Tag Archives: Passionist

Friday, 3rd Week of Lent

Lent 1


Love is the message Jesus offers in our gospel reading today. Love God and love your neighbor, he says to the scribe asking about the greatest commandment . (Mark 12, 28-34) We expect to hear about love on a lenten Friday, since every Friday is associated with the Friday called Good. Lenten Fridays especially prepare us for that great day of love.

The gospels dwell on what took place that day in great detail. Historians, scholars, artists approach the mystery of Jesus’ passion and death in different ways. What political or religious factors were behind it? Who were the people involved? What was crucifixion like? The day is a fascinating conclusion to a fascinating life.

But, above all, it’s a day about love. Hosea, the prophet we hear from in our first reading today was a man in love with a woman who betrayed him for another, but he never forgot her. She was the love of his life, and he saw everything else in the light of that experience. In an instance, he would take her back.

Why did Jesus suffer such a death, we ask? As God’s Son, no one could take his life from him. The only answer we can give is that Jesus gave himself up to death and accepted death on the Cross out of love for his Father and out of love for us. Love caused him to say in the Garden, “Your will be done.” Love called words of forgiveness from the cross: ”Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

The cross was not something Jesus endured; he embraced  it with his whole heart, his whole mind and all his strength. Before his cross, we stand before Love.

We should not avoid praying before the cross. All the saints recommend this prayer:

“When you experience dryness in your prayer, gently stir your spirit with loving acts then rest in God. Softly say to him, ‘How bruised your face, how swollen, how disfigured with spit. I see your bones laid bare. What suffering, what blows, what grief. Love is one great wound. Sweet are your wounds, sweet is your suffering. I want to keep you always close to my heart.” (Paul of the Cross:Letter 23)

Lord Jesus Christ,
the scribe in today’s gospel repeated the command to love
and you praised him for it.
May I keep before me the great commandment
to love God and my neighbor
and live it as you did.
Give me that grace. Amen.

A Shepherd for Dangerous Times

good shepherd
The image of the shepherd is a favorite image for God in scripture. It is an important image to understand the Risen Jesus. He is a shepherd on the journey through life and death, a shepherd who does not walk alone. He leads his sheep through “the valley of death.” He brings them to  green pastures, to rest “all the days of our life.”

God’s shepherding takes many forms. God is the Shepherd of Israel, we hear in the Old Testament. The Lord is my shepherd, Psalm 23 says; God shepherds us on the personal journey we make in life; God is with us at every moment, good or bad. God  also shepherds his church, the new Israel, and he will always guide it, even in periods of uncertainty.

But does it end there? What about our world, which is also on a journey? If we believe Jesus Christ is its Savior and Lord, will he not be its shepherd too?

Easter time is a good time to think about the unknown in all its dimension. As we look ahead, our world faces many dangers. It’s clear our environment is endangered. What shall we do? As the nations of the earth are drawn closer through new systems of communications and economic development, violence and terror are so evident. Can we live in peace?

We’re tempted to close our eyes and lose hope. But God always tells us to face life and go on. Alone, we may see a dark valley ahead, but a Shepherd leads us, so let’s not fear.

Listening to Prayers

DSC00500Listening is an important way we pray at Mass. It’s vital to listen to the scriptures that are read and the homily that’s preached, but we also need to listen to the prayers we say as well. This is especially true of the Eucharistic prayer.

I recorded an audio file of the 2nd Eucharistic Prayer for Various Needs and you can listen to it at the end of this blog, if you wish. Listen and reflect on the words. The Eucharistic prayers help us understand the mystery we celebrate.

Think about the words of the prayer and ask yourself what they mean. For example, take the dialogue that opens every Eucharistic prayer:

“The Lord be with you.

And with your spirit.

Lift us your hearts.

We have lifted them up to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God.

It is right and just.”

The Lord is with us as we pray and and lifts up our hearts to the divine presence. That presence expands our vision of life and broadens our awareness of who we are. We’re moved to thank God.

What do we thank God for? Certainly for the blessings of our life at hand, but we don’t stop there. In God’s presence we become aware of  the blessings of creation and redemption given to us by God, our Father, through Jesus Christ.

The Eucharist calls us into a large world, infinitely larger than our own time and place. If fact, it brings us into the context of eternity. We’re in touch with the beginnings of our universe and reach out to the end of time, when God’s kingdom will come. We belong to this great world as children of God. We have been blessed with a promise far beyond our imagination.

We receive this promise through Jesus Christ whose love we recall in the gifts of bread and wine. He is present and tells us to remember him.

