“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”
A Prayer for the Forgiveness of Sins
By St. Gemma Galgani
I place all my sins before you.
In my estimation
They do not deserve pardon,
But I ask you
To close your eyes
To my want of merit
And open them
To your infinite merit.
Since you willed
To die for my sins,
Grant me forgiveness
For all of them.
Thus, I may no longer feel
The burden of my sins,
A burden that oppresses me
Assist me, dear Jesus,
For I desire to become holy
No matter what the cost.
Take away, destroy,
And utterly root out
Whatever you find in me
That is contrary
To your holy will.
At the same time, dear Jesus,
So that I may walk in your holy light.
By your help, we beseech you, Lord our God,
may we walk eagerly in that same charity
with which, out of love for the world,
your Son handed himself over to death.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
The days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel
and the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers
the day I took them by the hand
to lead them forth from the land of Egypt;
for they broke my covenant,
and I had to show myself their master, says the LORD.
But this is the covenant that I will make
with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD.
I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts;
I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives
how to know the LORD.
All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD,
for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 64 Through the prophets, God forms his people in the hope of salvation, in the expectation of a new and everlasting Covenant intended for all, to be written on their hearts.1 The prophets proclaim a radical redemption of the People of God, purification from all their infidelities, a salvation which will include all the nations.2 Above all, the poor and humble of the Lord will bear this hope. Such holy women as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Judith and Esther kept alive the hope of Israel’s salvation. The purest figure among them is Mary.3
CCC 368 The spiritual tradition of the Church also emphasizes the heart, in the biblical sense of the depths of one’s being, where the person decides for or against God.4
CCC 580 The perfect fulfillment of the Law could be the work of none but the divine legislator, born subject to the Law in the person of the Son.5 In Jesus, the Law no longer appears engraved on tables of stone but “upon the heart” of the Servant who becomes “a covenant to the people”, because he will “faithfully bring forth justice”.6 Jesus fulfills the Law to the point of taking upon himself “the curse of the Law” incurred by those who do not “abide by the things written in the book of the Law, and do them”, for his death took place to redeem them “from the transgressions under the first covenant”.7
CCC 715 The prophetic texts that directly concern the sending of the Holy Spirit are oracles by which God speaks to the heart of his people in the language of the promise, with the accents of “love and fidelity.”8 St. Peter will proclaim their fulfillment on the morning of Pentecost.9 According to these promises, at the “end time” the Lord’s Spirit will renew the hearts of men, engraving a new law in them. He will gather and reconcile the scattered and divided peoples; he will transform the first creation, and God will dwell there with men in peace.
CCC 762 The remote preparation for this gathering together of the People of God begins when he calls Abraham and promises that he will become the father of a great people.10 Its immediate preparation begins with Israel’s election as the People of God. By this election, Israel is to be the sign of the future gathering of All nations.11 But the prophets accuse Israel of breaking the covenant and behaving like a prostitute. They announce a new and eternal covenant. “Christ instituted this New Covenant.”12
CCC 1965 The New Law or the Law of the Gospel is the perfection here on earth of the divine law, natural and revealed. It is the work of Christ and is expressed particularly in the Sermon on the Mount. It is also the work of the Holy Spirit and through him it becomes the interior law of charity: “I will establish a New Covenant with the house of Israel. .. I will put my laws into their hands, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”13
CCC 2713 Contemplative prayer is the simplest expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gift, a grace; it can be accepted only in humility and poverty. Contemplative prayer is a covenant relationship established by God within our hearts.14 Contemplative prayer is a communion in which the Holy Trinity conforms man, the image of God, “to his likeness.”
