Tag Archives: St. Clement Parish

Following Jesus Christ: Monday Night– Oct 3

Following Jesus Christ in St. Matthew’s Gospel into the days of his death and  resurrection, we hope to learn from him. In a previous post,  we considered lessons Jesus taught as he began his last days.

He recognized that God was with him, even as he faced death.  “Thy will be done,” Jesus taught his disciples to pray in Galilee. “Thy will be done,” Jesus cried trembling as he faced death before his arrest that dark night in Jerusalem. God’s with you, he says to us, even in life’s darkest moments.

It’s a lesson we hope to learn. We welcome God’s will when life’s good, but find it hard to accept when times are bad. “My thoughts are above your thoughts, and my ways above your ways,” God says. God’s plans are often hidden, like seed in the ground or treasure in a field. We find God’s plan especially hard to understand in suffering and death.

And so, many today deny a plan of God exists in our world. If God exists–and some would say he really doesn’t– God is uninvolved in our world in any way. Some say there are no plans at work in our world at all; life is random, without rhyme or reason; everything just happens.

Or some say life is what I want it to be. I can make it happen, and there’s no point in looking for God’s will. I decide.

We believe God has a plan and his plan is for our good. God’s wills our good, even though it may sometimes be hard to see.

“Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Jesus before Caiaphas

After his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus is taken to “Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and elders were assembled,”  Matthew’s Gospel continues. What shall we learn here?

Caiaphas’ residence would be somewhere in Jerusalem’s Upper City where influential Jews lived. It was an area close by the Temple and Herod’s Palace, where Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor also resided when he was in the city. Jesus would be taken to that well-to-do area of the city.

Recently, archeologists have excavated some of the homes of Jewish officials in the Upper City and they’ve found  Roman style villas with courtyards and elegant furnishings. They would be among the red-roofed buildings seen in the model below of Jerusalem at the Israel Museum.

Jesus would be judged and sentenced to death, scourged and crowned with thorns in the Upper City. His followers would be few there,  unlike Bethany where we said previously  he had strong support. 

Matthew presents Jesus’ appearance before the Jesus leaders in dramatic form. Caiaphas probes his identity thoroughly in what is more of a cross examination than a court trial.  At the same time Jesus is being questioned, Peter the Apostles is also  questioned.  Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, Peter strongly professed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, now just as strongly he denies he ever knew him.

The gospel invites us into this story to ask what we say.  For Caiaphas Jesus is a trouble-maker or maybe a religious fanatic. He and his friends are worried that Jesus might start a revolution endangering all  they held dear.

Who do we say Jesus is? If he’s only a healer, a teacher, a social revolutionary with delusions of grandeur, then he’s only  another innocent person victimized by powerful enemies. Is he only another human being?

But if he’s God’s Son, the face of God to us, then he’s tremendously important to us and to our world.  “Who is he?” “Who is this who suffers and experiences such humbling?” “Why?”  are new questions before us.  God is here, and attention must be paid. Jesus, God in human form, not distant or untouched by human circumstances, suffers and dies and lives and loves as we do.

“Tell us under oath whether you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”   Caiaphas asks Jesus.

“You have said it,”  Jesus answers.

Jesus who prayed in fear in the garden, who feels abandoned and alone, whose sweat falls to ground as the dark engulfs him is the face of God before us. Jesus who gave himself to his disciples in bread and wine, who knelt before them in the Supper Room and washed their feet is the face of God. He comes humbly before us that we might meet him unafraid.

With Peter, we say “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” With Thomas, we say, “My Lord and my God.”

Notice how Matthew’s gospel strongly asserts the reality of Jesus’ human experience  He really suffers, he really fears, he really knows our sorrows and pains, for he has borne them himself.   He does not “seem” to be human, he is human.

“Why did be come among us?” we ask. Because God who lives in light inaccessible, wishes to draw us into his light. Jesus who shares our human experience leads us into that light.

