Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

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Then Jesus said to them,  “All of you will have your faith shaken, for it is written:  I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be dispersed.  But after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee.”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for the Grace of the Passion

O Lord, for the redemption of the world, you willed to be born among human beings, subjected to the rite of circumcision, rejected by the people, betrayed by Judas with a kiss, bound with cords, led like an innocent lamb to slaughter, shamelessly exposed to the gaze of Annas as well as Caiaphas, Pilate, and Herod, accused by false witnesses, tormented by scourges and insults, spat upon and crowned with thorns, struck with blows of hand and reed, blindfolded and stripped of your garments, affixed to the wood and lifted high on the Cross, numbered among thieves, given gall and vinegar to drink, and pierced by a lance.

Lord, by these most holy sufferings which we, your unworthy servants, devoutly call to mind, and by your holy Cross and death, deliver us from the pains of hell, and be pleased to take us where you took the penitent thief who was crucified with you. You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty and ever-living God,

who as an example of humility for the human race to follow

caused our Savior to take flesh and submit to the Cross,

graciously grant that we may heed his lesson of patient sufferings

and so merit a share in his Resurrection.

Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

AT THE PROCESSION WITH PALMS

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Mk. 11: 1-10

When Jesus and his disciples drew near to Jerusalem,

to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives,

he sent two of his disciples and said to them,

“Go into the village opposite you,

and immediately on entering it,

you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat.

Untie it and bring it here.

If anyone should say to you,

‘Why are you doing this?’ reply,

‘The Master has need of it

and will send it back here at once.'”

So they went off

and found a colt tethered at a gate outside on the street,

and they untied it.

Some of the bystanders said to them,

“What are you doing, untying the colt?”

They answered them just as Jesus had told them to,

and they permitted them to do it.

So they brought the colt to Jesus

and put their cloaks over it.

And he sat on it.

Many people spread their cloaks on the road,

and others spread leafy branches

that they had cut from the fields.

Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out:

“Hosanna!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come!

Hosanna in the highest!”

READING I

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Is 50: 4-7

 

 

The Lord GOD has given me

a well-trained tongue,

that I might know how to speak to the weary

a word that will rouse them.

Morning after morning

he opens my ear that I may hear;

and I have not rebelled,

have not turned back.

I gave my back to those who beat me,

my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;

my face I did not shield

from buffets and spitting.

The Lord GOD is my help,

therefore I am not disgraced;

I have set my face like flint,

knowing that I shall not be put to shame.

APPLICATION

The sufferings and crucifixion of our divine Lord in his humanity are the Christian’s source of strength and encouragement in his daily struggles against, the enemies of God and of his own spiritual progress. Because of our earthly bodies, and because of the close grip that this world of the senses has on us, to keep free from sin and to keep close to God on our journey to heaven is a daily struggle for even the best among us. But we have the example before our eyes, the example of our true brother. He was one of ourselves, the truly human Christ. He not only traveled the road before us and made the journey, to heaven possible for us, but he is with us every day, close beside us, to encourage and help us on the way.

We need to remind ourselves daily of this. We have the crucifix in our Christian homes, on our rosary beads, on our altars, on the very steeples of our churches. These crucifixes are not ornaments, but stark reminders that our Savior’s path to heaven led through Calvary and through all that preceded Calvary. They are also stern reminders to us that the carrying of our crosses on the road to heaven is not an unbearable burden for us, but an essential aid to our progress.

When you are tried by temptations, when you are tested by bodily pain or mental suffering, worried to death perhaps by the bodily needs of yourself or your family or by the disobedience and insults of ungrateful children, stop and think on the Leader and his humiliations and sufferings. He came to open the road to heaven for us, to make us all sons of God, to preach the message of divine forgiveness and mercy to mankind. What did he get in return? He was scourged, tied to a pillar, spat upon and insulted, jeered at and mocked. He was nailed to a cross on Calvary between two thieves!

