Archive for March, 2016

John 20:1-9 The Empty Tomb (Easter Sunday)

Today, the Christendom celebrates Easter, the feast of all feasts in the life of all Christians. Because of Easter, Christianity becomes a religion of joy, hope, victory and new life in Christ. St. Paul clearly affirmed the singular importance of the Resurrection in declaring: “If Christ was not raised, your faith is worthless” (1 Cor 15:17). This means that if Christ is not risen, Paul and all Christians would “then be exposed as false witnesses of God, for we have borne witness before Him that He raised up Christ” (1 Cor 15:15). In brief, if Christ be not risen, we are all idolaters! But the truth is: Christ is risen!. Indeed “This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it” (Ps 118:24).

There are at least five meanings and salvific relevance we can attach to the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead:

First, his resurrection confirmed everything Christ has done and taught. It fulfilled both Jesus’ triple prediction of his Passion, Death and Resurrection in the Synoptics (cf. Mk 8:31; 9:30; 10:32), and his triple prediction of being “lifted up” in John’s Gospel (cf. Jn 3:14; 8:28; 12:32). Christ’s exaltation vindicated all he claimed to be, as he himself asserted in his trial before the high priest (cf. Mk 14:61f; CFC 621).

Second, through his Resurrection, Christ fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies promising a Savior for all the world (cf. Ps 110; Dn 7:13). The history of God’s self-revelation, begun with Abraham and continuing through Moses, the Exodus, and the whole Old Testament, reached its climax in Christ’s Resurrection, something unprecedented, totally new (CFC 622).

Third, the resurrection confirmed Jesus’ divinity. St. Paul preached that Jesus was “designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom 1:4; cf. Phil 2:7-8). Upon seeing the Risen Jesus, Thomas cried out, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28; CFC 623).

Fourth, Christ’s death freed us from sin, and his resurrection brought us a share in the new life of adopted sons/daughters of the Father in the Holy Spirit. “If then we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him” (Rom 6:8; CFC 624).

“Finally, the Risen Christ is the principle and source of our future resurrection” (cf. 624). Jesus’ resurrection is a source, a proof, a guarantee, and a pledge of  a future glory. “He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all thing into subjection to himself” (Phil 3:21). “In Christ all will come to life again” (1 Cor 15:22).

By itself, the tradition of the “empty tomb” does not prove anything. But when linked to the Risen Christ’s appearances, it is confirmatory of the resurrection (cf. CCC 640). Let us remember, however, that appearances did not remove all doubts nor the need for faith (cf. CCC 644). Some doubted that the one who appeared was really Jesus of Nazareth, others he was the Christ. A real change of heart, a conversion, was needed to “see” the Risen Christ as the Apostle Thomas and the Emmaus disciples clearly show (cf. Jn 20:27; Lk 24:13-35). Matthew describes how “those who had entertained doubts fell down in homage” (Mt 28:17). This confirms the fact that faith is truly a gift. “No one can say: Jesus is Lord,’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3). St. Thomas Aquinas explains that “the apostles saw the living Christ after his resurrection with the eyes of faith: (ST, III: 55, 2 ad 1m).

Yes, since Jesus was risen from the dead, more reasons and meaning for us to heed his call for conversion, faith, and discipleship.

Think about it: “The redemption which our Lord carried out through his death and resurrection is applied to the believer by means of the sacraments, especially by Baptism and the Eucharist: “We have buried with him by baptism and death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we might walk in newness of life” (Rm 6:4). The resurrection of Christ is also the rule of our new life: “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not things that are on earth” (Col 3:1-2). Rising with Christ through grace means that “just as Jesus Christ through his resurrection began a new immortal and heavenly life, so we must begin a new life according to the Spirit, once and for all renouncing sin and everything that leads us to sin, loving only God and everything that leads to God” ( St. Pius X Catechism”, 77).

 

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John 18:1-19:42 The crucifixion of Jesus

“”On this day, when “Christ our passover was sacrificed,” the Church mediates on the passion of her Lord and Spouse, adores the cross, commemorates her origin from the side of Christ asleep on the cross, and intercedes for the salvation of the whole world” (Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts (Prot. 0) January 16, 1988 by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship no. 58)

 Terrorism is nothing new. It’s probably as old as the human race.

