Category Archives: Lent

Let Us Pray

We are not alone during this pandemic. Emmanuel means God is with us every step of the way. May these uncertain times be an opportunity to grow in prayer.

Lord, have mercy.
Jesus, Eternal Son of God, have mercy on us.
Jesus, born into the human family,
Jesus, rejected by the world you came to save,
Jesus, bargained for and sold for money,
Jesus, foreseeing your torments and sweating blood,
Jesus, betrayed by a false friend,
Jesus, deserted by those you loved,
Jesus, slapped in the face and spit upon in a court of justice,
Jesus, accused by liars,
Jesus, disowned by Peter,
Jesus, insulted by Herod,
Jesus, condemned to death by Pilate,
Jesus, beaten with whips,
Jesus, crowned with thorns,
Jesus, rejected for the murderer, Barabbas,
Jesus, burdened with a cross,
Jesus, stripped of your clothing,
Jesus, nailed to a cross,
Jesus, taunted in your pain,
Jesus, abandoned,
Jesus, shedding the last drop of your blood,
Jesus, dying for us,
Jesus, laid in a tomb,
Jesus, rising in glory,
Jesus, ascending into heaven,
Jesus, sending down the Holy Spirit,
Jesus, our ransom,
Jesus, our brother,
Jesus, our God, have mercy on us.

From Lent-Easter Meditations and Prayers 

by Fr. Victor Hoagland, C.P.

The Raising of Lazarus

In the desert of Lent, we fast from food, but feast on the Word of God. The ancient practice of lectio divina, or sacred reading, invites us to chew on the words of Scripture and savor them.

In the eleventh chapter of St. John, we meet the Christ who has power over life and death. Earlier, the disciples had already witnessed his power over nature, as when he calmed the storm on the sea and healed the sick. Yet his divinity does not overshadow his humanity. The shortest verse in the Bible, “And Jesus wept,” eloquently proves this. 

Thomas appears in this passage full of doubt. He is on a journey toward faith, from witnessing the raising of the dead Lazarus to life, to putting his hand in the side of the risen Christ at the end of the Gospel. Let us ask the Lord for the gift of faith as we journey toward Easter.

Following Jesus Christ

I like Rembrandt’s drawing of Jesus preaching to a crowd that represents all ages, shapes and sizes of ordinary humanity. Jesus’ disciples, like Peter, James and John are there, but they don’t stand out.Some of his enemies are there, but they don’t stand out either. They’re all there listening, except maybe the little child on the ground playing with something he’s found. Jesus sheds his light on them, even on the little child.

Did Rembrandt find these faces in the people of his neighborhood, ordinary people? If so, this crowd could be us.

All the gospels recall Jesus journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, which we recall in our lenten season. Some women from Galilee follow him. He calls Zachaeus, the tax collector, down from a tree to join him. Follow me, he says to a blind man begging in the same place for years. He called people of every shape and form, sinners, tax-collectors, everyone.

They follow him, not just to see him die, but to go with him to glory. “Come with me this day to paradise, “ Jesus says to the thief on the cross. Our creed says he descends into hell, to those waiting for centuries for the redemption he brings. He calls all generations to follow him.

Following Jesus to glory means taking up our cross each day.“Then he said to all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily *and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.’” ( Luke 9, 23-24 )

Jesus speaks to “all”. Everyone in this world has a challenge to take up and a burden to bear. “Take up your cross.” It’s a cross that’s distinctly ours, not the physical cross Jesus bore; it’s the cross we bear. “Do you want to see the cross? Hold out your arms; there it is.” (Wisdom of the Desert)

He blesses those who share his cross. He gives them strength to bear what they have to bear and to carry out the mission they have been given.

Even the little child in Rembrandt’s painting is blessed with his grace, even though he’s in his own world, playing with some little thing, not hearing a word. Even the child is blessed.

