Sunday, 31 March 2013

The Resurrection of the Lord

ACTS 10:34A, 37-43
PS 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
COL 3:1-4 or 1 COR 5:6B-8
JN 20:1-9 or LK 24:1-12 or LK 24:13-35

The readings for the day can be found here.

URBI ET ORBI MESSAGE
OF HIS HOLINESS
POPE BENEDICT XVI

EASTER 2012

Easter Sunday, 8 April 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and throughout the world!

“Surrexit Christus, spes mea” – “Christ, my hope, has risen” (Easter Sequence).

May the jubilant voice of the Church reach all of you with the words which the ancient hymn puts on the lips of Mary Magdalene, the first to encounter the risen Jesus on Easter morning. She ran to the other disciples and breathlessly announced: “I have seen the Lord!” (Jn 20:18). We too, who have journeyed through the desert of Lent and the sorrowful days of the Passion, today raise the cry of victory: “He has risen! He has truly risen!”

Every Christian relives the experience of Mary Magdalene. It involves an encounter which changes our lives: the encounter with a unique Man who lets us experience all God’s goodness and truth, who frees us from evil not in a superficial and fleeting way, but sets us free radically, heals us completely and restores our dignity. This is why Mary Magdalene calls Jesus “my hope”: he was the one who allowed her to be reborn, who gave her a new future, a life of goodness and freedom from evil. “Christ my hope” means that all my yearnings for goodness find in him a real possibility of fulfilment: with him I can hope for a life that is good, full and eternal, for God himself has drawn near to us, even sharing our humanity.

But Mary Magdalene, like the other disciples, was to see Jesus rejected by the leaders of the people, arrested, scourged, condemned to death and crucified. It must have been unbearable to see Goodness in person subjected to human malice, truth derided by falsehood, mercy abused by vengeance. With Jesus’ death, the hope of all those who had put their trust in him seemed doomed. But that faith never completely failed: especially in the heart of the Virgin Mary, Jesus’ Mother, its flame burned even in the dark of night. In this world, hope can not avoid confronting the harshness of evil. It is not thwarted by the wall of death alone, but even more by the barbs of envy and pride, falsehood and violence. Jesus passed through this mortal mesh in order to open a path to the kingdom of life. For a moment Jesus seemed vanquished: darkness had invaded the land, the silence of God was complete, hope a seemingly empty word.

And lo, on the dawn of the day after the Sabbath, the tomb is found empty. Jesus then shows himself to Mary Magdalene, to the other women, to his disciples. Faith is born anew, more alive and strong than ever, now invincible since it is based on a decisive experience: “Death with life contended: combat strangely ended! Life’s own champion, slain, now lives to reign”. The signs of the resurrection testify to the victory of life over death, love over hatred, mercy over vengeance: “The tomb the living did enclose, I saw Christ’s glory as he rose! The angels there attesting, shroud with grave-clothes resting”.

Dear brothers and sisters! If Jesus is risen, then – and only then – has something truly new happened, something that changes the state of humanity and the world. Then he, Jesus, is someone in whom we can put absolute trust; we can put our trust not only in his message but in Jesus himself, for the Risen One does not belong to the past, but is present today, alive. Christ is hope and comfort in a particular way for those Christian communities suffering most for their faith on account of discrimination and persecution. And he is present as a force of hope through his Church, which is close to all human situations of suffering and injustice.

May the risen Christ grant hope to the Middle East and enable all the ethnic, cultural and religious groups in that region to work together to advance the common good and respect for human rights. Particularly in Syria, may there be an end to bloodshed and an immediate commitment to the path of respect, dialogue and reconciliation, as called for by the international community. May the many refugees from that country who are in need of humanitarian assistance find the acceptance and solidarity capable of relieving their dreadful sufferings. May the paschal victory encourage the Iraqi people to spare no effort in pursuing the path of stability and development. In the Holy Land, may Israelis and Palestinians courageously take up anew the peace process.

May the Lord, the victor over evil and death, sustain the Christian communities of the African continent; may he grant them hope in facing their difficulties, and make them peacemakers and agents of development in the societies to which they belong.

May the risen Jesus comfort the suffering populations of the Horn of Africa and favour their reconciliation; may he help the Great Lakes Region, Sudan and South Sudan, and grant their inhabitants the power of forgiveness. In Mali, now experiencing delicate political developments, may the glorious Christ grant peace and stability. To Nigeria, which in recent times has experienced savage terrorist attacks, may the joy of Easter grant the strength needed to take up anew the building of a society which is peaceful and respectful of the religious freedom of all its citizens.

Happy Easter to all!

© Copyright 2012 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/urbi/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20120408_urbi-easter_en.html

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Saturday, 30 March 2013

Holy Saturday – Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter
GN 1:1—2:2
PS 104:1-2, 5-6, 10, 12, 13-14, 24, 35
GN 22:1-18
PS 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11
EX 14:15—15:1
EX 15:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 17-18
IS 54:5-14
PS 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13
IS 55:1-11
IS 12:2-3, 4, 5-6
BAR 3:9-15, 32-4:4
PS 19:8, 9, 10, 11
EZ 36:16-17A, 18-28
PS 42:3, 5; 43:3, 4
IS 12:2-3, 4BCD, 5-6
ROM 6:3-11
PS 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
LK 24:1-12

The readings for the day can be found here.

