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April 20, 2014
April 20, 2014
Significance of Easter: Easter is the greatest and the most important feast in the Church for three reasons: 1) The resurrection of Christ is the basis of our Christian faith. It is the greatest of the miracles, for it proves that Jesus is God. That is why St. Paul writes: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain; and your faith is in vain” (I Cor 15: 14). “Jesus is Lord, he is risen” (Rom 10: 9), was the central theme of the kerygma (or 'preaching'), of the Apostles because Jesus prophesied His Resurrection as a sign of His Divinity: “Tear down this temple and in three days I will build it again” (Jn 2: 19). The founder of no other religion has an empty tomb as Jesus has. 2) Easter is the guarantee of our own resurrection. Jesus assured Martha at the tomb of Lazarus: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me will live even though he dies” (Jn 11: 25-26). 3) Easter is a feast which gives us hope and encouragement in this world of pain, sorrows and tears. It reminds us that life is worth living. It is our belief in the Real Presence of the Risen Jesus in our souls, in His Church, in the Blessed Sacrament and in Heaven that gives meaning to our personal as well as our communal prayer, strength to fight against temptations and freedom from unnecessary worries and fears.
1) Let us live the lives of Resurrection people:
Easter gives us the joyful message that we are a “Resurrection people.” This means that we are not supposed to lie buried in the tomb of our sins, evil habits, dangerous addictions, despair, discouragement or doubts. Instead, we are expected to live a joyful and peaceful life, constantly experiencing the living presence of the Risen Lord in all the events of our lives and amid the boredom, suffering, pain and tensions of our day-to-day life. 2) We need to live new, disciplined lives in the Risen Jesus. Our awareness of the all-pervading presence of the Risen Lord in and around us, and the strong conviction of our own resurrection, help us to control our thoughts, desires, words and behavior. This salutary thought inspires us to honor our bodies, keeping them holy, pure and free from evil habits and addictions. Our conviction about the presence of the Risen Lord in our neighbors and in all those with whom we come into contact should encourage us to respect them and to render them loving, humble and selfless service. 3) We need to become transparent Christians: We are called to be transparent Christians, showing others through our lives the love, mercy, compassion and spirit of self-sacrificing service of the Risen Jesus living in our hearts. 4) We need to live lives of love in the power of Jesus’ Resurrection: Each time we try to practice Christian charity, mercy and forgiveness and each time we fight against temptations, let us recall that we share in the Resurrection of Jesus here and now.
EASTER SUNDAY: ACTS 10:34a, 37-43; COL 3:1-4; JOHN 20: 1-9
1: The phoenix bird:
The late Catholic Archbishop of Hartford, John Whealon, had undergone cancer surgery resulting in a permanent colostomy when he wrote these very personal words in one of his last Easter messages: "I am now a member of an association of people who have been wounded by cancer. That association has as its symbol the phoenix, a bird of Egyptian mythology. The Greek poet Hesiod, who lived eight centuries before Jesus was born, wrote about this legendary bird in his poetry. When the bird felt its death was near (every 500 to 1,461 years), it would fly off to Phoenicia, build a nest of aromatic wood and set itself on fire. When the bird was consumed by the flames, a new phoenix sprang forth from the ashes. Thus, the phoenix symbolizes immortality, resurrection, and life after death. It sums up the Easter message perfectly. Jesus gave up His life, and from the grave He was raised to life again on the third day. New life rises from the ashes of death. Today we are celebrating Christ's victory over the grave, the gift of eternal life for all who believe in Jesus. That is why the phoenix bird one of the earliest symbols of the Risen Christ. The phoenix also symbolizes our daily rising to new life. Every day, like the phoenix, we rise from the ashes of sin and guilt and are refreshed and renewed by our living Lord and Savior with His forgiveness and the assurance that He still loves us and will continue to give us the strength we need." Archbishop John Whealon could have lived in a gloomy tomb of self-pity, hopeless defeat, and chronic sadness, but his faith in the Risen Lord opened his eyes to new visions of life.
2: Bright light in the “black holes” of life
: Have you ever heard of a "black hole"? If you have ever watched movies or TV programs about travelling in outer space, like the TV series Star Trek, you will know what a black hole is. Roughly speaking, it is a spot in the vastness of space which astronomers believe is like a giant vacuum or whirlpool sucking everything around it into the hole. Using Newton’s laws, scientists first theorized black holes in the 1790s but it wasn't until 1994 that the Hubble Space Telescope discovered a massive supersized black hole – fortunately a long way from our own galaxy. There is also a black hole in our galaxy, the Milky Way. What if scientists said that it was not beyond the realms of possibility that one day our sun and everything around it would be sucked into this "black hole," and everything would be gone? "Black holes" are symbols of hopelessness, and the message of Easter tells us that there is something beyond those "black holes". Maybe this "black hole" includes grief for a loved one, anxiety over a work situation or what is happening in our family. Maybe it is a "black hole" of depression and stress, and we feel there is nothing we can do to change what is happening. Maybe it’s the "black hole" of sickness and pain. Maybe it’s the "black hole" of guilt and failure. Whether those "black holes" are right here and now or show up at some time in the future, Easter tells us there is hope, there is a living Saviour and Friend who will help us when we feel as if we have been sucked into the deepest darkness. Easter tells us that there is nothing to fear. We have a risen Saviour who promises never to leave us, to love us always, always to brighten our darkest paths, and to guide us from death to eternal life in Heaven. Even when we are in the middle of something deep and dark, our risen Saviour will always be there with us. “I am the Living One! I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I have authority over death and the world of the dead" (Revelation 1:8).
