Posts Tagged ‘Holy Week’

Easter Is Not The End Point of Holy Week, But The Beginning a Deeper Understanding of Our Spiritual Life Leading Us Into Eternity

March 30, 2016


Many have just finished celebrating Easter, which is often seen as the end point of Lent and Holy Week.

If we end Easter just with chocolate eggs and good memories, we may have missed the point.

Actually, one might hope that the end point of Lent, Holy Week and Easter is a better way of living that leads us toward eternal life.

Karl Rahner in his classic,  “On The Theology of Death,” writes:

The real liberty in the courage  to die has to be a submissive liberty, a liberty which says “yes” not only to death itself, but also to its meaning, [and] to the meaning of human existence.  Man should not hurry towards his death as toward the finite end of his existence, but as towards an infinite end.  Not towards death which is the consummation of vacuity, a final emptying of life into meaninglessness, but toward a death which is the valid fulfilment of his existence. This, however, can be only done in faith. The eternally valid fulfilment in death cannot be grasped by mortal men, who is to posit death freely, as something that is simply there; for death as the pitch of evanescence, of all that is transitory, which is all that is perceptable in it, does not fulfil existence but seems finally to annihilate it.

What this means to me, as I grow older, is that death gets closer each day. And, as Jesus and others often say in the gospels, “Do Not Be Afraid.”

So after experiencing again Lent, Holy Week, the passion and suffering of Christ and the fact of Resurrection, I (WE) are challenged anew each year to contemplate our own readiness to meet The Lord On His Terms. Without fear. In fact, if we obey the commandments, listen to The Word of God, follow the life Jesus modeled for us, eat his body and drink his blood as he commanded, whenever death comes we will be ready. And we’ll be joyfully ready — despite the pain and suffering which often becomes a part of the human end of us.

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom


The essay below “On the Theology of Death” further maps out the thought process Karl Rahner, a Jesuit priest, left for us to consider.


“On the Theology of Death”

I found the essay, “On the Theology of Death” by Karl Rahner at a garage sale last weekend, where it was given to me, gratis. I couldn’t resist the title, even though Rahner—though admittedly a brilliant theologian—was a peritas at Vatican II (that confusing but valid, non-dogmatic council of policies; instead of formulating doctrine and house-cleaning, as most councils are intended to do, VII opened the Church’s windows and invited the world to dirty the house some more). Rahner is a golden-boy of the Catholic left. He was admonished by the Vatican to quit advocating for interfaith services. So, I entered this book with some trepidation, even though the title was alluring enough for me, and, as an ex-firefighter, who used to deal with death on a daily basis, I felt compelled to read it.

At the outset, before looking at this book, let’s make very plain the concept of death, since many in our culture seem to forget about its true reality. We live in a materialistic age where matter becomes more significant to the average person than the maker. We all fancy nice cars and i-phones, even while the average person in the world lives in abject poverty. Christ said, “blessed are the poor.” Last Sunday’s reading was on-point, Luke 12: 16 – 21:

The land of a certain rich man brought forth plenty of fruits. 17 And he thought within himself, saying: What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? 18 And he said: This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and will build greater; and into them will I gather all things that are grown to me, and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul: Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years take thy rest; eat, drink, make good cheer. 20 But God said to him: Thou fool, this night do they require thy soul of thee: and whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?

If any of us love this life, we will “lose it.”

In the context of the modern world, man forgets about his final end. Let’s realign ourselves: Everyone reading this shall die. We all will end in the grave; our bodies will corrupt until they become bones or dust, until the general resurrection at the end of time, which is a dogma of our faith. Your soul will leave your body, our God will draw your soul. Your body will corrupt. Your skin will “leather”, your eyes will shrink, first into pea pods, but then they will crumble. Your hair will matte, and begin to fall out, until all falls away. Your skeleton will remain for a time longer, as it is of stronger substance, but it too will crumble and fall away. Only your soul will live on, and that is for eternity. Eternity is a long, long time. Imagine all of the particles of sand on all of the sea shores on earth, trillions of pieces of sand, to say the least, and pretend that each piece of sand equals a billion years, and pretend that you spend this amount of time in eternity. That, of course, does not equal even one day of your life in eternity; not even one second of eternity’s time, but of course God is outside of time.

I am not illustrating anything new here–even a child can understand that point—but meditating upon this is beneficial in the context of situating our souls to face eternity. Death is the beginning of our eternity either in union or separated from God.

Like I said, I approached Rahner’s essay with great caution. Although Rahner flirts with the heterodox notion that God might have saved humanity in a perfectly non-violent, unbloody, manner, he nevertheless comes to the Orthodox conclusion that Christ’s bloody Sacrifice was not only salvific, but that God could not have saved us by any other means:

“His life redeems, inasmuch as his death is axiologically present in his entire life. And in so far as any moral act of man is to be considered as a disposing over his entire person with regard to his interior destiny, and in so far as such a disposition receives its final character only in death, it is clear (on the supposition that Christ assumed the flesh of sin and death) that we cannot really say that Christ could have redeemed us through any other moral act than his death, even had God been disposed to accept some other act.” (Herder, New York, 1961, pg. 63.)

Rahner is a notoriously hard read, and you can almost see him strain to say the words, but he did: even God, according to Rahner, could not have saved us through any other means then through the death of Christ, His Son, the Second Person of the Trinity. Some Christians tend to meditate exclusively on Christ risen (even some Bishops do this). It’s much “cleaner” to think of Christ this way. It’s more happy-clappy, feel-good. They think of Christ’s earthly ministry, His miracles, and on the periphery acknowledge that Christ’s blood washes away our sins. But, strangely, they steer from the Passion Narratives in the Bible, even though this is the summit, the apex of why Christ came among us. We don’t like to think of bloody death, but Christ and the martyrs teach us otherwise. Even Rahner dedicates the last forty pages or so of his essay to the Christian martyrs, because they were the perfect embodiment of what it means to be Christian: giving up one’s life on earth in a Christ-like sacrifice:

“[A] martyr is one who freely accepting his death in faith, is killed by powers inimical to Christ, and bears a noble testimony as a ‘witness’ to faith in Jesus Christ…Martyrdom has to do with death. In order to understand martyrdom, death must be understood. And so the mystery of death enters into martyrdom, and makes martyrdom itself a mystery. One only dares approach the subject of death hesitantly. For the hidden incomprehensibility of death is also concealed from the average everyday mind, by the fact that death happens daily, and the dullard thinks that what happens every day must be understandable.” (pg. 82-83).

But the average Christian must, too, die in Christ to attain everlasting life. Every action that we make has everlasting impart:

“But the affirmation of faith concerning the definitive ending by death of the state of pilgrimage means, as well as the survival of man’s conscious personal existence, that the fundamental moral decision made by man in the mundane temporality of his bodily existence, is rendered definite and final by death. This doctrine of the faith involves taking this earthly life with radical seriousness. It is truly historical, this is, unique, unrepeatable, of inalienable and irrevocable significance.” (pt. 27.)

Rahner doesn’t shrink from the concept of original sin; what else explains the often absurd dimension of sin and suffering on earth?

“[D]eath is a visible expression of the disharmony between God and man in man’s very being which supervened at the beginning of his spiritual and moral history. Because man has lost the divine life in union with God by grace, his earthly existence also disintegrates. Man’s subjection to death is the manifestation of his disharmony with God.” (pg. 34).

“The end of man, considered only from man’s point of view, presents an inseparable and irreducible unity an ontologically dialectical opposition of elements…with no assurance that it [death] will strike him at the moment in which interiorly he has completed his life. Death is a blow of fate, a thief in the night, an emptying and reducing of man to powerlessness, in fact, the end.” (pg. 40).

