Homily for the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion, Good Friday, Year A 2014
Last evening we celebrated the Last Supper of Jesus and the Apostles where Jesus gave us the Eucharist in memory of him, foreshadowing the events of today. We saw how John’s description focused on the washing of the feet and how Jesus became a servant to his disciples and asked them to do the same. I wonder what sense it must have made to the apostles at the time. Could they really understand what was going on, what Judas would do, what would happen to Jesus?
The readings from the liturgy today pick up and follow through on the two main themes from last night, particularly the “servant’ theme. The reading from Isaiah is particularly appropriate especially when when read backward. Knowing what we know happened let’s us look at Isaiah’s prophecy in a very different light, and what was not understood fully becomes so clear.
Take, for example, the opening of Isaiah today: “See , my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up and shall be very high.” Taken in its context, but without what we know of Jesus’ death, it would seem that this person who was a servant or slave, very low on the social scale, would be lifted up, raised to a position of high authority. This man that Isaiah prophesies would not be an attractive man when he was a servant – no-one would even look at him. he was “despised and rejected” in fact. Not only was he rather ugly, he was infirm, having had many of the sicknesses of the day. Yet, Isaiah says, this is the one that God will raise up, after he has experienced all the infirmities of people. God allowed him to suffer, to be crushed with pain – a scapegoat for the “transgressions” of God’s people, bearing on himself the sins of the Hebrew nation. God laid all this on one servant who was totally undeserving of all that happened to him.
In Isaiah’s terms, he was describing a person who has done no wrong, but because he was serving others, would take on the results of the sins of the nation and suffer for it. In so doing, he would be like the animal that is sacrificed, an innocent creature whose death atones for the sins of the nation – perhaps a difficult concept for us to understand today, but quite a common understanding in Isaiah’s time. By the sacrifice of this servant, Israel would be made clean again, and the servant will make many righteous because of this sacrifice. The spotless person, taking on the sins of the nation, is thus able to intercede the Hebrew case to God.
This made some sense in Isaiah’s time, though clearly it was a prophecy that seemed to refer to some sort of savior or messiah that was unlike the typical idea of the time of a warrior messiah who would sweep down and conquer the Israeli enemies.
But when we look backward, when we look at it with eyes that know what eventually happened, we see how accurate the portrait is of Jesus, how he was the sacrificial lamb, the unblemished servant who bore the sins of the world, how he was ‘despised ‘by the Jewish authorities and ’rejected’ even by his own followers’, put to death on a cross that did indeed raise him up high, but not in the way most would have interpreted Isaiah, and finally, through his death and resurrection, he has been “exalted”. There isn’t a word of the Isaiah reading that we can’t apply to Jesus, as we see how in God’s inimitable way, he acted out the suffering servant of Isaiah and in so doing was able to make many righteous again.
Jesus acceptance of this, his great giving of himself to the Father, is played out when we read our psalm today backwards. Imagine Jesus as the speaker of today’s psalm, and the psalm takes on such meaning. “Into your righteousness deliver me” and “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” The psalmist’s description of himself is the description of Jesus the servant as well – a “horror”, “scorned”, a “broken vessel”. And then the redeeming words – words that redeem all of us – “But I trust in you, O Lord: I say, ‘You are my God.’”
When we get to the reading from Hebrew’s we need to look forward from Jesus. Jesus has already died and been resurrected, and Paul now tries to understand that death and resurrection, to piece together the puzzle parts from Hebrew scripture and from the events of jesus’ life and try to understand what was really going on. He notes Jesus’ obedience tot he Father, his prayers to the Father, his perfection from sin, and finally his through his death he brought salvation.
Obedience and servitude – not qualities that are thought much of today. Society rebels against those concepts. But as always, God’s ways are not our ways, and if Jesus is preaching a kingdom of heaven beginning today on earth, we are being presented with a way to achieve this kingdom today. It is only by lowering ourselves – spiritually, by seeing our helplessness and need for God; emotionally, by trusting implicitly in God’s will; and physically, by obeying God’s commands and becoming a source of help for others, truly serving them.
I let the Passion reading today speak for itself because it is the center point, the point from which we look back or look forward, the point where all things changed, the climax of God’s long trip with us, the tragedy that became to the most glorious of events by redeeming us, and the moment where Jesus is exalted and lifted up, and he is very high. So let us not see this cross, this instrument of torture, as something to be embarrassed about, but as something that raises up and gives glory both to Jesus and through him to us. I close with the final words of today’s psalm: “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord”. He will be back again on easter Sunday in full glory.
