Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
—2 Corinthians 6:2
“How about today?”
“How about right now?”
“Now is good.”
“Yes, now is a very good time, indeed.”
“Great, let’s do it.”
“Here, sit here.”
“So…how are you?”
Ministry is saying yes and ministry is saying no. Ministry is saying I don’t want to, but God does, so I shall.
Obedience is a place. Not a verb. It is a state. Not an action. Obedience is a chair, indifferent to my personal ambitions, but resting on God’s.
God’s will is the only true act. And the only time we act truly is when we are fulfilling His Divine Good Pleasure.
Yesterday only has meaning in terms of finding God’s blessings.
Today is significant only if lived with the assumption that God has already filled it with blessings that simply need to be discovered.
Tomorrow…well, tomorrow is pretty much the same as yesterday and the same as today…just much, much better…infinitely better in fact…and it lasts for ever.
“No, I’m fine…all yours…take your time, I’m free all day…now go on, you were telling me about your mother…”
Ministry is crucifixion. It is happening now. It began yesterday. Tomorrow remains to be seen.
In the meantime—no matter what we sense or smell, no matter what we taste or see, no matter what we hear or feel—no matter the day of the week—Sunday will arrive.
And then, resurrection minsters to us.
Lord Jesus, help me be like You. Help me pour myself out.
Help me endure the wood of the tree. Help me see the joy that lies ahead. Help me embrace the joy already within. Help me believe the kingdom is truly at hand. Help me, Lord Jesus, help me know it is You in me and I in You. Help me, help me, help me, Lord Jesus…have mercy on me. I thank You because I know You do. Simply because You say.
You are Mercy. You forgive. You heal. You bring peace. You are Innocence. You are the tiny infant. The child running free. The teenager filled with dreams. The young man boldly going west. You are middle-aged and getting tired. You are old and broken down. You are dying on a wooden bed. You are lowered into a weeping mother’s arms. You are put to rest. You enter living hell. You set captives free. You rise. You speak. You break fast. You open the scriptures. You float above. You promise to return. You serve us again and again in the mystery of bread and wine. You feed us relentlessly with Your own Body and Blood.
Help me, Lord Jesus, be more like You. Help me pour myself out.
“What further need have we of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
They all condemned him as deserving to die.
Some began to spit on him.
They blindfolded him and struck him and said to him, “Prophesy!”
And the guards greeted him with blows.
While Peter was below in the courtyard…
I don’t want to hear myself.
I want to hear from You.
My thoughts, my concerns, my feelings, bore me terribly.
I think You are silent but I know it isn’t true.
The moon is so very full this night and so are You.
The coffee I sip is bitter.
Your Word hangs on every tree.
If only Lord we could see.
Drama. Tragedy. Puppet show. Divine Comedy.
Me, me, me, look at me!
But it is You raised up high.
For all to see.
Forgive us, Father, for we still haven’t a clue.
The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.”
With him they crucified two revolutionaries, one on his right and one on his left.
Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself by coming down from the cross.”
Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes, mocked him among themselves and said, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.”
Those who were crucified with him also kept abusing him.
“Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life…”
On a day such as this, our Lord, our God, our Savior Jesus the Christ was crucified.
It is hard to imagine just what He went through that long, hard day.
It is certainly a good exercise to meditate on Christ’s Passion. It bears great spiritual fruit.
This particular morning, exhaustion is on my mind.
I think of all those who are staggering out of bed. All those faces I shall soon see on the crowded bus, the claustrophobic subway car, the bitterly hot city street.
Of course those faces can also be seen in the suburbs and the country. Those faces are all over the place.
All those Josephs. All those Marys. All those Peters and Pauls. All those just like you and me, like yours and mine—all on their way to work—each carrying a cross made of wood, no matter what the job may entail or what the work may look like, no matter if the “work” performed results in “pay” or not.
Exhaustion. Being spent. Having been completely poured out. Nothing left but fumes.
And many whom I shall see this morning will return this evening to ungrateful companions: spouses, children, in-laws, neighbors…all those in their lives who they provide for, but who rarely think about the effort it takes to generate that provision—let alone, to say, “Thank you”.
Jesus kept walking.