“It [death] will always, therefore, include the character of a divine judgment among its notes. But it is sin that is manifested in death. The emptiness, hopelessness, the transitoriness, indeterminateness, the inextricable confusion of noblest action and most humiliating passivity, of plain meaning and ultimate ambiguity, all these characteristics of the death which we must actually die are nothing but the manifestations of sin, to which in some higher and hidden dimension these characteristics analogically belong. Because a creature belonging to God, it shrinks back, by a movement of its very essence, from this last mystery of emptiness, of finality, of nothingness, form the mystery of iniquity. Because this same creature, whether holy or sinful, is driven as long as he lives by the power of the divine life which calls him and works in him, he will always experience a mysterious horror of death, which can never be explained by himself, or from what he can observe in himself. In this horror of death, there emerges on the visible surface of human life, the horror of that death which alone is true death. If men try effectively to hide the reality of this horror from themselves by explaining it away by their manner of life, by taking refuge either in frivolity, despair or tragic heroism, then by this very act they make of it what they will not admit terrifies him in it, the beginning of eternal death. Death and man’s attitude towards it, which of course is really part of its very nature, is not abolished or extinguished by is permanently transformed only when in the light and power of Jesus Christ who died and rose again, it is seen and borne as what is can be, the darkness of that night of the Cross in which eternal life penetrated in death the very depths of the world, in order to give life to the world.” (pg. 55).

The Bible is full of passages concerning death, and the Christian’s relation to it. (Cf. Rom 1:32; 7:9-10; 6:16, 21, 23; 7:5; 8:2; James 1:15 and much of St. John, etc.) But it’s Christ’s death, and dying in Christ, which is the refuge, the final hope of the Christian:

“A Christian in the state of grace dies a different death from that of the sinner…the Council of Trent…states…that the death of the Christian in the state of grace no longer has the mark of a punishment for sin, but, like concupiscence in the justified man, has the character of a mere consequence of sin (poenalitas sed non poena)” (pg. 67).

To die in a state of grace we must frequent the Bread of Life. In John 6:54-59 Christ tells us:

Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. 55 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. 56 For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. 57 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. 58 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. 59 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He that eateth this bread, shall live for ever.

St. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 24-26:

24 And giving thanks, broke, and said: Take ye, and eat: this is my body, which shall be delivered for you: this do for the commemoration of me. 25 In like manner also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me.

Catholic priest celebrates mass at the South Cathedral in Beijing

26 For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until he come.This is why the traditional Latin Mass is so important, and has been the source and training-ground of so many Catholic Saints. In it, we “shew the death of the Lord.”

Rahner writes:

“The second sacrament which repeatedly and visibly reveals and deepens this companionship in suffering and death with our Lord, by grace throughout the whole course of the Christian life, is the sacred mystery of the Eucharist. This is the continuously renewed celebration of the death of the Lord, making that death present here and now in our lives.

In the Eucharist, according to his command, we announce his death, which is our death and our life, again and again until he comes once more and it is no longer revealed in ritual sign but in the radiance of his visibly manifested glory, that in his death our death is swallowed up by the victory of life. What is done in this mystery is the sacramental enactment of Christ’s death, and what we receive in this mystery is the grace which became ours, n his death…In this sacrifice and sacrament, not only is the mystery of the Cross brought near to us in a spatio-temporal relation, but it actually produces its effect on our own lives, drawing us into itself, subjecting us to its own unfathomable laws and communicating its strength to us. Of necessity, therefore, anyone who takes part in this mystery in divine worship, announcing in it the death of the Lord, must also announce this death in his own life, by experiencing it in himself in the reality of his life…For we must consider as the effect of this sacrament all that Scripture means by our communion in the passion and death of Christ: that we must suffer with him, in order to be glorified with him (Rom 8:17; that though participation in his passion we are conformed to his death (Phil 3:10); that he has to be glorified in our bodies in life and in death (Phil 1:20); that for Christ’s sake we are constantly delivered into the power of death (2 Cor 4:10f.); that with him who was crucified in infirmity, we also are weak (2 Cor 13:4); that it is a grace, not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for him (Phil 1:29; that only if we have died with him shall we live with him (2 Tim 2:11). We share his death because we daily celebrate and receive the sacrament of his death.” (Pg. 76-77)

I will end by quoting that beautiful passage in the Bible of the raising of the twelve year old daughter of Jairus Luke 8:41-55:

41 And behold there came a man whose name was Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at the feet of Jesus, beseeching him that he would come into his house: 42 For he had an only daughter, almost twelve years old, and she was dying. And it happened as he went, that he was thronged by the multitudes.
49 As he was yet speaking, there cometh one to the ruler of the synagogue, saying to him: Thy daughter is dead, trouble him not. 50 And Jesus hearing this word, answered the father of the maid: Fear not; believe only, and she shall be safe.

51 And when he was come to the house, he suffered not any man to go in with him, but Peter and James and John, and the father and mother of the maiden. 52 And all wept and mourned for her. But he said: Weep not; the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. 53 And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he taking her by the hand, cried out, saying: Maid, arise. 55 And her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. And he bid them give her to eat.

Good Friday: In The Philippines Some Get Nailed To The Cross To Experience The Suffering of Christ

April 3, 2015


The Associated Press

A Filipino penitent grimaces as he is nailed to the cross during Good Friday rituals on April 3, 2015 at Cutud, Pampanga province, northern Philippines. Several Filipino devotees had themselves nailed to crosses Friday to remember Jesus Christ’s suffering and death, an annual rite frowned upon by church leaders in this predominantly Roman Catholic country. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)


The Associated Press

SAN PEDRO CUTUD, Philippines — Screaming in pain, Filipino devotees had themselves nailed to wooden crosses to mimic the suffering of Jesus Christ on Good Friday in Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation.

Church leaders have spoken against the annual practice mixing Catholic devotion with folk belief, but it continues to draw big crowds, particularly in northern Pampanga province.

Painter Ruben Enaje, 54, was among half a dozen men whose hands and feet were rubbed with alcohol before locals dressed as Roman soldiers hammered sterilized nails into his flesh.

He has repeated the same act for the last 29 years as part of giving thanks after surviving a fall from a building. This year, he added a gadget— a small microphone near his mouth, although a technical glitch made it difficult to hear him utter Christ’s last words.

The reenactment of Christ’s crucifixion at a dusty mound in San Pedro Cutud village drew at least 4,000 spectators and tourists, dozens of them foreigners. Unlike in the past, organizers this year banned foreigners from being nailed to crosses to prevent the event from “becoming a circus,” said Councilor Harvey Quiwa.

After they were lowered from the crosses, medical workers carried the devotees on a stretcher and made sure there were no complications from their injuries.

“I think it takes an incredible amount of dedication and commitment to really go through something like that,” said American tourist Tracy Sengillo. “It’s really fascinating.”

Devotees undergo the crucifixions in the belief that such extreme sacrifices are a way to atone for their sins, attain miracle cures for illnesses or give thanks to God.

Similar reenactments were held in other villages around Pampanga and in other provinces, but San Pedro Cutud attracts most crowds.

Before the crucifixions, hundreds of barefoot devotees walked the streets whipping their bare backs with bamboo sticks dangling from a rope.

“I started doing this when my mother got sick, kidney problem. I vowed and prayed to God so that she could be cured,” said electrician Marvin Tao, 25, who has been a flagellant for nine years.


Associated Press writer Teresa Cerojano in Manila, Philippines, contributed to this report.


Authorities are expecting 20,000 to 60,000 people at this year’s crucifixion rites in San Pedro, Cutud.

Cutud tourists told: Pray and reflect 

By Louis Bacani ( 

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga – Don’t just watch. Pray and reflect.

That is the message of Ruben Enaje, the man who will be crucified to the cross for the 29th time today, to the spectators of the annual lenten rites in Barangay San Pedro Cutud.

Enaje hopes that the tourists won’t leave at once after the real-life cruxifixion reenactment and remember the sufferings of Christ.

He said the people should reflect and join him in prayer.

“Sana naman, hindi lang panonood yung ating pupuntahan dito. Alalahanin din po natin na yung ating pang hesus, siya ay namatay dahil sa pag-ako sa ating mga kasalanan,” Enaje told

“Sana po sa araw ng biyernes santo ngayon, gunitain natin iyon nang may pagmamahal sa ating mga kababayan,” he added.

For his “panata” this year, Enaje will be praying for world peace, for the country, for President Aquino, and for the relatives of the 44 slain Special Action Force commandos.

RELATED: The man who will be crucified for 29th time

Authorities are expecting 20,000 to 60,000 people at this year’s crucifixion rites in San Pedro, Cutud.


