Friday, 11 April 2014

HOLY WEEK - Beginining on Palm Sunday and Ending with Christ's Resurrection

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Holy Week

Palm Sunday

Jesus Triumphant  Entry into Jerusalem

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come!

Hosanna in the highest!"

Mark Chapter 11

Pope Benedict's Palm Sunday Homily

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Palm Sunday is the great doorway leading into Holy Week, the week when the Lord Jesus makes his way towards the culmination of his earthly existence. He goes up to Jerusalem in order to fulfill the Scriptures and to be nailed to the wood of the Cross, the throne from which he will reign for ever, drawing to himself humanity of every age and offering to all the gift of redemption. We know from the Gospels that Jesus had set out towards Jerusalem in company with the Twelve, and that little by little a growing crowd of pilgrims had joined them. Saint Mark tells us that as they were leaving Jericho, there was a "great multitude" following Jesus (cf. 10:46).

On the final stage of the journey, a particular event stands out, one which heightens the sense of expectation of what is about to unfold and focuses attention even more sharply upon Jesus. Along the way, as they were leaving Jericho, a blind man was sitting begging, Bartimaeus by name. As soon as he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing, he began to cry out: "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" (Mk 10:47). People tried to silence him, but to no avail; until Jesus had them call him over and invited him to approach. "What do you want me to do for you?", he asked. And the reply: "Master, let me receive my sight" (v. 51). Jesus said: "Go your way, your faith has made you well." Bartimaeus regained his sight and began to follow Jesus along the way (cf. v. 52). And so it was that, after this miraculous sign, accompanied by the cry "Son of David", a tremor of Messianic hope spread through the crowd, causing many of them to ask: this Jesus, going ahead of us towards Jerusalem, could he be the Messiah, the new David? And as he was about to enter the Holy City, had the moment come when God would finally restore the Davidic kingdom?

The preparations made by Jesus, with the help of his disciples, serve to increase this hope. As we heard in today’s Gospel (cf. Mk 11:1-10), Jesus arrives in Jerusalem from Bethphage and the Mount of Olives, that is, the route by which the Messiah was supposed to come. From there, he sent two disciples ahead of him, telling them to bring him a young donkey that they would find along the way. They did indeed find the donkey, they untied it and brought it to Jesus. At this point, the spirits of the disciples and of the other pilgrims were swept up with excitement: they took their coats and placed them on the colt; others spread them out on the street in Jesus’ path as he approached, riding on the donkey. Then they cut branches from the trees and began to shout phrases from Psalm 118, ancient pilgrim blessings, which in that setting took on the character of messianic proclamation: "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!" (v. 9-10). This festive acclamation, reported by all four evangelists, is a cry of blessing, a hymn of exultation: it expresses the unanimous conviction that, in Jesus, God has visited his people and the longed-for Messiah has finally come. And everyone is there, growing in expectation of the work that Christ will accomplish once he has entered the city.

But what is the content, the inner resonance of this cry of jubilation? The answer is found throughout the Scripture, which reminds us that the Messiah fulfills the promise of God’s blessing, God’s original promise to Abraham, father of all believers: "I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you ... and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves" (Gen 12:2-3). It is the promise that Israel had always kept alive in prayer, especially the prayer of the Psalms. Hence he whom the crowd acclaims as the blessed one is also he in whom the whole of humanity will be blessed. Thus, in the light of Christ, humanity sees itself profoundly united and, as it were, enfolded within the cloak of divine blessing, a blessing that permeates, sustains, redeems and sanctifies all things...."

Pope Benedict's Homily Full Text

Monday of Holy Week

Mary Anointing Jesus’ Feet

Today's Readings -   

Mary of Bethany
The impulsive, loving gesture done for Jesus by his close friend Mary of Bethany, is so inspirational that it’s a wonder the Church has not made more of it in our liturgy. Mary may not yet have seen Jesus in the full light of prophecy, as “a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners who sit in darkness” (1st Reading), or indeed as the world’s only Saviour, but she knew and loved him as a man of God, a fearless preacher of truth, love and fairness, and an extraordinary, compassionate healer of many, including herself. For this reason, she honoured and loved him and dared to show her love by that extravagant gesture of anointing him with perfumed oil, to which Judas so coldly objected. Rising to her defence, Jesus interprets her action as a preliminary anointing for his burial. “She bought it for the day of my burial.” A little earlier, the Jewish high priest Caiaphas has declared that “One man must die for the nation,” and a few verses later Jesus will speak of the need for the seed to die, in order to bear much fruit (Jn 12:24), and of his imminent “Lifting Up” so that he can draw all people to himself (12:32). Mary’s impulsive act of loving generosity is thus given the status of a prophecy, preparing for his sacrificial death.