How light is my cross in comparison, how easy my Calvary. But he was sin less; his obedience, as man, to the Father was perfect. Can we or should we complain, we whose life up to now has often been far from perfect?  Stop, think and listen to today’s lesson.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

All who see me scoff at me;

they mock me with parted lips, they wag their heads:

“He relied on the LORD; let him deliver him,

let him rescue him, if he loves him.”

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

Indeed, many dogs surround me,

a pack of evildoers closes in upon me;

They have pierced my hands and my feet;

I can count all my bones.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

They divide my garments among them,

and for my vesture they cast lots.

But you, O LORD, be not far from me;

O my help, hasten to aid me.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

I will proclaim your name to my brethren;

in the midst of the assembly I will praise you:

“You who fear the LORD, praise him;

all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to him;

revere him, all you descendants of Israel!”

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

READING II

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Phil 2:6-11

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God

something to be grasped.

Rather, he emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

coming in human likeness;

and found human in appearance,

he humbled himself,

becoming obedient to the point of death,

even death on a cross.

Because of this, God greatly exalted him

and bestowed on him the name

which is above every name,

that at the name of Jesus

every knee should bend,

of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue confess that

Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

APPLICATION

As Christians we have no doubt as to the two natures of our Savior. He was the God-man. He humbled himself so low in order to represent us before his Father and by his perfect obedience. (“even unto the death on a cross”) earn for us not only God’s forgiveness but a sharing in the divinity, through his being our brother but also the Son of God. These words of Paul, or rather of the early Christian hymn he is quoting, are for us today a consolation and an encouragement.

Surely every sincere Christian must be consoled by the thought of Gods infinite love for him, as shown in the Incarnation. We are not dealing with some distant, cold, legal God of justice who spends his time marking up our sins and failures against us. We are dealing with a loving Father who sent his own beloved Son to live among us and die for us in order to bring home to us the greatness of divine love. Could any human mind, even the minds of the greatest of this world’s philosophers, have invented such a humanly incredible story of true love? No, it was only in the infinite mind of God that such a proof of love could have its source.

What encouragement this should and does give to every sincere Christian. We know we are weak. We can and do sin often. We know we are mean and ungrateful and that we seldom stop to thank God for the love he has shown us. If we were dealing with a human, narrow-visioned God, we should have reason to despair, but when our Judge is the all-loving, all-merciful God how can even the worst sinner ever lose hope?

No, there is no place for despair in the Christian faith. But there is room for gratitude and confidence. We can never thank God sufficiently for all that he has done for us. Eternity itself will not be long enough for this, but we must do the little we can. Let us face this coming Holy Week with hearts full of thanks to God and to his divine Son for all they have done for us. When meditating on the passion of Christ on Good Friday let us look with gratitude and confidence on the Son of God who died on the cross in order to earn eternal life for us.

He did not die to lose us but to save us. He has done ninety per cent of the work of our salvation. And, even as regards the remaining ten per cent that he asks us to do, he is with us helping us to do it. Could we be so mean and so foolish as to refuse the little he asks of us?

GOSPEL

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Mk 14:1-15:47

The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread

were to take place in two days’ time.

So the chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way

to arrest him by treachery and put him to death.

They said, “Not during the festival,

for fear that there may be a riot among the people.”

When he was in Bethany reclining at table

in the house of Simon the leper,

a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil,

costly genuine spikenard.

She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head.

There were some who were indignant.

“Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil?

It could have been sold for more than three hundred days’ wages

and the money given to the poor.”

They were infuriated with her.

Jesus said, “Let her alone.

Why do you make trouble for her?

She has done a good thing for me.

The poor you will always have with you,

and whenever you wish you can do good to them,

but you will not always have me.

She has done what she could.

She has anticipated anointing my body for burial.

Amen, I say to you,

wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world,

what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve,

went off to the chief priests to hand him over to them.

When they heard him they were pleased and promised to pay him money.