Reenactment of Christ’s crucifixion at a dusty mound in San Pedro Cutud drew at least 4,000 spectators and tourists, dozens of them foreigners. Jonathan Asuncion for


CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga – Signboard maker Ruben Enaje of Barangay San Pedro Cutud will be nailed to the cross for the 29th time this afternoon.

Enaje will continue reenacting the crucifixion of Christ since he still has no qualified successor.

He said portraying the Lord in the yearly Lenten rites here entails a responsibility to their community.

“Kapag gumaganap ka ng Kristo, may responsibilidad ka sa ating barangay. Kailangan ‘yung portrayal mo sa ating panginoong Hesus, kailangan hindi ka gagawa ng anumang masama sa iyong kapwa,” Enaje said in an interview.

Read more and see video:


Holy Week is about humility – there is no other way

April 2, 2015


Pope Francis leads procession of palms in St. Peter’s Square on Palm Sunday March 29, 2015. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

.- Pope Francis on Palm Sunday said that imitating the humility of Jesus is what makes Holy Week “holy,” and encouraged attendees to mimic his attitude of humiliation as the week unfolds.

Referring to the day’s second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, which recounts how Jesus “humbled himself” by taking on human form, the Pope said that “these words show us God’s way and the way of Christians: it is humility.”

Humility, he said, is “a way which constantly amazes and disturbs us: we will never get used to a humble God!”

As the Church sets out on the path of Holy Week that leads us to Easter, “we will take this path of Jesus’ own humiliation. Only in this way will this week be holy for us too!” Francis explained.

Pope Francis spoke to the thousands of pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square for his March 29 Palm Sunday Mass, which the Church celebrates in recollection of how the inhabitants of Jerusalem laid palms along the road where Jesus entered on a donkey, hailing him as king the week before he was killed.

After processing to the altar with his own palm in hand, the Pope blessed those the pilgrims were holding, and participated in the reading of Jesus’ entire Passion and death, taken from the Gospel of Mark.

In his homily Francis focused on how Jesus’ incarnation and death serve as strong examples of God’s humility, which he shows to his people even when they disobey and complain to him.

Despite the shame Jesus faced, “this is God’s way, the way of humility. It is the way of Jesus; there is no other. And there can be no humility without humiliation,” Francis said.

By taking on the “form of a slave,” Jesus shows us that true humility is expressed in service to others, and consists of stripping and emptying oneself of worldliness so as to make room for God, he said.

“This is the greatest humiliation of all,” the Pope noted, and warned against taking that path of the world, which tempts us with “vanity, pride, success,” just like the devil did with Jesus during his 40 days in the desert.

However, Jesus “immediately rejected” this temptation, he said, explaining that “with him, we too can overcome this temptation, not only at significant moments, but in daily life as well.”

He encouraged attendees to follow Jesus on his path of “humiliation” during Holy Week, and noted how throughout the course of the next week, the Church will participate in Jesus’ suffering in a concrete way.

“We will feel the contempt of the leaders of his people and their attempts to trip him up. We will be there at the betrayal of Judas, one of the Twelve, who will sell him for thirty pieces of silver. We will see the Lord arrested and carried off like a criminal; abandoned by his disciples, dragged before the Sanhedrin, condemned to death, beaten and insulted,” he said.

In addition, we will also hear how Peter, the “rock” among the disciples, denies Jesus three times and will hear how the crowds, urged by their leaders, call for Barabas to be freed and Jesus crucified.

Jesus will be “mocked by the soldiers, robed in purple and crowned with thorns. And then, as he makes his sorrowful way beneath the cross, we will hear the jeering of the people and their leaders, who scoff at his being King and Son of God,” the Pope explained.

He closed his homily by recognizing the many who selflessly give themselves in hidden service to others, and by praying for those who are persecuted “because they are Christians.”

Referring to them as the “martyrs of our own time,” Francis said these people refuse to deny Jesus and therefore endure “insult and injury with dignity.”

He prayed that as the Church sets out on the path of Holy Week, faithful would commit to following Jesus’ way of humility with determination and “immense love” for him, saying that it is this love which “will guide us and give us strength.”

After Mass the Pope led pilgrims in the recitation of the traditional Angelus prayer, and noted in comments after how Palm Sunday also marked the 30th World Youth Day, which was established by St. John Paul II in 1984.

This year’s theme – the second in a series on the beatitudes – is “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” while last year’s was “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Next year’s theme for the international gathering in Krakow, Poland, will be “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”

The Pope also prayed for the 150 victims of the Germanwings Airbus plane crash in the French Alps earlier this week, which included a group of German students, and entrusted them to the intercession of Mary.

Francis’ slate of activities for Holy Week includes a Chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Holy Thursday, as well as a visit to a Roman prison later that evening, where he will wash the feet of inmates and celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

The next day, Good Friday, the Pope will keep in line with papal tradition and celebrate a service for the Passion of Our Lord in St. Peter’s Basilica before heading to the Colosseum, where he will lead thousands in the traditional prayer of the Stations of the Cross.

The Roman tradition of holding the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum on Good Friday goes back to the pontificate of Benedict XIV, who died in 1758.

On Holy Saturday Francis will preside over the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica starting at 8:30 p.m., during which he will administer the sacrament of baptism to certain individuals.

Easter morning, April 5, he will celebrate the Mass of Our Lord’s Resurrection in St. Peter’s Square before giving his ‘Urbi et Orbi’ blessing – which goes out to the city of Rome and to the world – from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.


“At the heart of this celebration, which seems so festive, are the words we heard in the hymn of the Letter to the Philippians: “He humbled himself” (2:8).  Jesus’ humiliation.”

“These words show us God’s way and the way of Christians: it is humility.  A way which constantly amazes and disturbs us: we will never get used to a humble God!”

— Pope Francis, Palm Sunday, 2015


Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet by Ford Maddox Brown

Pope Francis kisses the foot of an inmate at the juvenile detention center of Casal del Marmo, Rome, on March 28, 2013. AP PHOTO/L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO
In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis, right, kisses the foot of an inmate at the juvenile detention center of Casal del Marmo, Rome, Thursday, March 28, 2013. Francis washed the feet of a dozen inmates at a juvenile detention center in a Holy Thursday ritual that he celebrated for years as archbishop and is continuing now that he is pope. Two of the 12 were young women, an unusual choice given that the rite re-enacts Jesus’ washing of the feet of his male disciples. The Mass was held in the Casal del Marmo facility in Rome, where 46 young men and women currently are detained. Many of them are Gypsies or North African migrants, and the Vatican said the 12 selected for the rite weren’t necessarily Catholic. (AP Photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Full Text of the Via Crucis  “Stations of The Cross” as used by Pope Francis and his procession followers on Good Friday, April 18, 2014:


(“The Way of the Cross”)

Who is it that I choose to be?  Simon of Cyrene?

Or the Roman Soldier?



Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, April 2, 2015 — Holy Thursday – Chrism Mass

April 1, 2015

Holy Thursday – Chrism Mass
Lectionary: 260

Reading 1 Is 61:1-3a, 6a, 8b-9

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly,
to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
To announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God,
to comfort all who mourn;
To place on those who mourn in Zion
a diadem instead of ashes,
To give them oil of gladness in place of mourning,
a glorious mantle instead of a listless spirit.You yourselves shall be named priests of the LORD,
ministers of our God shall you be called.

I will give them their recompense faithfully,
a lasting covenant I will make with them.
Their descendants shall be renowned among the nations,
and their offspring among the peoples;
All who see them shall acknowledge them
as a race the LORD has blessed.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 89:21-22, 25 and 27

R. (2) For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
“I have found David, my servant;
with my holy oil I have anointed him.
That my hand may always be with him;
and that my arm may make him strong.”
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
“My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him;
and through my name shall his horn be exalted.
He shall say of me, ‘You are my father,
my God, the Rock, my savior!’“
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.

Reading 2 Rv 1:5-8

[Grace to you and peace] from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness,
the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his Blood,
who has made us into a Kingdom, priests for his God and Father,
to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.Behold, he is coming amid the clouds,
and every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him.
All the peoples of the earth will lament him.
Yes. Amen.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God,
“the one who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Verse Before the Gospel Is 61:1 (cited in Lk 4:18)

The Spirit of the LORD is upon me;
for he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor.

