Holy Week, Wednesday (2)

Today’s liturgy takes us right to the beginning of the Last Supper, an apt preparation for the liturgy we’ll be celebrating tomorrow evening on Holy Thursday. We see two plans in motion: Judas has made a deal with the chief priests to hand Jesus over when the time is right, and Our Lord prepares for his last meal on earth with his disciples. Our Lord’s been preparing them for what is about to happen: he warned them that he would be handed over and put to death (cf. Matthew 17:22), but now he warns them too that one of them will betray them. In John’s account of Jesus’ last days on earth we see him taking precautions, so it is no surprise that someone close to him would have to betray him.

Even though he tells Judas that he knows it will be him, and that it’ll be the worst mistake of his life (“better for that man if he had never been born”), Judas is set on his path; perhaps he thinks Our Lord is bluffing, trying to flush him out. There’s no way to know what was in his blackened heart. Our Lord, knowing his own path leads to the Cross, is also prepared in the Last Supper to share what would be two of the Church’s greatest gifts: the Eucharist and the ministerial priesthood.

Whether you attend the Chrism Mass tomorrow or the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, use these last few days of Holy Week and the Easter Triduum to examine your heart and see what path you’re on: following Christ’s is the surest and the safest, even though it passes through the Cross. Don’t be shocked if there’s a little bit of Judas in you to purge before taking up your cross and following Christ.

Readings: Isaiah 50:4–9a; Psalm 69:8–10, 21–22, 31, 33–34; Matthew 26:14–25. See also Holy Week, Tuesday (2)Holy Week, Tuesday and Holy Week, Wednesday.

Holy Week, Tuesday (2)

In today’s Gospel we consider the hearts of two disciples: a traitor and a coward. John describes Satan as entering into Judas; he’s just accepted a morsel, a token of friendship, from Our Lord, and in complete duplicity goes out into the night to betray him. It is reminiscent of one of the last arguments Our Lord had with the Jews who didn’t believe in him: they didn’t believe in the Father, therefore they didn’t believe in Jesus, and their “father” was the Devil. If Judas ever believed in Jesus, he doesn’t believe in him anymore, and it was time for him to stop making any pretense of following him and to cash in.

Maybe Simon Peter didn’t understand Our Lord’s announcement of his departure entirely, but in his heart and in the last weeks they’d live together he knew it was a matter of life and death. His noble aspiration of unfailing dedication to Our Lord, even until death, was expressed. Perhaps it was prophetic, but Simon Peter’s “hour” had not yet come. Our Lord prepared him for the cowardice he would soon show, not in condemnation, but to help him grow in self-knowledge. Simon Peter would discover it himself, the hard way, but was not a lost cause. In the end he did lay down his life for Our Lord, years later, in Rome.

Our Lord reads hearts. He wants to read yours and help you to learn more about yourself this Holy Week. If you’re a coward, he’ll help you discover that and overcome it. Don’t be afraid to let him. The difference between Judas and Peter is that Judas shut everyone out of his heart, and Peter didn’t. As long as you foster an open heart, there is hope.

Readings: Isaiah 49:1–6; Psalm 71:1–4a, 5a–6b, 15, 17; John 13:21–33, 36–38. See also Holy Week, Tuesday and Holy Week, Wednesday.

Holy Week, Monday (2)

Only a few days away from Good Friday, knowing how the story ends, today’s Gospel foreshadows the closeness of Our Lord’s death . The raising of Lazarus is the last straw for the chief priests. Ironically Our Lord has shown power over death itself, yet they decide to kill him and Lazarus. In John’s Gospel the raising of Lazarus was the last sign to encourage people to believe in Jesus, but his death is on his mind: when Mary anoints his feet he speaks of his burial and departure.

Judas’ hypocrisy is evident, feigning moral outrage when he is actually lamenting that the funds for that aromatic nard could have been put in the common purse so that he could steal them. The stage is set for betrayal. Jews are believing in Our Lord despite the intrigue. Martha and Mary are celebrating the return of their brother, healthy and alive. It reminds us that while life can come under the shadow of the cross, life goes on and should always be our focus.

As we continue Holy Week let’s focus on life, not on death, knowing that is how this story truly ends. The darkness cannot stop the dawn.

Readings: Isaiah 42:1–7; Psalm 27:1–3, 13–14; John 12:1–11. See also Holy Week, Monday.

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, Cycle C

With Palm Sunday we begin Holy Week by remembering the Lord’s Passion. The word “Passion,” like the word “love,” is a used and abused term in our day. When we speak of Passion in the case of what Our Lord underwent there’s room for multiple for understandings of passion. Passion meant suffering; Our Lord suffered a great deal for us. Passion meant having something done to you, and not necessarily something pleasant; Our Lord put up no struggle and went as a lamb to the slaughter (cf. Isaiah 53:7), the Suffering Servant in today’s First Reading.

Passion means emotion; in Luke’s account of the Last Supper Our Lord expresses how ardently he desired to be with his disciples before suffering. Passions can be good or bad; he was passionate about his cause, and we can only imagine the emotions he was experiencing knowing one of his most trusted friends would betray him, experiencing the fear in Gethsemane of what he was going to undergo, feeling the betrayal and abandonment by his disciples when things became dangerous, and the torture and ridicule he experienced.

Lastly, and most importantly for today’s liturgy, Passion means love. People are encouraged today to be passionate about what they do, and to change what they’re doing if they’re not. We’re expected to love what we do and we consider people blessed who love what they do. However, the mystery of Christ’s Passion shows us that it is not so much loving what you’re doing as those whom you love and for whom you are doing what you’re doing. You probably don’t love changing diapers, but you change them because you love your baby. Your job may be tedious or grueling, but you do it to love your family and provide for them. You may not love the cross, but you take up your cross daily for those you love. Jesus love us through the Cross.

Holy Week has begun. In imitation of Christ in these days, contemplate not what you love or don’t love, but whom you are loving through what you do. As we follow Our Lord, step by step, blow by blow, to Calvary, ask him to show you for whom he is suffering: you.

Readings: Isaiah 50:4–7; Psalm 22:8–9, 17–20, 23–24; Philippians 2:6–11; Luke 22:14–23:56. See also Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Cycle B).


Good Friday, Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion

Readings: Isaiah 52:13–53:12; Luke 23:46; Psalm 31:2, 6, 12–13, 15–17, 25; Hebrews 4:14–16, 5:7–9; John 18:1–19:42

This afternoon Jesus is on the Cross. If anyone has hurt me, if I think anyone owes me something, if I think anyone has done me wrong, Our Lord on the Cross is ready to pay that debt in full.

If I have hurt anyone, if I owe anyone anything, if I think I have done something wrong to someone, Our Lord on the Cross is ready to help me pay that debt.

Jesus is on the Cross today to reconcile us with Our Heavenly Father and with each other. Let’s be reconciled to God by reconciling today with anyone who owes us and with anyone to whom we are indebted.