Lent is over today. We begin tonight the Sacred Triduum. It is one long liturgical celebration that encompasses Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. I hope you will make it to church for all of the services. Tonight’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper is one of the most moving liturgies of the Church year. Tonight parishes all over the world will reenact the washing of the disciples’ feet by Jesus.
Feet can be nasty. Today we generally wear socks and shoes and keep our feet relatively clean. But back in Jesus’ day…not so much. Their feet were constantly dust-caked and probably not very pretty. Washing them was the job of the lowliest servant. And this is the job that Jesus took on at the Last Supper. Jesus said again and again that the greatest in the Kingdom would be the least of all and the servant of all. For Jesus, this wasn’t just idle talk, not just a fancy teaching. He lived it. And not just in the upper room, but always. He healed, taught, prayed and gave his entire life in the service of others.
On Holy Thursday, we celebrate the institution of the priesthood. When Jesus said to the disciples, “Do this..”, he gave them the power and the authority to turn the bread and wine into his Body and Blood. Our priests live out that example of service that Jesus taught. They offer up their entire lives in the service of God’s people. When you go to Mass tonight, please be sure to thank your priest(s) for “washing the feet” of his parishioners.
Father, your Son taught us to serve. Help us to imitate Him and live out that example of service each and every day of our lives. Amen.
When we think of the brutality that Jesus suffered for us, we can see that this was all foretold in today’s first reading from Isaiah 50. “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.” He did that for you and me!
On Wednesday of Holy Week, we think about Judas. Judas is a very enigmatic character in the Gospel story. Was he chosen from all time to be the betrayer of the Messiah? That doesn’t seem quite fair, does it? Or did Judas have a free will? Could he, at any point, have changed course and not given Jesus up? And at what point did he realize that things had spun wildly out of control? Did he ever regret his eternity-altering decision?
You and I probably have a lot more in common with Judas than we may like to acknowledge. We must always remember that he was one of the Twelve. Chosen and sent. And yet he turned on Jesus. Thinking of Judas and my propensity to imitate him always reminds me of an old saying. It has been attributed to St. Alphonse or St. Philip Neri. I modify it for myself. “Be mindful of Gus today, Lord. He could turn on you at any time.”
Father, forgive us for those times when we turn on you. Help us to recognize our betrayals more quickly, and free us from all selfishness, the cause of our betrayal. Amen.
Our first reading today is from Isaiah 49, more from the prophesies of the Servant of the Lord. “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Our Gospel reading is from John 13. Here we see Peter at his finest, just moments before we would see him at his weakest.
Jesus knew that He was on His way to the cross. He says to Peter, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.” Peter answers, “Master, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus tells him that “the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.”
The beautiful thing about Peter is that he really believed that he could stand up to any test. You’ve got to admire his sincerity. Unfortunately, when the time came to deliver, he simply couldn’t. Sound familiar? Sure does to me. In this moment of Peter’s life, he and I have a lot in common. I often have the best of intentions. “I will lay down my life for you, Lord!” Oh, really? Then why, at the first little temptation or trial, do I fold up like a cheap card table? Luckily, Peter got another shot. And he made the most of it. When we fold, Jesus is willing to give us another shot, too. Will we make the most of it?
Father, forgive us for our hubris, for our inflated egos. Keep us strong during moments of great trial. Amen.
Monday of Holy Week. For the next few days, our first readings will be from Isaiah, the prophesies of the Servant of the Lord. We’ll talk about today’s reading in a moment. The Gospel reading today is from John 12. Jesus goes to the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Mary anoints his feet with costly perfumed oil. Judas objects, saying “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” Jesus rebukes Judas. “Leave her alone…You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
Today’s prophesy from Isaiah 42 speaks of the mission of Christ. “I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.”
There are prisons and dungeons all around us – of a spiritual nature. We are imprisoned by our own sin; we confine ourselves to the dungeons of resentment and anger and jealousy and envy. So often our sentences are self-imposed. There is a way out. His name is Jesus. He came to release us from these places of torment. But we must first give Him permission. Let Jesus release you today.
Father, we want to be set free from our dungeons, from our prisons. We ask your Son, Jesus, to open the doors and unbind us today. Amen.
“Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest!”
What a week this must have been for Jesus. Of course, He knew what was about to happen in the coming days. But what if that were you or me riding on that donkey into Jerusalem? Don’t you think that would be one heady experience? Reveling in the adoration of the people would have made my head explode from ego! Had I known what was about to come, though, I probably would have turned and run.
Have you ever had a time in your life when you went from triumph to tragedy in very short order? It hurts, doesn’t it? And it seems we always do everything in our power to avoid the bad stuff. But Jesus, even though He knew the bad stuff was coming, went willingly. Though it seems He experienced His greatest defeat after this amazing victory ride, His true victory was yet to come. Something for us to remember, in good times and in bad.
Father, thank you for the example Jesus gives us in seeming victory and seeming defeat. Help us to remember that, in the end, the victory is Yours. Amen.