Then he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,

when they sacrificed the Passover lamb,

his disciples said to him,

“Where do you want us to go

and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”

He sent two of his disciples and said to them,

“Go into the city and a man will meet you,

carrying a jar of water.

Follow him.

Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house,

‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room

where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”‘

Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready.

Make the preparations for us there.”

The disciples then went off, entered the city,

and found it just as he had told them;

and they prepared the Passover.

When it was evening, he came with the Twelve.

And as they reclined at table and were eating, Jesus said,

“Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me,

one who is eating with me.”

They began to be distressed and to say to him, one by one,

“Surely it is not I?”

He said to them,

“One of the Twelve, the one who dips with me into the dish.

For the Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him,

but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.

It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”

While they were eating,

he took bread, said the blessing,

broke it, and gave it to them, and said,

“Take it; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them,

and they all drank from it.

He said to them,

“This is my blood of the covenant,

which will be shed for many.

Amen, I say to you,

I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine

until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

Then, after singing a hymn,

they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Then Jesus said to them,

“All of you will have your faith shaken, for it is written:

I will strike the shepherd,

and the sheep will be dispersed.

But after I have been raised up,

I shall go before you to Galilee.”

Peter said to him,

“Even though all should have their faith shaken,

mine will not be.”

Then Jesus said to him,

“Amen, I say to you,

this very night before the cock crows twice

you will deny me three times.”

But he vehemently replied,

“Even though I should have to die with you,

I will not deny you.”

And they all spoke similarly.

Then they came to a place named Gethsemane,

and he said to his disciples,

“Sit here while I pray.”

He took with him Peter, James, and John,

and began to be troubled and distressed.

Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death.

Remain here and keep watch.”

He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed

that if it were possible the hour might pass by him;

he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you.

Take this cup away from me,

but not what I will but what you will.”

When he returned he found them asleep.

He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep?

Could you not keep watch for one hour?

Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test.

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”

Withdrawing again, he prayed, saying the same thing.

Then he returned once more and found them asleep,

for they could not keep their eyes open

and did not know what to answer him.

He returned a third time and said to them,

“Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?

It is enough. The hour has come.

Behold, the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners.

Get up, let us go.

See, my betrayer is at hand.”

Then, while he was still speaking,

Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived,

accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs

who had come from the chief priests,

the scribes, and the elders.

His betrayer had arranged a signal with them, saying,

“The man I shall kiss is the one;

arrest him and lead him away securely.”

He came and immediately went over to him and said,

“Rabbi.” And he kissed him.

At this they laid hands on him and arrested him.

One of the bystanders drew his sword,

struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear.

Jesus said to them in reply,

“Have you come out as against a robber,

with swords and clubs, to seize me?

Day after day I was with you teaching in the temple area,

yet you did not arrest me;

but that the Scriptures may be fulfilled.”

And they all left him and fled.

Now a young man followed him

wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body.

They seized him,

but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.

They led Jesus away to the high priest,

and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together.

Peter followed him at a distance into the high priest’s courtyard

and was seated with the guards, warming himself at the fire.

The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin

kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus

in order to put him to death, but they found none.

Many gave false witness against him,

but their testimony did not agree.

Some took the stand and testified falsely against him,

alleging, “We heard him say,

‘I will destroy this temple made with hands

and within three days I will build another

not made with hands.'”

Even so their testimony did not agree.

The high priest rose before the assembly and questioned Jesus,

saying, “Have you no answer?

What are these men testifying against you?”

But he was silent and answered nothing.

Again the high priest asked him and said to him,

“Are you the Christ, the son of the Blessed One?”

Then Jesus answered, “I am;

and ‘you will see the Son of Man

seated at the right hand of the Power

and coming with the clouds of heaven.'”

At that the high priest tore his garments and said,

“hat further need have we of witnesses?

You have heard the blasphemy.

What do you think?”

They all condemned him as deserving to die.

Some began to spit on him.

They blindfolded him and struck him and said to him, “Prophesy!”

And the guards greeted him with blows.