 In fact the cradle of civilization, now Iraq, was the home of the most infamous terrorists of antiquity, the Assyrians. Their goal was to conquer their neighbors in a way that would minimize initial resistance and subsequent rebellion. To do this, they knew fear would be their greatest weapon. Simple threat of death for those who resisted was not enough because many would prefer death to slavery. So the Assyrians developed the technology to produce the maximum amount of pain for the longest amount of time prior to death. It was called crucifixion. This ingenious procedure proved to be very effective terror tactic indeed.

 It was the policy of the Roman Empire to adopt from conquered peoples whatever appeared useful. They found crucifixion an excellent tool of intimidation. The humiliation of being stripped naked to die in a public spectacle was particularly loathsome to Jews for whom public nudity was an abomination. Incidentally, crucifixion was deemed so horrible that Roman law forbade that it be carried out on a Roman citizen, even a traitor. It was reserved only for slaves and conquered peoples.

 At the beginning of his last week, Jesus was greeted in Jerusalem as a heroic savior, someone to free the Jews from Roman authority. By the end of the week, Jesus was no longer seen as a hero. He was even betrayed by Judas, the treasurer of the apostles, for thirty shekels of silver which is the monetary worth of a slave. Denied thrice by Peter, whom he has chosen to be the head of the apostles. Abandoned by the other apostles except John. Demanded to be crucified by the same people who shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” [Mt. 21:9]. Lastly, “rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes,” who handed him to the Gentiles to be mocked, scourged and crucified (see Lk 24:26-27. 44-45; Mk 8:31; Mt 20:19.) as he prophesied earlier.

 Jesus’ violent death was not the result of chance in an unfortunate coincidence of circumstances, but is part of the mystery of God’s plan, as St. Peter explains to the Jews of Jerusalem in his first sermon on Pentecost: “This Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Act 2:23). This biblical language does not mean that those who handed him over were passive players in a scenario written in advance by God (cf. Acts 3:13, CCC 599).

For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness (cf. Mt 26:54; Jn 18:36; 19:11; Acts 3:17-18). The Scriptures had foretold this divine plan of salvation through putting to death of “the righteous one, my Servant” as a mystery of universal redemption, that is, as the ransom that would free men from the slavery of sin (Is 53:11; cf. 53:12; Jn 8:34-36; Acts 3:14). Hence, Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.

Faithful to the saving mission he received from God the Father, Jesus “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” [Phil. 2:8] In His Divine incarnation, He humbled Himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  Jesus did not empty Himself of His Divinity but He voluntarily gave up the Divine glory to which He was entitled, a glory that would be restored at His exaltation. [Jn. 17:5; Mt. 17:1-8]

]Having humbled Himself, even unto death, God exalted Jesus, giving Him the Name that is above every name. [Phil. 2:9; Eph. 1:21; Heb. 1:4; 1 Pet. 3:22] That at the Name of Jesus, in an act of religious adoration, every knee should bend, in Heaven and on earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Phil. 2:10-11; 1 Cor. 12:3; Rom. 10:9; Col. 2:6]

John the evangelist captures the mystery of salvation when he writes, God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes will not die but may have eternal life (Jn 3:16). Hence, it was not the nails that hung Jesus on the cross but God’s love for us in his Son Jesus Christ, the image of God’s compassionate and gracious love for His people.

Have faith in God and in the One whom He sent for us and for our salvation. As John says, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn 17:3). Besides, “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). “

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you. Because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world” (St. Francis of Assisi). Tell the world of His LOVE.

 

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John 13:1-15 The washing of the disciples’ feet

“With the celebration of Mass on the evening of Holy Thursday, “the Church begins the Easter Triduum and recalls the Last Supper in which the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, showing his love for those who were his own in the world, he gave his body and blood under the species of bread and wine offering to his Father and giving them to the Apostles so that they might partake of them, and he commanded them and their successors in the priesthood to perpetuate this offering” [Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts (Prot. 0) January 16, 1988, Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship)

Christ whole life expresses his mission: “to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (cf. CCC 608).