And this is the incredible Good news of our salvation through Jesus Christ.
Bishop Ron Stephens, Auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese Of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)
Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA
[You can purchase a complete Cycle A of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from amazon.com for $9.99 - Teaching the Church Year”]
Homily for Holy Thursday – The Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Year A 2014
The last few years, speaking on this feast of the Lord’s Supper, I have concentrated on the Eucharist - even though our Gospel writer of the evening, John, does not. Because the Eucharist is central to our faith and according to three of the four Gospel writers was instituted this evening, I have spent much of my time with you looking at the Eucharist in light of the feasts of Holy Week, and where indeed our first and second readings and psalms would have us go this evening.
Tonight, however, I would like to center my remarks where the unknown compilers of our yearly readings have concentrated their main focus – the Last Supper according to John’s account.
There have been many interpretations of Jesus’ washing the feet of the apostles. The two most prominent would be the idea that Jesus, lowering himself to do such an action, prefigures what will happen the next day when his death on the cross will wash us clean, but in a most demeaning way. The other main interpretation is that Jesus was trying to show us how to act, how to be humble, and that we should follow his example in this. In other words, the first interpretation is about what God does for us, and the second, what we need to do to become like Jesus.
What is it that was so upsetting about Jesus washing the feet of his disciples? After all, it was very common in this period for a person to have his feet washed. There were no roads, just dirt, and sandals left room for the dirt to stain people’s feet. Most people had their feet washed when they entered a home, just to keep out the dirt. Peter is upset simply because it was usually a servant or a menial who washed the guests’ feet. Peter does not want to see Jesus as a menial – after all, we saw a few weeks ago at the Transfiguration, that Peter was told by God that Jesus was his Son, the Messiah. Peter still did not understand that the whole idea of a conquering, glorious Messiah was about to be turned around, and that the Messiah would be quite the opposite of what he thought it would be like.
Jesus responds to Peter, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” I would like you to think a few moments about the words “Unless I wash you….” The idea of baptism might obviously come to mind, or the “living water” that Christ spoke about to the Samaritan woman on the 3rd Sunday of Lent. I would suggest to you that the important word here is “you” – “Unless I wash you….” Jesus is telling Peter that he needs to be washed, cleaned, his way of life reoriented, his thinking changed. All the things he thought about the way to live as a Jewish man needed to be stripped away by the waters of Jesus. What was top was now bottom. Master was now servant. The rich were the poorer. In Protestant terms, the phrase “be born again” might apply here. And this change in how one sees the world is really quite radical. Society teaches us one thing, Jesus quite another.
But if we want to experience God, if we want to go where Jesus goes, if we want to have a share with Jesus, we have to turn upside down many of our modern beliefs, the things that society is telling us are important. Let Jesus wash them away – then we can move on to the ethical model of Jesus and see ourselves as servants and service to others.
It is no wonder that so many had and still have such difficulty in reorienting their minds to the Christian way. But it is the love that Christ shows in lowering himself to become our servant, lowering himself to die on a cross tomorrow, and commemorated at each Eucharist, lowering himself so that even the most menial of tasks can show unlimited love – this is what we are called to do by Jesus’ actions tonight.
Peter resisted this, even though he knew who Jesus was. Peter did seem to fathom finally what Jesus was saying and asked to him to wash his whole person, but Peter would not truly understand till much later that this act of a slave would be the way Jesus would be the Messiah, the way he would die tomorrow to save everyone. Jesus’ way is the way of a servant, the way of humility, the way of death for a friend.
Judas resisted this as well because he could not find it in his heart to change the way he saw the world. We resist as well. It is a big leap of faith to reverse much of our way of life and way of thinking to question much of our modern realities. Even knowing that Judas would betray him, Jesus washed his feet as well. What a lesson that is for us!
We celebrate this feast on the Feast of the Passover which led to the Hebrews free, but traveling through the wilderness for forty years. Even then God sent them manna and fed them. God has continued to send us manna. This “bread from heaven” for us has been Jesus himself. He continues to feed us.
To make this meaningful for us tonight, I would like to suggest that what Jesus was trying to show us this evening was that Jesus was telling us to live a life of service, yes, but also to die just as he did. That death, however, for us today, probably will not be on a cross because we have stood for our beliefs, but they may be little deaths of our selves – our need for power, for wealth, for being right all the time, for thinking primarily of ourselves.