While Peter was below in the courtyard,

one of the high priest’s maids came along.

Seeing Peter warming himself,

she looked intently at him and said,

“You too were with the Nazarene, Jesus.”

But he denied it saying,

“I neither know nor understand what you are talking about.”

So he went out into the outer court.

Then the cock crowed.

The maid saw him and began again to say to the bystanders,

“This man is one of them.”

Once again he denied it.

A little later the bystanders said to Peter once more,

“Surely you are one of them; for you too are a Galilean.”

He began to curse and to swear,

“I do not know this man about whom you are talking.”

And immediately a cock crowed a second time.

Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had said to him,

“Before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.”

He broke down and wept.

As soon as morning came,

the chief priests with the elders and the scribes,

that is, the whole Sanhedrin held a council.

They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.

Pilate questioned him,

“Are you the king of the Jews?”

He said to him in reply, “You say so.”

The chief priests accused him of many things.

Again Pilate questioned him,

“Have you no answer?

See how many things they accuse you of.”

Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.

Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them

one prisoner whom they requested.

A man called Barabbas was then in prison

along with the rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion.

The crowd came forward and began to ask him

to do for them as he was accustomed.

Pilate answered,

“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?”

For he knew that it was out of envy

that the chief priests had handed him over.

But the chief priests stirred up the crowd

to have him release Barabbas for them instead.

Pilate again said to them in reply,

“Then what do you want me to do

with the man you call the king of the Jews?”

They shouted again, “Crucify him.”

Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?”

They only shouted the louder, “Crucify him.”

So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd,

released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged,

handed him over to be crucified.

The soldiers led him away inside the palace,

that is, the praetorium, and assembled the whole cohort.

They clothed him in purple and,

weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him.

They began to salute him with, All Hail, King of the Jews!”

and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him.

They knelt before him in homage.

And when they had mocked him,

they stripped him of the purple cloak,

dressed him in his own clothes,

and led him out to crucify him.

They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon,

a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country,

the father of Alexander and Rufus,

to carry his cross.

They brought him to the place of Golgotha

which is translated Place of the Skull —

They gave him wine drugged with myrrh,

but he did not take it.

Then they crucified him and divided his garments

by casting lots for them to see what each should take.

It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.

The inscription of the charge against him read,

“The King of the Jews.”

With him they crucified two revolutionaries,

one on his right and one on his left.

Those passing by reviled him,

shaking their heads and saying,

“Aha! You who would destroy the temple

and rebuild it in three days,

save yourself by coming down from the cross.”

Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes,

mocked him among themselves and said,

“He saved others; he cannot save himself.

Let the Christ, the King of Israel,

come down now from the cross

that we may see and believe.”

Those who were crucified with him also kept abusing him.

At noon darkness came over the whole land

until three in the afternoon.

And at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice,

“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”

which is translated,

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

Some of the bystanders who heard it said,

“Look, he is calling Elijah.”

One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed

and gave it to him to drink saying,

“Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down.”

Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.

Here all kneel and pause for a short time.

The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.

When the centurion who stood facing him

saw how he breathed his last he said,

“Truly this man was the Son of God!”

There were also women looking on from a distance.

Among them were Mary Magdalene,

Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome.

These women had followed him when he was in Galilee

and ministered to him.

There were also many other women

who had come up with him to Jerusalem.

When it was already evening,

since it was the day of preparation,

the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea,

a distinguished member of the council,

who was himself awaiting the kingdom of God,

came and courageously went to Pilate

and asked for the body of Jesus.

Pilate was amazed that he was already dead.

He summoned the centurion

and asked him if Jesus had already died.

And when he learned of it from the centurion,

he gave the body to Joseph.

Having bought a linen cloth, he took him down,

wrapped him in the linen cloth,

and laid him in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock.

Then he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb.

Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus

watched where he was laid.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/032518.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 443 Peter could recognize the transcendent character of the Messiah’s divine sonship because Jesus had clearly allowed it to be so understood. To his accusers’ question before the Sanhedrin, “Are you the Son of God, then?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am.”1 Well before this, Jesus referred to himself as “the Son” who knows the Father, as distinct from the “servants” God had earlier sent to his people; he is superior even to the angels.2 He distinguished his sonship from that of his disciples by never saying “our Father”, except to command them: “You, then, pray like this: ‘Our Father’”, and he emphasized this distinction, saying “my Father and your Father”.3

CCC 444 The Gospels report that at two solemn moments, the Baptism and the Transfiguration of Christ, the voice of the Father designates Jesus his “beloved Son”.4 Jesus calls himself the “only Son of God”, and by this title affirms his eternal pre-existence.5 He asks for faith in “the name of the only Son of God”.6 In the centurion’s exclamation before the crucified Christ, “Truly this man was the Son of God”,7 that Christian confession is already heard. Only in the Paschal mystery can the believer give the title “Son of God” its full meaning.

CCC 473 But at the same time, this truly human knowledge of God’s Son expressed the divine life of his person.8 “The human nature of God’s Son, not by itself but by its union with the Word, knew and showed forth in itself everything that pertains to God.”9 Such is first of all the case with the intimate and immediate knowledge that the Son of God made man has of his Father.10 The Son in his human knowledge also showed the divine penetration he had into the secret thoughts of human hearts.11

CCC 474 By its union to the divine wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate, Christ enjoyed in his human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans he had come to reveal.12 What he admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal.13

CCC 574 From the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, certain Pharisees and partisans of Herod together with priests and scribes agreed together to destroy him.14 Because of certain acts of his expelling demons, forgiving sins, healing on the sabbath day, his novel interpretation of the precepts of the Law regarding purity, and his familiarity with tax collectors and public sinners15 –- some ill-intentioned persons suspected Jesus of demonic possession.16 He is accused of blasphemy and false prophecy, religious crimes which the Law punished with death by stoning.17

CCC 585 On the threshold of his Passion Jesus announced the coming destruction of this splendid building, of which there would not remain “one stone upon another”.18 By doing so, he announced a sign of the last days, which were to begin with his own Passover.19 But this prophecy would be distorted in its telling by false witnesses during his interrogation at the high priest’s house, and would be thrown back at him as an insult when he was nailed to the cross.20

CCC 597 The historical complexity of Jesus’ trial is apparent in the Gospel accounts. The personal sin of the participants (Judas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate) is known to God alone. Hence we cannot lay responsibility for the trial on the Jews in Jerusalem as a whole, despite the outcry of a manipulated crowd and the global reproaches contained in the apostles’ calls to conversion after Pentecost.21 Jesus himself, in forgiving them on the cross, and Peter in following suit, both accept “the ignorance” of the Jews of Jerusalem and even of their leaders.22 Still less can we extend responsibility to other Jews of different times and places, based merely on the crowd’s cry: “His blood be on us and on our children!”, a formula for ratifying a judicial sentence.23 As the Church declared at the Second Vatican Council:

… [N]either all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during his Passion. .. [T]he Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from holy Scripture.24

CCC 603 Jesus did not experience reprobation as if he himself had sinned.25 But in the redeeming love that always united him to the Father, he assumed us in the state of our waywardness of sin, to the point that he could say in our name from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”26 Having thus established him in solidarity with us sinners, God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all”, so that we might be “reconciled to God by the death of his Son”.27

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.28 The obedience of Jesus has transformed the curse of death into a blessing.29

CCC 1328 The inexhaustible richness of this sacrament is expressed in the different names we give it. Each name evokes certain aspects of it. It is called:

Eucharist, because it is an action of thanksgiving to God. The Greek words eucharistein30 and eulogein31 recall the Jewish blessings that proclaim – especially during a meal – God’s works: creation, redemption, and sanctification.