By embracing in his human heart the Father’s love for men, Jesus “loved them to the end,” for greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 13:1; 15:13). In suffering and death his humanity became the free and perfect instrument of his divine love which desires the salvation of men. Indeed, out of love for his Father and for men whom the Father wants to save, Jesus freely accepted his passion and death (cf. CCC 609).

Jesus gave the supreme expression of his free offering of himself at the meal shared with the twelve apostles “on the night he was betrayed” (Roman Missal, EP III; cf. Mt 26:20; 1 Cor 11:23). On the eve of his passion, while still free, Jesus transformed this last supper with the apostles into a memorial of his voluntary offering to the Father for the salvation of men: “This is my body which is given for you.” This is my blood of the covenant,which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Lk 22:19; Mt 26:28; cf. 1 Cor 5:7).

The Eucharist that Christ institutes at the moment will be a memorial of his sacrifice (1 Cor 11:25). Jesus includes the apostles in his own offering and bids them to perpetuate it. By doing so, the Lord institutes his apostles as priests of the New Covenant (cf. CCC 611).

For the twelve apostles and all the believers alike there is only one perfect model of humility, service and love, of which others are simply a reflection: Jesus Christ. Paul himself must only be imitated because he imitates Christ (1 Co 4, 16; 11,1). This is the fundamental novelty: thanks to Jesus, Son of God made man, man is able to imitate God himself (E 5,1), Henceforth, man can imitate the example of the Lord and follow him doing the path of the humble love that made him offer up his own life (Jn 13,15; E5,2; 1 P2,21; 1 Jn 2, 16; 3,16 ); he can love his brethren as Jesus loved them (Jn 13,34; 15,12; Xavier Leon-Dufour Ed., Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Upd. Second ed., Example).

Jesus makes the mission of the (Suffering) Servant his own: a master meek and humble of heart (Mt 11,29), who announces salvation to the poor (Lk 4,18f), he is in the midst of his disciples “as one who served” (Lk 22,27), he, who is their Lord and their master (Jn 13,12-15); and he goes to the very limits of the demands of the love which inspires this service (Jn 13,11; 12-15) by giving his life for the redemption of the multitude of sinners (Mk 10,43ff; Mt 20,26ff). It is for this that, treated like a criminal (Lk 22,37), he dies on the cross (Mk 14,24; Mt 26,28), knowing that he will rise again, as it is written of the Son of Man (Mk 8,3 p; 9,31 p; Lk 18,3ff p; 24,44; cf. 53,10ff). If then he is the expected Messiah, the Son of Man does not come to re-establish a temporal kingdom, but to enter into his glory and to lead his people there by passing through the death of the Servant (Xavier Leon-Dufour Ed., Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Upd. Second ed., Servant).

In today’s Gospel, Jesus who is teacher and lord at the meal shared with his twelve apostles on the night he was betrayed scandalizes his disciples when he washes their feet. The task is reserved for the lowliest of slaves in the Jewish master households. This is how low Jesus sinks in obedience to his Father who wishes that men and women be saved (see 1 Tim 2:3-4).The washing of feet is really an anticipation of Jesus giving all on Calvary the next day at the same time his legacy, model and living example to follow: “Do you realize what I have done. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one’s another feet: I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (cf Jn 13: 12-15).

History has shown us that person in power and authority is always tempted by pride, arrogance, honor, fame, wealth and corruption. Conscious of all these, St. Gregory the Great, who was pope from 590 to 640, adopted a title which has been applied to all Peter’s successors, a relevant reminded of Jesus’ teaching. The title is: “servos servorom” which means “the servant of servants of God” or “the least of all servants.”

Concerning the title, there is a story told written by Fr. Gerry Orbos about the lovable good old Pope John XXIII. On his way to Vatican, he made a surprise visit to a convent where nuns of the Holy Spirit Congregation resided.

The whole community led by their superior came out to meet the Pope. “And who are you?”  asked the Pope to the religious nun who was the first to greet him. The sister who was excited and nervous, blurted our, “Your Holiness, I am the mother superior of the Holy Spirit!”

“Mother Superior of the Holy Spirit?” said the Pope amused. “Lucky are you sister, I am only the servant of all servants of God.