Gospel Lk 4:16-21

Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had grown up,
and went according to his custom
into the synagogue on the sabbath day.
He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Reflection Upon the Gospel

Jesus is deeply concerned about poor people. Here, Jesus means those who are impoverished economically. Does this mean that He is not concerned about the wealthy or the common people who are not poor? No, it does not. He just did not have to express that concern here. His audience would have understood that a leader would be concerned about those who are better off. By focusing on the most needy, He includes all who have needs. Thus, He begins by expressing concern for those who were despised by others.

It would not be politically correct to speak against the poor today. Yet the actions of some people signal their contempt for them. If they only worked as hard as we do, they say, they would not be poor. We often are not eager to bring the poor to our services. They don’t dress as well as we do. Even in a dress casual environment, their casual clothes are not of the designer type. Unspoken, yet this is a powerful silent testimony to a wrong attitude.

Jesus, anointed of the Spirit, would preach the gospel to them. Literally, he would “evangelize” [euaggelizo] them or “announce the good news” to them. The gospel [euangelion] is good news and it is for the poor as well as all others.

Jesus preached a message of salvation. It included repentance and faith. It included true righteousness and concern for the poor. It included deliverance from sin and sickness. It included the good news of the coming kingdom and of the final triumph of good. Fortunately, it was a comprehensive salvation and affected all aspects of life. There is no part of our lives left untouched by the gospel.



The Good News From Luke

In continuing our meditation in this Messianic prophecy we note next that Jesus was anointed to preach. These days preaching has been relegated to an inferior position in the life of the church, and particularly of the Church of England. Holy Communion, or the Eucharist, as it is known, has come to be placed in a superior position, and preaching, not only has become less used, sermons being shorter and often omitted, but the quality and content of the sermons we hear today have diminished. This needs correcting. The Lord’s Supper in the Scriptures is never placed before preaching, and is given as an aid to preaching. Only as people are well taught in the truths of salvation through the death of Christ will Holy Communion be understood and become useful to build up faith as Christ meant it to do.This prophecy from Isaiah also tells us the content and main thrust of the preaching of Jesus. It was a message of good news. Jesus preached the Gospel, and the preaching of the Gospel is what preaching is all about. The passage goes on to describe what this good news is. The words in Isaiah are these “to preach good news to the poor. He was sent to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.†Now what are these words telling us about the ministry of Jesus?

It is the good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight to the blind. A superficial understanding of this message will simply confine this ministry to social reform. It will see the ministry of Jesus as bettering the condition of life of the poor by making them more wealthy, and providing financial aid, together with help to find gainful employment. It will see the ministry of Jesus as addressing the social evils which cause poverty, and the rebuking of the rich who keep their standard of living at the expense of the poor. It will see this ministry of Jesus described here as seeking justice for people falsely imprisoned, and seek the welfare of those with physical disabilities, such as blind people being healed of their blindness. When such a superficial assessment of the ministry of Jesus is held, it is bolstered by the fact that Jesus did an immense amount of such caring. Jesus healed the sick. He restored sight to the blind. He cared for the poor, and so on. But the Gospels make clear this was not the prime emphasis and practice of his ministry. More space is given to the death and resurrection of Jesus than anything else in the Gospels, showing that the Holy Spirit, who inspired the Gospel writers for their task, saw the death of Jesus as the most important part of his ministry

As we read the Gospels we see that Jesus was concerned about the darkness and blindness in people’s minds, hearts and understanding. He spoke of the poverty of soul and spirit seen in the people, and particularly in the whole set up and hierarchy of the Jewish church. He saw people in bondage to sin and Satan, prisoners to their lusts in every area of life. When we listen to the opening of the Sermon of the Mount, we see what Jesus meant by the poor and the blind and the imprisoned. The poverty he came to address was poverty of Spirit. The poverty of being sinners under the judgement of God, without hope and lost, destined for hell. The blindness which Jesus was healing was spiritual blindness, where we don’t appreciate, and can’t see, our lost condition as sinners, and are blind to our need of being delivered from the death which will end in hell, and of our need for being saved. Jesus came to dispel that darkness and blindness, by teaching people that he came, as the Son of Man, to seek and save that which was lost.

Without Christ we are under the oppression of Satan. We are in bondage to Satan, and Jesus came to deliver people from this bondage, and so his coming was the year, that is the time, of the Lord’s favour. God sent his Son into the world to become fully human, to provide for all who will receive Jesus and believe on him, deliverance from the dominion of Satan by his wonderful, powerful and all-sufficient death. The whole of the ministry of Jesus was preliminary to this sacrifice of Jesus to death as the propitiation for our sins, whereby Jesus satisfied all the law of God in our place, turned away the wrath of God on account of sin from us the sinner and visited it upon himself, so that we might be delivered from the everlasting damnation our sin deserves.

All the ministry of Jesus, up to the point of his death, was preparatory for this prime and great sacrifice for sin. So Jesus first and foremost preached the truth to bring sinners to repentance, and to put their trust in him. He continually declared the promise that if we come to him he will give us rest, the rest of being saved from death, and being raised to new life as members of Christ’s everlasting kingdom.

Let us look at the ministry of Jesus in the Gospels and see the ministry of the Holy Spirit in it. Let us see and believe that Jesus is the one and only all-sufficient Saviour, and so give ourselves to him in heartfelt trust as our redeemer and Saviour.




Chrism Mass Homily From Pope Francis


Below please find the official text of Pope Francis’ Homily for Chrism Mass, Holy Thursday 2013:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,


This morning I have the joy of celebrating my first Chrism Mass as the Bishop of Rome. I greet all of you with affection, especially you, dear priests, who, like myself, today recall the day of your ordination.

The readings of our Mass speak of God’s “anointed ones”: the suffering Servant of Isaiah, King David and Jesus our Lord.


All three have this in common: the anointing that they receive is meant in turn to anoint God’s faithful people, whose servants they are; they are anointed for the poor, for prisoners, for the oppressed… A fine image of this “being for” others can be found in the Psalm: “It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down upon the collar of his robe” (Ps 133:2). The image of spreading oil, flowing down from the beard of Aaron upon the collar of his sacred robe, is an image of the priestly anointing which, through Christ, the Anointed One, reaches the ends of the earth, represented by the robe.

The sacred robes of the High Priest are rich in symbolism. One such symbol is that the names of the children of Israel were engraved on the onyx stones mounted on the shoulder-pieces of the ephod, the ancestor of our present-day chasuble: six on the stone of the right shoulder-piece and six on that of the left (cf. Ex 28:6-14). The names of the twelve tribes of Israel were also engraved on the breastplate (cf. Es 28:21). This means that the priest celebrates by carrying on his shoulders the people entrusted to his care and bearing their names written in his heart. When we put on our simple chasuble, it might well make us feel, upon our shoulders and in our hearts, the burdens and the faces of our faithful people, our saints and martyrs of whom there are many in these times…

From the beauty of all these liturgical things, which is not so much about trappings and fine fabrics than about the glory of our God resplendent in his people, alive and strengthened, we turn to a consideration of activity, action. The precious oil which anoints the head of Aaron does more than simply lend fragrance to his person; it overflows down to “the edges”. The Lord will say this clearly: his anointing is meant for the poor, prisoners and the sick, for those who are sorrowing and alone. The ointment is not intended just to make us fragrant, much less to be kept in a jar, for then it would become rancid … and the heart bitter.

A good priest can be recognized by the way his people are anointed. This is a clear test. When our people are anointed with the oil of gladness, it is obvious: for example, when they leave Mass looking as if they have heard good news. Our people like to hear the Gospel preached with “unction”, they like it when the Gospel we preach touches their daily lives, when it runs down like the oil of Aaron to the edges of reality, when it brings light to moments of extreme darkness, to the “outskirts” where people of faith are most exposed to the onslaught of those who want to tear down their faith.


