BILINGUAL REFLECTIONS FOR SUNDAY
PALM SUNDAY (A) Matthew 26:14- 27:66. April 09, 2017
HOLY THURSDAY, GOOD FRIDAY, EASTER VIGIL
“Christ became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name”
Last year on Palm Sunday, like today, on Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, reading the Gospel of the Lord´s entrance into Jerusalem, outside the church; there was a little boy accompanied by his mom and dad, and listening carefully to the readings. I could overhear when he asked his mom, “What does it mean, Hosanna to the Son of David?” The mother whispered something that I could not hear, but the child seemed to be satisfied. The same family was just on the first pew for the rest of the liturgy. During the reading of the Passion of the Lord, when Pilate asked the crowd what to do with Jesus, they answered twice, “Crucify him. Crucify him.” The child this time turned to his dad and asked, “Why do they want to kill him?” The man softly spoke something.” The boy looked very surprised. What were important at that moment were not the parents´ answers, but the child´s inquiries. At the end of the Mass I stop to say good-bye to people and I told the child and his parents, do not forget to hear the rest of the story the coming Saturday evening, at the Easter Vigil.
The reading of the account of the Passion tells the story not only for today, but for the whole Holy Week; it shows us the bad news of desertion, rejection, cruelty of people around Jesus, even of his own followers. But with a serious and prayerful reading of the Holy Scripture during this week we come to understand that it was the way Jesus entered into his glory. His glory and his passion cannot be separated.
In the Gospel we proclaim today and all over the week we hear bad news of hatred, nevertheless the emphasis is not on those who executed Jesus; the emphasis is on the courage, forgiveness, fidelity and gentleness of the Good Shepherd who gave up his life for the sheep.
Once, a young gird asked me at the end of the Good Friday liturgy, why with so much cruelty, we do not call it “Bad Friday”, instead, “Good Friday.” I replied, “What makes it good is the love of Jesus, no the evil doers.” More than remembering his suffering, we celebrate his love. Superficially it may seem as it was pain and defeat what Jesus came to accomplish; it is Jesus´ victory what we should remember and celebrate; his triumph of love over hatred, of good over evil, of forgiveness over bitterness, of light over darkness, and of empty sepulcher over death.
Especially during this week we are aware of Jesus´ suffering and we appreciate it. Yet in some way his suffering would have been useless if he had not undergone it with so a great love. It is not Jesus´ suffering alone that has saved the world but his love. To love suffering for the sake of suffering is masochism. Science and technology try hard to make life easier and to relieve pain.
However we are able to suffer for someone or something we love. Suffering makes sense when we love. No doubt love carries pain, but it also leads to joyfulness. Jesus does not save us through suffering but through love, even if love involves affliction. God´s commandment is love not suffering.
To the doubts of the child on Palm Sunday we realize that we humans sometimes are praised, yet other times are rejected. But we are not alone in our sufferings. Jesus is with us and sympathizes with us, since he endured all kind of sorrows: violence, bullying, psychological and physical terrorism, kidnapping, imprisonment, public degradation, torture, and even the death penalty. The passion of Jesus gives us courage, and hope in our own suffering; and that means we are not alone.
EASTER TRIDUUM (A)
HOLY THURSDAY: THE LORD´S SUPPER. April 13, 14, 15, 2017
“The Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, This is my body that is for you. In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Have you ever imagined our faith and our worship without the Eucharist? And this would mean a faith and reunion without even Sunday Mass. For us the Eucharist is not only the distinctive of our Christian Catholic celebration but the center of our worship. There is no need to compare ourselves with other Christian denominations or faiths, but the words of the Gospel and of the first Letter of Paul to the Corinthians would never had the same sense when they tell us, “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, This is my body that is for you. In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Tonight is the prologue to the betrayal in the garden with the kiss of Judas, and the pain of the cross, but also the empty tomb. Tonight the symbols of Jesus´ love go beyond words: the Eucharist, the priesthood, and the commandment of love.
The Israelites celebrate their freedom from Egypt, and the renewal of the alliance. Paul teaches us that Christ´s Passover is our new covenant in his blood. At the end of the last supper Jesus assures us of his Eucharistic presence, and for this he institutes the Christian priesthood; in this way there is no Eucharist without priesthood, and there is no priesthood without Eucharist. The priest partakes in Christ´s eternal priesthood, responding to his call of service of the only high priest and his people.
The Gospel brings to mind Jesus´ washing of his apostles´ feet, job at that time done only by a servant. This gesture gives meaning to the entire Church´s vocation of humble service.
GOOD FRIDAY: THE PASSION OF THE LORD
The ancient name given to this day, recalls me the question once asked for a young girl at the end of service, “After so much suffering and cruelty endured by Jesus, why instead of calling this day, Bad Friday, we still say, Good Friday?” Well, what makes this day good and holy is not the action of the evildoers, but the love of Jesus.
The scriptural readings focus on the sufferings of Jesus. The forth song of the servant an image of Christ, describes the servant´s manner, ruthlessly treated, and he remains silent. But his torment suffered on behalf of his people, is redemptive for their sins. The Letter to the Hebrews also adds, “He learned obedience through what he suffered, and (…) became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”
In the Passion account written by John, we learn that in the midst of his sufferings, Jesus freely offers his life in obedience to the Father; he assertively asks twice his enemies, “Whom are you looking for?” and when they responds, “Jesus of Nazareth,” he says to them, “I AM.” At the last supper he had told Judas his traitor to carry out his plot quickly. Jesus answers their questions to the high priest, and to Pilate. To the soldier who strikes him, he answers, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” At the very end of his life, he assigns the beloved disciple to his Mother Mary, the figure of Church. Being in charge of his life to the last moment, and declaring that all have being accomplished, he declares, “It is finished,” and he puts his life in the hands of his Heavenly Father.
In a very ancient homily in the Liturgy of the Hours, for Holy Saturday, we find a phrase that can give the meaning of this holy day: “There is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness.” It does not mean that today is a day of emptiness in a sense of prayer and spiritual reading. There is certainly no celebration of the Eucharist, but we could keep it as possible as a day of quiet, a day of silence, reading, and rest, since everything moves toward the celebration of the great Easter Vigil, with the Liturgy of the Light, the Liturgy of the Word, the Baptismal Liturgy, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Holy Saturday is a quiet time of reflection, a break in our ordinary busy life. It is a time of expectation for tonight Easter glory and triumph of the Resurrection of the Lord. “Do not be afraid! I know you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.”