Holy Thursday, Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper

Readings: Exodus 12:1–8, 11–14; 1 Corinthians 10:16; Psalm 116:12–13, 15–16c, 17–18; 1 Corinthians 11:23–26; John 13:1–15

In this evening’s Gospel Peter realizes that being clean means being pleasing to Our Lord, and so he asks Our Lord to wash him all over, not just his feet. We’ve been living Lent in preparation for these holy days that are about to intensify, and the dirty feet of the disciples after a long walk is much like how we are arriving near the end. The Lenten journey we have completed, surely with some stumbles and wrong turns along the way, has been pleasing to Our Lord. Even if it has not, it’s not to late to let him wash us clean.

Now is the moment to put our Lenten lapses into Our Lord’s hands and let him forgive us as we begin the Sacred Paschal Triduum. If you haven’t gone to confession yet, now is the perfect time. Just as Our Lord washes the feet of his disciples, we need confession to arrive at Easter Sunday not just showered and dressed in our Sunday best on the outside, but on the inside too. On Holy Thursday let’s thank Our Lord for the gift of priests who feed us with the Bread of Life and give us someone to confide in when we need spiritual guidance and an encounter with God’s mercy through their priesthood.

Holy Week, Wednesday

Readings: Isaiah 50:4–9a; Psalm 69:8–10, 21–22, 31, 33–34; Matthew 26:14–25

Today in the past has been called Spy Wednesday because today, in the logic of Holy Week and the readings, Judas goes out to make a deal with the Pharisees at the expense of Jesus. In Matthew’s account of the Last Supper Our Lord says something that would be sad on anyone’s lips, but is chilling when it comes from the lips of God about one of his creations: “It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” Judas not only turned his back on his God, his Creator, his best friend, but he betrayed him. The other apostles, despite their failings and frailties to be seen over the next few days, are remembered as saints and apostles; Judas is remembered with infamy as the betrayer. Neither are forgotten, but what different sentiments their memories evoke.

How do you want to be remembered? As a part of the joyful and fond memories of many friends and hearing those blessed words from your Creator, “well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21) or with sadness and pity as someone who failed in life where it really mattered–loving God and loving others–and making people wonder whether it would’ve been better for you if you’d not lived at all? It is in your hands.

Holy Week, Tuesday

Readings: Isaiah 49:1–6; Psalm 71:1–4a, 5a–6b, 15, 17; John 13:21–33, 36–38

Trust means that you confide in someone. Toward the beginning of the Last Supper (which we’ll commemorate liturgically on Thursday evening) Judas’ lack of trust in Our Lord has become complete. Appearance and reality snap into focus: Jesus offers a morsel to Judas as a sign of friendship, but also knows it will be the sign to Peter and John of the friend who would betray him. Judas accepts the morsel while his heart rejects Jesus definitively: to the observer it seems two friends have just exchanged gestures of trust, when really it is a case of one friend extending one last gesture to another before a separation becomes complete.

If Judas had any doubt about whether Jesus really knew his heart, Jesus’ words to him were crystal clear in a language they both understood. Friends sometimes in a social setting speak in subtle hints and with apparently harmless phrases that communicate something only they know. Jesus shows to Judas in this moment that he knows him very well. When Judas chooses to go out into the darkness, literally and figuratively, Jesus begins to confide even more in those who remain, because he knows his time is short and he wants to acknowledge their trust in him.

Jesus trusts me completely. Do I confide in him? Trust and confidence are something that grow over time or wither. On Tuesday of Holy Week let’s confide in Our Lord knowing that his trust in us is limitless. He knows us better than we know our very selves, and, like a good friend, wants to help us see the things in our lives to which we may be blind.

Holy Week, Monday

Readings: Isaiah 42:1–7; Psalm 27:1–3, 13–14; John 12:1–11

Today at the beginning of Holy Week we see the cracks starting to show in Judas’ relationship not only with Jesus, but with the other apostles and disciples, represented by John and by Mary, the sister of Margaret and Lazarus. Judas doesn’t think he owes anyone anything, and religion is just another way to line his wallet. He’s moving toward the logic of the Pharisees who see Our Lord as a liability (see John 11:46–53) and as someone who, along with Lazarus, must be eliminated as damage control because their theocracy is at risk. Soon Judas and the Pharisees will be making a deal at Jesus’ expense.

When there are cracks in a relationship with God or with others (and they’re often connected), a simple way to assess the damage and move toward reconciliation is to remember that love, unlike wheeling and dealing, is acknowledging that something has been received for no other reason than the love of the giver, who expects nothing in return. If there’s no love, or simply a love for self, the cracks soon start to form and to spread.

How can I be more aware of all that I have received out of love from God and from others and translate this into a simple love and concern for God and for others like Mary shows in the Gospel today? On Monday of Holy Week let’s examine ourselves and see if loving in imitation of the love we’ve been given or just failing into a veiled wheeling and dealing under the pretext of something else, like the poor, in the case of Judas, or the nation, in the case of the Pharisees.

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

Readings: Mark 11:1–10; Isaiah 50:4–7; Psalm 22:8–9, 17–20, 23–24; Philippians 2:6–11; Mark 14:1–15:47

Many movies today are so packed that you have to get a copy to watch them over and over again in order to understand all the details of the plot. Many traumatic moments in a life are played out in our minds over and over again because, “it all happened so fast…”

Today on Palm Sunday we experience that first look, that first experience of the Lord’s Passion and death so that during Holy Week we can go back over it moment by moment in order to understand more deeply the conversation of love that takes place between God and us: in a language of words, but especially in a language of actions. Let’s take it moment by moment this week because it’s a moment of our history: the trauma of our sin (for God and for us) and the triumph of God’s love for us.