3: “He is not here.”
Egyptian pyramids are world-famous as one of the “seven Wonders” of the ancient world. But they are actually gigantic tombs containing the mummified bodies of Egyptian Pharaohs. Westminster Abby is famous, and thousands visit it because the dead bodies of famous writers, philosophers and politicians are entombed there. But there is a Shrine of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, and pilgrims from all over the world visit a tomb there which is empty with a note at its entrance which says, “He is not here.” It is famous because Jesus Christ Who was once buried there rose from the dead, leaving an empty tomb, as He had told his disciples he would. Thus, He worked the most important miracle in His life, defying the laws of nature and proving that He is God. We rejoice at this great and unique event by celebrating Easter.
Significance of Easter: Easter is the greatest and the most important feast in the Church. It marks the birthday of our eternal hope. "Easter" literally means "the feast of fresh flowers." We celebrate it with pride and jubilation for three reasons:
1) The resurrection of Christ is the basis of our Christian Faith.
The Resurrection is the greatest of the miracles -- it proves that Jesus is God. That is why St. Paul writes: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain; and your faith is in vain… And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is a delusion and you are still lost in your sins… But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Cor 15: 14, 17, 20). If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, then the Church is a fraud, and faith is a sham. But if He really did rise from the dead, His message is true! Without the Resurrection, Jesus would have remained forever a good person who had met a tragic end. People would remember some of his teachings, and a handful of people might try to live according to them. All the basic doctrines of Christianity are founded on the truth of the Resurrection. “Jesus is Lord; He is risen” (Rom 10: 9) was the central theme of the kerygma (or "preaching"), of the Apostles. In fact, the seventeenth-century philosopher, John Locke, some of whose ideas were incorporated into the Declaration of Independence, wrote, "Our Savior’s Resurrection is truly of great importance in Christianity, so great that His being or not being the Messiah stands or falls with it."
2) Easter is the guarantee of our own resurrection.
Jesus assured Martha at the tomb of Lazarus: “I am the Resurrection and the life; whoever believes in Me will live even though he dies” (Jn 11: 25-26). Christ will raise us up on the last day, but it is also true, in a sense, that we have already risen with Christ. By virtue of the Holy Spirit, our Christian life is already a participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1002, 1003).
3) Easter is a feast which gives us hope and encouragement in this world of pain, sorrows and tears
. It reminds us that life is worth living. It is our belief in the Real Presence of the Risen Jesus in our souls, in His Church, in the Blessed Sacrament and in Heaven that gives meaning to our personal, as well as to our common, prayers. Our trust in the all-pervading presence of the Risen Lord gives us strength to fight against temptations and freedom from unnecessary worries and fears. The prayer of St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland, reads: “Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ within me, never to part.”
Reasons why we believe in the resurrection of Jesus
(1) Jesus himself testified to His Resurrection from the dead (Mark 8:31; Matthew 17:22; Luke 9:22).
(2) The tomb was empty on Easter Sunday (Luke 24:3). Although the guards claimed (Matthew 28:13) that the disciples of Jesus had stolen the body, every sensible Jew knew that it was impossible for the terrified disciples of Jesus to steal the body of Jesus from a tomb guarded by an armed, 16-member Temple Guard detachment.
(3) The initial disbelief of Jesus’ own disciples in His Resurrection, in spite of His repeated apparitions. This serves as a strong proof of His resurrection. It explains why the Apostles started preaching the Risen Christ only after receiving the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
(4) The transformation of Jesus’ disciples: The disciples of Jesus were almost immediately transformed from men who were hopeless and fearful after the crucifixion (Luke 24:21, John 20:19) into men who were confident and bold witnesses of the resurrection (Acts 2:24, 3:15, 4:2).
(5) The Jews and the Romans could not disprove Jesus’ Resurrection by presenting the dead body of Jesus.
(6) The Apostles and early Christians would not have faced martyrdom if they were not absolutely sure of Jesus’ Resurrection.
(7) The Apostle Paul’s conversion from a persecutor of Christians and his zealous preaching of Jesus support the truth of Jesus’ Resurrection (Galatians 1:11-17, Acts 9:1, Acts 9:24-25, Acts 26:15-18).
(8) The sheer existence of a thriving, empire-conquering early Christian Church, bravely facing and surviving three centuries of persecution, supports the truth of the Resurrection claim.
