Holy Thursday

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come
to pass from this world to the Father.
He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.
The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over.
So, during supper,
fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power
and that he had come from God and was returning to God,
he rose from supper and took off his outer garments.
He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet
and dry them with the towel around his waist.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,
“Master, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“What I am doing, you do not understand now,
but you will understand later.”
Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered him,
“Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”
Simon Peter said to him,
“Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”
Jesus said to him,
“Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed,
     for he is clean all over;
so you are clean, but not all.”
For he knew who would betray him;
for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

So when he had washed their feet
and put his garments back on and reclined at table again,
he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you?
You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’  and rightly so, for indeed I am.
If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet,
you ought to wash one another’s feet.
I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

(John 13: 1-15)

Notes from Exile – Day …. Lost Count

The day after Easter was a day off for Catholic Center employees.  It was also a day to get out of the house.  We took a little drive to the Ferdinand State Forest to get some fresh air and see something besides the other houses in our neighborhood. 

We discovered a really beautiful place that was less than crowded.  After parking the car, we found a nice trail through the woods, and headed off on a short adventure.

While much of the forest is greening up, the dogwoods are in full bloom.  That means pinks and whites standing in contrast to the enveloping green of the hardwood forest.

It was a lovely day, and it was good to get out.  It’s pretty easy to maintain social distancing when no one else is around.

Today, a week later, the first reading from Mass ends on a powerful note.  “As they prayed, the place where they were gathered shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.”  (Acts 4:31)

We all have the opportunity that the Apostles had.  When we pray, maybe the earth doesn’t shake, but it can sure feel like everything around us is moving.  I can think of a few times in my life where prayer has resulted in a physical reaction, from tears to quaking.  Long ago at a retreat when I was a college student, we prayed the Lord’s Prayer during Mass.  The presence of God was overwhelming, filling every open space in the room, wrapping strong arms around me and holding me close to Him.

I have told that story many times over the years, and even today, 40+ years later, I can close my eyes and feel that power and love that held me so close that day.  That was my ground shaking. I was filled with the Holy Spirit.  It has taken some time and overcoming past weakness in my faith, but today I can proclaim the “word of God with boldness.” 

The Lord brings me great joy and courage.  In Him I can do all things. 

The celebration of Easter, the resurrection of our Lord, the fulfillment of God’s promise to us, continues.  The state forest is a gift from God, its care entrusted to us as stewards of his gifts.  Let’s go forth and proclaim Him with boldness.

Station XIV: Jesus is laid in the tomb

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to John 19:39-40

Nicodemus also, who had at first come to him by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.

Nicodemus receives the body of Christ, he looks after it and puts it in a tomb in the middle of a garden which evokes the garden of Creation. Jesus lets himself be buried, even as he let himself be crucified, in the same abandonment, entirely “delivered” into the hands of men and “perfectly united” to them, “even to sleeping beneath the tombstone” (Saint Gregory of Narek).

To accept difficulties, painful events, death, demands steadfast hope, living faith.

The stone placed before the entrance of the tomb will be overturned and a new life will arise. For “we were buried with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Rom 6:4)

We have received the freedom of the children of God, so that we will not return to slavery; life has been given to us in abundance, so that we will no longer be satisfied with a life lacking beauty and meaning.

Lord Jesus,
make us children of the light
who do not fear the darkness.
We pray to you today
for all those who search for meaning in life
and for all those who have lost hope,
that they may have faith in your victory
over sin and death.

Station XIII: Jesus is taken down from the cross and given to his Mother

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to John 19:26-27a

When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother: “Woman, behold your son!” Then he said to the disciple: “Behold, your mother!”

Lord Jesus, those who love you remain at your side and keep faith. In the hour of your agony and death, when the world believes that evil triumphs and that the voice of truth, love, justice and peace is silent, their faith does not fail.

O Mary, into your hands we place our earth. “How sad it is to see this blessed land suffer in its children, who relentlessly tear one another to pieces and die!” (Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, 8). It seems that nothing can overcome evil, terrorism, murder and hatred. “Before the cross on which your Son stretched out his sinless hands for our salvation, O Virgin, we fall prostrate this day: grant us peace” (Byzantine liturgy).

Let us pray
for the victims of the wars and of the violence
which in our days devastate
various countries in the Middle East,
as well as other parts of the world.
Let us pray that the displaced and the forced migrants
may soon return
to their homes and lands.
Grant, Lord,
that the blood of innocent victims
may be the seed of a new East,
ever more fraternal, peaceful and just,
and that this East
may recover the splendour of its vocation
as the cradle of civilization and of spiritual and human values.
Star of the East,
show us the coming of the Dawn!

