Tag Archives: lent

Wednesday of Holy Week: Jesus at Bethany

at BethanyToday, the Latin Church has the gospel of Judas betraying Jesus (see previous post today) and the Byzantine Church will chant the story of Jesus being anointed at Bethany. For me, this is another aspect of the Mystery of the Incarnation.

Another theological way of discerning the meaning of today’s witness before the Lord is that the Church is asking us to attend anew to the interior life where we are asked to have a singularity in the way we live God’s grace: how well have we lived our vocation? The converse to this aspect of interiority is that you and I have a certain terror in being the only one responsible for persons and works. This flip side can lead us to the rejection of life in the Garden of Eden (paradise).

The Judas event and the Lord’s anointing at Bethany have different thrusts, but the emphasis is the same: love breaks the chain of sin and division. Perfect Love does so in supreme way in drawing our heart to a new level of awareness.

This poetic text sets the stage for us.

O Lord, the woman who had fallen into a multitude of sins,
recognized Your divinity and joined the ranks of the myrrh-bearings.
Before Your burial, she offers You myrrh with her tears.
“Alas,” she says, “the stinging night of pleasure seizes me;
the dark and moonless love of sin grasps me.
Accept the stream of my tears and my copious weeping,
for You make the waters fall from the clouds into the sea.
Incline Your ear to the cry of my heart,
for You incline the heavens in Your ineffable condescension.
Allow me to kiss Your most pure feet,
drying them with the locks of my hair;
for these are the feet that Eve heard in Paradise,
and, trembling at Their approach, she hid herself.
O Lord, who can search out the number of my sins?
Who shall search the depth of Your judgments,
O God our Redeemer and the Savior of our souls?
In Your infinite love, do not despise Your servant.”

Spy Wednesday

betrayal kiss judas jesusThe day before Holy Thursday is known by Catholics as Spy Wednesday. It is a day of profound aloneness. In the biblical and liturgical narrative of the Paschal Mystery we recall that the Apostle Judas played an essential part in our redemption, that sin and betrayal are at the heart of the Christian mystery of salvation just as grace, love and forgiveness.

The Biblical and theological roots of our faith gives us a striking opportunity to discern, to re-evaluate, re-direct our life. We call this the journey of conversion; we have the sacraments of Confession and Eucharist; we also have the tools of spiritual direction to see where God is leading us, or where we have not lived according to Catholic faith. This ability to think again, to have a metonoia, is a supreme grace because all of us have something of Judas in us.

How many of us think we are doing the right thing when in the final analysis our actions  were not. Judas’s betrayal of Jesus was in this category. The expectation Judas had hoped for was a Messiah who would liberate Israel from Roman rule thus creating a new Jerusalem, a new creation, a new people.  We know he was wrong, and that the devil presents bad things as good. The devil prevailed upon the freewill of Judas but twisting reality in his deception. The Apostle Judas failed to understand, as likely did the others, that Jesus wasn’t interested in earthly power.

The other important aspect of Judas and Spy Wednesday is our awareness of how evil works in the world. It is a reality and not fake. Evil has a real grip on our lives and can redirect our focus from God unto ourselves or materialistic tendencies that ultimately reject God. Pope Benedict spoke of a lack of awareness regarding evil when he said in one of his teachings, “Today there is a certain callousness of the soul towards the power of evil, an insensitivity to all the evil in the world: we do not want to be disturbed by these things, we want to forget, perhaps, we think, it is not important. It is not only insensitivity to evil, but also insensitivity to God.”

Spy Wednesday is an important day in our approach salvation. Hence, it cannot be treated as frivolous or disregard of the betrayal it points to. It is said that Saint Catherine of Siena worried about Judas’s fate but was told by the Lord that mercy was possible even for him.