How strange that this iconic story is so relatively little known, and that it never received sacramental stature in the Church. Vatican teaching has been adamant that whatever kind of quasi-ministry may be implied in this act of anointing by Mary of Bethany, or in Mary Magdalene’s later mission of announcing that Jesus was truly risen, does not constitute a basis for women to be ordained to priesthood. Perhaps that’s why the Lord’s apparently solemn and clear directive, in the parallel passage about Jesus being anointed by an unnamed woman in Bethany), that “Wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done shall be told, in memory of her” (Mt 26:13 is so little observed. Gospel texts such as these would seem to call us to reconsider what Jesus meant as ministry within his community, nothing to do with status and with power, and all to do with actual loving service.
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Tuesday of Holy Week

Jesus warns of betrayals; but if they remain faithful, 
they will follow him “hereafter”.

 Today's Readings

Success out of failure

For the first followers of Jesus, his condemnation and brutal execution must surely have seemed like total failure. To those who stood at a distance watching him die on the cross (Mk 15:40) and the others who had fled for safety but who heard of the crucifixion later that evening, it seemed like the end of an inspiring movement that had first filled them with hope and enthusiasm but now seemed only a great delusion. With the death of Jesus, all their hopes based on him as their leader lay in ruins. Whatever predictions he had made about his suffering and subsequent rising had not been taken seriously, either by Peter or the others (Mk 8:32).

Only later, after their glimmering, stuttering visions of his risen presence, did they get to reflecting seriously on Our Lord’s predictions. In this they were greatly helped by some studious member of their group who first got the insight that all Jesus’ sufferings were foretold in prophecy; and most clearly in the Isaiah poems about God’s loving Servant. It suddenly dawned on the early Christians that words first spoken about the whole people of Israel now found their full meaning in Jesus. In him God’s message was fulfilled, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” Our Lord’s apparently futile attempt to renew and purify his Jewish people would not end with the crucifixion. Through this loving outpouring of his life, he achieved more than to “raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel.” It’s fruit was exactly what, in Saint John’s account, it was meant to be: for the sake of people everywhere (“I will draw all people to myself!”) The early church saw in Jesus the fulfilment of Isaiah 49:6, “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

In his Last Supper story, John interweaves the two strands: apparent failure and ultimate triumph. Even among the Twelve, Jesus has to contend with one who will betray him, another who will deny him, and their general incomprehension of what he wishes to tell them on the eve of his Passion. And still the Evangelist is convinced that Jesus himself faced this supreme trial with a firm hope that through the willing acceptance of the Cross, “God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.” This is also our hope, as a Christian community gathered around his memory, in loving prayer, this Holy Week.
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Wednesday of Holy Week

“Spy Sunday”

Christ knows that Judas Iscariot will betray him, 
yet lets him share in the Passover Meal; 
at least in the first part of it

Today's Readings

Why “Spy Wednesday”? 

This is “Spy Wednesday”, so called from the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, one of his own chose inner circle of Twelve. Poor Judas was doubtless talented, probably very astute, and had in his youth some spark of idealism; and yet when it came to the test he proved treacherous, unreliable, profoundly untrustworthy. The Gospels offer a few clues that may suggest what led the misguided Apostle towards that ultimate act of treachery: selling Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. We might even feel a twinge of pity for Judas, about whom Jesus spoke those chilling words, “It would have been better for that man not to have been born!” But rather than spend time trying to explain or analyse the level Judas’ guilt, or trying to figure out his mixed motivations, it would be more fruitful to examine some ways in which we ourselves are untrustworthy and in need of the grace of repentance. The story of Judas is a sobering lesson for us all. “There but for the grace of God go I!” we may well say.