In the first reading today from Ezekiel 37, the LORD says through the prophet: “My servant David shall be prince over them, and there shall be one shepherd for them all.” This one shepherd is, of course, Jesus Christ.
In the Gospel reading today from John 11, Caiaphas, the high priest, says to the Sanhedrin, “You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” This is when the plot was hatched in earnest to have Jesus killed.
We all know that Jesus died for all. He paid the price for the sins of the world. We must never lose sight of the smaller picture though. Not only did Jesus die for the nation (meaning all people), He died for YOU. And if you were the only person on earth, Jesus would still have paid the ultimate price for you. Have you thanked Him for that lately?
Father, thank you for sending your Son to die for me. May I always show my gratitude for His sacrifice for me. Amen.
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In today’s first reading from Jeremiah 20, we hear the people plotting against Jeremiah. But they will not be victorious; they will not have their way. Jeremiah says, “But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph…Praise the Lord, for he has rescued the life of the poor fromthe power of the wicked!” And in the end, so it would be with Jesus.
In the Gospel reading from John 10, Jesus tells the people, “If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” In essence, Jesus was telling them that if they didn’t believe what He was saying, then at least believe what He was doing. Actions speak louder than words.
Doesn’t this remind you of the old saying attributed to St. Francis? Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words. So many people have shattered the faith of others because their actions don’t match up with their words. They talk a good game, but they’re not doing the Father’s works. Today, let’s make sure that we’re doing the Father’s works. And only talk about it if someone asks.
Father, forgive us for the times when we talk about you, but do not do your works. Help us today to be people of action, performing your works. Amen.
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There are only a very few instances of God changing someone’s name in the Scriptures. Today we see the first of these in Genesis 17. Abram gets a new name. “Your name shall be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a host of nations.” This is pretty groundbreaking stuff, as Abraham and his wife had no children. In the Gospel reading from John 8, Jesus speaks of Abraham, saying, “Before Abraham came to be, I AM.” Needless to say, this didn’t sit too well with the Jews.
God made a covenant with Abraham. Imagine being Abram and hearing these words from the Lord. He and Sarai had no children, and since they were both advanced in years, expected none. But God said that He would make him the father of a host of nations. And so it is. The three great monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – all trace their faith back to Abraham.
A covenant is, of course, a two-sided deal. “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” God said to Abraham, “You and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages.” As children of Abraham, we must ask ourselves if we are keeping that covenant. Is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the ONLY God in our lives? Are we living up to the covenant?
Father, we thank you for being our God. Help us to always remember the covenant you made with Abraham. Help us to make You the only God in our lives. Amen.
In today’s first reading from Daniel 3, we see the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego getting thrown into the fiery furnace. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had faith. Faith enough to know that when they got thrown into the furnace, God would set them free. In today’s Gospel from John 8, Jesus talks about being set free. He says, “If the Son frees you, you will be free indeed.” But His listeners didn’t quite get it. After all, they were not slaves.
King Nebuchadnezzar had all the power in the world. He knew that he had the power of life and death. He decreed that anyone who did not bow down and worship the golden statue that he had made would pay the ultimate price for their insolence. But our three heroes would have no part of it. So the king threw them into the fiery furnace. God protected them, and they walked out of the fire.
Don’t we often feel as though we are walking through the fire? Life can be a real crucible. This is where Jesus’ words, “The truth will set you free,” come into play. We must always remember that the truth is a person: Jesus Christ. When we hold fast to the truth, we will be set free – even from the fire all around us.
Father, help us to always hold to the truth of Jesus, that we may not be consumed by the fires of life. Amen.
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Today’s first reading from Numbers 21 tells us the story of God sending saraph serpents among the people of Israel, who had become terrible whiners. God then commands Moses to make a bronze serpent and mount it on a pole. Whenever someone looked up at the serpent, they would be healed and live. In the Gospel reading from John 8, Jesus talks about the Son of Man being lifted up.”When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM.”
Amazing how our lives parallel those of the Israelites. God has done so many awesome things for us, yet we, like them, tend to whine about the things that we don’t have. And so, as the serpents went about biting the people, so, too, do we let the serpent (Satan) bite us. Then there is the final parallel. Remember that the people of Israel had only to look up (at the bronze serpent in this case) and they would live. The same is true for us. When we look up (at the Son of Man), we, too will live.
There are a couple of ways that I see this. When we look up at Jesus on the pole (the cross), we see our salvation. But I also see a parallel here at every Mass. When the priest “lifts up” the host, we must realize that we are looking up at I AM. We should recognize that we are looking at our salvation. The Author of Life, the Alpha and the Omega. This always reminds of a saying of one of my heroes, Zig Ziglar. Zig used to say, “When you don’t like the outlook, try the up-look.”
Father, thank you for giving us the antidote to our own selfishness and sinfulness, the Son of Man, lifted up for us. Help us to concentrate on the up-look, that we may live. Amen.
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