Notes from Exile – Day 7

We are finding out who takes this seriously and who does not; who wants to help and who does not; who sees this as an opportunity to advance their own agenda and whose view is more focused on the good of all.

I’m not calling out any groups or individuals, as my opinions may be different than yours.  I think you can, in about ten minutes of news gathering, make those calls on your own.

What I will mention, however, is that we are reaping what we have sown.  The fact that politicians and news media are taking this crisis and using it as a stepping block towards power and wealth is unsurprising.  After the divisiveness of the past decade or so, why would I expect some of these groups to do anything different?  I am profoundly disappointed in the human condition that leads to these actions. 

Lest we forget, however, that we are in the season of Lent.  My good friend, Tim Lilley, editor of The Message, the newspaper of the Diocese of Evansville, reminded me that the Evil One is running at full steam.  I don’t believe that he is directly involved in the spread of the virus, but I do believe he is tempting those already in power with more, extended power.  He is deceiving them into believing they are actually in control.  It is unlikely they will ever recognize this, as most of those people don’t even believe he exists, which is his great victory.

In a few weeks, we will celebrate Easter and the Resurrection of our Lord.  It will almost be easy to forget that, given that we have churches closed and parishes on sick leave.  The reality of the situation is that each year we celebrate an event that has already happened!  Jesus rose from the dead over two millennia ago.  Nothing that happens today changes that, and we can rejoice in that fact.  Lest we lose hope, remember that Jesus is Risen – He is truly risen! 

In other news ….

My wife and I took a drive Saturday to get some fresh air and exercise for our dogs.  We went to Harmonie State Park, which is just a short drive from Evansville on the banks of the Wabash River.  What a beautiful place!  And it wasn’t exactly crowded, either.  We had the trail pretty much to ourselves as we took in the solitude and grace of the hardwood forest.

Then there was this tree.  When I saw it, I was convinced that this was the place where hobbits live.

After our hike, we headed home with a short detour to St. Philip’s church.  While Mass was not being offered there, Jesus was in the House in the form of the Blessed Sacrament on the altar with three people praying before Him.  We prayed a rosary in the narthex, then joined the others in the worship space, praying to the Lord.

It was a wonderful day.  He is Risen – He is Truly Risen!

Station XII: Jesus dies on the cross

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke 23:46

Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” And having said this, he breathed his last.

From the height of the cross a cry is heard a cry: a cry of abandonment at the moment of death, a cry of trust amid suffering, a cry accompanying the birth of a new life. Behold, hanging on the tree of life, you deliver your spirit into your Father’s hands, causing life to spring up in abundance and forming the new creation. Today we too face the challenges of this world: we sense the surge of fears which overwhelm us and shake our trust. Grant us, Lord, the strength to know deep within our heart that no death will conquer us, until we rest in the hands which have shaped us and accompany us.

May every one of us be able to cry out:
“Yesterday I was crucified with Christ,
today I am glorified with him.
Yesterday I died with him,
today I live with him.
Yesterday I was buried with him.
Today I have risen with him.” (Gregory Nazianzen)

In the darkness of our nights,
we contemplate you.
Teach us to turn towards the Most High,
your heavenly Father.

Today, let us pray
that all those who promote abortion
may become aware that love
can only be a source of life.
Let us think also of those who defend euthanasia
and those who encourage
techniques and procedures
which endanger human life.
Open their hearts
to know you in the truth
and to work for the building
of the civilization of life and love.

Station XI: Jesus is nailed to the Cross

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to John 19:16a,19

Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

Behold, the long-awaited Messiah, hanging on the wood of the cross between two thieves. The two hands which blessed humanity are pierced. The two feet which trod our earth to proclaim the Good News are now suspended between earth and heaven. The eyes full of love, whose gaze healed the sick and forgave our sins, now gaze only heavenward.

Lord Jesus,
you were crucified for our sins.
You pray to God the Father and you intercede for humanity.
Each hammer blow echoes like a beat of your immolated heart.

How beautiful upon the mount of Calvary
are the feet of the One who proclaims
the Good News of salvation.
Your love, Jesus, has filled the universe.

Your pierced hands
are our refuge in distress.
They embrace us
whenever the abyss of sin threatens us,
and in your wounds
we find healing and forgiveness.

O Jesus,
we pray to you for all those young people
who are overcome by hopelessness,
for young people who are the victims of drugs,
of sects and of perversions.

