Saturday, April 15, 2017

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April 15, 2017: Holy Saturday

April 15, 2017


Holy Saturday

The liturgy teaches us to meditate on the word of God by giving us examples of meditation. One of the most all-inclusive meditations on the mystery and gift of the death and resurrection of Jesus is the Exsultet or “Easter Proclamation.”

First the presiding priest lights the Easter candle from the new fire that was kindled in darkness at the doors of the church as a symbol of the new light Jesus brought into the world. He prays in the name of all: “May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.” The victory of Christ is a victory of Truth over error. His light is the “light of life.”

God’s word is a light to “walk in.” We reflect on God’s word as disciples to find in it a “way of life.” This Light is indistinguishable from the Life of Christ, and it is only “in Christ” as sharers in his divine life by grace, that we can see and understand: “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” [1]

The priest or deacon processes through the church, carrying the Easter candle. Three times he stops, lifts the candle high, and sings, “Christ our Light!” The people respond,” Thanks be to God!” This is a proclamation of faith and commitment that affirms our identity as Christians. We are the people who have chosen the light of Christ to be our light rather than the darkness of human culture. We recognize his teaching as a gift. We are grateful for it.

The “gift of the Holy Spirit” we associate with Baptism is Understanding. The “fruit of the Spirit” is Joy. This is the Light that is Life. [2]

Easter Joy
The first theme of the Exsultet is “Rejoice!”

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels! Exult, all creation around God’s throne. Jesus Christ, our King, is risen.
Rejoice O earth… glory fills you…

Because Christ “has risen… has conquered… darkness vanishes forever.”

Rejoice O Mother Church! Exult in glory…. Let this place resound with joy.

If we cannot resonate with that, we have not heard the Good News. We need to immerse ourselves in discipleship, absorbing the message of the Gospel.

The Exsultet now summarizes what the Good News is. It concentrates our attention on the five  basic mysteries. promises and commitments of Baptism.

A new identity
Christians everywhere, washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement, are restored to grace….

This is the mystery that includes all others: our transformation from slaves of sin into free children of the Father through the new identity that is ours. By incorporation into his body on the cross, dying and rising in him, we have “become Christ.”

Christ has ransomed us with his blood and paid the price of Adam’s sin

A price, not of punishment due, but of ransom from servitude to “the world, the flesh and the devil.” Because “Christ, the true Lamb is slain,” we died in him, our sins were annihilated, and we rose as his body, a “new creation,” blessed with the very “holiness of God.” [3]

Enlightenment
This is the night when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin.

The mystery of this transformation is that we are now the “light of the world.” We enjoy the enlightenment promised to those who commit themselves as disciples, students of the word of God.

If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”[4]

Power in the Spirit
Freedom has a purpose. The delivered have a destiny.

You freed the people of Israel from their slavery and led them dry-shod through the sea.

The Red Sea was a symbol and preview Baptism. By passing through its waters the Chosen People were freed from subjection to the laws of Egypt in order to reveal to the world the radical freedom of those who know the

One Commandment:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

Him only shall you fear; him only shall you serve. “Do not follow any of the gods of the peoples who are all around you,”[5]

We who passed through the water of Baptism were freed from slavery to any authority but God’s. We obey human laws with the “freedom of the children of God, in “singleness of heart,” with undivided loyalty to God, obeying not “in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.”[6]

To accept this freedom is to renounce slavery to our culture. We don’t conform to what is expected in our society. We don’t “follow any of the gods of the peoples who are all around us.” We don’t assume their attitudes. We don’t embrace their values. We are different. In Baptism we were consecrated as prophets, “anointed” with the “power of the Spirit.”


This is the night when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave.

To be a “prophet” is to profess the faith through a lifestyle that doesn’t make sense without it: one that cannot be explained except through the Light and Life of the risen Jesus present and active within us, sweeping aside darkness and fear of death. This is the core of Christian witness.

Posterity
This is our Passover feast, when Christ, the true Lamb is slain whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers…. 

We are sanctified as a community. It is not just our hearts, but our homes that are consecrated.



[1] John 1:4, 8:11; Psalms 36:9, 56:13; Proverbs 6:23; Matthew 11-25-30.
[2] See Isaiah 11:2-3; Galatians 5:22-23.
[3] 2Corinthians 5:21.
[4] John 8:31-32.
[5] Deuteronomy 6:4-14.
[6] Romans 8:15-27; Ephesians 6:5-6.

Friday, April 14, 2017

April 14, 2017: Good Friday

April 14, 2017

Good Friday

The Responsorial (Psalm 31) expresses the choice our whole lives should lead to: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” The readings show us the faith, hope and love we need to do it.

Both Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12 and Hebrews 4:14 to 5:9 are reflections on the Passion Narrative, John 18:1 to 19:42. Isaiah looks ahead to it; Hebrews looks back on it. Both are meditations.

Isaiah tells us Jesus’ life had value “because he surrendered himself to death.” The same is true of ours. By “dying” in Baptism to everything life on this earth offers and promises, we entered into Life. But we have to live out that death.

In this fourth and last “Song of the Servant,” Isaiah says the life of Jesus and his followers is shocking. He says, “Who would believe...?” People will be “amazed,” “startled,” turned off. “There was in him no… appearance that would attract us to him. He was spurned and avoided... We held him in no esteem.” But read Isaiah’s text and then Psalm 31. The way God used and rewarded Christ’s life leads us to say, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Hebrews tells us why we no longer  hold Jesus “in no esteem.” He is our lifeline to God and beatitude, “Jacob’s ladder,” connecting heaven to earth.[1]

Hebrews invites us to reflect on what Jesus is as “priest.” Jesus is the “connector.” The bridge. He is not just a third-party mediator or intercessor, standing between us and the Father. Through Jesus we are connected to the Father. He mediates God’ s life to us by bringing us into God and God into us. He intercedes for us from within our hearts. He doesn’t just pray for us, he prays as us, and we pray as him. Through our identification with him by Baptism we are “priests in the Priest.”[2]

Even psychologically, we can “connect” with Jesus because he is not “unable to sympathize with our weakness.” He was “tempted in every way that we are.” The bottom of the ladder is stuck in our earth. We can get our feet on it.