1 Cf. Isa 2:2-4; Jer 31:31-34; Heb 10:16.
2 Cf. Ezek 36; Isa 49:5-6; 53:11.
3 Cf. Ezek 2:3; Lk 1:38.
4 Cf. Jer 31:33; Dt 6:5; 29:3; Is 29:13; Ezek 36:26; Mt 6:21; Lk 8:15; Rom 5:5.
5 Cf. Gal 4:4.
6 Jer 31:33; Is 42:3, 6.
7 Gal 3:13; 3:10; Heb 9:15.
8 Cf. Ezek 11:19; 36:25-28; 37:1-14; Jer 31:31-34; and cf. Joel 3:1-5.
9 Cf. Acts 2:17-21.
10 Cf. Gen 12:2; 15:5-6.
11 Cf. Ex 19:5-6; Deut 7:6; Isa 2:2-5; Mic 4:1-4.
12 LG 9; cf. Hos 1; Isa 1:2-4; Jer 2; 31:31-34; Isa 55:3.
13 Heb 8:8, 10; cf. Jer 31:31-34.
14 Cf. Jer 31:33.
It must have grieved and offended a devout lover of God, and an appointed prophet as Jeremiah was, to see the laws of his God broken and trampled on day after day, and this by the leaders of the people who were especially bound to give good example to their followers. The kings and people of Judah were facing a terrible trial. However, instead of relying on the good God who had so often helped them out of impossible difficulties in the past, they were seeking earthly aid from a pagan neighbor–a pagan neighbor who would not help them. Having chastised them in the strongest language for this gross infidelity, he now promises that even though they have deserted God, God will not desert them. The Chosen People were elected by God with the incarnation in mind. Abraham and his descendants were chosen to prepare the way for the coming of God’s Son. Unworthy though they had proved themselves for this noble role, God would still carry out his eternal purpose for all men. The Chosen People would be decimated. Their temple, his visible abode amongst them, would be razed to the ground, for they had despised and betrayed him. But a remnant would be saved–a purified remnant from which would come God’s Son in human nature.
We are the beneficiaries of this infinite act of God’s mercy toward, and patience with, sinful humanity. We have seen the New Covenant established between God and all men (not Abraham’s descendants only). We have seen the depth of God’s love for us, as illustrated on Mount Calvary. Our New Covenant was not mediated to us by any mere human being like Moses, but by the Son of God himself in his human nature. The blood with which this Covenant was ratified was not the blood of sheep and oxen which Moses used for the ratification of the first Covenant. It was the precious blood of Jesus Christ: “This is the blood of the New and everlasting Covenant which will be shed for you and all men so that sins may be forgiven.” This is a universal covenant “for all men.” It is not made between God and one race or people but between God and all men of all races and nations.
This is what we mean when we speak of the “New Testament.” It is not merely the books which describe what happened, but the happening itself. The Messiah promised in the Old Covenant and for whom the Old was a preparation, has come on earth and has proved to be not a mere messenger or delegate from God but his own dearly-beloved Son. This Son of God has brought about a pact, an agreement, between God and all men–an agreement through which all men are now elevated to the position of sons of God and heirs to God’s eternal kingdom. By the sacrifice of himself on the cross, the Son of God has removed any impediment (sins) which could prevent us from possessing that promised inheritance. This is the happy lot of man on earth today. But how many know of this pearl of great price, which is theirs for the taking? How many who do know of it are willing to “sell the few possessions they have” in order to acquire this treasure? How many, in other words, are willing to live the Christian life on earth in all sincerity, so that they can be Christians and brothers of Christ for all eternity in heaven?
Let each one of us ask these questions today, and give an honest answer. Living in the Christian era now will mean nothing to us hereafter, if we do not live as true Christians. Having the new pact with God written in our hearts by baptism will not help us to get to heaven unless we observe the two great commandments, love of God and love of neighbor. The fact that Christ has left a means for washing away our sins will not cleanse us unless we repent and confess our sins. The fact that we were made “spouses” of the Lord when we became Christians will give us no rights or privileges if we have divorced ourselves from him by unworthy conduct.
There is still hope. We are still alive. Lent is a very suitable occasion to examine ourselves: to see our faults and failings, to repent of them and ask from God forgiveness and the necessary grace to remain his true spouses, his true “chosen ones” for the future.
Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15.
(12a) Create a clean heart in me, O God.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
Create a clean heart in me, O God.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
Create a clean heart in me, O God.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners shall return to you.
Create a clean heart in me, O God.
In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh,
he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears
to the one who was able to save him from death,
and he was heard because of his reverence.
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered;
and when he was made perfect,
he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 609 By embracing in his human heart the Father’s love for men, Jesus “loved them to the end”, for “greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”1 In suffering and death his humanity became the free and perfect instrument of his divine love which desires the salvation of men.2 Indeed, out of love for his Father and for men, whom the Father wants to save, Jesus freely accepted his Passion and death: “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”3 Hence the sovereign freedom of God’s Son as he went out to his death.4
CCC 612 The cup of the New Covenant, which Jesus anticipated when he offered himself at the Last Supper, is afterwards accepted by him from his Father’s hands in his agony in the garden at Gethsemani,5 making himself “obedient unto death”. Jesus prays: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. ..”6 Thus he expresses the horror that death represented for his human nature. Like ours, his human nature is destined for eternal life; but unlike ours, it is perfectly exempt from sin, the cause of death.7 Above all, his human nature has been assumed by the divine person of the “Author of life”, the “Living One”.8 By accepting in his human will that the Father’s will be done, he accepts his death as redemptive, for “he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”9
CCC 617 The Council of Trent emphasizes the unique character of Christ’s sacrifice as “the source of eternal salvation”10 and teaches that “his most holy Passion on the wood of the cross merited justification for us.”11 And the Church venerates his cross as she sings: “Hail, O Cross, our only hope.”12
CCC 1009 Death is transformed by Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, also himself suffered the death that is part of the human condition. Yet, despite his anguish as he faced death, he accepted it in an act of complete and free submission to his Father’s will.13 The obedience of Jesus has transformed the curse of death into a blessing.14
CCC 1564 “Whilst not having the supreme degree of the pontifical office, and notwithstanding the fact that they depend on the bishops in the exercise of their own proper power, the priests are for all that associated with them by reason of their sacerdotal dignity; and in virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, after the image of Christ, the supreme and eternal priest, they are consecrated in order to preach the Gospel and shepherd the faithful as well as to celebrate divine worship as true priests of the New Testament.”15
CCC 2606 All the troubles, for all time, of humanity enslaved by sin and death, all the petitions and intercessions of salvation history are summed up in this cry of the incarnate Word. Here the Father accepts them and, beyond all hope, answers them by raising his Son. Thus is fulfilled and brought to completion the drama of prayer in the economy of creation and salvation. The Psalter gives us the key to prayer in Christ. In the “today” of the Resurrection the Father says: “You are my Son, today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.”16
The Letter to the Hebrews expresses in dramatic terms how the prayer of Jesus accomplished the victory of salvation: “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered, and being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.”17
CCC 2741 Jesus also prays for us – in our place and on our behalf. All our petitions were gathered up, once for all, in his cry on the Cross and, in his Resurrection, heard by the Father. This is why he never ceases to intercede for us with the Father.18 If our prayer is resolutely united with that of Jesus, in trust and boldness as children, we obtain all that we ask in his name, even more than any particular thing: the Holy Spirit himself, who contains all gifts.
CCC 2825 “Although he was a Son, [Jesus] learned obedience through what he suffered.”19 How much more reason have we sinful creatures to learn obedience – we who in him have become children of adoption. We ask our Father to unite our will to his Son’s, in order to fulfill his will, his plan of salvation for the life of the world. We are radically incapable of this, but united with Jesus and with the power of his Holy Spirit, we can surrender our will to him and decide to choose what his Son has always chosen: to do what is pleasing to the Father.20
In committing ourselves to [Christ], we can become one spirit with him, and thereby accomplish his will, in such wise that it will be perfect on earth as it is in heaven.21
Consider how Jesus Christ] teaches us to be humble, by making us see that our virtue does not depend on our work alone but on grace from on high. He commands each of the faithful who prays to do so universally, for the whole world. For he did not say “thy will be done in me or in us,” but “on earth,” the whole earth, so that error may be banished from it, truth take root in it, all vice be destroyed on it, virtue flourish on it, and earth no longer differ from heaven.22
