Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday), March 28
Luke 22: 4 – 23: 56
Passion or Palm Sunday has always suggested to me the fact that there are always two sides to every story. The celebrations of this day leave us with feelings both of great joy and deep sorrow. These feelings come from the two Gospel readings in today’s Liturgy. The first has Jesus riding on a colt over the cloaks of the people spread on the streets. “The whole multitude of his disciples began to praise God aloud for joy for all the mighty deeds they had seen.” They proclaimed, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Praise in heaven, and glory in the highest.” The people waved palm branches and praised his presence. Joy was everywhere!
Then the scene changes to the second Gospel, the Passion of our Lord according to St. Luke. Here, after carrying the cross, the scourging at the pillar and the crowning with thorns, we read, “It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. The veil of the temple was torn down the middle.” And Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit; and when he had said this he breathed his last.” Jesus, love personified, died upon the cross on Calvary! And we experience the deepest grief.
Deep joy and deep grief. Strangely, these are not contradictory emotions. We can have them both at the same time. We see this when a loved one dies, a parent, a spouse, a child, a friend, a brother or sister. We experience joy because their time on earth has been fulfilled and now they go to the Father for everlasting peace. We experience grief because they are lost to us forever and will not be with us here on earth anymore.
Jesus, on this day of mixed emotions, increase our joy and your victory over sin and death and comfort us in our grief as we recall your suffering and death needed to attain it.
Lord Jesus, how great you are; how blessed are we!
Monday of Holy Week, March 29
Isaiah 42: 1-7 – John 12: 1-11
The first readings for the Liturgies on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week are the first three Suffering Servant Songs from Isaiah the Prophet. There are four of them altogether and the fourth will be read on Good Friday. The reading for Monday is from Isaiah 42: 1-7 and contains the identifying marks of the suffering servant which marks are food for thought for all of us.
The servant is first of all gentle and tender. This is how we, too, are to go about our ministry. Pulpit-pounding is not a part of the good servant’s ministry; no one is going to be frightened into doing anything. Second, the servant is bold. We make ourselves heard in forceful, assertive voice and not in whispers. The third mark of the servant is costliness. Our ministry might cause us pain of one sort or another from time to time. And finally, it is mighty. There should be no place in Christian ministry for weakness or the whimp.
A fine idea for all of this comes from a fellow I used to know in AA. He was a huge man, a motorcycle rider, and really looked that part. His voice was booming, but yet there was a gentleness about him that led one to believe he wouldn’t hurt a fly. I used to call him the Gentle Giant. This describes how the follower and servant of Christ should be.
Tuesday of Holy Week, March 30
John 13: 21-33, 36-38
Today’s Gospel reading from St John has all the disciples gathered with Jesus for what has come to be known as the Last Supper. During the meal, Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of the Lord, is identified by Jesus. “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.” – “So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas, the son of Simon the Iscariot.” And, “After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him.” – “And it was night.”
Yes, and what a night it was! There is little if any doubt in my mind that Judas today once again shares in the heavenly banquet with Jesus and the rest of the disciples. Somehow he must have thought that what he was doing was the right thing to do at the time. I believe Judas acted in ignorance, not malice.
So it is so often with us. I have betrayed Jesus’ will for me often in my lifetime. So have we all. We are all sinners, all betrayers of the Lord Jesus in his goodness to us. But, “we don’t mean it.” We act in ignorance. We act in our frail and breakable humanness.
Jesus, once again we pray that we may truly realize that you are the way, the truth and the life and that we are all to act accordingly.
Wednesday of Holy Week, March 31
Isaiah 50: 4-9
In the Suffering Servant Song found in the first reading from Isaiah for today’s Liturgy, the Servant, to become like Jesus, is to speak with a well-trained tongue. His tongue is trained to being faithful to the word of God and proclaiming it loudly for others to hear. The servant will tell the people what they need to hear, what they crave to hear. This leads me to believe that our time in the pulpit or from wherever we manage to spread the word of God, should not be times of joking around but time for serious thought-provoking work. There is nothing wrong with an occasional funny episode or happening, especially if it pertains to the speaker him/herself, but we are not to pass ourselves off as clever comedians. We are carriers of the happiness, peace and joy of God to others. We should remember, too, that we first must have all of these things in our hearts before we try and give them to others. No one can give what he or she does not have.