(9) The New Testament witnesses do not bear the stamp of dupes or deceivers. The Apostles and the early Christians were absolutely sure about the Resurrection of Jesus. Anglican bishop and New Testament scholar N.T. Wright has commented incisively that if Jesus had not been raised bodily from the dead, Christianity would never have survived as a Messianic movement. Wright says that the clearest indication to a first-century Jew that someone was not the Messiah would be his death at the hands of the enemies of Israel. That the Church of Christ endured as a Messianic religion is possible only on the assumption that the Crucified One was, nevertheless, objectively alive.
The Resurrection of Jesus had certain special features. First, Jesus prophesied it as a sign of His Divinity: “Tear down this temple and in three days I will build it again” (Jn 2: 19). Second, the founder of no other religion has an empty tomb as Jesus has. We see the fulfillment of Christ's promise on the empty cross and in the empty tomb. The angel said to the women at Jesus’ tomb: “Why are you looking among the dead for one who is alive? He is not here: he has been raised” (Luke 24: 5-6). The third special feature is the initial disbelief of Jesus’ own disciples in His Resurrection, in spite of His repeated apparitions. This serves as a strong proof of His Resurrection. It explains why the Apostles started preaching the Risen Christ only after receiving the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Proclamation and witness-bearing are the main themes of today’s readings. In the first reading, St. Peter shares his own experience of Christ’s Resurrection and its joy with the newly baptized members of Cornelius’ family. In the second reading, St. Paul, converted on the Damascus Road by Jesus from a persecuting Pharisee into a zealous apostle of Jesus, urges his converts to live the new life in the risen Christ to which they were raised by their conversion in order to share in the glory of Christ on His return. Today’s Gospel explains the empty-tomb-resurrection-experience of Mary Magdalene, Peter and John. Mary Magdalene proclaims her personal experience: “I have seen the Lord.”
1) We are to be Resurrection people
: Easter, the feast of the Resurrection, gives us the joyful message that we are a “Resurrection people.” This means that we are not supposed to lie buried in the tomb of our sins, evil habits and dangerous addictions. It gives us the Good News that no tomb can hold us down anymore - not the tomb of despair, discouragement or doubt, nor that of death. Instead, we are expected to live a joyful and peaceful life, constantly experiencing the real presence of the Risen Lord in all the events of our lives. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad” (Psalm 118:24).
2) We need to seek our peace and joy in the Risen Jesus:
The living presence of the Risen Lord gives us lasting peace and celestial joy in the face of the boredom, suffering, pain and tensions of our day-to-day life. “Peace be with you!” was His salutation to His disciples at all post-Resurrection appearances. For the true Christian, every day must be an Easter Day, lived joyfully in the close company of the Risen Lord.
3) We are to be transparent Christians:
We are called to be transparent Christians, showing others, through our lives of love, mercy, compassion and self-sacrificing service, that the Risen Jesus is living in our hearts.
4) We need to live new, disciplined lives in the Risen Jesus:
Our awareness of the all-pervading presence of the Risen Lord in and around us, and the strong conviction of our own coming resurrection, help us control our thoughts, desires, words and behavior. This salutary thought inspires us to honor our bodies, keeping them holy, pure and free from evil habits and addictions. Our conviction about the presence of the risen Lord in our neighbors, and in all those with whom we come into contact, should encourage us to respect them, and to render them loving, humble and selfless service.
5) We need to remember Easter in our Good Fridays:
Easter reminds us that every Good Friday in our lives will have an Easter Sunday and that Jesus will let us share the power of His Resurrection. Each time we display our love of others, we share in the Resurrection. Each time we face a betrayal of trust, we share in the Resurrection of Jesus. Each time we fail in our attempts to ward off temptations – but keep on trying to overcome them – we share in the Resurrection. Each time we continue to hope – even when our hope seems unanswered – we share in the power of Jesus’ Resurrection. In short, the message of Easter is that nothing can destroy us – not pain, sin, rejection nor death – because Christ has conquered all these, and we too can conquer them if we put our faith in Him.
6) We are to be bearers of the Good News of Resurrection power
. Resurrection is Good News, but at the same time, it’s sometimes painful because it involves death. Before the power of the Resurrection can take hold in our own lives, we’re called to die to sin, to die to self. We may even have to die to our own dreams, so that God can do what He wants to do with our lives. Resurrection is about seeing our world in a new way. Early that Easter morning, Mary did not find what she was looking for, the dead body of Jesus. But she found something better than she could have imagined: the Risen Jesus. Sometimes, the things we think we want most are not granted to us. What we get instead is an experience of God’s new ways of working in the world. That’s the power of the Resurrection. When those moments come, we must spread the news--just as Mary did: We have seen the Lord!
Prepared by Fr. Antony Kadavil (email@example.com) and published in the CBCI website by the Office for Social Communications. You may contact firstname.lastname@example.org for weekday homilies, and a dozen more additional anecdotes
April 18, 2014
April 18, 2014
Good Friday homily
“Tetelestai” (τετέλεσται = Greek), זה נגמר “ze nigmar” (Hebrew) , =m’shalam(Aramaic)
John 19:30. v. 28: After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled,* Jesus said, “I thirst.” 29. There was a vessel filled with common wine.* So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. 30. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.”(Ecce consummatun est= Latin) And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.