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Saint Peter’s Basilica
Holy Saturday, 7 April 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Easter is the feast of the new creation. Jesus is risen and dies no more. He has opened the door to a new life, one that no longer knows illness and death. He has taken mankind up into God himself. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God”, as Saint Paul says in the First Letter to the Corinthians (15:50). On the subject of Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection, the Church writer Tertullian in the third century was bold enough to write: “Rest assured, flesh and blood, through Christ you have gained your place in heaven and in the Kingdom of God” (CCL II, 994). A new dimension has opened up for mankind. Creation has become greater and broader. Easter Day ushers in a new creation, but that is precisely why the Church starts the liturgy on this day with the old creation, so that we can learn to understand the new one aright. At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word on Easter night, then, comes the account of the creation of the world. Two things are particularly important here in connection with this liturgy. On the one hand, creation is presented as a whole that includes the phenomenon of time. The seven days are an image of completeness, unfolding in time. They are ordered towards the seventh day, the day of the freedom of all creatures for God and for one another. Creation is therefore directed towards the coming together of God and his creatures; it exists so as to open up a space for the response to God’s great glory, an encounter between love and freedom. On the other hand, what the Church hears on Easter night is above all the first element of the creation account: “God said, ‘let there be light!’” (Gen 1:3). The creation account begins symbolically with the creation of light. The sun and the moon are created only on the fourth day. The creation account calls them lights, set by God in the firmament of heaven. In this way he deliberately takes away the divine character that the great religions had assigned to them. No, they are not gods. They are shining bodies created by the one God. But they are preceded by the light through which God’s glory is reflected in the essence of the created being.

What is the creation account saying here? Light makes life possible. It makes encounter possible. It makes communication possible. It makes knowledge, access to reality and to truth, possible. And insofar as it makes knowledge possible, it makes freedom and progress possible. Evil hides. Light, then, is also an expression of the good that both is and creates brightness. It is daylight, which makes it possible for us to act. To say that God created light means that God created the world as a space for knowledge and truth, as a space for encounter and freedom, as a space for good and for love. Matter is fundamentally good, being itself is good. And evil does not come from God-made being, rather, it comes into existence only through denial. It is a “no”.

At Easter, on the morning of the first day of the week, God said once again: “Let there be light”. The night on the Mount of Olives, the solar eclipse of Jesus’ passion and death, the night of the grave had all passed. Now it is the first day once again – creation is beginning anew. “Let there be light”, says God, “and there was light”: Jesus rises from the grave. Life is stronger than death. Good is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate. Truth is stronger than lies. The darkness of the previous days is driven away the moment Jesus rises from the grave and himself becomes God’s pure light. But this applies not only to him, not only to the darkness of those days. With the resurrection of Jesus, light itself is created anew. He draws all of us after him into the new light of the resurrection and he conquers all darkness. He is God’s new day, new for all of us.

But how is this to come about? How does all this affect us so that instead of remaining word it becomes a reality that draws us in? Through the sacrament of baptism and the profession of faith, the Lord has built a bridge across to us, through which the new day reaches us. The Lord says to the newly-baptized: Fiat lux – let there be light. God’s new day – the day of indestructible life, comes also to us. Christ takes you by the hand. From now on you are held by him and walk with him into the light, into real life. For this reason the early Church called baptism photismos – illumination.

Why was this? The darkness that poses a real threat to mankind, after all, is the fact that he can see and investigate tangible material things, but cannot see where the world is going or whence it comes, where our own life is going, what is good and what is evil. The darkness enshrouding God and obscuring values is the real threat to our existence and to the world in general. If God and moral values, the difference between good and evil, remain in darkness, then all other “lights”, that put such incredible technical feats within our reach, are not only progress but also dangers that put us and the world at risk. Today we can illuminate our cities so brightly that the stars of the sky are no longer visible. Is this not an image of the problems caused by our version of enlightenment? With regard to material things, our knowledge and our technical accomplishments are legion, but what reaches beyond, the things of God and the question of good, we can no longer identify. Faith, then, which reveals God’s light to us, is the true enlightenment, enabling God’s light to break into our world, opening our eyes to the true light.

Dear friends, as I conclude, I would like to add one more thought about light and illumination. On Easter night, the night of the new creation, the Church presents the mystery of light using a unique and very humble symbol: the Paschal candle. This is a light that lives from sacrifice. The candle shines inasmuch as it is burnt up. It gives light, inasmuch as it gives itself. Thus the Church presents most beautifully the paschal mystery of Christ, who gives himself and so bestows the great light. Secondly, we should remember that the light of the candle is a fire. Fire is the power that shapes the world, the force of transformation. And fire gives warmth. Here too the mystery of Christ is made newly visible. Christ, the light, is fire, flame, burning up evil and so reshaping both the world and ourselves. “Whoever is close to me is close to the fire,” as Jesus is reported by Origen to have said. And this fire is both heat and light: not a cold light, but one through which God’s warmth and goodness reach down to us.