Sometimes I am surprised how quickly we rush to rule the world with justice. Or, I should say some form of justice that is so harsh and decisive. I wonder if we are aware that our manner of being just is not God’s. For example, man and woman often determine who is and who is not in hell. Ours is a sentimental mercy. It is a common assessment that Judas is in hell. But, is this a matter of our business? Perhaps we ought to take Saint Catherine’s testimony as true. Biblical revelation tells us that only God determines the content of one’s heart. The Church’s teaching is that the Lord gave the power discern who is in communion, or not, with God (“the power of the keys”). I recall the famous line from Cardinal Avery Dulles who said we know hell exists but not the population of hell.

Today, Spy Wednesday, let us pray for those who have betrayed or been betrayed. As difficult as this is, praying for our enemies is exactly what Jesus would do. Let us pray for God’s mercy on Judas. Today, go to confession.

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday HosannaChesterton’s “The Donkey”

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

Lazarus Sunday: no limit to divine mercy

Raising of Lazarus RubevelJesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (Jn 11:25)

For the Fifth Sunday of Lent praying the Missal of Paul VI, we are told once again the source of our total fulfillment in this, and in the next life: Jesus’ promise to us of life eternal. (In the Missal of John XXIII it is Passion Sunday.) When all seemed lost after four  days of grave, the Lord gives his dead friend a supreme gift! This grace is not the permanent gift of life as Lazarus was destined to die again but this moment is a clear indication of who Jesus is when He uses the “I am” statement. The great question of all time is “who is Jesus?” Hence, this is the beginning of something that would change everything in the cosmos: resurrection of the body. In Angelus address today Pope Francis said, “As Jesus rose with His own body, but did not return to an earthly life, so we will rise with our bodies that will be transfigured into glorious bodies. He waits for us next to the Father, and the strength of the Holy Spirit, that resuscitated Him, will all raise those who are united to Him.”

The Lazarus event begs us to ask, what does this mean? What is my place in this event of resurrection?

Pope Francis concludes his Angelus remarks, and this is crucial:

The act of Jesus by which He raised Lazarus demonstrates the end to which the power of the Grace of God can arrive, and the end, therefore to which our conversion, our change can arrive. But listen well: there is no other limit to the divine mercy offered to all! There is no other limit to the divine mercy offered to all! Remember this phrase. And we can all say it together: “There is no other limit to the divine mercy offered to all!” Let us say it together: “There is no other limit to the divine mercy offered to all!” The Lord is always ready to take away the tombstone of our sins, which separate us from Him, the light of the living.

Saint Augustine tells us “Among all the miracles done by our Lord Jesus Christ, the resurrection of Lazarus holds a prime place in preaching. But if we consider attentively who did it, our duty is to rejoice rather than to wonder. A man was raised up by him who made humankind. He is the only one of the Father by whom, as you know, all things were made. And if all things were made by him, why is anyone amazed that one was raised by him when so many are daily brought into the world by his power? It is a greater deed to create men and women than to raise them again from the dead. Yet he decided both to create and to raise again; to create all, to resuscitate some.”

The friendship of Lord and the intimacy that this fact manifests for us is itself an indication of the love God has for each of us while showing us that outside forces are not exhausted.

Getting a glimpse of Pascha: Lazarus being untied

untieing of Lazarus.jpg

Walking through Lent the Church gives us key glimpses, that is, tastes through the liturgical narrative leading to Pascha (Easter).


The icon shows Lazarus being untied of his burial shroud. In fact, this metaphor of being untied is key: the crucified and risen Lord unties us of our sin to live in freedom.


A hymn at Lenten Vespers is revealing:

“O Lord, while dwelling in the flesh on the other side of Jordan, Thou hast foretold that the sickness of Lazarus would not end in death, but that it had come to pass for Thy glory, O our God. Glory to Thy mighty acts and Thine all-sovereign power, for Thou hast destroyed death in Thy great mercy and Thy love for mankind.”

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT, follows the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, and is an Oblate of Saint Benedict, works as a monastery farmer and a keeper of honey bees. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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