Lastly, I want to note that Jesus washed the feet of his intimate group of disciples. He didn’t go out into the streets and wash people’s feet or like Pope Francis did last year, wash the feet of the sick and poor, though I am not disparaging that. He washed the feet of his friends. We need to constantly look at our relationships with each other in this community and be servants to each other. My feeling is that we do that quite often and quite naturally in this community, but I would like you to see it as a mandate from Jesus. It is the way he would want us to act toward each other, to be there for each other, to love and help each other, to give ourselves to each other when there is need. Our eating together after this service, our sharing of a the food we brought, just as Jesus supped and shared with his friends, can be just another illustration of our need for each other and our need to know each other better, to love each other more, and to celebrate our own community.
Let our celebration continue with this Good News and let each of us be good news for our neighbor in the coming year!.
Bishop Ron Stephens, Auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese Of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)
Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA
[You can purchase a complete Cycle A of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from amazon.com for $9.99 - Teaching the Church Year”]
Gospel reading of the day:
Many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to kill him.
So Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews, but he left for the region near the desert, to a town called Ephraim, and there he remained with his disciples. Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before Passover to purify themselves. They looked for Jesus and said to one another as they were in the temple area, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast?”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Sometimes we get into situations that are much larger than we are. We view extraordinary events through a prism that is not large enough to assess the situation, ignore the evidence, and look for shortcuts. These shortcuts put us into corrupt situations that encourage our conformity to the view of a group, even when perhaps the view of the group makes us uneasy. We think, “It must be okay, since this is the normative view in my group.” We cannot rise to respond with freshness and originality, question the evidence, take the long view, and trust that God is at work in the situation. Ordinary people suddenly are doing terrible things, driven by the requirements of the state or our group. When the Sanhedrin judged Jesus as a threat to the stability of the people, they simply missed the mark because they were not able to rise above their small categories.
Saint of the day: Teresa of the Andes was born as Juanita Fernandez Solar in Santiago de Chile on July 13, 1900. When she had completed her schooling, she entered the Carmelite monastery of Los Andes in order to make a hidden offering of her life for humankind. Having taken the name Teresa of Jesus, she had been in the monastery for just eleven months when she died of a painful illness on April 12, 1920. On the day of her death, and ever since, huge crowds of people were mysteriously drawn to Los Andes. They go in search of one who knew how to love.
Her life had been brief and simple but filled with love. In a letter to her brother Luis dated June 11, 1919, shortly after she had entered the monastery, she wrote, “How fortunate I am to sacrifice all for God! But this all is nothing in comparison to what Our Savior sacrificed for us, from the crib to the Cross, from the Cross even to humbling Himself completely under the form of bread. He, wholly God, under the species of bread, and even to the consummation of time. Oh the grandeur of infinite love! A love which is not known, a love which is unreturned by the majority of men. . . . You ask me to assure you in my letters that I love you always as a sister. Do you doubt it for an instant? Perhaps you do not know that my heart is perfected by the divine love, and the more perfect it is, the greater and more profound is my love? Well, then, do not doubt for a moment that I pray for you and that my prayer is a song of love . . . . When one is in love, he cannot talk about any other object than his beloved. And when the beloved unites in himself every possible perfection, what then? I do not know how I can do otherwise than contemplate him and love him. What do you want, if Jesus Christ, that Madman of love, has driven me mad? I endure a martyrdom, Luis, when I see noble and well born hearts, hearts capable of loving what is good, not loving the immutable Good . . . ..”
From the time she was a child, St Teresa of Jesus spoke familiarly with God and with Mary. She learned to be faithful to the Lord, and to use her natural human talents accordingly. She achieved a balanced life, serenity and maturity, all of which are anxiously sought after in the world today.
Spiritual reading: Christ so foolish in his love, has driven me madly in love. (Teresa of the Andes)
The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy. You, a man, are making yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, You are gods”‘? If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came, and Scripture cannot be set aside, can you say that the one whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world blasphemes because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Then they tried again to arrest him; but he escaped from their power.
He went back across the Jordan to the place where John first baptized, and there he remained. Many came to him and said, “John performed no sign, but everything John said about this man was true.” And many there began to believe in him.