The great hymn of the Exsultet, which the deacon sings at the beginning of the Easter liturgy, points us quite gently towards a further aspect. It reminds us that this object, the candle, has its origin in the work of bees. So the whole of creation plays its part. In the candle, creation becomes a bearer of light. But in the mind of the Fathers, the candle also in some sense contains a silent reference to the Church,. The cooperation of the living community of believers in the Church in some way resembles the activity of bees. It builds up the community of light. So the candle serves as a summons to us to become involved in the community of the Church, whose raison d’être is to let the light of Christ shine upon the world.

Let us pray to the Lord at this time that he may grant us to experience the joy of his light; let us pray that we ourselves may become bearers of his light, and that through the Church, Christ’s radiant face may enter our world (cf. LG 1). Amen.

© Copyright 2012 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2012/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20120407_veglia-pasquale_en.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Friday, 29 March 2013

Friday of the Passion of the Lord (Good Friday)
IS 52:13—53:12
PS 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25
HEB 4:14-16; 5:7-9
JN 18:1—19:42
The readings for the day can be found here.

MEDITATIONS by Lebanese young people under the guidance of His Eminent Beatitude Cardinal Béchara Boutros Raï

http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/2013/documents/ns_lit_doc_20130329_via-crucis_en.html

 

HOMILY OF FATHER RANIERO CANTALAMESSA, O.F.M. Cap.

St. Peter’s Basilica
Good Friday, 6 April 2012

Some ancient Fathers of the Church enclosed in an image the whole mystery of the redemption. Imagine, they said, that an epic fight took place in the stadium. A courageous man confronted a cruel tyrant who had the city enslaved and, with enormous effort and suffering, defeated him. You were on the terraces; you did not fight, or make an effort or get wounded. However, if you admire the courageous man, if you rejoice with him over his victory, if you intertwine crowns, arouse and stir the assembly for him, if you kneel joyfully before the triumphant one, kiss his head and shake his right hand; in a word, if you rave so much as to consider his victory yours, I tell you that you will certainly have part of the victor’s prize.

However, there is more: imagine that the victor had himself no need of the prize he had won, but wished more than anything to see his supporter honoured and considers as the prize of his combat the crowning of his friend, in that case, perhaps, will that man not obtain the crown also though he has not toiled or been wounded? He will certainly obtain it!(1)

It happens thus, say the Fathers, between Christ and us. On the cross, he defeated the ancient enemy. “Our swords — exclaims Saint John Chrysostom — were not bloodied, we were not in agony, we were not wounded, we did not even see the battle and yet we obtain the victory. His was the fight, ours the crown. And because we are also the conquerors, let us imitate what soldiers do in such cases: with joyful voices let us exalt the victory, let us intone hymns of praise to the Lord”!(2) It is not possible to explain better the meaning of the liturgy we are celebrating.

However, is what we are doing itself an image, a representation of a reality of the past, or is it the reality itself? It is both things! “We — said Saint Augustine to the people — know and believe with very certain faith that Christ died only once for us […]. You know perfectly that all that happened only once, and yet the solemnity renews it periodically […]. Historical truth and liturgical solemnity are not opposed to one another, as if the second is fallacious and the first alone corresponds to the truth. In fact, of what history says occurred only once in reality, the solemnity repeatedly renews the celebration in the hearts of the faithful”(3).

The liturgy “renews” the event: how many discussions have taken place for the past five centuries on the meaning of this word, especially when it is applied to the sacrifice of the cross and to the Mass! Paul vi used a verb that could smooth the way to an ecumenical agreement on such an argument: the verb “to represent”, understood in the strong sense of re-presenting, namely to render what happened again present and operative (4).

There is an essential difference between the representation of Christ’s death and that, for example, of the death of Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s tragedy of the same name. No one celebrates as a living person the anniversary of his own death; Christ does because he is risen. Only he can say, as he does in Revelation: “I died, and behold I am alive evermore” (Rev 1:18). We must be careful on this day, visiting the so-called sepulchers or taking part in processions of the dead Christ, not to merit the reproach that the Risen One addressed to the pious women on Easter morning: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Lk 24:5).

The affirmation of certain Orthodox authors is bold but true. The anamnesis, namely the liturgical memorial, “renders the event truer than when it happened historically the first time”. In other words, it is more true and real for us who relive it “according to the Spirit”, than it was for those who lived it “according to the flesh”, before the Holy Spirit revealed the full meaning to the Church.

We are not only celebrating an anniversary but a mystery. Again, it is Saint Augustine who explains the difference between the two things. In the celebration “by way of anniversary”, nothing else is required — he says — than to “indicate with a religious solemnity the day of the year in which the recollection of the event itself takes place”; in the celebration by way of mystery (“in sacrament”), “not only is an event commemorated but it is also done in a way in which its meaning is understood and it is received devoutly” (5).

This changes everything. It is not just a question of attending a representation, but of “accepting” the significance, of passing from spectators to actors. It is up to us therefore to choose what part we want to play in the drama, who we wish to be: Peter, Judas, Pilate, the crowd, the Cyrenean, John, Mary…. No one can remain neutral; not take a position, means to take a very precise one: Pilate’s who washes his hands or the crowd “standing by, watching” (Lk 23:35).