This story reminds us all especially those who are persons in authority and power that authority  do not consists in dominion

 

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Mt 26:14-25 The betrayal of Judas

“The story is told again of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. This time the account is from Matthew. We must listen again and let it pierce our hearts. Before the Passover Judas goes to the authorities and asks what they are willing to give him if hand him Jesus over them. This is a business transaction, a deal. Jesus is a commodity, and money changes hands. 

Meanwhile, Jesus is making his own plans for the Passover meal, sending his disciples on  ahead into the city to arrange a house for a dinner. An anonymous donor lends Jesus his house. And dinner begins. As it grows dark, Jesus speaks: “I give you my word, one of you is about to betray me.” The rest of the group is distressed and each asks Jesus the same question: “Surely it is not I, Lord?” Jesus replies them with this harsh word: “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is he one who will betray me.  The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born” (Mt 26:23-24). 

It was a custom among the tribes for either host or guest, or one of two close friends, to take a piece of  bread or meat and dip it in oil or wine and feed it to the other as a sign of closeness, of kinship. In fact, once a person had eaten at the  table in a Bedouin’s camp and shared food he literally was considered kin for the seventy-two hours that the food shared was in his body, bound even closer than by blood ties. Judas takes the food, and even bound as close as that to Jesus, he intends to betray him.” (Megan Mc Keena, Lent 1998, The Daily Readings, Orbis Books Maryknoll). ). By doing so, Jesus successfully shows to his disciples the horror of betrayal (committed by Judas) in the face of his act of hospitality (see JBC 61:176). Here the treachery of Judas is seen at its worst. He must have been the perfect actor and the perfect hypocrite. If the other disciples had known what Judas was about, he would never left that room alive. 

Table fellowship is a celebration of friendship and oneness of mind and heart.  Hearing Jesus accusing one of them being a traitor is indeed disturbing and shocking. Trying to lift the veil of gloom caused by Jesus’ words, each tried to assure him by asking, “Surely, it is not I Lord? Note that they address Jesus as “Lord,” a title that expresses their acceptance of the power of Jesus over them. 

In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the ineffable Hebrew name YHWH, by which God revealed himself to Moses (cf. Ex 3:14), is rendered Kyrios, “Lord.” From then on, “Lord” becomes the more usual name by which to indicate the divinity of Israel’s God. The New Testament uses this full sense of the title “Lord” both for the Father and –what is new-for Jesus, who thereby recognized as God himself (cf. 1 Cor 2:8). 

Very often in the Gospels people address Jesus as “Lord.” This title testifies to the respect and trust of those who approach him for help and healing (cf. Mt 8:2; 14:30; 15:22; et al.). At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, “Lord” expresses the recognition of the divine mystery of Jesus. In the encounter with the risen Jesus, this title becomes adoration: “My Lord and my God!” It thus takes on a connotation of love and affection that remains proper to the Christian tradition: It is the Lord!” (Jn 20:28; Jn 21:7). 

Judas Iscariot is the only one who addreses Jesus as “Rabbi”” which is also used by Jesus’ enemies and critics.  What makes Judas betray Jesus is more than just the love for money. Judas’ belief in Jesus’ person and mission has weakened or ceased altogether. He is scandalized, that is, he stumbles and loses faith in the Master.

“Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to St. Timothy: ‘Wage the good warfare, holding faith and good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made a shipwreck of their faith’ (1 Tm 1:18-19). To live, grow and persevere in the faith until the end, we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith” (CCC 162). 

Officially, today is the last day of Lent. Our Journey is complete. Now we go to celebrate Easter. Alexander Schmemann, a great liturgical scholar, writes: 

Even though we are baptized, what we constantly lose and betray is precisely that which we receive at baptism. Therefore, Easter is our return every year to our baptism, whereas Lent is our preparation for that return-the slow and sustained effort to perform, at the end, our passage into new life in Christ…Each Lent and Easter are, once again, the rediscovery and the recovery by us of what we were made through our own baptismal death and resurrection. 