We remember the Passion of Jesus to grow in love of him. His Passion is a book to be read over and over,  always wise, always new, always true. It leads us to peace. From its pages we know a loving God wants to be near us.

St. Paul of the Cross, the founder of my community, called the Passion of Jesus the door into the presence of God. It invites us to approach God bravely, to enter God’s presence with confidence and then rest in the presence of the God who loves you.


As the Jewish leaders send Jesus off to Pontius Pilate, Matthew recalls the tragic end of Judas, who betrayed Jesus. “I have sinned in betraying  innocent blood,” the disciple says as he flings the 30 pieces of silver into the temple. What lesson can be draw from this event?

“His second tragedy,” Pope Benedict says of Judas,”is that he can no longer  believe in forgiveness. His remorse turns into despair. Now he see only himself and his darkness; he no longer sees the light of Jesus, which can illumine and overcome the darkness. He shows the wrong type of remorse; the type unable to hope, that see only its own darkness.” (Jesus of Nazareth, p 68)

Judas would not believe the story of the Prodigal Son. Such sadness hangs over the fate of Judas. We learn from the tragedy of Judas to believe in God’s forgiveness, even for the greatest sinner.

When you read Matthew’s  account of the Passion  notice the gradual silence of Jesus. As the hours go by, his words become fewer and fewer. He works no obvious wonders, no obvious cures. His own power seems to slip away leaving him more and more helpless, and his powerful enemies more in control.

In the garden, he prays a short troubled prayer, over and over: “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, yet not my will, but your will be done.”

He looks for the comfort of friends but finds none. They fall asleep and seem to not notice.  “Pray that you don’t enter temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak,” Jesus tells them.

His words are few before Caiaphas. Quick to answer false charges before, he says nothing to the false witnesses bringing charges against him.  Only when Caiaphas directly asks if he is the Messiah, the Son of God,  does Jesus answer: “ You have said so. I tell you from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Similarly, Jesus is mostly silent before Pilate. “Are you the king of the Jews?” Pilate asks him. “You say so,” Jesus answers. Then, he says no more.

He’s silent when the crowd calls for Barrabas; he has no words but cries of pain when the soldiers scourge him. He makes no response to their mockery as they lead him away to be crucified.

The only words he says towards the end in Matthew’s gospel–Mark’s Gospel also reports these words–  are the final words from psalm 22, which the evangelists quote in Aramaic, as well as Greek:  “My God, my God why have you forsaken me.?”

“It is not ordinary cry of abandonment. Jesus is praying the great psalm of suffering Israel, and so he is taking upon himself all the tribulation, not just of Israel, but of all those in this world who suffer from God’s concealment. He brings the world’s anguished cry at God’s absence before the heart of God himself. He identifies himself with suffering Israel, with all who suffer under “God’s darkness”; he takes their cry, their anguish, all their helplessness on himself–and in so doing he transforms it.” (Jesus of Nazareth, )

In the Passion of Jesus we find God as a companion, as “one like us in all things but sin.”

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Mission: St. Clement’s Parish, Matawan-Aberdeen, NJ

We know from the gospels that Jesus used examples from his time to speak to the people of his day. Today’s readings tell us that.  Since Jesus lived most of his life in Galilee in northern Palestine, and most of the people he preached to were farmers who made their living on the land or fishermen fishing the sea, Jesus talked to people about fishing and their farms and vineyards and planting seeds.

So how would he speak to us now?  Would he Google the place?

I’m here for your parish mission for the next three days. Tonight, tomorrow night and Tuesday night at 7:30 PM.  I googled “Matawan” for information about your town, or borough, to use the right word, and Wikipedia said there are about 9,000 people here in Matawan. in a space of 2.3 square miles. The median age about 36.

In a New York Times article last year entitled 2 Lakes, the Shore and a Train to the City  the writer said that Matawan was a good place to live, to bring up kids,  close to the train, close to the shore, close to the water. The statistics say you’re more prosperous here than other parts of the country, but the 2000 census did say that 5.5 of your population were below the poverty line. I’d guess that might be greater these days.