If when going home this evening, someone asks us “Where are you coming from? Where have you been?” We must also answer, at least in our heart: “on Calvary!”

However, all this does not happen automatically, just because we have taken part in this liturgy. It is a question of “accepting” the meaning of the mystery. This happens with faith. There is no music where there is no ear to hear it, no matter how loud the orchestra sounds; there is no grace where there is no faith to receive it.

In an Easter homily of the fourth century, the bishop pronounced these extraordinarily modern, and one could say existentialist, words: “For every man, the beginning of life is when Christ was immolated for him. However, Christ is immolated for him at the moment he recognizes the grace and becomes conscious of the life procured for him by that immolation” (6).

However, let us stay on the safe side; let us listen to a doctor of the Church. “What I cannot obtain by myself — writes Saint Bernard —, I appropriate (literally, I usurp!) with confidence from the pierced side of the Lord, because he is full of mercy. Hence my merit is the mercy of God. I am certainly not poor in merits, as long as he is rich in mercy. If the mercies of the Lord are many (Ps 119:156), I will also abound in merits. And what about my own righteousness? O Lord, I will remember only your righteousness. In fact, it is also mine, because you are righteousness for me on behalf of God” (cf. 1 Cor 1:30).(7)

Did this way of conceiving holiness make Saint Bernard, perhaps, less zealous in good works, less committed to the acquisition of virtues? Did perhaps the Apostle Paul neglect to mortify his body and reduce it to slavery (cf. 1 Cor 9:27), he who, before all and more than all, had made of this appropriation of Christ’s righteousness the purpose of his life and of his preaching (cf. Phil 3:7-9)?

In Rome, as unfortunately in all big cities, there are so many homeless people, human persons who only have a few rags upon their body and some poor belongings that they carry along in a plastic bag. Let us imagine that one day this voice spreads: on Via Condotti (everyone knows what Via Condotti represents in Rome!) there is the owner of a fashion boutique who, for some unknown reason, whether out of interest or generosity, invites all the homeless of Termini rail way station to come to her shop; she invites them to take off their soiled rags, to have a good shower and then choose the garment they want among those displayed and take it away free of charge.

All say in their heart: “This is a fairy-tale, it never happens!” Very true, but what never happens among men is what can happen every day between men and God, because, before him, we are those homeless people! This is what happens in a good confession: you take off your dirty rags, your sins, receive the bath of mercy and rise “clothed in the garments of salvation, covered with the robe of righteousness” (Is 61:10).

The tax collector of the parable went up into the temple to pray; he said simply but from the depth of his heart: “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”, and “he went down to his house justified” (Lk 18:14), reconciled, made new, innocent. The same could be said of us, if we have his same faith and repentance, when we go home after this liturgy.

Among the personages of the Passion with whom we can identify, I realize that I have neglected to name one that more than all awaits those who will follow his example: the good thief.

The good thief made a complete confession of sin; he says to his companion who insults Jesus: “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong” (Lk 23:40f.). Here the good thief shows himself an excellent theologian. Only God in fact, if he suffers, suffers absolutely as innocent; every other being who suffers should say: “I suffer justly”, because even if he is not responsible for the action imputed to him, he is never altogether without fault. Only the pain of innocent children is similar to God’s and because of this it is so mysterious and so sacred.

How many atrocious crimes in recent times have remained anonymous, how many unresolved cases exist! The good thief launches an appeal to those responsible: do like me, come out into the open, confess your fault; you also will experience the joy I had when I heard Jesus’ word: “today you will be with me in Paradise!” (Lk 23:43). How many confessed offenders can confirm that it was also like this for them: that they passed from hell to heaven the day that they had the courage to repent and confess their fault. I have known some myself. The paradise promised is peace of conscience, the possibility of looking at oneself in the mirror or of looking at one’s children without having to despise for oneself.

Do not take your secret to your grave; it would procure for you a far more fearful condemnation than the human. Our people are not merciless with one who has made a mistake but recognizes the evil done, sincerely, not just for some calculation. On the contrary! They are ready to be merciful and to accompany the repentant one on his journey of redemption (which in every case becomes shorter). “God forgives many things, for a good work”, Lucia says to the Unnamed in Manzoni’s novel The Betrothed; with greater truth we can say, he forgives many things by one act of repentance. He promised it solemnly: “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Is 1:18).

Let us now take up and do what we heard at the beginning, it is our task this day: with joyful voices let us exalt the victory of the cross, intone hymns of praise to the Lord. “O Redemptor, sume carmen temet concinentium”(8): And you, O our Redeemer, receive the song we raise to you.

http://www.vatican.va/liturgical_year/holy-week/2012/documents/holy-week_homily-fr-cantalamessa_20120406_en.html

 

 

 

 

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Thursday, 28 March 2013

Holy Thursday – Mass of the Lord’s Supper

EX 12:1-8, 11-14

PS 116:12-13, 15-16BC, 17-18

1 COR 11:23-26

JN 13:1-15

The readings for the day can be found here.
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Basilica of St John Lateran
Holy Thursday, 5 April 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Holy Thursday is not only the day of the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist, whose splendour bathes all else and in some ways draws it to itself. To Holy Thursday also belongs the dark night of the Mount of Olives, to which Jesus goes with his disciples; the solitude and abandonment of Jesus, who in prayer goes forth to encounter the darkness of death; the betrayal of Judas, Jesus’ arrest and his denial by Peter; his indictment before the Sanhedrin and his being handed over to the Gentiles, to Pilate. Let us try at this hour to understand more deeply something of these events, for in them the mystery of our redemption takes place.