1 Jn 13:1; 15:13.
2 Cf. Heb 2:10,17-18; 4:15; 5:7-9.
3 Jn 10:18.
4 Cf. Jn 18:4-6; Mt 26:53.
5 Cf. Mt 26:42; Lk 22:20.
6 Phil 2:8; Mt 26:39; cf. Heb 5:7-8.
7 Cf. Rom 5:12; Heb 4:15.
8 Cf. Acts 3:15; Rev 1:17; Jn 1:4; 5:26.
9 1 Pt 224; cf. Mt 26:42.
10 Heb 5:9.
11 Council of Trent: DS 1529.
12 LH, Lent, Holy Week, Evening Prayer, Hymn Vexilla Regis.
13 Cf. Mk 14:33-34; Heb 5:7-8.
14 Cf. Rom 5:19-21.
15 LG 28 cf. Heb 5:1-10; 7:24; 9:11-28; Innocent I, Epist. ad Decentium:PL 20,554A; St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 2,22:PG 35,432B.
16 Ps 2:7-8; cf. Acts 13:33.
17 Heb 5:7-9.
18 Cf. Heb 5:7; 7:25; 9:24
19 Heb 5:8.
20 Cf. Jn 8:29.
21 Origen, De orat. 26 PG 11, 501B.
22 St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in Mt. 19, 5 PG 57, 280.
When we are asked to live as true Christians we are being told to be obedient to the will of a heavenly Father who wants us to go to heaven. It is through obeying that divine will that we shall be working toward our best and truest interest. We all have sins and failings to atone for; we all have weaknesses and evil inclinations which we want to overcome. Hence the need for the self-mortification which living the true Christian life imposes on us. God gave us the marvelous gifts of intellect and free-will and we are all – without exception – tempted to dislike being ordered or commanded by another. We can easily get, the foolish idea that we are masters of our own destiny, whereas the truth is that our eternal destiny depends on God’s good-will toward us. That good-will is promised and secured, by those who obey him.
This reading from Hebrews today sets before us the inspiring example of the perfect obedience of Christ, who was the Son of God. He had no sins, he had nothing to atone for, eternal happiness was his by virtue of his sonship. Yet God the Father asked him to undergo the tortures and torments of crucifixion in his human nature for our sakes, and he obeyed! This is the sublime model of perfect obedience, the unparalleled example of complete submission to God’s will. It is set before us in this short reading. How could we be expected to imitate the perfect Christ? Yet St. Paul not only says we are expected to do so, but commands his Philippian converts to do so when he says. “In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus… who was divine but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death even death on a cross (Phil. 2: 5-8). St. Paul and his disciple, the author of Hebrews, call on Christians to imitate the obedience of Christ. In doing this they are asking no more than he himself asked when he laid down the condition for discipleship: “if any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mt. 16: 24, see today’s gospel also).
The truly sincere Christian must be ready to suffer torture and crucifixion, if called on for the sake of Christ. Many have done so but true obedience for most of us consists in carrying our own crosses, our sicknesses, our loneliness, our struggles for earthly existence our sorrows and bereavements. These may not lead to the Calvary of martyrdom, but they lead us over very rough roads – roads, however, which bring us, in God’s good time, to the reward won for us on Calvary.
Are we on that rough road of true obedience, or have we sought the smoother path of giving in to our weaknesses? Lent is a suitable time to examine ourselves and then to return to the road of true obedience if we have strayed off it.
Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast
came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee,
and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”
Philip went and told Andrew;
then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.
Jesus answered them,
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honor whoever serves me.
“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?
‘Father, save me from this hour?’
But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.