It is also a special day to pray for all those who have tragically taken their own lives, in the depths of their despair; and to pray for grace, compassion and friendship for any who are tempted to suicide. We could show some practical solidarity with the Samaritans who offer counselling to people in deep trouble, and even invest more of our time in being good listeners, where people can find help in time of trouble. On the example of Jesus, each of us could ask the Lord God to help us deepen our discipleship, and to grant us the gift of encouragement, “that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.”
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Holy Thursday - Good Friday - Holy Saturday
The Easter Triduum (sometimes also referred to as the Paschal Triduum) is the proper name for the liturgical season that concludes Lent and introduces us to the joy of the Easter season. Starting with the Mass of the Lord's Supper on the evening of Holy Thursday, continuing through the Good Friday service and Holy Saturday, and concluding with vespers (evening prayer) on Easter Sunday, the Easter Triduum marks the most significant events of Holy Week (also known as Passiontide).

The Easter Triduum is often commonly referred to simply as the Triduum (with a capital T). However, a triduum is simply any three-day period of prayer, recalling the three days that Christ spent in the tomb.

Encompassing the final three days of the discipline of Lent, the Easter Triduum has traditionally been observed with even stricter fasting and abstinence, as well as prayer and almsgiving. Since 1956, however, the Paschal Triduum has been regarded as its own liturgical season, and thus liturgically Lent ends before the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday.
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Holy Thursday

The example of Jesus washing his followers’ feet 
shows us how Christians should live

 Today's Readings

How to join in the Last Supper

When Jesus says, “Do this in memory of me!” clearly he means us to understand what “This” was and is. What exactly had he in mind through the symbols of the broken bread and the shared cup of wine? We need to get behind the formal Catechism answer about the “holy sacrifice of the Mass”, and think anew about the meaning of that paschal meal. The Last Supper was celebrated in the context of the Jewish Passover meal and tonight’s first reading explains the meaning of this feast. In words and symbols it recalled the greatest saving act of God in the Old Testament, the exodus from Egypt, setting God’s people free from slavery. It opens us up to the idea that God enters our lives to save us and set us free from whatever oppresses us. So “opened up,” we are prepared for the good news that the definitive saving work of God is done in and by Jesus Christ.

We reflect this evening on what St John calls the “hour” of Jesus, the high point of his saving work, the new exodus, his passing from this world to the Father through which he brought into being a new relationship between God and us human beings. Sharing in this new exodus is our ultimate liberation, freeing us from enslavement to material things and petty self-interest and setting us free to love generously — the very purpose for which we were originally created in the image of God.

Through his love-without-limit, in his own utterly unselfish heart Jesus overcame all human selfishness and with it, human sin. Precisely this love, which the Father wants us all to have and to share, is the very heart of Jesus’ exodus. It is just this self-giving kind of love which Jesus wishes to be kept alive among us. With his disciples in the Last Supper he anticipated his death for us on the cross, giving himself in the sacramental symbols of bread and wine. From then on the celebration of our Eucharist is the living memorial through which we are joined to Our Lord’s saving act of love. It is our way to share in the new exodus, to be freed from the isolation of self-concern so that they become fully human as God wants us to be.

St John teaches this in his own unique way. We are united with Jesus by letting him wash our feet, doing for us his great act of loving service. Having accepted the gift we must embrace it as a value to be effective in our lives. What Jesus does for us is an example of how we are to live: in some real sense, like Jesus, we must live “for” service of God and others. Jesus sees a close link between him washing their feet and them going on to wash the feet of others in the future. If the Eucharist is the place where the Lord washes our feet, daily life is the place where we ought to wash the feet of others. Eucharist leads to life leads to Eucharist. True Eucharist piety must lead to service of others. Jesus who broke the bread of the Eucharist also washed the feet of his disciples. We must follow his example both at the altar of the Eucharist and at the altar of life.

