Scholars say the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus was the first story his disciples told and the first story written down. Other teachings and accounts from his life were added to it and, in some way, point to it. Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth, which we read today from Luke’s Gospel, is an important part of the mystery of his death and resurrection.
Nazareth was where Jesus lived most of his life among “his own.” (Luke 4,24-30) Yet, as he begins his ministry he is rejected by ” his own” in their synagogue. It was a rejection Jesus must have carried with him; how could he forget it?
Crowds welcoming him to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday call him “the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee,” but not many from Nazareth accompanied him there. Some women from Galilee, most importantly his mother Mary, stand by his cross as he dies. Still, Jesus didn’t find much acceptance in Nazareth.. “He came to his own and his own received him not.”
The great Cross on Calvary draws attention to the physical sufferings of Jesus in his passion–the scourging, the thorns, the crucifixion. But let’s not forget his interior sufferings, especially rejection from “his own,” who knew him from the beginning. Only a few of those dear to him follow him to Jerusalem.
The lenten gospels tell us God’s mercy and love persists, even in the face of human rejection. Jesus shows God’s love in his outstretched arms on Calvary.
We also share in the great mystery of his death and resurrection. We may never be nailed to a cross like he was, but there are other ways to bear a cross. Rejection by “our own,” perhaps someone close to us, may be one way we share in the sufferings of Jesus.
Let’s not forget we can also bring suffering by rejecting “our own”. Nazareth where Jesus was rejected is not far from us.
help me face the slights the come from those close by,
from my Nazareth, from “my own.”
The mystery of your Cross is not played out on Calvary alone,
It’s played out in places and people close by,
where we live now.
Give me the grace to live in my Nazareth
as you did in yours.
I ask this grace through Jesus Christ.
The Passionists celebrate two feasts immediately before Ash Wednesday. The Solemn Commemoration of the Passion of Jesus Christ on the Friday before Ash Wednesday. The Prayer of Jesus in the Garden on Tuesday before that day.
I think both feasts are inspired by our missionary founder, St. Paul of the Cross, (1694-1775) who spent many years announcing the graces of lent in the villages and towns of the Tuscan Maremma in Italy..
It was a challenge. The Tuscan Maremma was then a place where graces seemed gone. An area in Central Italy facing the Mediterranean Sea, almost 2,000 square miles– roughly the size of Long Island and New York City together– it was the poorest, most troubled part of Italy in Paul’s day. Only gradually, towards the end of the 1700s, after his death, did it begin inching towards recovery.
Now Tuscanny is a popular tourist destination. Then it was an unhealthily mix of hills and swamplands. Malaria was widespread, roads often impassible, dangerous because of bandits. Farmlands were abandoned; beggars everywhere. The people in isolated villages and hill towns suspected outsiders.
Paul and his companions preached there for many years. Every year it was the same; it never seemed to change. You need other eyes and another kind of heart to work in a world like that and not get tired.
And so I think as they packed their bags for their lenten journey into the Tuscan Maremma they had to remind themselves what was there before them: the mystery of the Passion of Christ. They needed to pray so they wouldn’t forget. That’s what Jesus did before the mystery of his Passion.
It’s still so today, isn’t it?,. These two feasts are for tired believers, as well as missionaries, who face the world where things don’t seem to change. We need another way of seeing things and another kind of heart to journey on..
If you want to pray these feasts with the Passionists, go here.
St. Thèrése put two titles to her name after she became a Carmelite nun. She holds those two titles in this photo. One was Thèrése of the Child Jesus, the other was Thèrése of the Holy Face of Jesus. She wished to be known by these two titles: Thèrése of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.
The titles came from religious experiences she had. The first occurred on Christmas day, 1886, when she was 13 years old. Shorlty afterwards, she had an experience of the Passion of Jesus, which took place one Sunday of the next year, when she was 14. She describes the two experiences in chapter 5 of her autobiography. Her experience of the Passion of Jesus involved a murderer.
“One Sunday, looking at a picture of Our Lord on the Cross, I was struck by the blood flowing from one of the divine hands. I felt great sorrow when thinking this blood was falling to the ground unnoticed. I was resolved to remain in spirit at the foot of the Cross and to receive the divine dew. I understood I was then to pour it out upon souls.
The cry of Jesus on the Cross sounded continually in my heart: “I thirst!” These words ignited within me an unknown and very living fire. I wanted to give my Beloved to drink and I felt myself consumed with a thirst for souls. As yet, it was not the souls of priests that attracted me, but those of great sinners; I burned with the desire to snatch them from the eternal flames.”
At the time a notorious murderer, Pranzini had been condemned to death and refused to see a priest. Thèrése was deeply affected by the sensational story and asked Jesus, “feeling that I myself could do nothing,” to be merciful to him. She had Mass offered for him, she begged God’s mercy.