Reflection on the gospel reading: What we can see is what we are willing to see. Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. The eyes we bring to the world are the eyes through which we see the world. If we expect to see miracles, our whole being will be filled with miracles. If we expect to see blasphemy, blasphemy will be the filter we use to interpret our world. If we have eyes to see God, God will surround us, penetrate us, enfold us. What we expect to find on our journey will be what we find on our journey for where our treasure is, there also will our hearts be.
Saint of the day: Mother Therese was the foundress of the Cloistered Discalced Carmelite Nuns of the Ancient Observance near Allentown, Pennsylvania. Born as Anna Marie Lindenberg to Joseph and Marianna Lindenberg, in Muenster, Westphalia, Germany on May 20, 1877, she was the youngest of four children. Four days later, on May 24, she was brought to the Cathedral of Muenster for baptism. In school, she excelled in her courses and had particular skills in math and sewing. Anna Marie’s mother died when she was 13 years old.
Anna Marie’s uncle was a Jesuit priest, and after her mother’s death, the Jesuit recommended to her that she come to the United States where he was serving as a missionary in a parish. Anna Marie came and quickly learned to read and write English. She kept the rectory and served the parish as an organist. Though she desired to enter religious life, she wanted to support her uncle. When her uncle died in 1912, she felt free to enter the Carmelite monastery where she took her first vows in 1915. She later returned to Europe to establish a monastery in the Black Forest and also spent time at monasteries in Rome and Naples. Afterward, her Religious Superiors commissioned her to found a Carmel monastery in America. She left Europe in late 1930 to return the United States with another Carmelite nun, a woman who was an American from North Dakota who had joined the Carmelites in Europe. After stops in New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, Mother Therese and her companion arrived in Allentown, Pennsylvania on May 22, 1931. They settled into a house about four-and-a-half miles from Allentown and in a few years had 11 candidates for their community. She died there on April 11, 1939, with a reputation for holiness.
Mother Therese’s saintly reputation was later boosted when her incorrupt remains were accidentally discovered in 2001 during renovations underway to the monastery’s mausoleum. Not only was her body intact, but the palm branch that she held in her hands at the time of her burial was also still fresh and green. The Diocese of Allentown is currently in the process of investigating her life to possibly open her cause for canonization.
Spiritual reading: May the beauty you love be what you do. (Rumi)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus said to the Jews: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” So the Jews said to him, “Now we are sure that you are possessed. Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? Or the prophets, who died? Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing; but it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ You do not know him, but I know him. And if I should say that I do not know him, I would be like you a liar. But I do know him and I keep his word. Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” So they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area.
Reflection on the gospel reading: There is a sense among many faithful Christians that claims for Jesus’ divinity were a relatively late development in Christian theology, but that isn’t true. It is true that Christians had heated disagreements on this topic for several centuries, but a sense of Jesus’ identification with God developed very quickly even when people who knew him were still alive. The examples are not overt but they occur over and over again throughout the New Testament. For example, Jews never spoke the name of God, the tetragrammaton which God spoke on Mount Sinai when Moses asked God’s name. Rather than write God’s name, the Hebrew scriptures consistently use the word Adonai (that is, Lord) to refer to God. When the Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek, the word they used for Adonai was Kurios. No one in the Greek rendering of the Hebrew scriptures was ever called Kurios but God, but it is the word Paul and the evangelists in the gospels use to refer to Jesus. There are scholars who have proposed that the Christological hymn in Philippians was composed in Jerusalem as early as five years after the crucifixion of the Lord. Few people other than scholars notice that in the hymn is a quote from Isaiah. The Philippians hymn asserts that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. But the line is not original to Philippians. Isaiah 45:23 quotes God saying, “To me every knee shall bend; by me every tongue shall swear.” The consistent message of the New Testament is that Jesus indeed is Kurios.
Saint of the day: Saint Michael of the Saints was born on September 29, 1591. He was a Discalced Trinitarian priest from Vic, Catalonia. Born Miguel Argemir, at the age of twelve, he went to Barcelona and asked to be received into the monastery of the Trinitarians there. After a three-year novitiate, he took his vows at that order’s monastery of St. Lambert at Zaragoza in 1607. After meeting a Discalced Trinitarian one day, he felt drawn to that congregation’s more austere lifestyle and, after much deliberation and the permission of his superior, he entered the congregation of the Discalced Trinitarians at Madrid as a novice. He then took his vows at Alcalá, became a priest, and was twice elected superior of the monastery at Valladolid, where he died on April 10, 1625. During his life, Michael de Sanctis led a life of prayer and mortification. He was devout towards the Holy Eucharist, and is said to have been experienced ecstasies several times during the institution narrative during the Eucharistic Prayer. Michael of the Saints was beatified in 1779 and canonized in 1862.