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With dignity and strength, 
Jesus walks along the royal road to Calvary.
 St John shows how everything happened to 
fulfill God’s saving plan for our redemption

Today's Readings

All Done, Completed, Fulfilled

Were you there when they crucified my Lord? .. In the words of that haunting song, sometimes it does indeed cause me to tremble… when I hear those words from the cross, “It is Consummated!” Consummated — completed — achieved to the last degree — engraved forever on the memory of mankind. “I have come to seek and to save what was lost… The Son of Man came, not to be served but to serve.” His life was one long act of loving service, and now it ends on a rocky hill outside Jerusalem’s walls, with a final act of total self-surrender to the Father, on our behalf. Nothing like it was ever accomplished before, and its fruits go on forever.

The marvel is that, in another sense, this hour of his death remains powerfully alive in the hearts of all who trust in him — this point of total, utter contact between us and almighty God. The utterly self-giving, loving, loyal spirit of Jesus at the point of leaving this world is shared and handed on. This is seen most clearly in the fervour of the saints, in men like Francis of Assisi, who bore on his body the stigmata of Jesus, or Paul of the Cross, who found in Christ crucified a vast sea of divine love, or Charles of Mount Argus, devoted to serving all who were troubled and sick, to share with them the love of Christ, or Mother Teresa, whose heart was so imprinted by the love of Jesus that she inspired many others to serve him in the poorest of the poor.

It is consummated — because by his cross, He draws us all into contemplation of the grace and mercy of God in our lives in so many circumstances. As Joseph Mary Plunkett put it in a poem written in 1916,

    I see His Blood Upon the Rose

    I see his blood upon the rose

    And in the stars the glory of his eyes,

    His body gleams amid eternal snows,

    His tears fall from the skies.

He shows us a new way to look at our lives, to appreciate God’s presence with us every step of the way, to see in all of nature the signs of a loving providence that is taking care of us:

    I see his face in every flower;

    The thunder and the singing of the birds

    Are but his voice-and carven by his power

    Rocks are his written words.

Above all, his arms are forever reaching out to save and bless those who turn to him, wherever we are on life’s journey. Young or old, married or single, rich or poor, woman or man, Irish, Polish, Chinese or South African — all of us are there beneath his saving cross, and for us a stream of blessing flows out, to lead us to eternal life.

    All pathways by his feet are worn,

    His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,

    His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,

    His cross is every tree.

Yet in another sense the wonderful saving work of Jesus is not completed until it is recognised, welcomed and absorbed by each of his faithful followers… and until we in turn bring the spirit of his boundless compassion to bear in our world, reaching out as he did to bring our fellow human beings – and especially those most in need – into the warmth of God’s family circle.

Taken from

Today's Readings

From an Easter homily by Melito of Sardis, bishop (Easter praise of Christ, for use on Holy Saturday)

We should understand, beloved, that the paschal mystery is at once old and new, transitory and eternal, corruptible and incorruptible, mortal and immortal. In terms of the Law it is old, in terms of the Word it is new. In its figure it is passing, in its grace it is eternal. It is corruptible in the sacrifice of the lamb, incorruptible in the eternal life of the Lord. It is mortal in his burial in the earth, immortal in his resurrection from the dead.

The Law indeed is old, but the Word is new. The type is transitory, but grace is eternal. The lamb was corruptible, but the Lord is incorruptible. He was slain as a lamb; he rose again as God. He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, yet he was not a sheep. He was silent as a lamb, yet he was not a lamb. The type has passed away; the reality has come. The lamb gives place to God, the sheep gives place to a man, and the man is Christ, who fills the whole of creation. The sacrifice of the lamb, the celebration of the Passover, and the prescriptions of the Law have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Under the old Law, and still more under the new dispensation, everything pointed toward him.

Both the Law and the Word came forth from Zion and Jerusalem, but now the Law has given place to the Word, the old to the new. The commandment has become grace, the type a reality. The lamb has become a Son, the sheep a man, and man, God.

The Lord, though he was God, became man. He suffered for the sake of those who suffer, he was bound for those in bonds, condemned for the guilty, buried for those who lie in the grave; but he rose from the dead, and cried aloud: Who will contend with me? Let him confront me. I have freed the condemned, brought the dead back to life, raised men from their graves. Who has anything to say against me? I, he said, am the Christ; I have destroyed death, triumphed over the enemy, trampled hell underfoot, bound the strong one, and taken men up to the heights of heaven: I am the Christ.