Free them from their enslavement.
May they lift up their gaze and accept Love.
May they find happiness in you;
save them, our Saviour.

Station X: Jesus is stripped of his garments

A Reading from the Book of Psalms 22:19

They divide my clothing among them, they cast lots for my robe.

In the fullness of time, Lord Jesus, you clothed yourself in our humanity, you whose "train filled the temple" (Is 6:1); already, you are walking in our midst, and those who wish to touch the hem of your garments are healed. But you have been stripped even of this garment, Lord! They have stolen your cloak and you have also given us your tunic (cf. Mt 5:40). You have allowed the veil of your flesh to be torn so that we might once more be admitted into the Father’s presence (cf. Heb 10:19-20).

We thought we could find fulfilment by ourselves, independently of you (cf. Gen 3:4-7). We found ourselves naked, but in your infinite love you reclothed us with the dignity of sons and daughters of God and of his sanctifying grace.

Bestow, Lord, upon the children of the Eastern Churches – stripped by various difficulties, sometimes to the point of persecution, and weakened by emigration – the courage to remain in their countries to proclaim the Good News.

O Jesus, Son of Man,
who were stripped so as to reveal to us
the new creation raised from the dead,
tear in us the veil that separates us from God
and weave in us your divine presence.
Grant us to conquer fear
before the events of life
that strip us and leave us naked,
and to put on the new man of our Baptism,
in order that we may announce the Good News,
proclaiming that you are the only true God
who guides history.

Notes from Exile – Day 4

Settling in.  That’s how it feels as I work on settling into a routine.  The only problem is that there is nothing routine about this, as we react to news and events that change almost instantaneously.

I think the key to this is to sort out what needs to happen now versus what can wait a bit.  It’s triage, if you will.  For those of us who work in Church, it’s an everyday occurrence. 

I’ve never seen or experienced a Church office that would consider itself “fully funded” or “fully staffed.”  We make do with what we have, and we stretch resources to their breaking point.  When we are in that space, we learn how to deal with what’s on fire now, what is smoldering, what has the potential for a blaze, and what looks like it is stable for now.

The problem is that there is nothing stable right now.  Things seem to change by the minute.  We are challenged in making decisions that are based on current information when the current information is only relevant for a few minutes! 

This is what we are faced with, and we will handle it.  Church always has a way to handle it, because this is the church of Jesus Christ, who is still its head.  Yesterday, today, and always.

I don’t have a routine yet.  I anticipate that at some point in the future I will do things at the same time each day, but for right now I’m practicing triage here.  What is on fire at this very moment is the financial health of our parishes.  We need to deal with that right here, right now.  This crisis will end, but the effects of the changes put in place today will be with us for a long time.

One more thing.

Yesterday was the Feast of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary. I recently started a 33-day journey on consecrating my life to St. Joseph, and I’m following a plan laid out in a book Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of our Spiritual Father by Father Donald H. Calloway, MIC.  It is available at Catholic Supply Company.  

My original plan was to finish this consecration on a feast that celebrates St. Joseph.  Yet given the current situation in the world, I thought one more person praying and consecrating himself to St. Joseph might help things, even just a little.  I highly recommend this course of action and Fr. Calloway’s book. 

I missed posting “Notes from Exile – Day 3” but I didn’t miss praying to St. Joseph, asking for his intercessions.

St. Joseph, pray for us.

Station IX: Jesus falls for the third time under the weight of the Cross

A Reading from the Second Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians 5:14-15

The love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

For the third time Jesus falls under the Cross, burdened with our sins, and for the third time he seeks to get up again, summoning up the strength that remains to him, so as to continue his journey towards Golgotha, refusing to let himself be crushed and to succumb to temptation.

From the moment of his Incarnation, Jesus carries the Cross of human suffering and sin. He has fully and eternally assumed human nature, showing men that victory is possible and that the path towards divine sonship is open.

Lord Jesus,
the Church, born from your open side,
is oppressed under the Cross of the divisions
that distance Christians from one another
and from the unity that you willed for them;
they turn away from your desire
“that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21)
as the Father is with you.
This cross bears down with all its weight
on their lives and on their common testimony.
Grant us, Lord, the wisdom and the humility
to rise once more and to move forward along the path of unity,
in truth and love,
without succumbing to the temptation
to have recourse merely to the criteria
of personal or sectarian interests,
in the face of our divisions (cf. Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, 11).

Grant that we may renounce the mentality of division,
“lest the Cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Cor 1:17).

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