Jesus goes forth into the night. Night signifies lack of communication, a situation where people do not see one another. It is a symbol of incomprehension, of the obscuring of truth. It is the place where evil, which has to hide before the light, can grow. Jesus himself is light and truth, communication, purity and goodness. He enters into the night. Night is ultimately a symbol of death, the definitive loss of fellowship and life. Jesus enters into the night in order to overcome it and to inaugurate the new Day of God in the history of humanity.

On the way, he sang with his Apostles Israel’s psalms of liberation and redemption, which evoked the first Passover in Egypt, the night of liberation. Now he goes, as was his custom, to pray in solitude and, as Son, to speak with the Father. But, unusually, he wants to have close to him three disciples: Peter, James and John. These are the three who had experienced his Transfiguration – when the light of God’s glory shone through his human figure – and had seen him standing between the Law and the Prophets, between Moses and Elijah. They had heard him speaking to both of them about his “exodus” to Jerusalem. Jesus’ exodus to Jerusalem – how mysterious are these words! Israel’s exodus from Egypt had been the event of escape and liberation for God’s People. What would be the form taken by the exodus of Jesus, in whom the meaning of that historic drama was to be definitively fulfilled? The disciples were now witnessing the first stage of that exodus – the utter abasement which was nonetheless the essential step of the going forth to the freedom and new life which was the goal of the exodus. The disciples, whom Jesus wanted to have close to him as an element of human support in that hour of extreme distress, quickly fell asleep. Yet they heard some fragments of the words of Jesus’ prayer and they witnessed his way of acting. Both were deeply impressed on their hearts and they transmitted them to Christians for all time. Jesus called God “Abba”. The word means – as they add – “Father”. Yet it is not the usual form of the word “father”, but rather a children’s word – an affectionate name which one would not have dared to use in speaking to God. It is the language of the one who is truly a “child”, the Son of the Father, the one who is conscious of being in communion with God, in deepest union with him.

If we ask ourselves what is most characteristic of the figure of Jesus in the Gospels, we have to say that it is his relationship with God. He is constantly in communion with God. Being with the Father is the core of his personality. Through Christ we know God truly. “No one has ever seen God”, says Saint John. The one “who is close to the Father’s heart … has made him known” (1:18). Now we know God as he truly is. He is Father, and this in an absolute goodness to which we can entrust ourselves. The evangelist Mark, who has preserved the memories of Saint Peter, relates that Jesus, after calling God “Abba”, went on to say: “Everything is possible for you. You can do all things” (cf. 14:36). The one who is Goodness is at the same time Power; he is all-powerful. Power is goodness and goodness is power. We can learn this trust from Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives.

Before reflecting on the content of Jesus’ petition, we must still consider what the evangelists tell us about Jesus’ posture during his prayer. Matthew and Mark tell us that he “threw himself on the ground” (Mt 26:39; cf. Mk 14:35), thus assuming a posture of complete submission, as is preserved in the Roman liturgy of Good Friday. Luke, on the other hand, tells us that Jesus prayed on his knees. In the Acts of the Apostles, he speaks of the saints praying on their knees: Stephen during his stoning, Peter at the raising of someone who had died, Paul on his way to martyrdom. In this way Luke has sketched a brief history of prayer on one’s knees in the early Church. Christians, in kneeling, enter into Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives. When menaced by the power of evil, as they kneel, they are upright before the world, while as sons and daughters, they kneel before the Father. Before God’s glory we Christians kneel and acknowledge his divinity; by this posture we also express our confidence that he will prevail.

Jesus struggles with the Father. He struggles with himself. And he struggles for us. He experiences anguish before the power of death. First and foremost this is simply the dread natural to every living creature in the face of death. In Jesus, however, something more is at work. His gaze peers deeper, into the nights of evil. He sees the filthy flood of all the lies and all the disgrace which he will encounter in that chalice from which he must drink. His is the dread of one who is completely pure and holy as he sees the entire flood of this world’s evil bursting upon him. He also sees me, and he prays for me. This moment of Jesus’ mortal anguish is thus an essential part of the process of redemption. Consequently, the Letter to the Hebrews describes the struggle of Jesus on the Mount of Olives as a priestly event. In this prayer of Jesus, pervaded by mortal anguish, the Lord performs the office of a priest: he takes upon himself the sins of humanity, of us all, and he brings us before the Father.