Father, glorify your name.”
Then a voice came from heaven,
“I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”
The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder;
but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”
Jesus answered and said,
“This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.
Now is the time of judgment on this world;
now the ruler of this world will be driven out.
And when I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw everyone to myself.”
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 160 To be human, “man’s response to God by faith must be free, and. .. therefore nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will. The act of faith is of its very nature a free act.”1 “God calls men to serve him in spirit and in truth. Consequently they are bound to him in conscience, but not coerced. .. This fact received its fullest manifestation in Christ Jesus.”2 Indeed, Christ invited people to faith and conversion, but never coerced them. “For he bore witness to the truth but refused to use force to impose it on those who spoke against it. His kingdom. .. grows by the love with which Christ, lifted up on the cross, draws men to himself.”3
CCC 363 In Sacred Scripture the term “soul” often refers to human life or the entire human person.4 But “soul” also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him,5 that by which he is most especially in God’s image: “soul” signifies the spiritual principle in man.
CCC 434 Jesus’ Resurrection glorifies the name of the Savior God, for from that time on it is the name of Jesus that fully manifests the supreme power of the “name which is above every name”.6 The evil spirits fear his name; in his name his disciples perform miracles, for the Father grants all they ask in this name.7
CCC 542 Christ stands at the heart of this gathering of men into the “family of God”. By his word, through signs that manifest the reign of God, and by sending out his disciples, Jesus calls all people to come together around him. But above all in the great Paschal mystery – his death on the cross and his Resurrection – he would accomplish the coming of his kingdom. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” Into this union with Christ all men are called.8
CCC 550 The coming of God’s kingdom means the defeat of Satan’s: “If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”9 Jesus’ exorcisms free some individuals from the domination of demons. They anticipate Jesus’ great victory over “the ruler of this world”.10 The kingdom of God will be definitively established through Christ’s cross: “God reigned from the wood.”11
CCC 607 The desire to embrace his Father’s plan of redeeming love inspired Jesus’ whole life,12 for his redemptive passion was the very reason for his Incarnation. And so he asked, “And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour.”13 And again, “Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?”14 From the cross, just before “It is finished”, he said, “I thirst.”15
CCC 662 “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”16 The lifting up of Jesus on the cross signifies and announces his lifting up by his Ascension into heaven, and indeed begins it. Jesus Christ, the one priest of the new and eternal Covenant, “entered, not into a sanctuary made by human hands. .. but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”17 There Christ permanently exercises his priesthood, for he “always lives to make intercession” for “those who draw near to God through him”.18 As “high priest of the good things to come” he is the center and the principal actor of the liturgy that honors the Father in heaven.19
CCC 786 Finally, the People of God shares in the royal office of Christ. He exercises his kingship by drawing all men to himself through his death and Resurrection.20 Christ, King and Lord of the universe, made himself the servant of all, for he came “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”21 For the Christian, “to reign is to serve him,” particularly when serving “the poor and the suffering, in whom the Church recognizes the image of her poor and suffering founder.”22 The People of God fulfills its royal dignity by a life in keeping with its vocation to serve with Christ.