Patience. Strength. Perseverance.
Lord, teach us. Show us. Show us Your blessed face.
Can we see You today in the tired, the taken for granted, the exhausted? Can we pour ourselves out on Your behalf? Can we serve those who serve others?
Can we be instruments of encouragement? Can we help the anonymous Jesus right next to us carry His Cross? And can we do all this in complete and perfect union with Jesus and all for the love of You, Lord God?
Father, can we continue to ask You questions such as these? Questions that bring us closer to You, and closer to the Passion of Your Dearly Beloved Son.
I love You, Jesus. Let me never take for granted Your crucifixion. Let me never take for granted Your exhaustive gift—a gift that took every bit of You and yet never runs out—a gift exclusively for me and at the very same time exclusively for each and every other member of mankind.
You, Lord God—Father, Son, Holy Spirit: Most Holy Trinity—are everywhere: on crowded buses, on claustrophobic subway cars, on bitterly hot city streets. You are all over the place. You are in so many who don’t even know that You are in them. Let me see You in them. And may that blessed encounter also be the moment in which he and she comes to recognize Your Divine Presence residing deep within.
You are God.
You died for each of us.
Your Passion continues.
On the Third Day, You rose again.
The Third Day is also today—this very day—this new and blessed day.
You are risen. You are risen, indeed!
So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”
Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”
We use the simplest signs on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. On Holy Thursday Jesus knelt before his disciples and washed their feet–a sign he was a servant, come to serve and not to be served. Then, he gave himself to them in bread and wine – signs of his love for us all.
On Good Friday we take another sign, the cross, a powerful sign of death, which Jesus carried to his crucifixion on Calvary. The cross struck fear into the hearts of Jesus’ disciples, but God turned it into a sign of life. After the Risen Jesus appeared to them, his disciples saw the cross in another way–as a sign of his victory over death.
Our liturgy today begins in silence, the only attitude to have before a mystery like this. “See my servant” God says through the Prophet Isaiah. “so marred was he in appearance…so shall he startle many nations and kings shall stand speechless before him…He was spurned and avoided by people, a man of suffering accustomed to infirmity.” Yet he became our High Priest, the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us, “able to sympathize with our weaknesses” and ” a source of salvation for all who obey him.”
The story of Jesus’ Passion from the the Gospel of John is read today. Like the other disciples, John followed Jesus from the Sea of Galilee to Jerusalem. There he stood on Calvary with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and watched him die. He recoiled before it then, but later after meeting the Lord risen from the dead, he saw signs of God’s power even in that grim story. His gospel carefully indicates the power of Jesus at work from his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, to his appearances before the Jewish leaders and Pontius Pilate, to his death on the cross. His power never fails, despite what it seems. Jesus lays down his life on his own, no one takes it from him.
(See commentary on John’s Passion Narrative.)
Good Friday is a day of mercy, when graces flow from the wounds of Christ. We pray confidently this day when Christ became our High Priest for the needs of our world and our own needs. We venerate the wood of the cross that bore his love to us. We take the signs of communion he gave us.
“We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
On this day we remember the Lord’s goodness and follow his steps. The Stations of the Cross are among the treasured devotions for this day. Children can join by following the video prepared from “Stations of the Cross for Children” by Lucille Perrotta Castro
We solemnly celebrate the death and Resurrection of our Lord on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, using the simplest of signs.
On Holy Thursday Jesus knelt before his disciples and washed their feet. At table he gave them in bread and wine his own body and blood as signs of his love for them and for all humanity.
On Good Friday we take another symbol, the cross, a powerful sign of death, which first struck fear into the hearts of Jesus’ disciples, but then as they recalled the Lord’s journey from the garden to Calvary, as they saw the empty tomb, as they were taught by the Risen Jesus himself, they began to see that God can conquer even death itself.
On this day, we read the memories of John, the Lord’s disciple, who followed him from the Sea of Galilee, to Jerusalem, its temple and its feasts, to Calvary where he stood with the women and watched the Lord die. Like the others, he recoiled before it all, but then saw signs of victory even in the garden, in the judgment hall, before Pilate, and finally in the cross itself.