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John 13:21-33, 36-38: JUDAS BETRAYAL ANNOUNCED; PETER DENIAL PREDICTED

Today’s Gospel narrative speaks about Judas’ betrayal and prediction of Peter’s denial. Betrayal, simply means, to hand over. “In the gospels many people “hand over” Jesus: the Sanhedrin hands him over to Pilate (Mk 15:1, 10; Mt 27:2, 18; Lk 24:20; Jn 18:30,35), Pilate hands him over to the will of the people (Lk 23:25; Jn 19:16) or to the soldiers for execution (Mk 15:15; Mt 27:26). However, the one who is par excellence the person who hands over Jesus is Judas Iscariot. He is branded in all four gospels with this characteristics, as if were his special trademark: 11 times in Mt, 6 times in Mk, 5 times in Lk, and 10 times in Jn. In all, Judas is 32 times presented as ‘the one who handed Jesus over’”  (365 Days with the Lord 2003, Liturgical Biblical Diary, On Passion Sunday, St Pauls).  

“Judas, ‘the man of Kerioth,’ one of the Twelve, waited on the high priests, probably while Jesus was engaged with the Greeks (Jn 12:20-50), and offered for sufficient remuneration to betray him into their hands. Judas was a disappointed man. He had attached himself to Jesus, believing him to be Messiah, and expecting, in accordance with the current conception of the Messianic Kingdom, a rich recompense when the Master should ascend the throne of his father David, and confer offices and honors upon his faithful followers.  

The period of his discipleship had been a process of disillusionment, and latterly, when he perceived the inevitable issue, he has determined to abandon he deemed a sinking cause, and save what he might from the wreck. It may be also that he desired to be avenged an the Master who, as he deemed, had fooled him with a false hope. He therefore went to the high priests and asked what he would give him to betray Jesus into their hands. They leaped at the proposal and offered him thirty shekel. It was the price of a slave (cf. Ex 21:32). Impervious to contempt, he accepted their offer; and as though in haste to get rid of him, they paid him money on the spot”  (Hastings J., DD, Ed., Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, Edinburg: T. & T. Clark). 

Jesus, aware of Judas’ design and anxious to eat the Passover with his disciples (Lk 22:15), “reclining with his disciples, made a startling revelation: ‘One of you shall betray me’ (Jn 13:2). Amid the consternation which ensued, Jesus secretly gave Judas his dismissal. The traitor left the room, and hastening to the high priests, summoned them to action. 

Soon after, Jesus was “rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes,” who handed him to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified” (Mk 8:31; Mt 20:11; see cf. CCC 572). 

Certainly, Judas’ betrayal contributes to the crucifixion and death of Jesus. But Judas is not the only the person responsible for his death. Pontius Pilate, the Sanhedrin, the Jews had their own share too. Behind the scene, all sinners were authors of  Christ’ passion.   

In her Magisterial teaching of the faith and in the witness of her saints, the Church has never forgotten that “sinners were the authors and the ministers of all the sufferings that the divine Redeemer endured” (Roman Catechism 1, 5, 11; cf. Heb 12:3). Taking into account the fact that our sins affect Christ himself (cf. Mt 25:45; Acts 9:4-5) the Church does not hesitate to impute to Christians the gravest responsibility for the torments inflicted upon Jesus, a responsibility with which they have all too often burdened the Jews alone: 

We must regard as guilty all those who continue to relapse into their sins. Since our sins made the Lord Christ suffer the torment of the cross, those who plunge themselves into disorders and crimes crucify the Son of God anew in their hearts (for he is in them) and hold him up to contempt. And it can be seen that our crimes in this case is greater in us than in the Jews. As for them, according to the witness of the Apostle, “None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” We, however, profess to know him. And when we deny him by our deeds, we in some way seem to lay violent hands on him (Roman Catechism 1, 5, 11; cf. Heb 6:6; 1 Cor 2:8).

 

Nor did demons crucify him; it is you who have crucified him and crucify him still, when you delight in your vices and sins (St. Francis of Assisi, Admon. 5, 3. ; CCC 598).

 

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John 12:1-17 The anointing at Bethany

As Jesus made His way towards Jerusalem where death awaits him, He stopped in the village of Bethany where He was invited to dinner party by a wealthy friend named Simon. In the course of the gathering, a woman interrupted the meal which shocked all those who were present.