The sign of the cross makes kings of all those reborn in Christ and the anointing of the Holy Spirit consecrates them as priests, so that, apart from the particular service of our ministry, all spiritual and rational Christians are recognized as members of this royal race and sharers in Christ’s priestly office. What, indeed, is as royal for a soul as to govern the body in obedience to God? And what is as priestly as to dedicate a pure conscience to the Lord and to offer the spotless offerings of devotion on the altar of the heart?23
CCC 1428 Christ’s call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. This second conversion is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, “clasping sinners to her bosom, [is] at once holy and always in need of purification, [and] follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.”24 This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a “contrite heart,” drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first.25
CCC 2731 Another difficulty, especially for those who sincerely want to pray, is dryness. Dryness belongs to contemplative prayer when the heart is separated from God, with no taste for thoughts, memories, and feelings, even spiritual ones. This is the moment of sheer faith clinging faithfully to Jesus in his agony and in his tomb. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if dies, it bears much fruit.”26 If dryness is due to the lack of roots, because the word has fallen on rocky soil, the battle requires conversion.27
CCC 2795 The symbol of the heavens refers us back to the mystery of the covenant we are living when we pray to our Father. He is in heaven, his dwelling place; the Father’s house is our homeland. Sin has exiled us from the land of the covenant,28 but conversion of heart enables us to return to the Father, to heaven.29 In Christ, then, heaven and earth are reconciled,30 for the Son alone “descended from heaven” and causes us to ascend there with him, by his Cross, Resurrection, and Ascension.31
CCC 2853 Victory over the “prince of this world”32 was won once for all at the Hour when Jesus freely gave himself up to death to give us his life. This is the judgment of this world, and the prince of this world is “cast out.”33 “He pursued the woman”34 but had no hold on her: the new Eve, “full of grace” of the Holy Spirit, is preserved from sin and the corruption of death (the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Most Holy Mother of God, Mary, ever virgin). “Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring.”35 Therefore the Spirit and the Church pray: “Come, Lord Jesus,”36 since his coming will deliver us from the Evil One.
1 DH 10; cf. CIC, can. 748 # 2.
2 DH 11.
3 DH 11; cf. Jn 18:37; 12:32.
4 Cf. Mt 16:25-26; Jn 15:13; Acts 2:41.
5 Cf. Mt 10:28; 26:38; Jn 12:27; 2 Macc 6 30.
6 Phil 2:9-10; cf. Jn 12:28.
7 Cf. Acts 16:16-18; 19:13-16; Mk 16:17; Jn 15:16.
8 Jn 12:32; cf. LG 3.
9 Mt 12:26, 28.
10 Jn 12:31; cf. Lk 8:26-39.
11 LH, Lent, Holy Week, Evening Prayer, Hymn Vexilla Regis: Regnavit a ligno Deus.
12 Cf Lk 12:50; 22:15; Mt 16:21-23.
13 Jn 12:27.
14 Jn 18:11.
15 Jn 19:30; 19:28.
16 Jn 12:32.
17 Heb 9:24.
18 Heb 7:25.
19 Heb 9:11; cf. Rev 4:6-11.
20 Cf. Jn 12:32.
21 Mt 20:28.
22 LG 8; Cf. 36.
23 St. Leo the Great, Sermo 4, 1: PL 54, 149.
24 LG 8 # 3.
25 Ps 51:17; cf. Jn 6:44; 12:32; 1 Jn 4:10.
26 Jn 12:24.
27 Cf. Lk 8:6, 13.
28 Cf. Gen 3.
29 Jer 3:19-4:1a; Lk 15:18, 21.
30 Cf. Isa 45:8; Ps 85:12.
31 Jn 3:13; 12:32; 14 2-3; 16:28; 20:17; Eph 4:9-10; Heb 1:3; 2:13.
32 Jn 14:30.
33 Jn 12:31; Rev 12:10.
34 Rev 12:13-16.
35 Rev 12:17.
On the first Palm Sunday, as Christ entered Jerusalem not as a conquering king on a charger but “riding on an ass” to show that he was the humble servant of all men, he clearly foresaw the sufferings and torments that would be his in that city, before the week was out. Among those who waved palm branches to honor him and who sang aloud: “Hosanna to the son of David, Hosanna in the highest,” there were perhaps some who, urged on by the leaders, would be shouting the following Friday, “away with him, crucify him,” and “we have no king but Caesar.” Such was the fickleness of human nature then. Unfortunately it has not changed much, if at all, in the two thousand years that have since elapsed. We are still fickle when it comes to choosing between Christ and the things of this world. Yet he knew all of this, and was still willing to carry the cross for us who are such unworthy mortals!