On this darkest of days, Christ’s victory is proclaimed in John’s Gospel.
“ Go into my opened side,
Opened by the spear,
Go within and there abide
For my love is here” (St. Paul of the Cross, Letter, September 5, 1740).
What would we see if we were there when Jesus was crucified?
In the somber half-gloom – that darkness the gospels describe- Jesus Christ would hang from a rough cross. Not a shining cross of silver or gold, but a stark cross of rugged wood.
Our eyes would see a man dying slowly without relief, a crucified man, his body wrenched by pain. A sight not easy to look at.
What would we hear if we were there when Jesus was crucified?
The harsh thud of nails driven through wood and flesh, the moaning of the dying, the periodic insults shouted to the cross, the mockery of his enemies to his claim of divine sonship, the few gasping words of Jesus himself. Sounds not pleasant to the human ear.
Only faith tells us there is something more about the crucifixion of Jesus. In that unlikely place, in pain and sorrow, God showed love for a sinful world.
May our vision of faith grow till we value life in the light of our faith in the Son of God “who loved us and gave himself up for us.”
Redeemer of all,
hear my prayer.
For the love you bear
to those who ask forgiveness,
look mercifully on me,
as once you looked on Mary Magdalene
and on Peter who denied you.
Look on me, Lord Jesus Christ,
as you looked on the thief on his cross
and on every sinner
whom you have ever forgiven.
Look on me, merciful Lord,
as you looked on your mother, Mary,
standing in sorrow beneath your cross.
Let me feel in my heart her compassion for you,
and let my eyes weep for the sorrows
my sins have caused.
Call me from darkness
to my Father’s house,
give me a new heart
and a place at your side
at the banquet of your kingdom.
Tradition says that Peter, whom Jesus made the rock on whom he built his church, came to Rome and died there during a persecution by the Emperor Nero about 64 AD. He was buried in a cemetery on Vatican Hill after being crucified nearby. Tradition also says the apostle was crucified with his head to the ground, because he saw himself unworthy of dying like Jesus.
The Emperor Constantine built a majestic church over the apostle’s grave in the 4th century, one of the first he built for the Christians of the city.
From the beginning Christians honored the apostle’s grave and esteem for him grew as Christianity grew. He was an apostle of Jesus, along with Paul who also died in the same persecution. Like Romulus and Remus, twin founders of the city, they are considered twin founders of the Roman church.
Besides being honored at the Vatican, Peter is honored elsewhere in the city. His seizure and imprisonment are recalled at the Church of St.Peter in Chains near the Coliseum and at the Mamertime Prison in the Roman Forum. The small Quo Vadis chapel along the Via Antica recalls the poignant legend of the apostle fleeing from prison, only to meet Jesus going into the city to join his followers condemned by Nero. Turning back, Peter followed his Lord to martyrdom on Vatican Hill.
Christians cherish his memory. The popes resided at the Lateran from the 4th to the 14th century but moved to the Vatican, not only because the Lateran area had become unsafe, but also to be near Peter’s grave on Vatican hill, where great numbers of Christian pilgrims congregated.
What draws so many to Peter?
He was ordinary enough. Paul boasted that he was a citizen of Tarsus, no mean city. Peter came from Capernaum, an unimportant fishing village along the Sea of Galilee.
Paul had a fine educational and religious training. A fluent teacher and trained scholar, he dealt with the religious establishment of his day and spoke its language. Peter was unpolished, with little formal education; he spoke like a Galilean peasant. Whatever religious knowledge he had before he met Jesus came from the local rabbis in his synagogue. He was a fisherman at home on the sea.
Why did Jesus make him first among his followers? It wasn’t brains or talents that won him the place. Nor his loyalty. The simple explanation may be that God chooses the weak things of this world.
We know more about Peter than about any of the other early disciples of Jesus. He was a Jew who moved to Capernaum from Bethsaida, another village along the Sea of Galilee, where he fished with others. Historians say that fishing then offered a good enough living. Archeologists today think they can point out in Capernaum’s ancient ruins the house where Peter lived, along with his wife, his mother-in-law and whoever else belonged to his family.
