All week many of us who work in a parish have kept the events of Holy Week in front of us. Mostly because of the work that needs to be done in preparing the sacred Liturgy. Sadly, not enough time for prayer. Reminder: Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion is this weekend, it is not only the liturgical memorial of the Lord’s move to Jerusalem, it is also our hour of judgment. Jesus is not one among many saviors. Jesus is THE Messiah, the Son of Man, the Son of God who opens the door to God the Father and redeems us. No one, absolutely no one, can avoid the Lord’s hour of supreme love and self-giving in dying on the cross. It is, for us Christians, the tree of life.
Too many people these days have difficulty in accepting a positive view of Christ dying on the cross. Far from their hearts are Pope Leo’s words: “How marvelous the power of the cross; how great beyond all telling the glory of the passion.” Here’s Pope Saint Leo the Great’s
Sermon on the Passion:
Our understanding, which is enlightened by the Spirit of
truth, should receive with purity and freedom of heart the glory of the cross
as it shines in heaven and on earth. It should see with inner vision the
meaning of the Lord’s words when he spoke of the imminence of his passion: The
hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
Afterward he said: Now my
soul is troubled, and what am I to say? Father, save me from this hour. But it
was for this that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your Son. When the voice
of the Father came from heaven, saying, I have glorified him, and will glorify
him again, Jesus said in reply to those around him: It was not for me that this
voice spoke, but for you. Now is the judgment of the world, now will the prince
of this world be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw
all things to myself.
How marvelous the power of the cross; how great beyond
all telling the glory of the passion: here is the judgment-seat of the Lord,
the condemnation of the world, the supremacy of Christ crucified.
drew all things to yourself so that the devotion of all peoples everywhere
might celebrate, in a sacrament made perfect and visible, what was carried out
in the one temple of Judea under obscure foreshadowings.
Now there is a more
distinguished order of Levites, a greater dignity for the rank of elders, a
more sacred anointing for the priesthood, because your
cross is the source of all blessings, the cause of all graces. Through the
cross the faithful receive strength from weakness, glory from dishonour, life
The different sacrifices of animals are no more: the one offering of
your body and blood is the fulfillment of all the different sacrificial
offerings, for you are the true Lamb of God: you take away the sins of the
world. In yourself you bring to perfection all mysteries, so that, as there is
one sacrifice in place of all other sacrificial offerings, there is also one
kingdom gathered from all peoples.
The raising of Lazarus from the dead not only restores Lazarus to life, a life with his family and friends, but he begins a new life on earth because of his relationship with Jesus. The gaze of his friend Jesuson Lazarus is one of profound emotion and penetrating teaching. There’s no question that something unique happened to Lazarus because on the Lord’s journey to Jerusalem to face his own passover from life to Life. This is a final act of Jesus before he walks the via Dolorosa. But what does Lazarus’s new new life and Jesus’ own resurrection say to us today?
Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation.
Lætáre Jerúsalem :et convéntum fáciteómnes qui dilígitis éam: gaudéte cum lætítia, qui in tristítia fuístis: ut exsultétis, et satiémini abubéribus consolatiónis véstræ.
Psalm verse: I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: we shall go into the house of the Lord.
Lætátus sum in his quæ dícta sunt míhi: in dómum Dómini íbimus.
The Mass prayers and Divine Office for today was written particularly for Laetare Sunday and for the Roman Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (Holy Cross in Jerusalem). You can go to Jerusalem without having to leave Rome when you visit this basilica! I had the great joy of spending a month with the Cistercian monks of Santa Croce in 2007 and celebrating today’s feast with them. The monks pastorally administer the basilica which contain the relics of the Holy Passion of Lord and the mortal of remains of the Servant of God, Nenolina Melo.
We can’t live in abstractions. Reality as it is, God in Himself, is revealed in the concrete. The temptation is to let ourselves be consumed by what is non-essential, with things that burdensome or just plainly a pain. God is not known in the abstract; God is only revealed in the concreteness of life: in love, goodness, beautiful things, friendship, prayer, the sacred Liturgy, the proclamation of the Word, the sacred Tradition of the Church, and the like. Lent for some people is an abstract time of the Church’s calendar because they don’t necessarily know the aim, the goal, the necessity and the personal. What we all should bear in mind is that Lent is a simple time for getting back to basics so that these basics become virtue and virtue becomes a permanent way of looking at things in front of us. A little girl who does religious education following the method of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) focusses our attention in how she experiences this period of conversion. “What is Lent? Lent is a time of reflection, of preparing ourselves for the resurrection of Our Lord… by doing something that takes a great effort… a time of sharing and giving ourselves, body and soul to God and the Holy Spirit” (Jessica, 9 years old, Chihuahua Mexico, Journals of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, 1984 – 1997, p.149).
Jessica’s rather simple declaration hopefully gives you pause during the day to give heart and the mind the space to do something other than work. Lent, like Advent, is a fitting to time of the liturgical year to reflect on the meaning of the Cross and the our Lord’s resurrection (this is what we call the Paschal Mystery). In what concrete ways does God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit capture our imagination –our heart? The founder of the CGS movement Sofia Cavalletti writes: “Simplicity also imposes a kind of asceticism, but it is an asceticism that is joyful, happy, dynamic, and opens out to spaces that are always becoming wider. It is an asceticism that is invigorating, filling the lungs with fresh air that empowers us to keep climbing toward the summit, where the space we will stand on might have become smaller, but the space before us, the panorama we view, will have opened out on the infinite” (“Holy Simplicity,” Journals of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, 2003 – 2008, p. 4).