells the story in clear detail, but John’s Gospel will most notably add the spiritual insight that Jesus’ crucifixion and death is nothing other than His hour of glory. We will see His Cross as His new throne of grace, and the earthly glory Jesus receives today as He enters Jerusalem will be fully realized from a divine perspective as He mounts His Throne of the Cross to take up His eternal Kingship.

As we enter into the holiest week of the year, it is essential that each of us see the journey of Christ this week as our own calling in life. We must journey toward the glory of the Cross with our Lord. From a worldly perspective, the Cross does not make sense. But from the perspective of the Father in Heaven, the Cross is not only the source of the greatest glory of His Son, but it is also the path by which we share in that glory. We must die with Him, sacrifice all for Him, choose to follow Him, and hold nothing back in our resolve to lay down our lives out of love.

Reflect, today, upon the events you will commemorate this week. Commit yourself to share in them, not just as an intellectual remembrance but as a living participation. How is God calling You to step forward in a sacrificial way out of love? How is God calling you to courageously embrace your calling to give your life away? Strive to see this week from the perspective of the Father in Heaven and pray that you will also see the ways in which the Father is calling you to imitate His Son. Let us go and die with Him, for it is in the Cross of Christ that we will discover His eternal glory.

My glorious King, You are worthy of all praise and adoration. Hosanna to You, hosanna in the highest! Draw me into Your glorious passion, dear Lord, and help me to see the glory of Your Cross. As I see its glory, give me the grace I need to share more fully in Your life of transforming sacrificial love. Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday, March 29, 2021

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.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

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.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Our Model for Holiness

Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Year B)

“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.

Friday, April 2, 2021

A Prayer From the Cross

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion

Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. Luke 23:46

One of the most profound and transforming prayers we could ever pray is given to us today as the response to our Psalm: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” These words were, of course, spoken by our Lord as He hung upon the Cross and prepared to breathe His last. But they are also words that echoed throughout the earthly life of Jesus, and they continue to echo from the divine heart of our Lord in Heaven for all eternity. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

This prayer is a prayer of surrender to the perfect will of the Father in Heaven, which was the one and only mission of Jesus as He lived upon earth. His only goal was to fulfill the Father’s will, and this was done by His continual surrender of His life to the Father. But Jesus’ surrender to the Father in Heaven did not end as He died upon the Cross. His surrender to the Father is an eternal reality. He continually gives Himself to the Father with perfect love. This is Heaven. Heaven is an eternal unity of the Most Holy Trinity. It’s an eternal giving of the Father to the Son and the Son to the Father. This perfect giving and receiving of love between the Father and the Son spirates the Holy Spirit Who proceeds from them both.

Imagine the response that the Father gave to the Son as He prayed this prayer from the Cross. Though the Father’s response is not recorded in Scripture, we can be certain that the Father’s response was one of complete receptivity and reciprocity. The Father received His eternal Son through that prayer and accepted the ultimate sacrifice of His earthly life for the salvation of the world. And the Father then responded in a reciprocal way by bestowing upon the Son in His human nature the full gift of His very self. Though the Father and the Son were always perfectly united as one, this prayer from the Cross became an earthly manifestation of this holy union.

Though this eternal reality of the Love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is a deep mystery of our faith, it is also a mystery that we must seek to penetrate and participate in. Heaven will be our eternal participation in this perfect love. Jesus’ prayer on the Cross is the perfect prayer for us to pray throughout our lives so as to begin to enter into that eternal reality, here and now, and to prepare ourselves to share in this eternal union forever.

On this Good Friday, as you gaze upon the crucifixion of Jesus and reflect upon His brutal agony and His earthly death, try to look beyond His human suffering to His perfect surrender. Try to see that His physical death was nothing other than an act of perfect love for the Father and an act into which we are invited to participate. Prayerfully ponder this beautiful prayer of Jesus today: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Say it over and over. Pray it slowly and meditatively. Savor each and every word. Make it your own prayer. Let it come forth from the depths of your spirit. Let it be your act of love of God so that the Holy Spirit will become manifest in your life. Use this prayer to show your love for the Father, making Him more fully your Father. Use this prayer as a way of uniting yourself with the eternal Son. Say it with Him, in Him and through Him. Strive to become one with our Lord as He manifests His oneness with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Share in Their divine life. If you do so from the depths of your being, you can be sure that our Father in Heaven will receive you just as He did His Son and They, together with the Holy Spirit, will bestow upon you the gift of their Triune life.

Father in Heaven, into Your hands I commend my spirit. As I gaze upon the crucifix and see Your eternal Son looking to You in Heaven, I unite myself with His eternal surrender to You. My Lord, Jesus, draw me into Your surrender and help me to make Your perfect prayer my own. I love You, Most Holy Trinity, and pray that I may share in the eternal reality of Your love. Jesus, I trust in You.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Holy Saturday with Mother Mary

Holy Saturday

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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