Tenebrae: Holy Saturday

Today’s Tenebrae readings speak of Jesus’ burial in the earth; the seed falls to the ground. Jesus will brings life:

“My heart rejoices, my soul is glad,

Even my body shall rest in safety,

For you will not leave my soul among the dead

Or let your beloved know decay.” Psalm 16

His promise extends not only to humanity, but to creation itself. “Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness.”“

Tenebrae for Holy Saturday ends with an ancient homily:

“Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.”

“The earth trembled and is still…” 

The Passion of Jesus is not only a human story; creation takes part in it too. At his death “the earth quaked, rocks were split” Matthew’s gospel says. (Matthew 27,51) “From noon onwards darkness came over the whole land till three in the afternoon,” Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us.

 The sun that rules the day, the moon that rules the night respond as Jesus cries out in a loud voice and gives up his spirit. Artists through the centuries place sun and moon at the cross of Jesus.

Remember too those great elemental realities blood and water, which John’s gospel says flowed from the side of Christ when a soldier pierced his side. Water refreshed with its contact with the Word of God; blood source of life for living creatures come from the side of Jesus. They also share in the mystery of redemption.

The homily for today says that Jesus at his death goes “to search for our first parent…to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve…I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.”

Artists from the eastern Christian traditon see the Passion of Jesus leading to a great redemption. Jesus does not rise alone, but humanity and creation itself  will follow him.

Lent Means Looking Again

Our readings this week began with Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel calling us to reach out to “the least”–the stranger, the prisoner, the sick, the naked. Christ reaches out to them, and he says we will find him in them.

But what about those people? Don’t some of them– perhaps many of them– deserve to be in prison or sick or out of a job? That’s what the 1st reading today from the Prophet Ezekiel asks. Why pay attention to them? Let’s take care of the good people.

In Matthew’s Gospel today Jesus takes up the same question, calling his disciples to go beyond the “righteousness” of the scribes and Pharisees, who permitted killing someone as an act of God’s judgment. Jesus returns to the ancient command, “You shall not kill.” Leave someone’s judgment to God.

And he goes further. Avoid any killing judgment against someone by anger or words. They can destroy people too. Leave ultimate judgment to God. 

Does that mean we shouldn’t judge others at all? Jesus never hesitated to judge others, but before judging others he says we have to remove “the splinter in our eye.” That can be anger or arrogance or pride or a lack of self-knowledge or even an ignorance of human nature. It can come from not loving others. Make sure they’re not splinters clouding your judgment, Jesus says. (Matthew 7, 1-5)

When he came among us, some early Christian saints said, Jesus went in search of the lost image of God in every one of his creatures;  he welcomed tax collectors like Matthew and others society condemned. In them he saw “the lost image of God.” He came to call sinners. 

Are we meant to search for the lost image of God in others and to welcome sinners too? But how?

“Respect” is a wonderful word. It describes a wonderful virtue that I’m afraid is more and more ignored in today’s judgmental world. “Respect” comes from a Latin word meaning “to look again”, to look again at someone or some thing to see a value we didn’t see before or denied too quickly.  Respect keeps looking, searching. It’s a permanent way to see others as long as we live, never losing hope of finding the image of God there. 

God’s image is there. We need to see it. Lent means looking again.

The Triumph of the Cross: September 14

 

Holy sepul

Pilgims enteing the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem

This ancient ecumenical feast,  celebrated by Christian churches throughout the world, originated in Jerusalem at the place where Jesus died and rose again. A great church called the Anastasis ( Resurrection) or the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built by the Emperor Constantine, was dedicated there on September 13, 325 AD, It’s one of Christianity’s holiest places.

Liturgies celebrated in this church, especially its Holy Week liturgy, influenced churches throughout the world. Devotional practices like the Stations of the Cross grew up around this church. Christian pilgrims brought relics and memories from here to every part of the world. Christian mystics were drawn to this church and this feast.

Holy Sepulcher - 28

Tomb of Jesus

Calvary

Calvary

Pilgrims today visit the church and the tomb of Jesus, recently renovated after sixteen centuries of wars, earthquakes, fires and natural disasters. They venerate the rock of Calvary where Jesus died on a cross. The building today is smaller and shabbier than the resplendent church Constantine built, because the original structure was largely destroyed in the 1009 by the mad Moslem caliph al-Hakim. Half of the church was hastily rebuilt by the Crusaders; the present building still bears the scars of time.

Scars of a divided Christendom can also be seen here. Various Christian groups, representing churches of the east and the west, claim age-old rights and warily guard their separate responsibilities. One understands here why Jesus prayed that ” All may be one.”

Holy Sepulcher - 04

Egyptian Coptic Christians

Seventeenth century Enlightenment scholars  expressed doubts about the authenticity of Jesus’ tomb and the place where he died, Calvary. Is this really it? Alternative spots were proposed, but scientific opinion today favors this site as the place where Jesus suffered, died and was buried.

For more on its history, see here.

And a video here.

Readings for the Triumph of the Cross

 

 

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Via Dolorosa - 17

“Do not forget the works of the Lord!” (Psalm 78, Responsorial Psalm) We remember his great works here. How can we forget them.

Grieving

By Orlando Hernández

To many of us Good Friday always feels like a day of mourning. We remember how our beautiful Lord was cut down in the prime of His life. Part of us feels like we lost a true friend, family . Maybe we remember those we lost. How we buried them. How we grieved and yet the world went on as if nothing had happened, business as usual. I remember when I was a kid in Caracas, Venezuela in the 1950’s. On Good Friday the whole city would shut down: government, business, entertainment. The streets seemed empty. There was a silence everywhere. Even the few TV stations and the local movie houses would only show films about the life and the Passion of Christ, which I would find very scary.

And yet today, on Good Friday, in New York, most people are unaware. They are out trying to make a living. Tonight they’ll be out in the bright city at restaurants, clubs, bars, and theaters. So different from the way I feel. This poem, by W.H. Auden (maybe you know it) expresses some of my feelings about Good Friday :

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead,
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My moon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

My soul agrees with the feelings in this poem. But it also disagrees with its message. Love does last forever. Good can come out of suffering and loss. This is a message of the Passion : The Resurrection of life and of love. But I think about those apostles in the darkness of the Upper Room!
Their guilt, their desolation, their grief, their uncertainty. I think of Peter, my friend Peter, remembering his question (my frequent prayer to the Lord): “Master, to whom will we go? Where can we go, when You have the words of Eternal Life?” And now where is that Life?

I can think of so many friends who lost their loved ones in the last few weeks, the despair they feel. And those who feel abandoned in nursing homes, jails, and hospital beds, those who feel unloved by God, who have forgotten how to believe. I am reminded of this excerpt from “The Crucified God”, by Jörgen Monltmann: “Our faith begins at the point where atheists suppose that it must be at an end. Our faith begins with the bleakness and power which is the night of the cross, abandonment, temptation and doubt about every thing that exists! Our faith must be born where it is abandoned by all tangible reality. It must be born out of nothingness.” Only God can do this. And He does.

Again, I think about these apostles in fear and disbelief, at the edge of despair. But I believe that they could not have been totally deaf! Our Lord told them more than once that He would “Rise again”. They had seen His miracles. There must have been some hope against all hope in their hearts as they cowered in that dark Upper Room. Even I, after the benefit of so many graces and instruction, at times like this, I momentarily forget that our Lord Jesus resurrected full of glory, power and love. I truly believe that when you have experienced Jesus in your life, no matter how hard your faith in Him is buffeted by adversity, hope still remains… A hope that is His gift from the cross, which is fueled by His infinite Love.

Dear Lord. By the power of Your Cross awaken in us the certainty of Your Resurrection within our dark, troubled hearts. You live, you live in us. We are not alone. Let us rejoice in your indestructible Love. Give us the confidence to share this joy with others during this Easter season.