Suffering and death of Jesus on the cross:
Crucifixion probably first began among the Persians. Alexander the Great introduced the practice in Egypt and Carthage, and the Romans appear to have learned of it from the Carthaginians. Although the Romans did not invent crucifixion, they perfected it as a form of torture and capital punishment that was designed to produce a slow death with maximum pain and suffering. It was one of the most disgraceful and cruel methods of execution and usually was reserved only for slaves, foreigners, revolutionaries, and the vilest of criminals. Jesus was crucified.
He was nailed to a cross with heavy, square wrought-iron nails hammered through His wrists and through His feet. He hung on the cross for several hours. When His body slumped, excruciating, fiery pain would shoot along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain - the nails in the wrists were putting pressure on the median nerves. As He pushed himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He placed the full weight on the nail through His feet. Again He felt the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the bones of the feet. As His arms fatigued, cramps swept through the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps came the inability to push Himself upward to breathe. Air could be drawn into the lungs but not exhaled. He fought to raise himself in order to get even one small breath. Finally carbon dioxide built up in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subsided. Spasmodically, He was able to push himself upward to exhale (and speak, if He wished), and to bring in life-giving oxygen. Hours of this limitless pain passed, with cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation and searing pain as tissue was torn from His lacerated back by His movement up and down against the cross' rough upright. Then another agony began: a crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly filled with serum and began to compress the heart. It was now almost over - the loss of tissue fluids had reached a critical level - the compressed heart was struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues - the tortured lungs were making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. He then felt the chill of death creeping through his tissues... Finally He was able to allow his body to die. (Crucifixion, Adapted From C. Truman Davis, M.D., in The Expos. Bible Commentary, Vol. 8)
At three o’clock, Jesus said He was thirsty. A soldier fixed a sponge on a spear and held it up to His lips. He took it (John 19: 30). Then, straining to raise His head and to look up to heaven Jesus said: m’shalam "It is finished." Then he bowed His head and gave up His spirit. John wrote his Gospel in Greek, and those last words of Jesus are just one word in Greek – tetelestai (pronounced te-tel-es-sty).The expression "It is finished," or tetelestai was well known to the Palestinians because it was a part of everyday language. When Jesus had put the final touches on an agricultural instrument in His carpentry shop, He would stand up and declare to His mother in Aramaic, "m’shalam" (tetelestai in Greek), -- is lunch ready, Mom?" When a slave servant had completed a difficult job that his master had given him to do, he would say to the master "m’shalam" – tetelestai – “I have done the job to the best of my ability. It is finished". When the Jewish people went to the Temple with their sacrifice, the High Priest would examine it and say the Aramaic equivalent of tetelestai, namely, "m’shalam,” or “ze nigmar” (in Hebrew) meaning, "Your offering is accepted; it is perfect". When the merchant in the marketplace made a sale and the money was handed over, he would say, "m’shalam" or "tetelestai – "The deal is finished, complete. The price has been paid in full. I am satisfied". When an artist had finished a painting or a sculpture, he would stand back and say, tetelestai or "m’shalam" – "It is finished; there is nothing more that can be done to make this piece of art any better. This painting is complete." When a boy recited to his father a difficult passage he had learnt from the Scriptures or a girl showed her mother the bread she had baked for the family, each child would say "m’shalam" or tetelestai and the parents would respond with, "Well done, my child, I am very proud of you."
What did Jesus’ tetelestai mean?
1) Tetelestai -
A perfect sacrifice of atonement is finished: What Jesus really meant was that His job of saving the world had been completed by His offering of Himself on the cross as a perfect sacrifice. Jesus had paid the price in full – he had cancelled all of the debt mankind owed to God. His sacrifice had been a perfect one, acceptable to the heavenly Father. That is why Isaiah 53:10 calls our Savior a “guilt offering;” why John the Baptist calls Him the Lamb “who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29); why Paul calls him a “sacrifice of atonement,” (Romans 3:25), a “sin offering,” (Romans 8:3), a “Passover lamb,” (1 Corinthians 5:7) a “fragrant offering” (Ephesians 5:2) and a “sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:12); and why John calls him “the atoning sacrifices for our sins” (1 John 2:2; 4:10). Thus, looking down on His Son hanging lifeless on the cross, God the Father said, "Well done. You are My beloved Son; I am well pleased with Your perfect sacrifice." Hence, these last words of Jesus: Tetelestai -- "It is finished," are seen as a cry of victory. Jesus had now completed what he had come to do. A plan was fulfilled; salvation was made possible. He had offered himself fully to God as a sacrifice on behalf of humanity. As He died, it was finished.