Afterwards the newspaper reported a priest offered Pranzini a crucifix as he went to his death and he kissed it fervently three times. Thèrése believed her prayers were answered “Then his soul went to receive the merciful sentence of him who declares that in heaven there will be more joy over one sinner who does penance than over ninety-nine just who have no need of repentance!”
For Thèrése the Passion of Jesus was a sign of God’s mercy. His words “I thirst,” were more than an expression of physical thirst, they expressed his desire to show a merciful love to the world.
The teen age girl’s experience reminds us that God’s graces can come to anyone, at any time. The experience left her with a lasting conviction, “I myself can do nothing.” One of her prayerbooks carries a remembrance of her experience.
Rejection is a special kind of pain. Matthew’s gospel today describes the rejection Jesus experienced when he entered Jerusalem before his death. At first, he’s acclaimed by a large crowd as “the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” They spread their cloaks and cast branches before him. “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Then, Jesus goes into the temple and drives out those who were buying and selling there, a symbolic act that indicates he has come to restore this place of prayer. (Matthew 21, 1-18)
Reacting strongly, the Jewish leaders reject him and question his authority to do such things. He has been sent by God, Jesus says, and responds with a parable that condemns leaders like them who reject prophets sent by God.
Jesus remains convinced of his mission, but conviction does not insulate him from the pain that comes from rejection. Like the prophets before him he suffers from it, and his suffering only increases as the crowds that first acclaimed him fall silent and his own disciples deny and abandon him. All turn against him and he is alone.
The events described in today’s gospel and the parable Jesus told throw light on one suffering Jesus endured in his passion and death¬– rejection. Rejection and death will not be the last word, however: “the stone rejected by the builders will become the cornerstone.”
You went to Jerusalem, Lord,
to announce a kingdom come
a promise of God fulfilled.
a hope beyond any the mind could conceive.
Teach us to keep your dream alive
though we see it denied.
STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Friday is a traditional day. for remembering the Passion of Jesus
Stations of the Cross: Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waaMOBJ5e1Q&list=PLLUFZUgOPMFxkmfgBNS4Kfm8XxEwoAd6f&index=11
Stations of the Cross; Text https://passionofchrist.us/stations-adults/
Stations of the Cross for Children: https://passionofchrist.us/stations-of-the-cross-children/
Prayers : https://passionofchrist.us/prayers/
The Gospel of Mark, the first of the gospels to appear in written form, presents Jesus going to death in utter desolation, draining the cup of suffering given him by his Father. His enemies viciously reject him; his disciples mostly betray or desert him. Only a few remain as he goes on his way. His cry from the cross is a cry of faith mingled with deep fear and sorrow: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
This gospel, taut and fast-paced, brings us into the dark mystery of suffering that Jesus faced. We face it too. The Passion is a book that leads to life, a risen life. Our liturgy tells us that today. Like a “well trained tongue” our readings from Isaiah 50,4-7, Philippians 2, 6-11, Psalm 22 and Mark’s Passion narrative call us to hope before the enemy death.
The desolation Jesus faced took many forms, some quite hidden from our eyes and understanding. Yes, the cross brought physical pain, but the gospels, even the gospel of Mark, the darkest of them, do not describe physical sufferings in great detail, as Mel Gibson does in his The Passion of the Christ. The sufferings Jesus endured were primarily spiritual and psychological, all indicated in the cry “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”
Paul of the Cross spoke of this to a priest of his community who was experiencing the cross of spiritual desolation. God’s grace would lift him up to bring life to someone else, the saint assured him. The mystery of the cross never ends in death.
“From what you tell me of your soul, I, with the little or no light that God gives me, tell you that the abandonment and desolation, and the rest you mention, are precisely preparing you for greater graces that will help you in the ministry for which his Divine Majesty has destined you either now or at some other time. Of that I have no doubt.” (letter 1217)
Speak to all of us today of joy and gladness,
let the bones you have crushed rejoice…
Restore in us the joy of your salvation. Ps. 51
For today’s homily, please play the video file below:
Interesting old books at Books Online, a wonderful free service. In Routledge’s Christmas Annual from 1872 there’s a Christmas story called “Aidan of the Cows.” What’s that about?
It’s about a young woman named Aidan who has herds of the choice cows producing the best milk and cheese in the village of St.Koatsven in a Distant Land near the shore of a distant sea.
Unfortunately, Aidan falls on bad times because the young man she loves spends her fortune til all her cows are sold to moneylenders.
Christmas morning Aidan wanders sadly down a meadow near the sea and hears a robin singing:
“ She listened with amazement, with fear and trembling, with a fearful joy, because the bird sang in human speech.