This very thought should put us all to shame, for what repayment does the very best of us make for the incredible love he has shown for us? We grumble and complain when some small cross is laid on our shoulders; we are full of laments if life is not running smoothly for us; we cannot understand why God should let certain things happen to us, his friends! But see for a moment what the lot of his beloved Son was on earth. Born and reared in extreme poverty; insulted and offended by those he wanted to teach; quickly forgotten by those he benefited by his miracles; hounded by his enemies and betrayed by one who had been his disciple for over two years and who had sat at table with him that same night; deserted in his moment of trial by those very ones who had sworn undying allegiance to him. Then followed the torments wished on him by his enemies – those he had come to save; the mock trial and illegal condemnation; the scourging at the pillar; the crowning with thorns; the carrying of the cross and finally the three hours of intense torture and agony while his body hung on the cross! The next time we are tempted to grumble and complain about our sad lot, let us look thoughtfully at a crucifix for a few moments!
“He who loves his life loses it,” this is a truth stated by Christ at the solemn moment when he was speaking of the purpose of his own painful death. He died so that we might live, not for sixty or even a hundred years on earth, but forever in heaven. We can, we know, lose the eternal life Christ won for us if we are too attached to our transitory, earthly life. If we love our own comforts, pleasures, temporal gains, our own worldly will, more than we love our unending, happy future, then we are loving our earthly lives wrongly, and we are gravely risking the loss of the future, true life.
If, on the other hand, we do our best to be faithful servants of Christ, we shall always judge all our actions with eternity in view. We can use the things of this life which God gives us, and still be close followers of Christ. The lawful possession of the goods of this world, the enjoyment of the licit pleasures of life, are allowed to the fervent Christian. If these possessions and pleasures are accepted with Christian gratitude, they will become stepping-stones that will help us across the river of life to our everlasting home beyond.
Each one of us should look fervently and devoutly on the crucifix today, and try to compare our willingness to suffer those crosses sent to us by God, with the crushing cross and passion our Savior Jesus Christ gladly accepted for us and not for his own sake. Do not let the conclusion you draw stun you into inactivity, but rather let it shock you into a new outlook on life; a now resolve to serve, follow and imitate our loving Christ more closely in future. So may it be for all of us.
Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.
Love and Eternity
Our life tends in the end toward a discovery of love, toward receiving love, and giving love. And the crucified Christ, who presents us with love lived out to the end, as he himself says in the Gospel of John, lifts this principle up into the realm of absolute reality. God himself is love. In this sense, love is indeed both the fundamental rule and the ultimate aim of life. Here we come again to the mystery of the grain of wheat, to the mystery of losing oneself and finding oneself. And we must link to this the observation that, as we know, no one can make love. It is given to us. It just happens; it comes to me from someone else; it enters into me. Human love always lays claim to eternity. Love contradicts death, as the human love is turned from a promise into the fulfillment of reality only that to say to a person “I love you” meant: I refuse to accept your death; I protest your death. Thus we see that human love, in and for itself, represents an unredeemable promise. It strives for eternity, and yet it can offer only mortality. Yet, on the other hand, it knows that this promise is not meaningless and contradictory, and thereby destructive, since ultimately eternity is alive within it nonetheless. Even from a purely human point of view, then, love is what we are looking for and is the goal toward which our lives are directed. But within its own framework and on its own terms it directs our view toward God and brings us to wait upon God.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
I thank you, Lord, with all my heart,
you have heard the words of my mouth.
In the presence of the angels I will bless you.
I will adore before your holy temple.
I thank you for your faithfulness and love
which excel all we ever knew of you.
On the day I called, you answered;
you increased the strength of my soul.
All earth’s kings shall thank you
when they hear the words of your mouth.
They shall sing of the Lord’s ways:
“How great is the glory of the Lord!”
The Lord is high yet he looks on the lowly
and the haughty he knows from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of affliction
you give me life and frustrate my foes.
You stretch out your hand and save me,
your hand will do all things for me.
Your love, O Lord, is eternal,
discard not the work of your hands.
Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and shall be for ever.