Now, I don’t think that Jesus, if he came here to talk to you, would go on a lot about statistics. The gospels say he urged people to be grateful to God for what they had.  Don’t forget God who gave you everything; God should be at the center of your life.

Be like your Father in heaven, aim high. Live a grateful life and love the way God loves.

The gospel also says that Jesus was not someone who was always calling people out. He saw the heartbreak, the sorrow, the sickness, the pain that’s present in everyone, no matter where they live. He saw sinners. Sinners are those who get life wrong. He spent a lot of time with them. He’s God’s face for us to see.

For the next few evenings I’ll be using the Gospel of Matthew to follow Jesus Christ through the last days of his life and his appearances as Risen from the dead. These are the most important parts of the gospel.  We’ll  follow him as disciples, which means we’ll learn from him, our teacher and Lord, how to live today from the way he lived yesterday.  I’ll go slowly through the scriptures step by step, so if you come to these evening sessions might be good to bring a bible along.

I hope this mission helps us to appreciate Jesus Christ and give us a greater appreciation for the scriptures that speak of him. In our church today, the scriptures have become our catechism and our prayerbook.

But you know as well as I that many don’t read the scriptures much or understand them too.

An article in a recent issue of the Jesuit magazine, America, (http://www.americamagazine.org/content/current-issue.cfm?issueid=786) discussed the way American Catholics read the scriptures. Actually, they don’t read them much or know much about the writings we call the Word of God, the author, Brian B. Pinter, says. Also, Catholics who do read the scriptures, may read them literally, like fundamentalists. But the Pontifical Bible Commission in 1993, Pinter points out, warned that  “Fundamentalism actually invites people to a kind of intellectual suicide.”

Last summer the pope urged Catholics to take up and read the scriptures. It wasn’t a pious wish, he was dead serious. The scriptures are the Word of God that nourish our faith and help us know God’s will.

A couple of weeks ago was catechetical Sunday, when parishes began their religious education programs for the year. Most of these programs are for our young people.  But you know religious education involves more than young people. All of us are called to grow in our faith and live what we believe.

Unfortunately, adults may think that faith is something you learn as a child in school or in a religious education program and you never have to learn about it again.

The Catholic writer Frank Sheed once said the problem with adult Catholics is that they don’t keep engaged in the faith they learned as children. He used the example of our eyes. We have two eyes. Let’s say one of them is the eye of faith; the other is the eye of experience.

As children, in religious education we may  see the world with two eyes; but as adults we may see the world only with the eye of experience. And so we lose the focus that faith gives, another dimension. We won’t see right. Faith helps us to see.

“You are all learners,” Jesus said. It’s not just children who learn, all of us learn. We are lifelong learners. Lifelong believers, engaged believers, struggling believers, even till the end.

So, I invite you to our mission this week as lifelong learners. Some of you may not be able to make it, but let me make a deal with you. How about doing a little online learning? I have a blog on the web called “Victor’s Place.” I’ll put up some material from our mission every day, starting with this homily. If you can’t get here yourself, or have a neighbor who wont darken the church door, or have a daughter in California who’s not going to church, take a look at “Victor’s Place.”

You saw me bring up a cross at the beginning of Mass and put it next to the pulpit. That was to remind me and to remind you that Someone Else is here speaking during these days of mission. The Lord is with us. He wants to speak to us here in this place where 9,000 people live, a place of  “2 Lakes, near the Shore and a trainride to the City.”

The mission services, a short catechesis, a longer reflection on the scriptures, hymns, prayers and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament will be about 1 hour. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday Nights at 7:30.

I’ll be celebrating the morning Masses on Monday and Tuesday at 8 AM  and preaching a short homily. Afterwards I’ll be available for confessions.

Fr. Victor Hoagland, CP


mission poster 2