What scandalized them? First, they were shocked because the woman who came to Jesus   loosened her hair in public. During that time, to loosen one’s hair in public even for a married woman, was a sign of grave immodesty. Second, they were shocked because the woman wasted lot of money when she anointed Jesus’ feet with precious ointment. When Mary anointed Jesus with an oil worth a whole year’s wages, Judas protested that the perfume could have been sold. It would have brought three hundred silver pieces (he’ll betray Jesus for just thirty), and then the money could have been given to the poor. Jesus, however, fully aware that he is a traitor, unconcerned about the poor,  and a thief.

The contrast between Judas and Mary of Bethany is powerful. Mary spent what she had on “very costly ointment” in a gesture of love, affection, and respect. While Judas complained for losing the money that does not belong to him in the guise of being concern for the poor.

How did Jesus react to that given situation? Jesus defended what the woman did for him out of gratitude and thanksgiving and then used that occasion to teach them about the virtue of hospitality and his imminent passion and death in the hands of the scribes and the pharisees who will deliver him to the pagans to be mocked, crucified and be killed.

For Jesus hospitality is more than just welcoming a guest into one’s house. It is more than just serving a guest with food and drink. For Jesus, hospitality is, above all, welcoming someone what he stands for or represents. This is the reason why he praised what Mary did to him than Martha who prepared everything for their meal when he visited their home once. On that ocassion Mary both as a friend and a disciple welcomed Jesus and what he stands for and represents.

Today is Monday of the Holy Week. On this day,  let us reflect on the prophetic anointing of Jesus by a woman named Mary (the sister of Martha and Lazarus who were close friends of Jesus), which foreshadowed Jesus’ imminent death, honored Him as God’s anointed, and poured out to Him love and devotion too deep for words. Her action reminds us that our journey through Holy Week is a matter of the heart.

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Luke 23:33-43 Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

Passion Sunday or popularly known as the Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week. During Holy Week, the Church celebrates the mysteries of salvation accomplished by Christ in the last days of his life on earth, beginning with his messianic entrance into Jerusalem and followed by his suffering and death on the cross.

Jesus entered the gates of Jerusalem to the sound of great rejoicing and triumphal acclamation. Crowds greet him with palm branches and shouts of “Hosanna,” the battle cry of nationalistic Zealots, which means”save us, we pray” from the dominion and oppression of the Roman empire.  Five days after, however, Jesus was crucified on the cross.

At the beginning of his last week, Jesus was greeted in Jerusalem as a heroic savior, someone to free the Jews from Roman authority. By the end of the week, Jesus was no longer seen as a hero. He was even betrayed by Judas, the treasurer of the apostles, for thirty shekels of silver which is the monetary worth of a slave. Denied thrice by Peter, whom he has chosen to be the head of the apostles. Abandoned by the other apostles except John. Demanded to be crucified by the same people who shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” [Mt. 21:9]. Lastly, “rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes,” who handed him to the Gentiles to be mocked, scourged and crucified (see Lk 24:26-27. 44-45; Mk 8:31; Mt 20:19.) as he prophesied earlier.

Jesus’ violent death was not the result of chance in an unfortunate coincidence of circumstances, but is part of the mystery of God’s plan, as St. Peter explains to the Jews of Jerusalem in his first sermon on Pentecost: “This Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Act 2:23). This biblical language does not mean that those who handed him over were passive players in a scenario written in advance by God (cf. Acts 3:13, CCC 599).

For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness (cf. Mt 26:54; Jn 18:36; 19:11; Acts 3:17-18). The Scriptures had foretold this divine plan of salvation through putting to death of “the righteous one, my Servant” as a mystery of universal redemption, that is, as the ransom that would free men from the slavery of sin (Is 53:11; cf. 53:12; Jn 8:34-36; Acts 3:14). Hence, Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.

The story of the passion of Christ is the story of God’s faithfulness to His people and their salvation and man’s unfaithfulness, sinfulness and wickedness to God and to one another. God remains faithful and true to his promise of salvation in Christ despite of our unfaithfulness, sinfulness, and wickedness. Instead of condemning us to death and hell he continues to call us to repentance, conversion, reconciliation and offering for “Yahweh is a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity, …forgiving wickedness, crime and sin” (Ex 34:6-7). Our Lord does not seek the sinner’s death but his conversion, and his life (cf. Ezekiel 33:11).