CCC 1335 The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes the loaves through his disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance of this unique bread of his Eucharist.32 The sign of water turned into wine at Cana already announces the Hour of Jesus’ glorification. It makes manifest the fulfillment of the wedding feast in the Father’s kingdom, where the faithful will drink the new wine that has become the Blood of Christ.33

CCC 1339 Jesus chose the time of Passover to fulfill what he had announced at Capernaum: giving his disciples his Body and his Blood:

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the passover meal for us, that we may eat it. ..” They went. .. and prepared the passover. And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”… And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood.”34

CCC 1376 The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.”35

CCC 1403 At the Last Supper the Lord himself directed his disciples’ attention toward the fulfillment of the Passover in the kingdom of God: “I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”36 Whenever the Church celebrates the Eucharist she remembers this promise and turns her gaze “to him who is to come.” In her prayer she calls for his coming: “Marana tha!” “Come, Lord Jesus!”37 “May your grace come and this world pass away!”38

CCC 2605 When the hour had come for him to fulfill the Father’s plan of love, Jesus allows a glimpse of the boundless depth of his filial prayer, not only before he freely delivered himself up (“Abba. .. not my will, but yours.”),39 but even in his last words on the Cross, where prayer and the gift of self are but one: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”;40 “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise”, “Woman, behold your son” – “Behold your mother”;41 “I thirst.”;42 “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”;43 “It is finished”;44 “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”45 until the “loud cry” as he expires, giving up his spirit.46

CCC 2701 Vocal prayer is an essential element of the Christian life. To his disciples, drawn by their Master’s silent prayer, Jesus teaches a vocal prayer, the Our Father. He not only prayed aloud the liturgical prayers of the synagogue but, as the Gospels show, he raised his voice to express his personal prayer, from exultant blessing of the Father to the agony of Gesthemani.47

CCC 2849 Such a battle and such a victory become possible only through prayer. It is by his prayer that Jesus vanquishes the tempter, both at the outset of his public mission and in the ultimate struggle of his agony.48 In this petition to our heavenly Father, Christ unites us to his battle and his agony. He urges us to vigilance of the heart in communion with his own. Vigilance is “custody of the heart,” and Jesus prayed for us to the Father: “Keep them in your name.”49 The Holy Spirit constantly seeks to awaken us to keep watch.50 Finally, this petition takes on all its dramatic meaning in relation to the last temptation of our earthly battle; it asks for final perseverance. “Lo, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is he who is awake.”51