People thank us because they feel that we have prayed over the realities of their everyday lives, their troubles, their joys, their burdens and their hopes. And when they feel that the fragrance of the Anointed One, of Christ, has come to them through us, they feel encouraged to entrust to us everything they want to bring before the Lord: “Pray for me, Father, because I have this problem”, “Bless me”, “Pray for me” – these words are the sign that the anointing has flowed down to the edges of the robe, for it has turned into prayer. The prayers of the people of God. When we have this relationship with God and with his people, and grace passes through us, then we are priests, mediators between God and men.


What I want to emphasize is that we need constantly to stir up God’s grace and perceive in every request, even those requests that are inconvenient and at times purely material or downright banal – but only apparently so – the desire of our people to be anointed with fragrant oil, since they know that we have it. To perceive and to sense, even as the Lord sensed the hope-filled anguish of the woman suffering from hemorrhages when she touched the hem of his garment. At that moment, Jesus, surrounded by people on every side, embodies all the beauty of Aaron vested in priestly raiment, with the oil running down upon his robes.


It is a hidden beauty, one which shines forth only for those faith-filled eyes of the woman troubled with an issue of blood. But not even the disciples – future priests – see or understand: on the “existential outskirts”, they see only what is on the surface: the crowd pressing in on Jesus from all sides (cf. Lk 8:42). The Lord, on the other hand, feels the power of the divine anointing which runs down to the edge of his cloak.

We need to “go out”, then, in order to experience our own anointing, its power and its redemptive efficacy: to the “outskirts” where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters. It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord: self-help courses can be useful in life, but to live by going from one course to another, from one method to another, leads us to become pelagians and to minimize the power of grace, which comes alive and flourishes to the extent that we, in faith, go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others, giving what little ointment we have to those who have nothing, nothing at all.

A priest who seldom goes out of himself, who anoints little – I won’t say “not at all” because, thank God, our people take our oil from us anyway – misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart. Those who do not go out of themselves, instead of being mediators, gradually become intermediaries, managers.


We know the difference: the intermediary, the manager, “has already received his reward”, and since he doesn’t put his own skin and his own heart on the line, he never hears a warm, heartfelt word of thanks. This is precisely the reason why some priests grow dissatisfied, become sad priests, lose heart and become in some sense collectors of antiques or novelties – instead of being shepherds living with “the smell of the sheep”, shepherds in the midst of their flock, fishers of men. True enough, the so-called crisis of priestly identity threatens us all and adds to the broader cultural crisis; but if we can resist its onslaught, we will be able to put out in the name of the Lord and cast our nets. It is not a bad thing that reality itself forces us to “put out into the deep”, where what we are by grace is clearly seen as pure grace, out into the deep of the contemporary world, where the only thing that counts is “unction” – not function – and the nets which overflow with fish are those cast solely in the name of the One in whom we have put our trust: Jesus.

Dear lay faithful, be close to your priests with affection and with your prayers, that they may always be shepherds according to God’s heart.
Dear priests, may God the Father renew in us the Spirit of holiness with whom we have been anointed. May he renew his Spirit in our hearts, that this anointing may spread to everyone, even to those “outskirts” where our faithful people most look for it and most appreciate it. May our people sense that we are the Lord’s disciples; may they feel that their names are written upon our priestly vestments and that we seek no other identity; and may they receive through our words and deeds the oil of gladness which Jesus, the Anointed One, came to bring us. Amen.

For the Holy Thursday Last Supper/Washing the Feet Mass see:

Pope Francis: Palm Sunday homily

March 29, 2015


Pope Francis celebrates a Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sunday, March 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Pope Francis celebrates Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Sunday, March 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini) The Associated Press

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis delivered the homily at Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday – Palm Sunday – the beginning of Holy Week, 2015. Please find, below, the official English translation of the Holy Father’s prepared remarks.

At the heart of this celebration, which seems so festive, are the words we heard in the hymn of the Letter to the Philippians: “He humbled himself” (2:8).  Jesus’ humiliation.

These words show us God’s way and the way of Christians: it is humility.  A way which constantly amazes and disturbs us: we will never get used to a humble God!

Humility is above all God’s way: God humbles himself to walk with his people, to put up with their infidelity.  This is clear when we read the Book of Exodus.  How humiliating for the Lord to hear all that grumbling, all those complaints against Moses, but ultimately against him, their Father, who brought them out of slavery and was leading them on the journey through the desert to the land of freedom.

This week, Holy Week, which leads us to Easter, we will take this path of Jesus’ own humiliation.  Only in this way will this week be “holy” for us too!

We will feel the contempt of the leaders of his people and their attempts to trip him up.  We will be there at the betrayal of Judas, one of the Twelve, who will sell him for thirty pieces of silver.  We will see the Lord arrested and carried off like a criminal; abandoned by his disciples, dragged before the Sanhedrin, condemned to death, beaten and insulted.  We will hear Peter, the “rock” among the disciples, deny him three times.  We will hear the shouts of the crowd, egged on by their leaders, who demand that Barabas be freed and Jesus crucified.  We will see him mocked by the soldiers, robed in purple and crowned with thorns.  And then, as he makes his sorrowful way beneath the cross, we will hear the jeering of the people and their leaders, who scoff at his being King and Son of God.

This is God’s way, the way of humility.  It is the way of Jesus; there is no other.  And there can be no humility without humiliation.

Following this path to the full, the Son of God took on the “form of a slave” (cf. Phil 2:7).  In the end, humility means service.  It means making room for God by stripping oneself, “emptying oneself”, as Scripture says (v. 7).  This is the greatest humiliation of all.

There is another way, however, opposed to the way of Christ.  It is worldliness, the way of the world.  The world proposes the way of vanity, pride, success…  the other way.  The Evil One proposed this way to Jesus too, during his forty days in the desert.  But Jesus immediately rejected it.  With him, we too can overcome this temptation, not only at significant moments, but in daily life as well.

In this, we are helped and comforted by the example of so many men and women who, in silence and hiddenness, sacrifice themselves daily to serve others: a sick relative, an elderly person living alone, a disabled person…

We think too of the humiliation endured by all those who, for their lives of fidelity to the Gospel, encounter discrimination and pay a personal price.  We think too of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted because they are Christians, the martyrs of our own time.  They refuse to deny Jesus and they endure insult and injury with dignity.  They follow him on his way.  We can speak of a “cloud of witnesses” (cf. Heb  12:1).

Let us set about with determination along this same path, with immense love for him, our Lord and Saviour.  Love will guide us and give us strength.  For where he is, we too shall be (cf. Jn  12:26).  Amen.

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, March 29, 2015 — Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday With Pope Francis at The Vatican

March 29, 2015

Every year in Italy, the beginning of Easter Week is marked by a special Palm Sunday mass given by the pope in Vatican City. The event turns Rome into one of the most popular destinations in the world during the holiday celebrations, but you don’t have to travel all the way to Europe to view it. Watch Pope Francis’ Palm Sunday mass here on a live stream instead.

The Vatican’s events, held in Saint Peter’s Square, were scheduled to begin at 9:20 a.m. local time Sunday. First is the Blessing of the Palms, then the Procession, and finally the Holy Mass given by Pope Francis, who recites the Angelus prayer with religious pilgrims at the end of the mass. Large crowds usually gather in the square for these free events, and many take home small olive and palm branches, which are symbols of peace.

For Christians, Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus Christ’s proud entry into Jerusalem one week before his death and subsequent resurrection. It takes its name from Biblical verses that say that when Jesus entered Jerusalem, crowds greeted him with palm branches, waving them and laying them at his feet and calling him “savior.” The religious holiday, also called Passion Sunday, marks the beginning of the last week of Lent, which ends April 5 with Easter Sunday.

In Biblical times, palm branches represented victory and benevolence, as well as triumph. In modern times, in certain parts of the world where palms are hard to come by, branches from local trees are used instead. Leftover palms used in Palm Sunday ceremonies are not discarded, as they have been blessed, but instead burned for use on Ash Wednesday the following year.

Watch a live stream of Palm Sunday services at the Vatican, including a mass given by Pope Francis, here:




Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, March 26, 2015 — Jesus “emptied” himself and took the form of a slave

March 25, 2015

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Lectionary: 254

“The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.”