Lastly, we must also pay attention to the content of Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives. Jesus says: “Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet not what I want, but what you want” (Mk 14:36). The natural will of the man Jesus recoils in fear before the enormity of the matter. He asks to be spared. Yet as the Son, he places this human will into the Father’s will: not I, but you. In this way he transformed the stance of Adam, the primordial human sin, and thus heals humanity. The stance of Adam was: not what you, O God, have desired; rather, I myself want to be a god. This pride is the real essence of sin. We think we are free and truly ourselves only if we follow our own will. God appears as the opposite of our freedom. We need to be free of him – so we think – and only then will we be free. This is the fundamental rebellion present throughout history and the fundamental lie which perverts life. When human beings set themselves against God, they set themselves against the truth of their own being and consequently do not become free, but alienated from themselves. We are free only if we stand in the truth of our being, if we are united to God. Then we become truly “like God” – not by resisting God, eliminating him, or denying him. In his anguished prayer on the Mount of Olives, Jesus resolved the false opposition between obedience and freedom, and opened the path to freedom. Let us ask the Lord to draw us into this “yes” to God’s will, and in this way to make us truly free. Amen.

© Copyright 2012 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2012/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20120405_coena-domini_en.html

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Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Wednesday of Holy Week

IS 50:4-9A

PS 69:8-10, 21-22, 31 AND 33-34

MT 26:14-25

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

The long Lent ends.  The Holy Triduum begins.  Depending on the “disciplines” we chose to enter more completely into Lent, to celebrate Lent more fully, as Pope Benedict XVI encouraged us in his message for Lent, we might be the “weary” whom Isaiah speaks of in our first reading.

Throughout these forty days, we’ve increasingly prayed, fasted and given alms, all for the purpose not of deprivation, but for reconciliation, to come closer to God, to follow God more closely, more completely.

Today, as we leave Lent on this eve of Holy Thursday, we can recall and review our early promises to God, and our progress as sons and daughters of God.  We can even review our resistance to hearing and following God.

I pray your Lent has been productive for all the right reasons—that whatever you might have given up profited you, and whatever you chose to increase, prayer, fasting or almsgiving, drew you more freely to God, less-encumbered by the things we think we want, and more open to those things we know we need.

Lent calls us to increased generosity, to freedom from ourselves for God and for each other, to a clearer understanding of who we are in the larger scheme of things—our faith, our society, our own lives.

A succinct statement of this generosity, paired with the generosity of Jesus, Himself, comes from St. Ignatius, and his Prayer for Generosity.  Let this take us into the Holy Triduum, as our heartfelt prayer ending one season, and entering a great mystery.

St. Ignatius’ Prayer for Generosity

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.

Throughout these 40 days of Lent, in their reflections on the mystery of Lent, students, faculty and staff have told their stories about the Scripture readings of the days, the mystery of the Passion of Jesus, in their own lives, their struggles and triumphs with the generosity we’re called to manifest.  These can all be found on the Campus Ministry web site, and daily, in Newslink.

As we enter the Triduum, we pray for ourselves and for the men and women in our SLU community and all over the world who will enter the Church through RCIA this season.

Have a blessed Holy Week, a blessed Easter…

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REFLECTION ON THE READINGS

Today is the last full day of Lent; we can pray it will be our best day of Lent.  Today, in Holy Week, is the same as any day, and yet completely different.  Every week we’re called to be holy, like Jesus is holy…and Jesus calls us to that holiness, every day, every week.

This week, today before Holy Thursday, the Lord calls us to a deeper holiness, speaking a word that will rouse them. Is 50:4

As men and women of faith, then, we may  all be buffeted and betrayed, beaten and spit at, in one way or another, but we also all live with the example of Jesus, Who suffered all of that and more.  We can be holy, faith tells us…we can be roused by the Word made flesh among us, seeing all of those trials, and the daily trials of everyday life, as opportunities to help us become more holy, more faithful followers, real disciples, as Pope Francis recently calls us to be.

You know the story: Jesus is betrayed by one of His disciples, one of His faithful friends and followers.  He knew this would happen.

Some contemporary Judas may be reading this.  This week, each of them has the opportunity to hear, and to repent, and to love Jesus, or to refuse to hear the words that will rouse them, thus to leave Jesus, forever.  Holy week gives us the choice, the same choice throughout the ages.  The risk for all of us is that Jesus will rouse us with much more than we might want to hear, more than what we’ve refused to hear, and we will want to turn against Him, to betray Him further.  But He will still speak the truth; He will still call us; He will still welcome us.  He will still protect us.

Holy Week is a week of opportunity for those who listen, or a week of tragedy for those who do not.  The stakes are high.  Our world begs to be roused with the truth Jesus speaks.

Today is the last full day of Lent; may it be your best day of Lent.

As Pope Francis invites us, let us care for, and serve, one another.

Have a blessed Easter.  May God bless you all.

Lawrence Biondi, SJ is the President of Saint Louis University.

 

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Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Tuesday of Holy Week

IS 49:1-6

PS 71:1-2, 3-4A, 5AB-6AB, 15 AND 17

JN 13:21-33, 36-38

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

In John’s Gospel today we read an account of the Last Supper.  It is at this time that Christ gathers his friends together for what he knows to be his final meal before his passion and death.  The passage draws a great deal of attention to perhaps the most famous and infamous of Jesus’ apostles, Simon Peter and Judas Iscariot.  In this passage we see each of these men leading towards their lowest point.  In just a few hours Peter would deny Jesus three times and Judas would hand the Lord over to die.