1 Lk 22:70; cf. Mt 26:64; Mk 14:61-62.

2 Cf. Mt 11:27; 21:34-38; 24:36.

3 Mt 5:48; 6:8-9; 7:21; Lk 11:13; Jn 20:17.

4 Cf. Mt 3:17; cf. 17:5.

5 Jn 3:16; cf. 10:36.

6 Jn 3:18.

7 Mk 15:39.

8 Cf. St. Gregory the Great, “Sicut aqua” ad Eulogium, Epist. Lib. 10, 39 PL 77, 1097 Aff.; DS 475.

9 St. Maximus the Confessor, Qu. et dub. 66 PG 90, 840A.

10 Cf. Mk 14:36; Mt 11:27; Jn 1:18; 8:55; etc.

11 Cf. Mk 2:8; Jn 2 25; 6:61; etc.

12 Cf. Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34; 14:18-20, 26-30.

13 Cf. Mk 13:32, Acts 1:7.

14 Cf. Mk 3:6; 14:1.

15 Cf. Mt 12:24; Mk 2:7,14-17; 3:1-6; 7:14-23.

16 Cf. Mk 3:22; Jn 8:48; 10:20.

17 Cf. Mk 2:7; Jn 5:18; 7:12, 52; 8:59; 10:31, 33.

18 Cf. Mt 24:1-2.

19 Cf. Mt 24:3; Lk 13:35.

20 Cf Mk 14:57-58; Mt 27 39-40.

21 Cf. Mk 15:11; Acts 2:23, 36; 3:13-14; 4:10; 5:30; 7:52; 10:39; 13:27-28; I Th 2:14-15.

22 Cf. Lk 23:34; Acts 3:17.

23 Mt 27:25; cf. Acts 5:28; 18:6.

24 NA 4.

25 Cf. Jn 8:46.

26 Mk 15:34; Ps 22:2; cf. Jn 8:29.

27 Rom 8:32; 5:10.

28 Cf. Mk 14:33-34; Heb 5:7-8.

29 Cf. Rom 5:19-21.

30 Cf. Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24.

31 Cf. Mt 26:26; Mk 14:22.

32 Cf. Mt 14:13-21; 15:32-39.

33 Cf. Jn 2:11; Mk 14:25.

34 Lk 22:7-20; Cf. Mt 26:17-29; Mk 14:12-25; 1 Cor 11:23-26.

35 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1642; cf. Mt 26:26 ff.; Mk 14:22 ff.; Lk 22:19 ff.; 1 Cor 11:24 ff.

36 Mt 26:29; cf. Lk 22:18; Mk 14 25.

37 Rev 1:4; 22 20; 1 Cor 16 22.

38 Didache 10, 6: SCh 248,180.

39 Lk 22:42.

40 Lk 23:34.

41 Jn 19:26-27.

42 Jn 19:28.

43 Mk 15:34; cf. Ps 22:2.

44 Jn 19:30.

45 Lk 23:46.

46 Cf. Mk 15:37; Jn 19:30b.

47 Cf. Mt 11:25-26; Mk 14:36.

48 Cf. Mt 4:1-11; 26:36-44.

49 Jn 17:11; Cf. Mk 13:9, 23, 33-37; 14:38; Lk 12:35-40.

50 Cf. 1 Cor 16:13; Col 4:2; 1 Thess 5:6; 1 Pet 5:8.

51 Rev 16:15.

APPLICATION

The story and most, if not all, of the details of our divine Lord’s sufferings at the hands of his fellow-Jews, his Father’s Chosen People, on that first Holy Thursday night in Jerusalem and the subsequent sentence of crucifixion pronounced by a pagan Roman judge on one he had declared innocent of any crime, is well known to any Christian, worthy of the name. But theoretical knowledge is not what makes a Christian or a follower of Christ. Down through the ages great men have lived and died and their lives and deeds have benefited others in many ways, for greater or lesser periods. But the life and death of Christ has not only benefited man’s life on earth, it has changed the very purpose of man’s existence, for it has changed his relationship with God and with his eternal destiny.

Through and by the Incarnation, death, resurrection of Christ, we, mere human mortals, have been made sons of God by divine decree, and heirs of God’s eternal kingdom of heaven. This was God’s original plan in creating the universe. Man was to be the masterpiece of the divine act of creation and the master of the universe. He contains within himself a part of every created being and has the necessary faculties to dominate all the lesser creatures. But he was to be more than that. His human nature was to be raised to union with the Godhead in the Incarnation. This completed plan was eventually fulfilled in Christ.

Therefore, the life and death of Christ is not just some recorded bit of history of the past, rather it is for all men, not Christians only, a fact of the past which dominates and basically affects rational man’s purpose in life today and always as well as his day-to-day mode of living that life. There are millions on our earth today who, through no fault of their own, have not yet heard of God’s infinite love for them as proved in the Incarnation, but God will find ways of extending its benefits to them if they do their part. There are millions too who have heard the good news but refuse to believe it or to act according to it; those too we can safely leave to the all merciful God. But for ourselves, professed followers of Christ, who during this Holy Week will be reminded daily of what God has done and is continuing to do for us, our only answer is to beat our breasts in humble contrition like some of the crowds returning from Calvary on that first Good Friday.