- Reconciliation is accomplished: The word ‘reconciliation’ has been used a lot in connection with the relationship between the aboriginal people of America and the rest of the community. The terrible things that happened in the past have caused a rift between the native Indians and the intruding whites, and later between the black slaves from Africa and their white owners. Efforts have been made to heal the differences, to close the gap caused by past actions, to restore friendship, to be reconciled. In the same way, a terrible gap has come between God and all humanity caused by the first sin, that of Adam and Eve, and intensified by all the evil which followed from that Original Sin. Our offences, our disobedience, the hurt we have caused others – all these have destroyed our relationship with God, alienating us from Him Who has continued to love us. Sin has always had a devastating effect on our relationship with God. Sin had separated us from God, and if we were to have any hope of going to heaven to be with God, then Someone, both human and Divine, first had to deal with sin in order to restore our relationship with God. So God sent his Son into the world for this very purpose. Jesus died on the cross to get rid of the power of sin to condemn us. "For God indeed was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself" (2 Corinthians 5:19). His death bridged the deep gulf between God and us. "Salvation is accomplished, Tetelestai, " Jesus cried. The restoration of the friendship between God and humanity had been finished. The task for which God's Son came to earth had been completed. He had won forgiveness for all people. Nothing else, therefore, needs to be done by us except to cooperate with God’s grace, in faith and hope, to keep His word, and so to do acts of charity for our fellow human beings. Salvation is complete. "It is finished".
- The ransom is paid: In his Gospel, Mark uses this Roman legal terminology for the freeing of slaves when he quotes Jesus: "the Son of Man came ... to give his life as a ransom for many." St. Anselm in his book "Cur Deus Homo?" explains this theory. “No sin can be forgiven without satisfaction. A debt to Divine Justice has been incurred; and that debt must be paid. But man could not make this satisfaction for himself because the debt is something far greater than he can pay. Thus, the only way in which the satisfaction could be made, and men could be set free from sin, was by the coming of a Redeemer Who was both God and man. ” Hence, only a God-man, Jesus, could pay man's sin-debt, and He had to do it by giving His own human life in place of ours. He did so by willingly accepting and dying that death on the cross. Paul reminds us: "For you are bought with a great price" (1 Corinthians 6:20). So the atonement Jesus made for sin delivered man from captivity to the devil by the payment of a ransom to God. That is why St. Peter formulated the Apostolic Faith in the Divine plan of salvation in this way: "You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers... with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot..” (CCC 602).
- An exemplary atonement is made demonstrating the depth of God’s love for man. By giving up his own Son for our sins, God manifests that His plan for us is one of benevolent love, prior to any merit on our part. It was out of love for His Father and for men whom the Father wanted to save, that Jesus freely accepted His Passion and death. St. Paul writes: "God has shown us how much he loves us—it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! … We were God's enemies, but He made us His friends through the death of His Son." (Romans 5:8, 10). It was out of love for His Father and for men whom the Father wanted to save that Jesus freely accepted his Passion and death. Jesus’ death was designed to impress mankind greatly with a sense of God's love, resulting in softening their hearts and leading them to repentance. When Jesus died, He was demonstrating that the God who was His Father had entered our life and loved us even to the point of death. The cross primarily demonstrates the greatness of the love of God, a love that should move us to turn away from our sin and to love God in return.
5) Tetelestai -
God’s solidarity with suffering humanity is demonstrated. The Church teaches us that Jesus saved and reconciled humanity to God in and through His death and resurrection. Since God could have saved humanity in any number of ways, one may wonder why He would choose the cruel death of His Son to be His method. God was willing to allow a cruel execution for His only Son to show His solidarity with suffering humanity. As the Mediator of salvation, Jesus endured torment of body and anguish of spirit. This gift enables us to find meaning for our own sufferings in the sufferings of Christ. As we lay down our lives in the service of others, we open ourselves to receiving God’s abundant life. In the same way, as we empty ourselves of all selfish tendencies, we are filled with the life of the risen Christ. As we struggle to overcome addictions and sin in our lives, we share in Christ’s victory over sin and destruction.
Why is it GOOD Friday?
We call today "GOOD Friday" because the cross is proof of the powerful love that God has for each of us. No one, not even God, would do something like that unless He truly loved us. Here we see a love that was prepared to endure the ultimate suffering in order to rescue us. We have known love to do some very powerful and strange things. There is the story of a Polish Catholic priest, St. Maximillian Kolbe, who offered his life in place of a married man in Nazi Germany. It was February 1941, Auschwitz, Poland. Maximilian Kolbe was a Franciscan priest put in the infamous death camp for helping Jews escape Nazi terrorism. Months went by and in desperation, one of his fellow prisoners escaped from the camp. The camp rule was enforced. Ten people would be rounded up randomly and herded into a cell where they would die of starvation and a final exposure to lethal gas, as a lesson against future escape attempts. Names were called. A Polish Jew Frandishek Gasovnachek was called. He cried, "Please spare me, I have a wife and children!" Kolbe stepped forward and said, "I will take his place." Kolbe was marched into the starvation cell with nine others where he managed to live until August 14. This story was chronicled on NBC news special several years ago. Gasovnachek, by this time 82, was shown telling this story while tears streamed down his cheeks. A mobile camera followed him around his little white house to a marble monument carefully tended with flowers. The inscription read: IN MEMORY OF MAXIMILIAN KOLBE HE DIED IN MY PLACE. Every day Gasovnachek lived since 1941, he lived with the knowledge, "I live because someone died for me." Every year on August 14 he travels to Auschwitz in memory of Kolbe. "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13).