Reading 1 Gn 17:3-9

When Abram prostrated himself, God spoke to him:
“My covenant with you is this:
you are to become the father of a host of nations.
No longer shall you be called Abram;
your name shall be Abraham,
for I am making you the father of a host of nations.
I will render you exceedingly fertile;
I will make nations of you;
kings shall stem from you.
I will maintain my covenant with you
and your descendants after you
throughout the ages as an everlasting pact,
to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.
I will give to you
and to your descendants after you
the land in which you are now staying,
the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession;
and I will be their God.”God also said to Abraham:
“On your part, you and your descendants after you
must keep my covenant throughout the ages.”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 105:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (8a) The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
Look to the LORD in his strength;
seek to serve him constantly.
Recall the wondrous deeds that he has wrought,
his portents, and the judgments he has uttered.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
You descendants of Abraham, his servants,
sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!
He, the LORD, is our God;
throughout the earth his judgments prevail.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
He remembers forever his covenant
which he made binding for a thousand generations –
Which he entered into with Abraham
and by his oath to Isaac.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.

Verse Before the Gospel Ps 95:8

If today you hear his voice;
harden not your hearts.

Gospel Jn 8:51-59

Jesus said to the Jews:
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever keeps my word will never see death.”
So the Jews said to him,
“Now we are sure that you are possessed.
Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say,
‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’
Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died?
Or the prophets, who died?
Who do you make yourself out to be?”
Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing;
but it is my Father who glorifies me,
of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’
You do not know him, but I know him.
And if I should say that I do not know him,
I would be like you a liar.
But I do know him and I keep his word.
Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day;
he saw it and was glad.”
So the Jews said to him,
“You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
before Abraham came to be, I AM.”
So they picked up stones to throw at him;
but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area.
Christ’s Charge to Peter by Peter Paul Rubens

Commentary on John 8:51-59 from Living Space

Jesus continues to challenge the Jews about his identity. They continue to misunderstand the real meaning of what he says. “Whoever keeps my word will never see death.” This they can only understand in a literal sense.

But they do see the implication of the words that Jesus is claiming to be more than Abraham or any of the prophets. And they ask: “Who do you make yourself out to be?” This was the same question they asked of John the Baptist (John 1:22) who gave a very different answer.

Jesus makes it perfectly clear to them by talking of his “Father” and then saying that the Father is the one they call “our God”. But he continues by saying that they do not know the Father, although they may think they do. And they do not know the Father because they do not know Jesus. Jesus, however, knows him and keeps his word. Then comes the supreme provocation: “Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day: he saw it and was glad.” (This could be a reference to the joy following the unexpected birth of Isaac, when the promise was made to Abraham that his seed would be as numerous as the sands on the seashore and as the stars in the sky – Gen 17:7; 21:6)

To which the shocked Pharisees retort: “You are not fifty yet, and you have seen Abraham?” only to have Jesus make the ultimate claim: “I tell you most solemnly, before Abraham ever came to be, I AM.” Again we have Jesus using the term “I AM” of himself. He unequivocally identifies himself with Yahweh. The Pharisees are horrified by what they regard as terrible blasphemy. The term ‘came to be’ is used for all that is created, while ‘I AM’ is used only of the Word, co-eternal with the Father-God.

“They took up stones to throw at him…” They were not able actually to carry out their plan to kill him because his “time” had not yet come. Then come words of prophetic significance: “”Jesus hid himself and left the Temple.” It is a striking summary of Jesus’ role.

Jesus “hid himself”. In his humanity, the Godhead in Jesus, which he has just spoken about, was largely concealed (except to those with the eyes of faith). St Ignatius Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises speaks of the divinity being hidden during the terrible hours of the Passion. St Paul in his Letter to the Philippians speaks of Jesus “emptying” himself and taking the form of a slave.

And “he left the Temple”. When Jesus died on the cross, the veil guarding the Holy of Holies in the Temple split right open, revealing the sacred inner sanctuary to the world. God was no longer there, he had left the Temple. And he now dwells in a new Temple, not now a building but a people, the Church, the Body of the Risen Christ.



First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3)
Matthew 18:3 (83 kb)
How do I act like “little children”? Well, it starts with not taking ourselves too seriously, by rejoicing on the Gifts God has given to us (including the Gift of his son, Jesus and the Gift of the Church), and by humbly serving others.
We live in a world now that seems dominated by Islamist terrorism, degenerating popular culture and much that many folks would rather not be a part of. At the same time, all the things that made people happy, joyous and free for more than two thousand years are right at out finger tips.
The book Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic by Matthew Kelly deserves to be mentioned as we go into holy Week. After a years long study, Kelly concluded that dynamic Catholics generally share four key attributes:
1. They Pray
2. They study (they know the Gospels)
3. They pour themselves out in selfless and humble service to others.
4. They evangelize.
Being a Catholic has saved my life — and not just one time — so I am ready and willing to share my joy; the Joy of Jesus.
Lectio Divina from the Carmelites


• Chapter 8 seems an exhibition of works of art, where it is possible to admire and contemplate famous paintings, next to one another. Today’s Gospel presents us a painting, and a dialogue between Jesus and the Jews. There is not too much connection between one and the other painting. It is the spectator who, thanks to his/her attentive and prayerful observation, succeeds to discover the invisible thread that binds the paintings, the dialogues among themselves. Thus, we penetrate into the divine mystery which envelops the person of Jesus.


• John 8, 51: Whoever keeps the word of Jesus will not see death. Jesus makes a solemn affirmation; the prophets said: Oracle of the Lord! Jesus says: “Truly, I say to you!” And the solemn affirmation is the following: “Whoever keeps my word will not see death!” This same theme appears and reappears many times in the Gospel of John. These are words of a great depth.

• John 8, 52-53: Abraham and the prophets died. The reaction of the Jews is immediate: “Now we know that you are out of your mind. Abraham died and the prophets also died. And you say: “Whoever keeps my word will never see death”. Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who are you claiming to be?” They did not understand the importance and significance of the affirmation of Jesus. It was a dialogue of the deaf.

• John, 8, 54-56: I am glorified by my Father. Once again and as always Jesus hits on the same key: He is so united to the Father that everything that he says or does is his. Everything is the Father’s. And he says: “The one who glorifies me is my Father, the one whom you say, ‘He is our God!” and you do not know him. But I know him. And if I were to say, ‘I do not know him’, I should be a liar, as you yourselves are. But I do know him and I observe his word. Your father, Abraham, rejoiced to think that he would see my Day; he saw it and was glad”. These words of Jesus must have been like a spade which wounded the self esteem of the Jews. To tell the religious authority: “You do not know the God whom you say you know. I know him and you do not know him!” It is like accusing them of total ignorance exactly regarding the theme on which they think they are specialized doctors. And the final word increases the measure: “Abraham, your father, rejoiced in the hope of seeing my Day, he saw it and was glad”.

• John 8, 57-59: “You are not fifty yet, and you have seen Abraham! They took everything literally, thus showing that they did not understand anything of what Jesus was saying. And Jesus makes another solemn affirmation: “In all truth I tell you: before Abraham ever was, I AM”.

For those who believe in Jesus, here we reach the heart of the mystery of the story. Once again they pick up stones to kill Jesus. But neither this time will they succeed, because his hour has not as yet come. The one who determines the hour is Jesus himself.


Personal questions

• It is a dialogue with the deaf between Jesus and the Jews. Have you sometimes had the experience of speaking with a person who thinks exactly the opposite of what you think and is not aware of it?
• How can we understand this phrase: “Abraham, your father, rejoiced in the hope of seeing my Day, he saw it and was glad”?


Concluding Prayer

Seek Yahweh and his strength,
tirelessly seek his presence!
Remember the marvels he has done,
his wonders, the judgements he has spoken. (Ps 105,4-5)




Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore



The fifth week of Lent was formerly called Passion Week because this is the week that the Church highlights the mounting tensions against Jesus leading to His death as a result of His boldness in declaring His identification with God.  Yet for the Church, it is because Jesus is the “I am” that He could give us life, life even in death.  This then is the theme of today’s scripture readings.