Come, then, all you nations, receive forgiveness for the sins that defile you. I am your forgiveness. I am the Passover that brings salvation. I am the lamb who was immolated for you. I am your ransom, your life, your resurrection, your light, I am your salvation and your king. I will bring you to the heights of heaven. With my own right hand I will raise you up, and I will show you the eternal Father.

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Easter Sunday

He is Risen! Alleluia!!

Today's Readings


Easter Joy
 My brothers and sisters in Christ, may the joy and peace of the Lord Jesus fill all your hearts on this beautiful Easter Sunday that commemorates the glorious Ressurection of the Lord Jesus.

    As many of you are aware, Easter is the principal feast of the liturgical year. Pope Leo I called it the greatest feast (festum festorum), and said that Christmas was celebrated only in preparation for Easter.

    You may wonder why Easter is the greatest of all feasts celebrated during the liturgical year? It is because it commemorates the marvellous Resurrection of the Lord Jesus on the first day of the week. Based on the testimonies of "over five hundreds" [1 Cor. 15:5-8] believers who have witnessed the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, it cannot be denied that "the Lord has risen indeed." [Lk. 24:34]

    On the Feast of Easter, we commemorate the most important turning point in the history of mankind. We honour the fulfillment of the "blessed hope" of every living being, "the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ." [Tit. 2:13] At that moment, when the fullness of time had arrived, all the faithful believers of the past, present, and future, received the free gift of salvation through the grace of God.

    In order to appreciate the glorious Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, we have to consider what the outcome would have been if there had been no resurrection. Saint Paul summarizes this subject in the following words:

        "Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ - whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied." [1 Cor. 12-9]

        "But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ." [1 Cor. 20-2]

    In fact, Christ has been raised from the dead! He was not only raised from the dead to prove to us that He is God; He was raised to prove to us that "we will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: 'Death has been swallowed up in victory.' 'Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?'" [1 Cor. 15:52-5; Is. 25:8]

    My brothers and sisters, as we have heard from the Second Reading of the Letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians, because we have been raised with Christ, we should seek the things that are from above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. We should set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For we have died in Christ, and our new life is hidden with Christ in God.

    For us Christians, Easter Sunday is a day of joy. It is a day of joy because of the new life that we have received in Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism. It is a day of joy because we have new brothers and sisters in Christ who have come home by receiving the Sacrament of Baptism. It is a day of joy because it is the time of the year when many, after having been absent for some time, return to Jesus through the Sacraments of Confession and the Holy Eucharist. It is a day of joy when in the perfect unity of the Mystical Body of Christ, all the saints and angels of Heaven rejoice with us because "The Lord has risen indeed." [Lk. 24:34]

    On this beautiful Easter Sunday, our joy in Christ is manifested many ways. It is manifested through our presence at the celebration of the Holy Mass during which time, with all our hearts, we praise our Lord Jesus Christ in thanksgiving. It is manifested in the warmth of the homes where family members and friends have been invited to a great feast of excellent foods. It is manifested in the laughter of the little children who will be provided with the opportunity to play games with their parents, be it searching for coloured eggs or other games. For some children, this special relationship with their parents is a rare opportunity because sometimes during the year, we forget to make ourselves little so we can share in the joy of our little ones.

    In the midst of all this outward joy that we are celebrating, let us not forget those who's joy is inward. There are those who are sick in the hospital, the prisoners who have been forgotten, those who's countries have been torn apart by warfare, the seniors who live in solitude, all those who share in our joy in their own way. Our Lord is also their Lord. Inwardly, they also share in the joy of knowing that the Lord has indeed risen.

    My brothers and sisters in Christ, the glorious Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, witnessed by hundreds in the early days of the Church, is our proof that one day we will all be united as one eternal family. This life is temporary. What awaits us is so much better and greater. Until we reach that day, let us live the joy of Easter with all our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us make a special effort to reach out to those who do not share in our joy and especially those who have been forgotten so they may manifest their joy outwardly as we are doing today. As of today, may you all go forth in the Spirit of Christ and bring the joy of the Lord to all those who touch your lives!
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