A teenager, Arthur Hinkley lifted a farm tractor with his bare hands. He wasn’t a weight lifter, but his best friend, eighteen-year-old Lloyd, was pinned under a tractor. Arthur heard Lloyd screaming for help and Arthur somehow lifted the tractor enough for Lloyd to wriggle out. His love for his best friend somehow enabled him to do what would normally be impossible. And then there is the old story of the young soldier who had been condemned to death by Oliver Cromwell. He was to be shot at the ringing of the curfew bell. His fiancée climbed the bell tower and tied herself to the clapper of the giant bell so that it would not ring. When the bell did not ring, soldiers went to investigate and found the girl battered and bleeding from being bashed against the sides of the bell. Cromwell was so impressed by her love for the young man that he was pardoned.
Jesus' announcement, “tetelestai,” "It is finished" is clear and simple. Jesus had completed His task. The purpose for which He had come to earth as a human had been fulfilled. He came so that you and I can have forgiveness and salvation. He came to give us the victory. He came to ensure that we would enter his kingdom and live forever. Let us pray: Loving God, what You have done for us in Jesus’ death on the cross is far more than we deserve. His death has made us friends with You again. His death has given us forgiveness and the hope of life forever. Everything is complete. Please, Lord, enable us to welcome our crosses, as Jesus did, for the atonement of our sins and those of others, and let us experience that Love and share Him with others. We thank you Jesus from the bottom of our hearts. Amen
Prepared by Fr. Antony Kadavil (email@example.com) and published in the CBCI website by the Office for Social Communications. You may contact firstname.lastname@example.org for weekday homilies, and a dozen more additional anecdotes
April 17, 2014
April 17, 2014
On Holy Thursday we celebrate three anniversaries: 1) the anniversary of the first Holy Mass, 2) the anniversary of the institution of ministerial priesthood in order to perpetuate the Holy Mass, convey God’s forgiveness to repentant sinners and preach the Good News of Salvation, 3) the anniversary of Jesus’ promulgation of His new commandment of love: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Today we remember how Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover into the New Testament Passover. The Jewish Passover was, in fact, a joint celebration of two ancient thanksgiving celebrations. The descendants of Abel, who were shepherds, used to lead their sheep from the winter pastures to the summer pastures after the sacrificial offering of a lamb to God. They called this celebration the “Pass over." On the other hand, the descendants of Cain, who were farmers, held a harvest festival called the Massoth in which they offered unleavened bread to God as an act of thanksgiving. The Passover feast of the Israelites (Exodus 12:26-37) was a harmonious combination of these two ancient feasts of thanksgiving, commanded by the Lord God to be celebrated yearly by all Israelites to thank God for the miraculous liberation of their ancestors from Egypt and their exodus from slavery to the Promised Land.
In the first reading, God gives the Hebrews two instructions: prepare for the moment of liberation by a ritual meal and make a symbolic mark on your homes to exempt yourselves from the coming slaughter. In the second reading, Paul suggests that the celebration of the Lord's Supper was an unbroken tradition from the very beginning of the Church. By it, Christians reminded themselves of the death and Resurrection of Jesus. Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover into the Eucharistic celebration. After washing the feet of His Apostles and commanding them to do humble service for each other, Jesus concluded the ceremony by giving His Apostles His own Body and Blood under the appearances of bread and wine as spiritual food and drink, in addition to serving the roasted Pascal lamb.
A challenge for humble service.
Our celebration of the Eucharist requires that we wash one another’s feet, i.e., serve one another, and revere Christ's presence in other persons. In practical terms, that means we are to consider their needs to be as important as our own and to serve their needs, without expecting any reward. 2) A loving invitation for sacrificial sharing and self-giving love. Let us imitate the Self-giving model of Jesus Who shares with us His own Body and Blood and Who enriches us with His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. It is by sharing our blessings – our talents, time, health and wealth - with others that we become true disciples of Christ and obey his new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” 3) An invitation to become Christ-bearers and Christ-conveyers: "Go forth, the Mass is ended," really means, “Go in peace to love and serve one another’’ We are to carry Jesus to our homes and places of work, conveying to others around us the love, mercy, forgiveness and spirit of humble service of Christ Whom we carry with us.
Holy Thursday- Mass of the LORD’S SUPPER
(Exodus. 12: 1-8, 11-14; I Corinthians 11: 23-26; John 13: 1-15)
The Stole and the Towel
is the title of a book, which sums up the message of the Italian bishop, Tony Bello, who died of cancer at the age of 58. On Maundy Thursday of 1993, while on his deathbed, he dictated a pastoral letter to the priests of his diocese. He called upon them to be bound by "the stole and the towel." The stole symbolizes union with Christ in the Eucharist, and the towel symbolizes union with humanity by service. The priest is called upon to be united with the Lord in the Eucharist and with the people as their servant. Today we celebrate the institution of both the Eucharist and the priesthood: the feast of "the stole and the towel," the feast of love and service.