On earth, when Jesus was “in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears” — just like us. And he “learned obedience from what he suffered.” But now that he is “made perfect,” he has become “the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”

The top of the ladder is in heaven. Jesus is “a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God.” Jesus connects us to God.

Obedience is the key. Jesus was “made perfect” in obedience to the Father. We are made perfect by obeying the Father ”through him, with him and in him” in obedience to Jesus as members of his body subject to our Head. In life and in death we say in union with him: Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”[3]   

Now read the Passion Narrative.

Initiative: Spend your life saying, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”



[1] See Genesis 28:10-22 and John 1:45-51.
[2] See John 14:9-20, 16:23-28.
[3] See Ephesians 5:21-30; Philippians 3:7-21; Colossians 1:11-24; 2:6 to 3:4.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

April 13, 2017: Thursday of Holy Week, 2017

April 13, 2017
Holy Thursday

Mass of the Lord’s Supper

The “Easter triduum” are three days that constitute one single celebration. Any one of them without the others is incomplete.

The Easter Vigil celebrates the resurrection of Jesus as the mystery that gives meaning to all human life and history. But without the celebration of Christ’s sacrificial death on Good Friday, Easter would be unintelligible. And without the institution of the Eucharist, celebrated on Holy Thursday,  Christ’s death and resurrection would be a thing of the past — reported, remembered and relied-upon – but present only to God in the transcendent “Now” of eternity; not present to us in the time and place of the world we live in. Taken together, they reveal Christian life as an individual and communal presence to and participation in the ongoing act of love by which the Father, Son and Spirit redeemed the world. The Liturgy of the Word is to help us understand this mystery. We listen to the readings as disciples eager to learn.

Exodus 12: 1-14: “This month shall stand at the head of your calendar.” Time counts, and we should count time, not just numerically by adding hours and days, but historically, seeing it as a series of events. The events are what give time meaning. By celebrating events we absorb their meaning into our lives and pass that meaning on to others.

The readings that are part of the celebration do three things: they tell the story of the events, remind us to keep them in memory, and explain to us their meaning. Where the meaning is expressed in symbols, the readings tell us what those symbols say.

Reading God’s word is always part of our celebration. It lets us understand what we celebrate. Celebration makes what is proclaimed or taught in the word real and active in our lives — especially our communal lives. Liturgy unites light to life and us to one another in the “communion of the Holy Spirit.”

1Corinthians 11:23-26 is an example: the words present the mystery “handed on” to us. But we proclaim it as a community every time we “eat this bread and drink this cup.”

In John 13: 1-15 Jesus teaches us how to participate in Mass. “Do you realize what I have done?” It is not enough to see and hear; we have to think, meditate, absorb the meaning of the words, gestures and symbols. And keep doing it: “You may not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Hearing should prompt personal reflection and communal discussion.

And we have to act on what we hear: “As I have done, so you must do.” Hearing should lead to decisions. Jesus is both “Teacher” and “Lord.” His words are not just data; they are directions — to be acted on.

Initiative: Don’t leave Mass without making a decision based on what you heard.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

April 12, 2017: “Lord, in your great love, answer me.”

April 12, 2017
Wednesday of Holy Week

The Responsorial (read all of Psalm 69) is the constant prayer of the servants of God:


Lord, in your great love, answer me.

Isaiah 50: 4-9 is the third Song of the Servant. The Servant neither depends on human support nor fears human opposition. His confidence is in God.

• God has equipped him: “The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue.” Think of how God has equipped us in the Church. But for our “tongue” to serve, it must be “trained” through use of “word and sacrament.”

• Training is ongoing: “Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear.” The Servant is a continuing disciple. He listens. Daily. “The Servant must first be a disciple, prayerfully receiving God’s word, before he can presume to teach others.”[1]

• He accepts persecution and suffering without resentment: “I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me....” The “way of the cross” is to endure evil and love back.

• He relies on God for strength and victory: “ “The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced.”

• This is the source of his courage and perseverance. Nothing is going to turn him aside from his mission:  “I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.” “See, the Lord God is my help.”

Mathew 26: 14-25 shows us another contrast. Judas looks ahead and sees that Jesus is going to go down. So he takes care of himself. He takes his stakes out of the pot and invests in the future. He goes over to the enemy, the “chief priests,” and asks, “What will you give me if I hand him over to you?”

When the disciples look ahead, they go to Jesus: “Where do you wish us to prepare the Passover supper for you?” They are with him and have cast in their lot with him. They trust in whatever he says.

Jesus answers as he did when they asked him how to feed the crowd that was following him in the wilderness. He told them to call on the community, ask them to share. “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” They found a boy with “five barley loaves and two fish.”

Now he says, “Go to this man in the city...” — obviously a believer — “...and tell him, ‘the Teacher says my appointed time draws near. I am to celebrate the Passover with my disciples in your house.” Jesus knows he will share.

“When it grew dark, he reclined at table with the Twelve” — soon to be eleven. As night approached, all they had was themselves and God. It was enough.

Except for Judas. After receiving the “bread” from Jesus’ hand, he “immediately went out.” Then, John wrote, “It was night.”[2]

Initiative: In any need, pray  Lord, in your great love, answer me.

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[1] Jerome Biblical Commentary.
[2] Mark 6:38; John 6:9; 13;26-30.