To be imitators of the Lord Jesus, to be servant and disciples, is not an easy task nor one we will ever carry out alone. We must pray to the Lord Jesus to be with us always, to speak through us, as we carry his word to his followers.
HOLY THURSDAY, April 1,
Chrism Mass, Renewal of Commitment to Priestly Service
Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
The Chrism Mass. I can find no rubric designating any particular time of the day for the Chrism Mass. But it is distinct from the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper. I think a good time for the Chrism Mass would be in the mid-afternoon or early evening. In this Mass, as the name indicates, the Holy Oils are blessed for use in celebrating the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Sacrament of the Sick and Holy Orders in the year to come. There are three different Holy Oils used in conferring the Sacraments: Sacred Chrism, Oil of the Catechumens, and Oil of the Sick. These oils are confected at this Mass and then distributed to the priests present for use in their parishes.
During the Chrism Mass, the Bishop also urges his priests to be faithful in fulfilling their office in the Church and invites them to renew publicly their priestly promises. This is a very beautiful and particularly meaningful part of the Chrism Mass.
Finally, the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper takes place in the evening, at a convenient hour, with the full participation of the whole local community and with all the priests and clergy exercising their ministry. During the Gloria of the Mass, the church bells are rung and then remain silent until the Easter vigil. During the Liturgy we are reminded of Jesus instituting the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, giving us his Flesh to eat and his Precious Blood to drink for our spiritual nourishment. During this Mass there is also the beautiful and very meaningful ritual of the Washing of the Feet by the Celebrant of the Mass. During this time, we remember Jesus serving his disciples in this way and our obligation to serve others in our ministry. After the Mass, the Blessed Sacrament is placed in the Repository until Friday when it will be distributed to the faithful in the Communion Service.
Holy Thursday is a busy day in the Triduum!
GOOD FRIDAY, April 2
For this one day of the year, there is no celebration of the Mass. Today the Church celebrates the Passion of the Lord. On this day, Jesus suffered and died for our sins and the sins of the whole world. Good Friday is about the cross, about the sufferings and death of our Lord Jesus. It is also about our salvation, our reconciliation with the Father. Jesus, in his humanness, accepted and carried his cross. His sufferings and death bridged the infinite gap between ourselves and the Father. The sufferings and death of Jesus had a positive outcome for us and for our world.
Each of us is also destined to suffer and die. This is part of life. Jesus told us, “If any want to be my followers, let them deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.” We may suffer these sufferings in either a positive or a negative way. Negatively, our sufferings can bring us to self-pity (why me?), depression, running away from God, swearing, hatred and being hard to live with. Positively, our sufferings can bring us a sense of powerlessness, prayer, acceptance and surrender to God, finding strength in our weakness and a new relationship with God. Our sufferings can, and often do, lead to a spiritual awakening.
You and I have our sufferings, our bad days, our crosses to carry. How do we carry them? Positively or negatively? Let us ask the Lord for the strength to bear these things positively, as experiences that will help us to grow and come closer to God.
THE EASTER VIGIL, April 3
Service of Light, Liturgy of the Word,
Liturgy of Baptism, Liturgy of the Eucharist
The Easter Vigil begins in the dark with the very beautiful and meaningful Service of Light. It is amazing how the hundreds of those little candles that are distributed to the people for this ritual manage to light up the whole dark church. In this we see the importance and significance of each one of us. We add to the light of Christ as it is dispersed throughout the world to do away with the darkness of sin. During this service, the Exsultet is sung by the Deacon as he stands before the newly lit Paschal Candle.
The Service of Light is followed by the Liturgy of the Word. In this ritual there are seven readings beginning with one from Genesis and the story of creation and ending with a reading from the Prophet Ezekiel about God giving his creation a new heart. This is followed by the Epistle and Gospel for the Mass of the Vigil which is then interrupted after the Gospel by the Liturgy of Baptism during which the Catechumens of the RCIA Program are baptized and welcomed into the Church. After this the Liturgy of the Eucharist continues as usual to its conclusion.
The Easter Vigil is a wonderful Liturgy especially if you have someone you know or a family member being received into the Church. I hope you all have a chance to be part of the Vigil.
I would like to wish all of you a very happy Easter. May the Risen Savior truly become a part of your lives.