Faithful to the saving mission he received from God the Father, Jesus “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” [Phil. 2:8] In His Divine incarnation, He humbled Himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  Jesus did not empty Himself of His Divinity but He voluntarily gave up the Divine glory to which He was entitled, a glory that would be restored at His exaltation. [Jn. 17:5; Mt. 17:1-8] Having humbled Himself, even unto death, God exalted Jesus, giving Him the Name that is above every name. [Phil. 2:9; Eph. 1:21; Heb. 1:4; 1 Pet. 3:22] That at the Name of Jesus, in an act of religious adoration, every knee should bend, in Heaven and on earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Phil. 2:10-11; 1 Cor. 12:3; Rom. 10:9; Col. 2:6]

What, then, should be our response  to God’s faithful and saving love for us? Our response should be:

First, we must have faith in Jesus Christ and to the One who sent him for us and for our salvation. As John says, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn 17:3). Besides, “Without faith it is impossible to please [God]” (Hebrews 11:6).

Second, we must be faithful to the ever faithful God. Let us be truly sorry and turn away from sins and, be reconciled with God and with one another and be faithful to Jesus and his Gospel. I do not know if you still remember that on the first day of Lent, that is, Ash Wednesday, the priest ,while putting ashes on our foreheads, said to us: “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”

What does faithfulness to God mean? What are the dimension of this faithfulness?

The first dimension is called search. To seek God and His saving will or plan for us and for the world. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.

The second dimension of faithfulness is called reception, acceptance. Let it be done, I am ready, I accept: this is the crucial moment of faithfulness, the moment in which man perceives that he will never completely understand the “how”; that there are in God’s plan more areas of mystery than of clarity; that, however he may try, he will never succeed in understanding it completely. It is then that man accepts the mystery, gives it a place in his heart, just as “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19; cf. Lk 3:15). It is the moment when man abandons himself to the mystery, not with the resignation of one who capitulates before an enigma or an absurdity, but rather with the availability of one who opens up to be inhabited by something – by Someone! – greater than his own heart. This acceptance takes place, in short, through faith, which is the adherence of the whole being to the mystery that is revealed.

The third dimension of faithfulness is consistency, To live in accordance with what-one believes. To adapt one’s own life to the object of one’s adherence. To accept misunderstandings, persecutions, rather than a break between what one practices and what one believes: this is consistency. Here is, perhaps, the deepest core of faithfulness.

But all faithfulness must pass the most exacting test: that of duration. Therefore the fourth dimension of faithfulness is constancy. It is easy to be consistent for a day or two. It is difficult and important to be consistent for one’s whole life. It is easy to be consistent in the hour of enthusiasm, it is difficult to be so in the hour of tribulation. And only a consistency that lasts through out the whole of life, can be called faithfulness.  Mary’s “fiat” in the Annunciation finds its fullness in the silent “fiat’, that she repeats at the foot of the Cross. To be faithful means not betraying in the darkness what one has accepted in public.

Allow me to share a simple story of faithfulness.

Mark Hatfield tells of touring Calcutta with Mother Teresa and visiting the so-called “House of Dying,” where sick children are cared for in their last days, and the dispensary, where the poor line up by the hundreds to receive medical attention. Watching Mother Teresa minister to these people, feeding and nursing those left by others to die, Hatfield was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the suffering she and her co-workers face daily. “How can you bear the load without being crushed by it?” he asked. Mother Teresa replied, “My dear Senator, I am not called to be successful, I am called to be faithful.”

God holds us, His children, to the highest standards of holiness and faithfulness (Mt 5:20). Yet God pours out unending supplies of grace so that we can repent and not only meet His standards, but flourish and grow in holiness (Eph 1:3).

Be faithful to God. Be faithful to his commandments. Be faithful to your vocation. Be faithful to your work, duties and responsibilities. Be faithful to your baptismal promises. Be faithful to your marital vows and promises. Be faithful to the deepest longing of your heart.

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