Here’s an audio of a Eucharistic Prayer

The Interior Sorrows of Jesus

In the Mass for today, Luke’s Gospel brings us back to Nazareth, where Jesus lived most of his life among “his own.” But his own reject him at the beginning of his ministry in their synagogue. Their rejection surely hurt him; how could he forget it?

The crowds that welcome him to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday call him “the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” Yet so few disciples from Nazareth seem to follow him; only a few women from there will stand by his cross as he dies. From what we know of Nazareth, Jesus did not find much acceptance there. “He came to his own and his own received him not.”

The Lenten Gospels prepare us for the great mystery of Jesus’ death and Resurrection by presenting him as one who took on himself our sorrows. They place before us the physical sorrows that come from the nails, the thorns, the scourging. But let’s not forget the interior sorrows Jesus experienced, the sorrow that his rejection at Nazareth brought to him, for example.  It also was part of the mystery of his cross.

We may not experience the physical sorrows of Jesus, but we will inevitably experience interior sorrows like his. Rejection by our own, perhaps. There are many ways  we share in the passion of Christ.

God’s Forgiveness

Time and place are tools that help us understand the gospels. On our lenten journey, we are in Jerusalem with Jesus. From the 4th week of Lent, John’s gospel, describing what Jesus did in the Holy City, is the preferred source for our Mass readings on Sundays and weekdays before Easter.

Unlike the synoptic gospels which present him making a single journey to Jerusalem, John’s gospel indicates that Jesus went often to the Holy City, as one would expect. He’s more than a dutiful Jew visiting the temple to celebrate the Jewish feasts, though. He’s more than a simple Galilean peasant from Nazareth caught in a random attempt by the city’s leaders to squelch a possible revolution. In John’s gospel, he is the Word made flesh, the Savior of the world, replacing the temple and its worship; he’s God’s presence on earth. “I am.”

Going to Jerusalem to celebrate the feasts was essential for Jesus’ mission. During the Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast of the Dedication of the Temple, and the Feast of Passover he makes startling claims before the Jewish people and their leaders. The false witnesses who testify later at his trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin are not far from the real claim he made; he came, not to destroy the temple, but to be its replacement.

Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman (3rd Sunday A), which John describes at length, takes place as he returns from Jerusalem after driving out the buyers and sellers from the temple during the feast of Passover. He is the purified temple and all will be drawn to him. The Samaritan woman and her neighbors who welcome him stand for all the outsiders called to worship “in spirit and in truth.”

The temple was the place where sin was forgiven. Today’s reading about the woman caught in adultery (Monday, 5th week) takes us to the temple area and reminds us that Jesus, the Lamb of God, takes away the sin of the world. He is a sign of God’s mercy to the woman standing before him, and to all of us. His forgiveness is far beyond the forgiveness of the scribes and pharisees who would stone the woman to death, according to the Law of Moses.

God’s forgiveness goes far beyond their forgiveness–and far beyond ours too.

Raising Lazarus

John 11,1-45

The wonderful story of the death and resurrection of Lazarus helps us appreciate the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Lazarus belongs to an influential family that welcomed Jesus to their home in Bethany, a village about two miles from Jerusalem. Martha and Mary were his sisters. Jesus stayed with them when he visited the Holy City.
When Lazarus died some days before the Passover, Jesus had left Jerusalem because of threats to his life and was staying in the safety of the Transjordan, the region where John the Baptist had baptized. Notified of his friend’s death, Jesus returned to Bethany, unconcerned for himself.
Death in its many forms was what Jesus came to take away, our gospel wants us to understand, and the dead Lazarus was a sign of what he wishes to do for all humanity. Lazarus was his friend, but Jesus, the Word made flesh, befriends the whole human race.
In the stirring conclusion of today’s gospel, Jesus calls the dead Lazarus from the tomb and “the dead man came out,” bound with the burial cloths that claimed him for death. “Untie him and let him go,” Jesus says. Those powerful, hopeful words are said to us too. We are called, not to die, but to live.
Later, on Calvary Jesus himself becomes our sign. A painful death does not claim him, nor will the grave hold him. He is our hope.
The same hope nourished Paul of the Cross: “ You ask me how I’m doing. I’m more sick than well and full of ailments. I can hardly write this…(but) I find it very good. Bearing the chains, the ropes, the blows, the scourges, the wounds, the thorns, the cross and death of my Savior, I fly to the bosom of the Father, where the gentle Jesus always is, and I allow myself to be lost in his immense Divinity.” (Letter 1925)
Like Martha, the sister of Lazarus, O Lord,
I believe you are the Resurrection and the Life.