He was forthright, direct and practical, not afraid to speak up or tell you what was on his mind. He wasn’t afraid to draw a sword or face prison. He saw his own faults and acknowledged them. An observant Jew, but not a professional religious man.
He met Jesus on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, when he stopped at the Jordan River to hear John the Baptist preaching. His brother Andrew brought him to Jesus, after John had pointed him out.
The gospels say that he was a friend of Jesus as well as a disciple. Peter welcomed him to his house in Capernaum. He became Jesus’ companion as he preached in Galilee and journeyed to Jerusalem. He witnessed his miracles, heard his teaching and was intimately involved in the events of his death and resurrection. When Jesus was arrested, Peter denied three times that he knew him and fled into the night.
Peter saw and heard what Jesus did. He was an eyewitness. After he rose from the dead, Jesus chose him again to shepherd his flock, even though Peter had denied him.
As an eyewitness, he was the first to testify at Pentecost that Jesus had risen from the dead and was indeed the promised Messiah. The Jewish authorities in Jerusalem dismissed him and the rest of the disciples as unlearned men. From Jerusalem, Peter went to the coastal cities of Joffa and Caesarea, then to the main Syrian city of Antioch, and finally to Rome with his message.
When he reached the capital of the empire, he was probably in his 60s. Scientists who examined bones found at his gravesite underneath St. Peter’s in the late 1940s said they belonged to a man of rugged build about that age.
We don’t know what precisely brought Peter to Rome sometime in the 60s AD. Probably it had something to do with the Jewish-Christian controversies going on at the time in the city. Some twenty years earlier, the Emperor Claudius expelled Jewish dissidents–likely Jewish Christians– because of bitter disturbances in the synagogues of the city. Paul’s letters tell of similar disputes in places where he traveled.
There were about 60,000 Jews in Rome then, among a population of almost one million. Did Peter come to mediate between various Jewish factions? Was he invited as a peacemaker who valued his Jewish roots, yet saw that God had revealed something new in Jesus of Nazareth? Did some who heard him speak in Jerusalem at Pentecost while on pilgrimage from Rome persuade him to come to his people here and tell them what he saw and heard?
From what we know of Peter it was not an easy mission. Not only was he older now, but he was always more at home in his own land, among his own people, than he was in gentile cities. He was limited in his ability to speak their language and understand their customs. He would always be a simple man.
Most likely, he planned to return home before too long, or go to another place where he was needed. We don’t know how long he was there. But he was an apostle, one sent by Jesus to the whole world, and so he would speak of what he had seen and heard, as he had done many times before.
In Rome his memoirs were gathered by Mark and later formalized in one of the gospels. He also wrote a letter from here to other churches he had known, urging them in the face of persecution and alienation to hold fast to the hope they had as God’s people. (1 Peter)
But then, a fire swept through Rome in the early morning of July 19, 64 AD. Peter was among those identified as Christians caught in Nero’s dragnet and blamed for starting it. Probably his executioners never knew or cared who he was when they brought him to the Vatican hill and crucified him– one of the ways the Romans executed foreigners.
Some Christian women possibly arranged to bury him in a shallow grave in a cemetery nearby. Women often made sure even those condemned as criminals were buried. As time passed they put up a simple monument to mark the place and Christians came to honor him there. Around the year 200, a Roman priest named Gaius, writes that he has seen the gravesite and can take others to it.
A little over a hundred years later, the Emperor Constantine ordered a massive church built over the apostle’s grave; its main altar situated exactly above the grave itself. The emperor, they say, carried twelve loads of dirt to the building site to honor the twelve apostles.
By the 15th century, Constantine’s church was near collapse, so the popes of the time began building another in its place, which took over a hundred years to build. This is the church we enter today, honoring Peter, the fisherman from Galilee and a disciple of Jesus.
The Bones of St. Peter, ,John Evangelist Walsh, Garden City, NY 1982
An Introduction to the New Testament, Raymond Brown, NY, NY 1997 pp 705-725
From Apostles to Bishops, Francis Sullivan, SJ, Mawah, NJ 2001
Antioch and Rome, Raymond Brown and John Meier, Ramsy, NJ 1982
The Petrine Ministry, Walter Kasper,ed. Ramsey, NJ 2006