The irony of life is that there is nothing more fearful in life than death.  People are frightened of death simply because in death we are isolated.  We are frightened of physical death because it means to depart from our friends and from the world that we are so attached to.  But not only are we fearful of physical death, we are even more afraid of a living death.  That is to say that we are physically alive but are rejected by our fellow human beings.  In other words, we fear the death of our ego – a theme highlighted in yesterday’s readings.  The question that calls for our reflection today is how we can overcome the fear of death, be it physical or a personal death?  The key to liberation from death is relationship.

In the first reading, Abraham was promised perpetuity for his family and his land provided he remained faithful to the covenant that God had established with him.  Indeed, in the first place, if Abram could step out of his own country and go to an unknown place that God promised him, it was because Abram must have had a deep relationship with God, a relationship so intimate that is expressed by his faith.  Without a deep relationship, it is impossible to have such a faith.  Conversely, without faith, there cannot be a deep relationship.   Hence, in the case of Abram, he conquered all his fears because of his relationship with God in faith.

What is said of Abraham is even truer for Jesus.  Jesus was not fearful of deathAccording to Him, one could never die if we only know who the Father is.  This is true on both levels.  Firstly, because if we know God intimately, then we know that physical death is not really death.  In the eyes of God, there is no death.  God is the “I am who am.”  He always lives.  Rightly so, Jesus could confidently declare Himself as the “I am”.  He knew the Father so intimately and personally that He also knew that death is but an illusion.   Not only for Him, but all those who know God, including Abraham, will not die.  That is why Jesus could say that “Abraham rejoiced to think that he would see my Day.”

Secondly, those who know God will also not die a living death.  So long as we do not seek the glory of the world and the glory from our fellow human beings, there is no question of fear.  Fear of the death of our ego comes about only when we seek to please so as to win acceptance and recognition.  But those who give us the glory and so-called love at the same time also have the power to take away our glory and love.

Hence, most of us are so miserable and confused.  We live under the manipulation of people.  One day they say that we are great and we feel so great.  Next day, they say we are terrible and then we feel terrible.  When that happens, our happiness is always so short-lived, always under threat, not knowing how long it is going to last.  So, we cannot really be happy in the final analysis.

For Jesus, His personal freedom comes from the fact that He knows that the only glory that will last is the glory that comes from God Himself.  Only that kind of glory, no one can take away from Him.  Indeed, He declared that “If I were to seek my own glory that would be no glory at all.” “My glory” he said, “is conferred by the Father.”  What is this glory that is conferred by the Father?  It is but His glory of sonship, His sonship that was fully confirmed in His death and resurrection.  Hence, because Jesus knew that He was forever the Son of the Father, He could live His life in full confidence of His love.  There was no need then for Him to seek to please people.  He only needed to be simply Himself.  Truly, Jesus was so true to Himself that even when people wanted Him to deny His own identity, He remained firm to His convictions.

Yes, we too can find real freedom if only we realize that God has given us each one His own glory.  We are all called to live out our own sonship accordingly to the plan that He has for us.  Instead of trying to please people, we only need to be true to ourselves.  But to be true to self presupposes the thing that is absolutely necessary.  We must be in a deep relationship with God first.  Unless we know Him, how can we know ourselves?  Unless we truly believe from the depth of our hearts that He loves us, how can we not avoid seeking the love and honour that comes from our fellow human beings?  But if we have a deep covenantal relationship with God and can declare with Jesus that we know the Father as well, then we will also be liberated like Him.  Lent is therefore the invitation to come to know ourselves, and knowing God as our life.

– See more at:


Easter Sunday celebrated by millions around the world

April 20, 2014
  • Pope Francis lead celebrations of Easter around the world delivering a traditional blessing from the Vatican balcony
  • In address to the crowd he asked for dialogue in Syria and Ukraine and for an end to attacks on Nigerian Christians

By Chris Pleasance

Marking Christianity’s most hopeful day, Pope Francis made an Easter Sunday plea for peace and dialogue in Ukraine and Syria, for an end to terrorist attacks against Christians in Nigeria and for more attention to the hungry and neediest close to home.

Well over 150,000 tourists – Romans and pilgrims, young and old – turned out for the Mass that Francis celebrated at an altar set up under a canopy on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica.

So great were their numbers that they overflowed from sprawling St. Peter’s Square, which was decked out with row after row of potted daffodils, sprays of blue hyacinths and bunches of white roses.

Waving flags from the pope’s native Argentina as well as from Brazil, Mexico, Britain, Poland and many other countries, they also filled the broad boulevard leading from the square to the Tiber River.

Easter is the culmination of Holy Week and marks Christian belief that Jesus rose from the dead after his crucifixion.

Francis noted that this year the Catholic church’s celebration of Easter coincided with that of Orthodox churches, which have many followers in Ukraine.

Pope Francis addresses huge crowds gathered in St Peter's square in Vatican City when he delivered the traditional Urbi Et Orbi blessing to mark Easter Sunday

Pope Francis addresses huge crowds gathered in St Peter’s square in Vatican City when he delivered the traditional Urbi Et Orbi blessing to mark Easter Sunday

During the celebration the Pope delivered a speech asking for peace and dialogue in war-torn Syria and Ukraine and for an end to attacks on Christians in Nigeria

During the celebration the Pope delivered a speech asking for peace and dialogue in war-torn Syria and Ukraine and for an end to attacks on Christians in Nigeria

Waving to crowds from the balcony of St Peter's basilica, Pope Francis looked out on a crowd of roughly 150,000 Catholics who packed into the square below

Waving to crowds from the balcony of St Peter’s basilica, Pope Francis looked out on a crowd of roughly 150,000 Catholics who packed into the square below.

During the Celebration of the Lord's Passion mass on Good Friday to mark the day Jesus was crucified Pope Francis layed prostrate on the floor of Saint Peter's basilica

During the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion mass on Good Friday to mark the day Jesus was crucified Pope Francis layed prostrate on the floor of Saint Peter’s basilica

The crowd packed into St Peter's square underneath glorious blue skies was so large that it spilled over into the surrounding streets

The crowd packed into St Peter’s square underneath glorious blue skies was so large that it spilled over into the surrounding streets

After delivering his traditional blessing Pope Francis moved out into the crowds, smiling and giving a jovial thumbs up to mark the most hopeful day in the Christian calendar when they believe Jesus rose from the dead

After delivering his traditional blessing Pope Francis moved out into the crowds, smiling and giving a jovial thumbs up to mark the most hopeful day in the Christian calendar when they believe Jesus rose from the dead

Read more:

Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Francis prayed that God would ‘enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine, so that all those involved, with the support of the international community, will make every effort to prevent violence.’

In eastern Ukraine, the holiday was marred by a deadly shooting Sunday fueled by tensions between pro-Russian supporters in the east and those loyal to an interim government in Kiev. The clash appeared to defy an international agreement reached last week in hopes of ending months of unrest.

Francis also prayed that all sides in Syria will be moved to ‘boldly negotiate the peace long awaited and long overdue.’ Syria has been wracked by a three-year civil war that has cost 150,000 lives and forced millions to flee the country.

Christians make up about 5 percent of Syria’s population. In comments to mark Easter there, the Greek Orthodox patriarch vowed that Christians there ‘will not submit’ to extremists who attack ‘our people and holy places.’