We know we are utterly unworthy of the unfathomable love that God has shown us. When we look at the crucifix and see the Son of God nailed hands and feet to that cross, slowly shedding his heart’s blood for us, what can we do but bow our heads in shame? If we did not jeer at him and mock him openly as the Pharisees did that day on Calvary, we did so indirectly by our coldness, our forgetfulness, and worse still by our many deliberate sins against God and neighbor. Pilate condemned the innocent Christ “for fear of the Jews, for fear of losing his job” (St. John says); Judas betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver; the Pharisees forced Pilate to crucify him because of their pride. If we look into our past, how often have we offended him, that is, condemned him for similar reasons, and we are less excusable than these people were. We do, or should, know so much better than they did what Christ means to us.

But while we have reason, all of us, to repent of our past faults during this Holy Week, we have also every reason not to despair but to hope. In the very height of his agony on the cross, our loving Savior uttered a fervent plea to his heavenly Father, asking for forgiveness for all those who had brought his death-agony on him. The words, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” hold for all time; we too were included there, and God’s merciful answer to his dying Christ is for us too if we avail of it.

Holy Week will be truly a holy week and a turning point in our lives if we repent of our past and turn to our loving God. Through the life, sufferings and resurrection of his beloved Servant and Son, he has made us his adopted sons and heirs of heaven. He will not fail us now.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

Christ the Burning Fire

When Jesus talks about fire, he means in the first place his own Passion, which was a Passion of love and was therefore a fire; the new burning bush, which burns and is not consumed; a fire that is to be handed on. Jesus does not come to make us comfortable; rather he sets fire to the earth; he brings the great living fire of divine love, which is what the Holy Spirit is, a fire that burns. In an apocryphal saying of Jesus that has been transmitted by Origen, he says: “Whoever comes close to me comes close to the fire.” Whoever comes close to him, accordingly, must be prepared to be burned… It burns, yet this is not a destructive fire but one that makes things bright and pure and free and grand. Being a Christian, then, is daring to entrust oneself to this burning fire… Christ is the one who brings peace. And I would say that this is the saying that is preeminent and determinative. But we only properly comprehend this peace that Christ brings if we do not understand it in banal fashion as a way of cheating one’s way out of pain, or out of the truth and the conflicts that truth brings with it… If the Church simply aims to avoid conflict, merely to ensure that no disturbances arise anywhere, then her real message can no longer make any impact. For this message is in fact there precisely in order to conflict with our behavior, to tear man out of his life of lies and to bring clarity and truth. Truth does not come cheap. It makes demands, and it also burns.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

The Anima Christi of St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton

Soul of Jesus, Sanctify me.

Blood of Jesus, Wash me,

Passion of Jesus, Comfort me.

Wounds of Jesus, Hide me.

Heart of Jesus, Receive me.

Spirit of Jesus, Enliven me.

Goodness of Jesus, Pardon me.

Beauty of Jesus, Draw me.

Humility of Jesus, Humble me.

Peace of Jesus, Pacify me.

Love of Jesus, Inflame me.

Kingdom of Jesus, Come to me.

Grace of Jesus, Replenish me.

Mercy of Jesus, Pity me.

Sanctity of Jesus, Sanctify me.

Purity of Jesus, Purify me.

Cross of Jesus, Support me.

Nails of Jesus, Hold me.

Mouth of Jesus, Bless me in life, in death, in time and eternity.

Mouth of Jesus, Defend me in the hour of death.

Mouth of Jesus, Call me to come to Thee.

Mouth of Jesus, Receive me with Thy saints in glory evermore.

Let Us Pray

Unite me to Thyself, O adorable Victim. Life-giving heavenly Bread, feed me, sanctify me, reign in me, transform me to Thyself, live in me; let me live in Thee; let me adore Thee in Thy life-giving Sacrament as my God, listen to Thee as to my Master, obey Thee as my King, imitate Thee as my Model, follow Thee as my Shepherd, love Thee as my Father, seek Thee as my Physician who wilt heal all the maladies of my soul. Be indeed my Way, Truth and Life; sustain me, O heavenly Manna, through the desert of this world, till I shall behold Thee unveiled in Thy glory.

Amen.

 

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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