Two of Jesus’ most trusted friends were both hours from abandoning him.  They were scared, and they fell just like all of us have.  We are all broken, but what these two men did after their fall is what defined them.  Judas did not reconcile with his transgression, instead taking his own life.  While Judas chose the path away from Christ, Peter stands as an example to all of us.  Peter lived up to his call even after his fall and within his brokenness.  Later at Pentecost he stood as the leader of the apostles and began the Christian ministry to the ends of the earth.

In the first reading from Isaiah, God reminds us of our worth in his eyes.  The words of this reading are powerful beyond measure.  From the very beginnings of life God had a plan for you.  Not only to believe, but to be a weapon for God. Though not one of us is perfect, we are all called.  We are called to be God’s vessel to bring more souls to Him.  Isaiah’s call goes beyond the world he knew, to be a light to all nations.

Today I ask that you would reflect on Peter.  Like all of us, he was an imperfect sinner.  God loved him through all of his mistakes and rewarded his faith with the grace to spread God’s glory.  The same Spirit that called Peter to change the world forever calls each of us.  We all fall, and especially in this Lenten season we take stock of our faults and prepare our hearts for Jesus.  It is not our darkness that defines us, but how we seek out the light from our darkness.  We are each called as individuals to be like Peter and answer the call of Isaiah and of God to set the world ablaze by making manifest the glory of God.

Adam Dirnberger is a Sophomore Theology and Philosophy double major with a minor in Urban Social Analysis.  Adam is originally from St. Charles, MO and is currently studying in Rome.  He is active in the Micah Program, Alpha Phi Omega, Billiken Buddies, Oriflamme, and is a vocalist for the Upper Room Band and the Spanish Mass Choir.

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Monday, 25 March 2013

Monday of Holy Week

IS 42:1-7

PS 27:1, 2, 3, 13-14

JN 12:1-11

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

On this Monday of Holy Week, God reminds us that He has given us a Spirit of courage and not of fear.  When I reflect on the days leading up to the passion of Christ, I consider Jesus’ acceptance of His imminent death. He acknowledges His impending death to Judas noting, “You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me” (John 12:8).  Later, Jesus offers His body and blood at the Last Supper, submitting to the will of His Father. As He prepares to offer His life for our salvation, Jesus prays in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street” (Isaiah 42:2), but in prayer and strength Jesus copes with the knowledge of the suffering ahead.

As we anticipate the passion of Jesus this week, we are asked to walk courageously in Christ regardless of the challenges we see ahead. Like Jesus, we must submit to the will of His Father, “who gives breath to its people and spirit to those who walk on it” (Isaiah 42:5). In Psalm 27:3 we are encouraged, “Though war be waged upon me, even then will I trust.”

I’m reminded of C.S. Lewis’ quote that, “We’re not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”  We can rest assured, however, that although we experience uncertainty about how our lives will unfold from one day to the next, like Jesus we know how the story ends. We know that Christ has prevailed. Indeed, if we submit ourselves to the Lord, He will ready us for the journey and carry us through.  In the words of John Henry Cardinal Newman:

Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home—
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene—one step enough for me.

If we simply surrender to His good and holy plan for our lives, Christ will light the way one step at a time, bringing us from darkness to light and salvation.

The Lord is my light and my salvation. Lead Thou me on, Lord.

 

Jennifer E. Ohs is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication.

 

 

Jennifer E. Ohs is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication.

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Sunday, 24 March 2013

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

LK 19:28-40

IS 50:4-7

PS 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24

PHIL 2:6-11

LK 22:14—23:56

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

I have not acted since my days of high school theatre, but I will always remember the empathetic process involved in delving into the emotions and motivations of a character.  I’m reminded of this process as I reflect on today’s readings from Sacred Scripture, because I cannot help—in true Ignatian form—but allow my imagination to be drawn into the story.  And what a story!  This is certainly not the medium to attempt an insightful walk-through of our Lord’s Passion, so I merely offer a few insights as an invitation to enter into the story in a new way this Holy Week.

Although the use of imaginative prayer may be somewhat foreign to those unfamiliar with Ignatian spirituality, the Palm Sunday liturgy invites us to be more than spectators: we wave palms in jubilant procession, sing “Hosanna!”, and later cry out “Crucify him!”.  All of this not only literally revitalizes the Gospel message but also reminds us that each of us plays a part in this great drama of salvation history.

I am always struck by the stark dichotomy presented in today’s two Gospel readings.  At first, the people of Jerusalem praise, honor and glorify Jesus with great joy for all he is and all he has done.  The kingdom of God is so tangible, even the stones are about to proclaim its coming!  Yet a few days later, the same crowd becomes an angry, vicious mob.  Even many of Jesus’ closest disciples abandon, deny, or betray him.  Upon hearing this story, a common temptation I often face is to think, “Isn’t that just terrible? Silly crowd! Foolish disciples!”  If I’m being completely honest, however, I see myself in that crowd, at that table, and outside that garden. I realize how often my own relationship with God and God’s People vacillates between these two extremes, and I ponder with wonder the words: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”  For although an honest recognition of our own sinfulness is appropriate, the true power of this love story lies in the prophetic, salvific actions of Jesus Christ.

St. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, poetically emphasizes Christ’s humble obedience.  His submission to death on a cross is not only a sacrificial act of love but also—and perhaps less obviously—a true testament to the reality of the Incarnation.  In other words, Jesus entered so fully into our human experience that he fully embraced true human suffering.  Though the words of the Responsorial Psalm undeniably prefigure the suffering and death of Jesus, it’s interesting to think that the prayer was actually composed several centuries before Jesus was born.  While none of us will likely experience a death like Jesus’, each of us has felt abandoned by God at one time or another; we should take heart, then, knowing Jesus humbled himself so as to know us more deeply.  My own Lenten journey and the weeks leading up to it have been filled with experiences of both joy and suffering, love and heartbreak.  Because of Jesus, I know that this is not the end: redemption, healing, and life everlasting lie ahead.

So as we progress through Holy Week and commemorate our Lord’s Passion, I invite us to enter in anew.  Let us have the courage to intertwine our stories with God’s story ever more deeply, the humility to recognize our reliance on God, and the strength to carry our own crosses as Christ did.

Chris Murphy is an alumnus of SLU Doisy College of Health Sciences and currently a second year medical student at the School of Medicine.

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Saturday, 23 March 2013

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent

EZ 37:21-28

JER 31:10, 11-12ABCD, 13

JN 11:45-56

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

In today’s Gospel, we encounter people with mixed motives. Among those witnessing the resurrection of Lazarus and who began believing in Jesus, some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.  Consequently, the religious leaders convened to plot against Jesus as they concluded that they were up against a powerful wonder-worker who might stir up the people and raise the Romans’ suspicions and reprisal.

Was these people’s fledgling faith assailed by fear and dread? Did they first believe but then later second-guessed themselves? Did they doubt the authority of their experience hence choosing the safer route of betrayal? Did they surrender responsibility and personal power to avoid the risky implications of their faith? We do not know about their inner process. However, Lent invites us to pay attention to ours.

St. Ignatius of Loyola writes in his rules for discernment, “We ought to note well the course of the thoughts, and in the beginning, middle and end is all good, inclined to all good, it is a sign of the good Angel” (Spiritual Exercises 333). In other words, we ought to be consistent in our vision, our mission, and our outcomes. If our motives and goals, as well as our steps to reach them, are not aligned with what we believe, we are not in accordance with the spirit of God. We want a good match between what we say we are about in our most profound and sacred convictions, and the way in which we treat each other and go about doing things. There has to be consistency, congruence and integrity in our lives.

In Holy Week, we relive the consequences of tainted motives, confused hearts and corrupted loyalties. Perhaps as we enter into Holy Week this year, we might want to renew a habit of reflecting on the alignment of faith and practice into our living. It is not easy when we are pulled in different directions by the concrete demands of daily life, work, study, families, economics, health, and so on.  Jesus showed us what it is like to truly be of a single mind and a single heart to the very end. He revealed a faithful God who does no second guessing about believing in humanity and creation. We are his fledgling but true followers.

M. Cristina Stevens, BCC is Director of Pastoral Care and Education.

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Friday, 22 March 2013

Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent

JER 20:10-13

PS 18:2-3A, 3BC-4, 5-6, 7

JN 10:31-42

The readings for the day can be found here.

This past week, I was in Klagetoh, Arizona, staying at St. Anne’s Mission in the Navajo Nation. Today’s reading is taken from John, chapter 10, entitled “The Good Shepherd” and is famous for the verse “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” In my time on the reservation, I found out that I was not exactly a good shepherd…I was a terrible one. I think the best that I could do was scare them away from me. The most I am qualified to do is to shovel sheep poop (which I found myself to be relatively good at).

A friend and I got the opportunity to speak in a theology class at a local high school. I spoke to them about how I think that Jesus shows us how to create the Kingdom of God on Earth. Through his life and teachings, he is a model for all to challenge oppressive forces in our world. In the Gospel, the Jews want to stone Jesus because he is not willing to tell them whether or not he is the Messiah. Jesus responds that they should believe in the good of his actions and realize that “the Father is in [him] and [he is] in the Father.”

The first reading from Jeremiah ends with, “Sing to the LORD, praise the LORD, For he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!” A recurring theme of the week was seeing the lasting effects of atrocities done to the Native American people by the US government. In the past, the military has torched Navajo property, the government has mandated learning English with the intention of stomping out the Navajo culture, and, in 1864, the Navajo people were forced to walk at gunpoint from their tribal lands in Arizona to New Mexico in what’s known as the Long Walk. However, I think Jesus and others in history like Gandhi and Dr. King, have fought the effects of such oppressive forces. Last week, I encountered many people who help “fight the good fight.” To me, these readings encourage me to be a force for change. This Lent, I challenge us to take being Christian literally. I challenge us to be Christ-like in the face of staunch opposition. To fight complacency and let our actions display our faith. To have God’s will be done “on Earth as it is in heaven.”

Today, let us reflect on these lines of the prayer from the Navajo Blessingway Ceremony:

With beauty before me may I walk.
With beauty behind me may I walk.
With beauty below me may I walk.
With beauty above me may I walk.
With beauty all around me may I walk.

Nebu Kolenchery is a sophomore studying Public Health.

 

 

 

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