Ukrainian Orthodox believers light candles with fire brought form Jerusalem's Old City to the Kyiv-Pechersk church in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev

Ukrainian Orthodox believers light candles with fire brought form Jerusalem’s Old City to the Kyiv-Pechersk church in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev



In the Christ the Saviour cathedral in Moscow, Russia, Orthodox Christians watch as Patriach Kirill leads a special prayer service. In the audience was Russian President Putin

In the Christ the Savior cathedral in Moscow, Russia, Orthodox Christians watch as Patriach Kirill leads a special prayer service. In the audience was Russian President Putin



In a service which took place late last night, Egyptian Christians take part in an Easter Eve service in St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo

In a service which took place late last night, Egyptian Christians take part in an Easter Eve service in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo


The Easter custom of Lambradja (bonfire) takes place to mark the resurrection of Christ in Nicosia, Cyprus. It is the first time in 40 years that a service has taken place inside the UN buffer zone

The Easter custom of Lambradja (bonfire) takes place to mark the resurrection of Christ in Nicosia, Cyprus. It is the first time in 40 years that a service has taken place inside the UN buffer zone



On the Greek island of Chios revellers light homemade fireworks during celebrations in the village of Vrontados. Two churches on the island hold a 'rocket war' by launching fireworks at each other while services are being held

On the Greek island of Chios revellers light homemade fireworks during celebrations in the village of Vrontados. Two churches on the island hold a ‘rocket war’ by launching fireworks at each other while services are being held


Florence, Italy:

In Florence, Italy, locals take part in the Scoppio del Carro - literally meaning explosion of the cart. The fireworks are lit on Easter Sunday to guarantee a good harvest

United Kingdom:


Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Church of England Justin Welby delivers a sermon in Canterbury Cathedral, Kent, today

Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Church of England Justin Welby delivers a sermon in Canterbury Cathedral, Kent, today

In Windsor the Queen and Prince Philip attended the Easter service at St George's Chapel. The service was lead by the Dean of Windsor, The Right Revd David Conner (left)

In Windsor the Queen and Prince Philip attended the Easter service at St George’s Chapel. The service was lead by the Dean of Windsor, The Right Revd David Conner (left)

Meanwhile the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, performed traditional baptisms in a pool outside York Minster

Meanwhile the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, performed traditional baptisms in a pool outside York Minster

Read more:

Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Pope Francis Prays for Peace on Easter Sunday During Urbi et Orbi Event — Calls for end to war during Easter Mass

April 20, 2014


Sunday 20 April 2014

Pope Francis called for an end to conflicts in Syria, Ukraine and Africa

Pope Francis called for an end to conflicts in Syria, Ukraine and Africa

In his Easter address before a huge crowd, Pope Francis denounced the “immense wastefulness” in the world, while many go hungry.

He also called for an end to conflicts in Syria, Ukraine and Africa.

“We ask you Lord Jesus, to put an end to all war and every conflict, whether great or small, ancient or recent,” he said in his “Urbi et Orbi” message.

Marking the second Easter season of his pontificate, Pope Francis celebrated a Mass to an overflowing crowd of at least 150,000 in St. Peter’s Square and beyond.

The crowd stretched back along all of Via della Conciliazione, the boulevard between the Vatican and the Tiber River.

Pope Francis weaved his message around the suffering of people across the globe.

He prayed to God to “help us to overcome the scourge of hunger, aggravated by conflicts and by the immense wastefulness for which we are often responsible”.

Since his election as the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, Pope Francis had made defence of the poor a hallmark of his papacy.

He has often criticised developed nations and the excesses of capitalism and consumerism.

The 77-year-old pope, prayed for the protection of those members of society who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and abandonment, women, children, the elderly and immigrants.

Easter is the most important day on the liturgical calendar because it commemorates the day Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead after his crucifixion.

The Church sees it as a symbol of hope, peace and reconciliation among peoples and nations.

The Easter Sunday services were the culmination of four hectic days of Holy Week activities for the pontiff.

How Non-Catholics in the Philippines Celebrate Holy Week

April 20, 2014


Filipino  Ruben Enaje shouts in pain as he stays nailed to a cross to re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in San Pedro Cutud village, Pampanga province, northern Philippines on Friday, April 18, 2014. AP

Editor’s Note: The annual commemoration of Holy Week—marking the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which begins on Palm Sunday, climaxes on Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday and culminates in the joyful celebration on Easter Sunday of the resurrection—and its pious customs observed in Roman Catholic tradition also find expression in the mainstream Protestant denominations and evangelical churches. Following is an informal survey of how other faiths observe Holy Week.

Aglipayan Church

The Aglipayan Church, officially the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) or the Philippine Independent Church, follows the same Holy Week observance as the Roman Catholic Church, according to Rev. Fr. Terry Revollido, rector of the Aglipay Central Theological Seminary.

“I don’t see any significant difference because we’re also following biblical narrative,” Revollido said.

Like the Roman Catholics, the Aglipayan faithful begin the Holy Week with Palm Sunday. On Maundy Thursday, there would be a celebration of the Eucharist and the washing of the feet, while on Good Friday, church activities include the Seven Last Words, veneration of the cross and processions. The Easter Vigil Mass is held the evening of Black Saturday and the “salubong” very early on Easter Sunday.

The Aglipayan Church, which calls itself the national church of the Philippines, proclaimed its break from the Catholic Church in 1902 by the members of the Unión Obrera Democrática Filipina because of the alleged mistreatment of Filipinos by the Spanish clergy. Although a Christian denomination, IFI rejects the spiritual authority of the Pope and emphasizes patriotism in its teachings.

The members of the church are called Aglipayans after its first supreme head, Fr. Gregorio Aglipay.

Iglesia Ni Cristo

The Iglesia Ni Cristo, another homegrown Christian religion, does not observe Lent or mark the special observances and services of Holy Week, as it believes that the pious customs associated with it derive from pagan traditions.

For instance, it believes that Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week commemorating Christ’s triumphal entry to Jerusalem to fulfill his paschal mystery, has pagan origins. INC says the palm symbolizes victory and notes how victorious armies of pagan nations decked themselves and their chariots with palm branches.

According to INC, the word “Easter” was derived by St. Bede from Eastre, a forgotten dawn goddess. Numerous local customs held during Easter, such as the blessing of meat, eggs and other foods, the partaking of which was formerly forbidden during Lent, have pagan origins, INC believes.

The INC members believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and that God made Him Lord and Savior. However, while Jesus Christ is holy and a very special man, he is not God; he is the only mediator of man to God, they say.

They also believe that Christ’s resurrection is the main proof that the dead will rise again. Those in Christ will rise first to be with Him forever in the Holy City. Those who are not of Christ will rise a thousand years after the first resurrection to be cast into the lake of fire.

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian denomination whose distinct beliefs are based on their interpretations of the Bible, do not observe Christmas, Easter or other holidays and customs observed by mainstream Christianity.

They believe that Jehovah is the only true God and Jesus, God’s only begotten Son who served as a redeemer and a ransom sacrifice to pay for the sins of humanity as the only intercessor between God and man.

While commemorating the death of Jesus, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not share many of the beliefs and practices associated with the Holy Week of Catholics and other Christian denominations. The Witnesses do not practice the Lenten rituals of fasting, self-flagellation and crucifixion, or pilgrimage to holy places.

The most important and solemn event for the Jehovah’s Witnesses is the “Lord’s Evening Meal” or “Memorial of Christ’s Death,” commemorated on the date of the Jewish Passover.

“This is the only anniversary that Jesus commanded his followers to celebrate. Before dying, he commanded his disciples to keep observing the Last Supper, otherwise called the Lord’s Evening Meal, once every year. Jesus’ command to celebrate this occasion can be read in the Bible,” said Dean Jacek of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, Philippine branch.

To determine the date of the Memorial each year, the Witnesses follow the Jewish calendar.

“Under the Jewish calendar, Jesus’ death occurred on the evening of Nisan 14, 33 CE. Last year, the date Nisan 14 fell on March 26, so on this date, Jehovah’s Witnesses met together in their building for worship (called Kingdom Halls) all around the Earth after sundown. To celebrate, they did exactly what Jesus said should be done. Some 20 million attended the occasion,” Jacek said. This year’s Memorial was marked on April 14.

Those attending the Memorial with Jehovah’s Witnesses for the first time will see a functional, clean venue devoid of religious symbols.


The United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), a Protestant Christian denomination, observes the same Holy Week practices as that of Roman Catholicism, according to Lowell Tac-an, executive secretary of the organizational ministry of UCCP.

“We also celebrate Palm Sunday with a special form of worship. Then we also observe Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Black Saturday. There is a reenactment of the Last Supper and we also do the seven last words. Easter Sunday serves as the culmination of the whole Holy Week celebration,” Tac-an said.

“There isn’t much difference because we also follow what’s written in the bible,” he added.

According to Tac-an, one difference between UCCP and the Roman Catholic Church is that the former does not believe in purgatory. “In the basic Protestant doctrines, we also believe in life after death. But there is no belief in purgatory,” he said.

UCCP also observes other religious Christian festivities, like Christmas and All Souls’ Day. Reports from Almi I. Atienza, Ana Roa, Marielle Medina, Rafael L. Antonio and Kate Pedroso

Read more:

Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook