Tag Archives: Calvary


by Orlando Hernandez

This Wednesday’s Gospel is from the section of Luke’s Chapter 14 that tells about what will be demanded of a follower of Jesus. I wonder how many people remained in the “Great crowds” after hearing what Jesus expected of them!

“ and He turned and addressed them, ‘If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.’” (Lk 14:25-27)

Jesus goes on to tell them of the builder, and the king marching into battle who do not have what it takes to succeed. What does it take to make it as a disciple of Christ? How does a disciple of Christ keep his or her “taste” like good salt? (Lk 14: 34-35) The Lord says in todays Gospel: “everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14: 33)

The Lord presents these challenges all over the Gospel of Luke. For example: in chapter 9: 57-62, The Conditions of Discipleship; in chapter 8: 11-15, The Parable of the Sower; in chapter 6: 20-26, the Sermon on the Plain; and in chapter 18: 18-30, the story of the rich official who wants to follow Him. After the rich official leaves disappointed, the disciples ask Jesus: “Then who can be saved?”

Over the last few weeks I have been talking with leaders of prayer groups, evangelization brotherhoods, Knights of Columbus, Passionist Associate Directors. At some point or another they would complain sadly about how the majority of the members are not coming to the meetings. Their excuses are similar to those cited by the Gospel: “I had to work late at the business.”, “My husband wants me home.”, “I have to take the kids to soccer.”, “I’m so tired, the boss is giving me a hard time.”, and so on….. The initial enthusiasm , the taste of salt, seems to be fading, the light on the lamp stand getting dimmer. I often find myself falling into this darkening. Please Lord, don’t let me go!

How exclusive, really, is this fellowship with the Lord? What are the requirements after all? To be invited to the Feast of the Lord it seems to help to be part of “the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” (Lk 14:15-24) In the next chapter (Lk 15) we see that perhaps if you realize that you are lost in the night like that little sheep, then the Shepherd will come for you with great joy and love. Or, if you see your total poverty and foolishness, and feel true repentance, the Father will come running down the road to embrace you!

This is so much beyond my understanding. When I knew that I could not live without the Beautiful One who had revealed Himself to me, I jumped head long into His arms, without realizing what I was getting into. Was I like the unprepared builder, the understaffed king, the seed in rocky, or thorny ground? I imagine so. I have given up a lot for Him, but I fail Him so many times. I cling to so many pleasures and possessions: “What would I do without my retirement pension, or my health? I adore my grandchildren, my wife.”

Perhaps my mistake lies in that use of the word “my”. None of these things are really mine. As Christians, most of us eventually will understand that all these wonderful things are really not ours, but His, blessed be His most merciful heart! Actually, most of the people in our planet are lacking them. He tells everyone in today’s Gospel to “carry his own cross and come after me”. Come where? Where else but Calvary itself, where He lost everything, even His life. We are all headed there. Through aging, loss, or misfortune, sooner or later we will understand the total poverty of our situation. The only treasure we have is Him, not because we deserve this treasure, but because He loves us so much.

Orlando Hernandez

Palm Sunday: The Passion from Luke’s Gospel

Palm Sunday this year we read St. Luke’s passion narrative, which sees Jesus’ death and resurrection as the culmination of his earthly journey. From Galilee, Jesus makes his way to Jerusalem, to his death on Calvary, his resurrection and finally he ascends into heaven. It’s more than a journey to death, Jesus rises and is welcomed into heaven.

He does not journey alone. In Luke’s gospel, from Galilee to Jerusalem Jesus gathers disciples to accompany him. He does not face death alone–  disciples are with him, though he’s abandoned by twelve of them in the Garden of Gethsemane. Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the fields, takes up his cross and carries it behind him. Simon is a symbol of humanity, along with the ” large crowd of people” including “many women who mourned and lamented him,” Though unaware, disciples are with Jesus on the way.

Jesus says to all in Luke’s gospel, “ If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, 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} Simon represents all the followers of Jesus who go with him on his journey. It’s not only the cross of Jesus Simon carries, it’s “his cross,” his daily cross, his own cross.

Jesus’ words in Luke’s gospel to the women “who mourned and lamented him” are puzzling. Some say he comforts them as he goes to his death. Others say his words are a prophetic announcement of the judgment that inevitably follows injustice. Jerusalem will be destroyed as a consequence. Every unjust act, every sin has consequences that cannot be waived away.

Two criminals accompany Jesus to Calvary, the place of execution just outside the city gates where many people passed. For the Romans it was the perfect place to display their fierce justice. Jesus would die at this hellish place of torture and death, not a place one wished to be or to see.

Yet Luke, like the other evangelists, sees light in this place of death. Instead of harsh justice, suffering and death, God’s mercy and new life are revealed here: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

God’ mercy is revealed here to a criminal crucified with Jesus. Another criminal mocks him from his  cross. “Are you not the Messiah. Save yourself and us.” But his companion rebukes him and turns to Jesus with a plea to be remembered. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

More than a remembrance, Jesus promises to take him with him on his journey to God. “Amen I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” As he does so often in Luke’s gospel,  Jesus reaches in tender mercy to one without hope.

Like Simon of Cyrene, the thief represents humanity. He’s been promised life and safe passage through the mystery of death. He dies with Jesus. The thief reminds us that eternal life is never denied to anyone.

The thief is a sign for us all. We die, but we die with the Lord. The best place for us to understand the mystery of death is on Calvary.

Christ, the King

Audio for the homily below:

In one of his songs, Bruce Springteen sings,

“Poor man wanna be rich,

Rich man wanna be king.

And a king ain’t satisfied

Till he rule over everything.”

That’s the normal road power takes, isn’t it? But it wasn’t the road Jesus Christ took. He ended up a poor man on a cross who had nothing. On either side of him were two criminals who also had nothing– except the prospect of death.

Jesus becomes the king of the poor, the God of the needy, our gospel today says. He speaks in their behalf and he judges others by what they have done to them. What’s more, he claims that when we help those in need, we meet him.

“I was thirsty, I was hungry, I was sick, I was in prison, I was a stranger.”

“When did we see you thirsty, hungry, sick, in prison, a stranger?” those who come before him ask–and we are among them. “When you did it to the least, “ Jesus says.

Mother Teresa had a beautiful response for those who wondered how she kept doing so much for the poor. “We must see Christ in disguise,” she said. Her words are good advice for us who wish to do what this gospel says we should.

We have to see Christ in disguise, not simply a figure from some far off past, or a heavenly presence beyond our reach. He is close to us, as close as the one beside us at home or just outside our door, who needs one of the simple gifts we can give.

Mother of Sorrows

Mary sorrow

We remember the sorrows of Mary on September 15th, the day after the church celebrates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. In John’s Gospel Mary stands bravely close to Jesus while others flee the dark happenings on Calvary. Standing beneath the cross of her dying Son was certainly her greatest sorrow.

Her sorrows were not confined to Calvary, however. They began earlier.  Early in Luke’s gospel, the priest Simeon in the temple, taking the Child Jesus in his arms tells Mary this child will cause a sword to pierce her heart. His words were etched in her mind as she left the temple holding her endangered Child. Fleeing to Egypt, she protected him in her arms. Later, she sought him anxiously when he was lost on a Jerusalem pilgrimage.

These were hardly all the sorrows she faced, though. What of her long waiting in Nazareth, not knowing all to expect? What of the years her Son ministered in Galilee, when he faced rejection even from his own family? What of the ominous journey to Jerusalem? Those years brought, not physical sufferings, but sufferings of another kind.

Mary’s sorrows were the sorrows of her Son. Mary’s cross was a daily one she bore day by day.  “O Lady Mary, thy bright crown is no mere crown of majesty. With the reflect of his own resplendent thorns, Christ circled thee.” (Francis Thompson)

Mary teaches us  that our sorrows, whatever they may be, reflect the Cross of Jesus. They will not crush us or beat us down; they lift us up to glory.

Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jersusalem

Holy sepul
The ancient Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, constructed over the places where Jesus was crucified and buried, has been the focus of Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land since the 4th century. Built by the Emperor Constantine at the urging of Bishop Macarius of Jerusalem, the church has suffered earthquakes, fires, and devastation; it’s authenticity has been questioned, especially since the Enlightenment; it has been fought over by competing Christian churches, yet it still has the best claim to be the place where the greatest of all Christian mysteries happened.
Holy Sepulcher - 28

The church received its worst blow when the calif Hakim began demolishing the church in 1009, an action leading to the Crusades. Once Jerusalem was conquered, the crusaders rebuilt the church, but only to half its former proportions.Calvary

Reliable historians weigh in positively today on the claims of the Church of the Holy Sepucher “Is this the place where Christ died and was buried?” Jerome Murphy-O’Connor asks in his solidly researched “The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide” (New York, 2008). “Yes, very probably,” he answers.
Calvary 2

The Finding of the Cross

When Constantine in the 4th century looked for Calvary and Jesus’ tomb, he had no difficulty finding their location. They were buried beneath a Roman temple built in 138 AD by the Emperor Hadrian, in the new Roman city, Aelia Capitolina, which he erected over the ruins of devastated Jewish Jerusalem. Christians since the time of Jesus knew the place and could point it out to Constantine’s builders.

Early witnesses report that, which tearing down the Roman temple and digging the foundations for the new church, the emperor’s workmen came upon an ancient cistern filled with debris from the old Roman execution site, including three upright beams and the title that Pontius Pilate had attached to the Cross of Jesus. The discovery caused a sensation in the Christian world.

Constantine’s 80 year old mother, Helena, had come the Holy Land as a devout pilgrim, “old in years, but young in spirit. She wanted to know this land… and walk in the footsteps of the Savior….”(Eusebius)
She took the precious remains from Calvary and distributed them, one part to the new church on Golgotha, another part to her son, Constantine, in Constantinople; the rest she placed in the chapel of her private residence at the Sessorian Palace in Rome, where they remain till this day, in the Church of the Holy Cross. She covered the floor of her Roman chapel with soil from the Jerusalem excavations.

Christians rejoiced at the discovery. Less than 25 years before, they had experienced the worst of all persecutions under the Emperor Diocletian, who tortured and killed great numbers, confiscating Christian homes and property. Their religion was on the verge of extermination. Now a new day had dawned; Christianity was triumphant.

The pieces of scarred wood buried in the earth for so long, became reflections of God’s triumphant power. They were placed in settings of gold and precious stones; signs that, like Jesus, the church also had tasted death but was now raised up.

Besides wood from Calvary, Constantine’s builders made another great discovery as they dug the foundations for the new basilica. They discovered the tomb of Jesus, and immediately constructed a splendid rotunda around it. The tomb survives today in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s Old City. Nearby one can still see and touch the rock of Calvary. Holy Sep

These early discoveries inspired a powerful movement of Christian devotion. Crowds of pilgrims made their way to the holy places. “The whole world is making its way to an empty tomb,” St. John Chrysostom said. Pilgrims returned home with reminders of their visit: small vials of oil from lamps at the tomb of Jesus, small handfuls of soil. Some even carried back tiny precious portions of the Cross itself.

A feast to celebrate the dedication of this church in 325 AD is found in various church calendars for September 14.


Haiti: The God of Tough Places, the Lord of Burnt Men

Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, NJ  2010   $29.95

Fr. Richard Frechette, CP, Passionist priest and medical doctor, has served the poor in the tough, burnt land of Haiti through floods, revolutions and the recent catastrophic earthquake of January 12, 2010 which left 200,000 dead.

There’s not much he hasn’t seen. But here’s a book of stories that reveal what all of us find hard to see: there’s a mighty, joyful goodness in that tough, burnt land. Frechette uncovers the graces of God in the chaos, violence and poverty of “Calvary hill,” Haiti today.

He has eyes that see in the dark, beyond the defeat most see. His stories of Haiti’s poor, especially its children in the pediatric hospital and slum schools he directs, reveal  goodness, spiritual strength and wisdom. Here the poor speak, whom Jesus called blessed.

The book’s twenty or so stories introduce us to a land that few of us have a heart to visit, but all of us should learn from.  Most are set in the context of the feasts of the Christian liturgical year, which Fr. Rick says,  “empowers us to make grace present, concretely in our world.”

With poetic insight and faith he tells us about grace present.

Available at www.crossplace.com

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