“I am Robin Redbreast,” he sang, ” the Bird of Good Hope, I am much endowed among birds. For in ancient times when He was toiling up the heavy hill bearing the bitter Cross, I, moved by Heaven, alighted on His head, and plucked from out His bleeding brow ONE thorn from the cruel crown that bound his temples. One drop of His blood bedewed my throat as I stooped to the blessed task, and the blood-drop dyed my breast in a hue of glorious beauty for ever.”
Aidan listened with all the ears of her heart.
“In remembrance of what I did, a poor foolish bird! this blessing was laid upon me—that once every year, on Christmas-eve, I should be empowered to give a good gift to the first maiden, good but unhappy, who should put her foot upon the herb Marie, as you, Aidan, have done.”
The girl looked down. Her foot was lightly- pressing the pretty little yellow trefoil plantret, which is called the herb Marie. “As you have done, Aidan of the Cows,” the robin repeated with a confident chirrup.
Of course, Aidan got her cows back and even her repentant young man, whom she marries and they live happily ever after.
The author ends the tale remarking that this all took place in a Distant Land. “ In the land that is close by us nothing of the kind takes place.”
But we know that it does. And so, may the Bird of Good Hope, speak to you today.
In our lenten reading for today Peter’s question about forgiveness (“How many times must I forgive my brother?”) isn’t just his question. It’s a question all of us ask.
Jesus answers that we should forgive as God forgives–beyond measure, and he offers a parable about two servants who owe money (a big reason people fight among themselves). The first of the servants owes his master five thousand talents, a huge sum. In an unexpected display of mercy, his master forgives the entire debt.
After being forgiven so much, however, that servant sends off to debtors prison another servant who owes him a few denarii, a mere pittance compared to his debt of ten thousand talents. He won’t forgive this small thing.
Now, isn’t the reason we don’t forgive others just as small? So many grievances and grudges people have against one another are based on small slights they receive, real or imagined. And the small slights never stop. They’re constant and they need constant forgiveness.
In this holy season, we look at God’s immeasurable forgiveness found in the passion and death of Jesus and learn from him. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Seeing God’s forgiveness, the saints say, helps us to forgive. He’s forgiven us so much. Shouldn’t we forgive too?
We need to keep the example of Jesus always in mind, especially the example he gave from the Cross. The founder of my community always recommended that:
“Always bring to prayer some mystery of the life and passion of Jesus Christ. If then, the Holy Spirit draws you into deeper recollection, follow the breath of the Spirit, but always by means of the Passion. You will thus avoid all illusion.” ( St.Paul of the Cross, Letter 791)
How many times must I forgive today, Lord,
how many times must I be patient, kind, understanding,
willing to carry on even if no one sees or cares?
How many times did you?
Bless me with the graces of your passion and death.
To listen to today’s homily please play the audio selection below:
Mark’s gospel gives a short, straightforward account of Jesus facing temptation after his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist. In just four lines he says that
“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.” (Mark 1, 12-13)
Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 4,1-11) gives a more extensive account of the temptations Jesus faced, as does Luke who follows Matthew rather closely. (Luke 4,1-13)
In John’s gospel we have no account of the temptation of Jesus in the desert, but in chapter 1, 10-11 he says “He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.” A strong indication of the opposition that Jesus, the Word of God, received when he came into this world.
He was opposed. He did not come among us as a kind of superman, immune from human hurt or human frailty. He was tempted, the gospels say, opposed by “Satan” by “the world” and even by “his own.” So strong was the opposition that it eventually put him to death.
It’s so important to see the human Jesus, his vulnerability, how like us he was. Yes, he was God’s Son, but the Word became flesh, St. John says. Equal to God, he emptied himself, St. Paul says, and took the form of a slave, and became obedient even to death on the cross.
When we look at Jesus in his humanity, we wonder, first of all, at God’s love coming to a world of weakness and frailty, our world. We can also see ourselves in his humanity, in the temptations and opposition he faces as a human being in his lifetime, and particularly as he enters his Passion.
Of all the gospels, Mark’s gospel gives us the most realistic picture of the human Jesus. Mark doesn’t describe the temptations Jesus faces in the desert at the beginning of his gospel because he will describe them as Jesus makes his way through the towns of Galilee where he gathers disciples and meets opposition from the scribes and Pharisees. The growing opposition he meets there leads to Jerusalem, where he’s put to death.
Mark’s account of the Passion of Jesus shows us Jesus fearful in the garden and crying out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!”
When we see Jesus we see ourselves. We live in a world where we face temptation. When we look to him, however, we see where our wisdom and strength and courageous patience can come from. Following Jesus, we will live.