2 “Jesus Christ gave a lasting memorial”:
One of his Catholic disciples asked the controversial god-man Osho Rajneesh about the difference between Buddha the founder of Buddhism and Jesus Christ. He told a story to distinguish between Buddha and Christ. When Buddha was on his death bed, his disciple Anand asked him for a memorial and Buddha gave him a Jasmine flower. However, as the flower dried up, the memory of Buddha also dwindled. But Jesus Christ instituted a lasting memorial, without anybody’s asking for it, by offering His Body and Blood in the form of bread and wine and commanding His disciples to share His Divinity by repeating the ceremony. So Jesus continues to live in His followers while Buddha lives only in history books. On Holy Thursday, we are reflecting on the importance of the institution of the Holy Eucharist and the ministerial priesthood. [Osho Rajneesh claimed himself to be another incarnation of God who attained “enlightenment” at 29 when he was a professor of Hindu philosophy in Jabalpur University in India. He had thousands of followers for his controversial “liberation through sex theology,” based on Hindu, Buddhist and Christian theology.
Why is the other side empty?
Have you ever noticed that in Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper everybody is on one side of the table? The other side is empty. "Why's that?" someone asked the great artist. His answer was simple. "So that there may be plenty of room for us to join them." Want to let Jesus do his thing on earth through you? Then pull up a chair and receive him into your heart (Fr. Jack Dorsel).
On Holy Thursday, we celebrate three anniversaries: 1) the anniversary of the first Holy Mass, 2) the anniversary of the institution of ministerial priesthood in order to perpetuate the Holy Mass, convey God’s forgiveness to repentant sinners and preach the Good News of Salvation, 3) the anniversary of the promulgation of Jesus’ new commandment of love: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Today we remember how Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover into the New Testament Passover. In its origins, the Jewish Passover was, in fact, a joint celebration of two ancient thanksgiving celebrations. The descendants of Abel, who were shepherds, used to lead their sheep from the winter pastures to the summer pastures after the sacrificial offering to God of a lamb. They called this celebration the “Pass over." On the other hand, the descendants of Cain, who were farmers, held a harvest festival called the Massoth in which they offered unleavened bread to God as an act of thanksgiving. The Passover feast of the Israelites (Exodus 12:26-37), was a harmonious combination of these two ancient feasts of thanksgiving, commanded by the Lord God to be celebrated yearly by all Israelites to thank God for the miraculous liberation of their ancestors from Egypt and their exodus from slavery to the Promised Land.
The Jewish Passover was a seven-day celebration, during which unleavened bread was eaten.
The Passover meal began with the singing of the first part of the “Hallel” Psalms (Ps 113 &114), followed by the first cup of wine. Then those gathered at table ate bitter herbs, sang the second part of the “Hallel” Psalms (Ps 115-116), drank the second cup of wine and listened as the oldest man in the family explained the significance of the event, in answer to the question raised by a child. This was followed by the eating of a lamb (the blood of which had previously been offered to God in sacrifice), roasted in fire. The participants divided and ate the roasted lamb and unleavened Massoth bread, drank the third cup of wine and sang the major “Hallel" Psalms (117-118). In later years, Jews celebrated a miniature form of the Passover every Sabbath day and called it the “Love Feast.”
The first reading from Exodus, gives us an account of the origins of the Jewish feast of Passover.
God gives the Hebrews two instructions: prepare for the moment of liberation by a ritual meal [to be held annually in later years] and make a symbolic mark on your homes to exempt yourselves from the coming slaughter. In the second reading, Paul quotes another source for this tradition that was handed to him upon his conversion. He says he received this "from the Lord,” suggesting that the celebration of the Lord's Supper was an unbroken tradition from the very beginning of the Church. Paul implies that the purpose of this celebration was to “proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes again.” Paul may simply mean that Christians, by this ritual act, remind themselves of the death and resurrection of Jesus; he may also mean that Christians prepare themselves for the proclamation of Christ to the world at large. In harmony with these readings, today’s Gospel describes how Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover into the Eucharistic celebration. First He washed His Apostles’ feet - a tender reminder of His undying affection for them; then He commanded them to do the same for each other. The incident reminds us that our vocation is to take care of one another as Jesus always takes care of us. Finally, He gave His Apostles His own Body and Blood under the appearances of bread and wine as food and drink, so that, as long as they lived, they'd never be without the comfort and strength of His presence. Thus, Jesus washed their feet, fed them and then went out to die.
Jesus’ transformation of his last Seder meal (Last Supper) into the first Eucharistic celebration is described for us in today’s second reading and Gospel. Jesus, the Son of God, began His Passover celebration by washing the feet of His disciples (a service assigned to household servants), as a lesson in humble service, proving that He “came to the world not to be served but to serve.” (Mark 10:45). He followed the ritual of the Jewish Passover meal up to the second cup of wine. After serving the roasted lamb as a third step, Jesus offered His own Body and Blood as food and drink under the appearances of bread and wine. Thus, He instituted the Holy Eucharist as the sign and reality of God’s perpetual presence with His people as their living, Heavenly Food. This was followed by the institution of the priesthood with the command, “Do this in memory of me." Jesus concluded the ceremony with a long speech incorporating His command of love: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Thus, Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist at a private Passover meal with His disciples (Matthew 26:17-30; Luke 21:7-23). He served as both the Host and the Victim of the Sacrifice. He became the Lamb of God, as John the Baptist had previously predicted (John 1:29, 36), Who takes away the sins of the world.
The transformation of Jesus’ Passover into the Holy Mass:
The early Jewish Christians converted the Jewish “Sabbath Love Feast” of Fridays and Saturdays (the Sabbath), into the “Memorial Last Supper Meal” of Jesus on Sundays. The celebration consisted of praising and worshipping God by singing Psalms, reading the Old Testament Messianic prophecies and listening to the teachings of Jesus as explained by an Apostle or by an ordained minister. This was followed by an offertory procession, bringing to the altar the bread and wine to be consecrated and covered dishes (meals) brought by each family for a shared common meal after the Eucharistic celebration. Then the ordained minister said the “institution narrative” over the bread and wine, and all the participants received the consecrated Bread and Wine, the living Body and Blood of the crucified and risen Jesus. This ritual finally evolved into the present day Holy Mass in various rites incorporating various cultural elements of worship and rituals.
1) We need to serve humbly. Our celebration of the Eucharist requires that we wash one another’s feet, i.e., serve one another, and revere Christ's presence in other persons. To wash the feet of others is to love them, even when they don't deserve our love. It is to do good to them, even if they don't return the favor. It is to consider others' needs to be as important as our own. It is to forgive others from the heart, even if they don't say, "I'm sorry." It is to serve them, even when the task is unpleasant. It is to let others know that we care when they feel downtrodden or burdened. It is to be generous with what we have. It is to turn the other cheek instead of retaliating when we're treated unfairly. It is to make adjustments in our plans in order to serve others' needs, without expecting any reward.
2) We need to practice sacrificial sharing and self-giving love.
Let us imitate the Self-giving model of Jesus Who shares with us His own Body and Blood and enriches us with His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. It is by sharing our blessings – our talents, time, health and wealth - with others that we become true disciples of Christ and obey His new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
We need to show our unity in suffering.
The bread we consecrate and partake of is produced by the pounding of many grains of wheat, and the wine we consecrate and drink is the result of the crushing of many grapes. Both are, thus, symbols of unity through suffering. They invite us to help, console, support, and pray for others who suffer physical or mental illnesses.
We need to heed the warning:
We need to make Holy Communion an occasion of Divine grace and blessing by receiving Jesus worthily, rather than making our reception an occasion of desecration and sacrilege by receiving Jesus while we are in grave sin. That is why we pray three times before we receive Communion, "Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us," with the final "have mercy on us" replaced by "grant us peace." That is also the reason we pray the Centurion's prayer, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." And that is why the priest, just before he receives consecrated Host, prays, "May the Body of Christ keep me safe for eternal life," while, just before drinking from the Chalice, he prays, "May the Blood of Christ keep me safe for eternal life."
5) We need to become Christ-bearers and Christ-conveyers:
In the older English version of the Mass, the final message was, “Go in peace to love and serve one another,” that is, to carry Jesus to our homes and places of work, conveying to others around us the love, mercy, forgiveness and spirit of humble service of Christ whom we carry with us. That message has not changed, though the words are different.
We need to remember what Jesus did for us on Holy Thursday and does for us during every Eucharistic celebration:
We remember and we regret that Jesus had to go through all that He did just because of the way our lives are wrapped in sin today and every day. We remember and we rejoice that Jesus’ love for us knows no limits. We remember and we believe that Jesus has taken care of everything that stands between us and God. We remember and we rely on Jesus our living Lord Who has been through all the troubles and trials that one person can have. Hence, He is able to sympathize and help us in our times of trouble and give the best possible answers to our prayers. We remember and we know for certain that the One Who died on the cross will never leave us or desert us – we may desert Him but He will never leave us. We remember and we celebrate the new hope that we have because Jesus is alive. He is our living Lord and Savior Who supports us when we are down, strengthens us when we face difficult challenges, forgives us when we fail and comforts us when sickness and death terrify us. We remember and we are changed – What Jesus has done in giving us a new life and a new beginning through His death and Resurrection changes the way we view other people, our world and our relationship with God and, with God's help, we fill our lives with kindness, patience, tolerance and forgiveness. We remember and we anticipate that day when we will gather around the throne of God with all the saints who have gone before us.
Prepared by Fr. Antony Kadavil (email@example.com) and published in the CBCI website by the Office for Social Communications. You may contact firstname.lastname@example.org for weekday homilies, and a dozen more additional anecdotes
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