Spiritual Reading: A safe Jesus that demands nothing of us is a false god of comfort we invent to keep God from stirring us up to change! (Marcel LeJeune)
After reading the Passion, it is very difficult for a homilist to add to the account of Jesus’s passion, death and resurrection. The whole concept of what he endured would seem foreign to us today for the most part. The founders of our country forbade in our constitution cruel and unusual punishment. Torture, whipping, extreme cruelty and to a degree death are forbidden. In Roman times, these were seen as ways to control unruly masses of people to make them fear a nation of conquerors, namely the Romans. Their execution by crucifixion was meant to be bloody, painful and a slow dragged out process, sometimes taking days. It is one of the reasons Rome was able to rule for so long.
In today’s world punishment is not supposed to be the ideal, but rehabilitation is what our prisons are called to do. The death penalty is not really common and is now carried out in the United States in a sterilized non-threatening, non-suffering way. Strangely, we carry it out like we are doing a kindness in making it easy for the condemned and our conscience by anesthetizing the person to sleep.
That aside, suffering and death is something foreign to us. Yet God chose to use the darkest side of humanity’s barbarity to extend his forgiveness and love through his very own Son. No one can miss the singular act of a Father giving his son to make whole what is broken. We heard today the account of Jesus following out the will of his Father, even feeling reluctant as any of us would be, but in the end He said “Your will be done”.
So today, let us reflect that Christ freely gave himself to be taken and condemned by the Jews, sentenced by Pilate and scourged and crucified. This was a giving of himself for all time, for all men and women, for reparation of all sins against God for all time. When we fail, fall short remember to ask Please forgive me.
Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains. So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free. I know that you are descendants of Abraham. But you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you. I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence; then do what you have heard from the Father.”
They answered and said to him, “Our father is Abraham.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham. But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God; Abraham did not do this. You are doing the works of your father!” So they said to him, “We were not born of fornication. We have one Father, God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and am here; I did not come on my own, but he sent me.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount that we will know a tree from the fruit it bears. He says something quite similar in this passage from John. If we are Abraham’s children, we will do the works of Abraham, but insofar as we falter, something else is at work in us. It is the difference between talking the talk and walking the walk. If we love Jesus, our lives will shout the gospel from the rooftops.
Saint of the day: Prince August Franciszek Maria Anna Józef Kajetan Czartoryskiwas born in 1858 in Paris, the only child of Prince Ladislaus (Władysław) Czartoryski and Princess Maria Amparo, Countess of Vista Alegre (daughter of Maria Christina of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Queen of Spain, and her secret husband Augustín Fernández Muñoz, Duke of Riansares). The Czartoryski magnate was one of the most powerful families in Poland during the 18th century, but in the 19th century they were exiled from Poland by the Russians and had their base of operations at the Hôtel Lambert in Paris. To his family, the young prince was known as “Gucio”. He was a sickly child, having contracted tuberculosis from his mother at the age of six (she later died of the disease, leaving him her title of Count of Vista Alegre). Much of his life was spent being shuttled to different health spas in the mountains and along beaches that had “good air” for the afflicted. From the age of 10 to 17 he studied in Paris and Kraków.
In 1872, when Gucio was 14, his father Prince Ladislaus remarried to Marguerite Adelaide and had two more sons in 1872 and 1876. A tutor was hired for Gucio in 1874; this tutor was named Joseph Kalinowski, a Polish patriot who had just returned to Poland from a ten-year sentence in Siberia. Joseph, who also suffered from respiratory ailments, accompanied Gucio to many of his destinations. In a letter to his sister Mary, Fr. Joseph wrote that he was “father, mother, nurse, brother, companion and caretaker” for the boy. Joseph and August remained close companions until 1877, when Joseph joined the religious order of the Discalced Carmelites and took the name “Raphael of St. Joseph”. (Joseph Kalinowski was canonized in 2004.)
Prince Ladislaus desired that his son Gucio pursue a diplomatic career, but the young prince felt a different calling. He was encouraged to follow Don Bosco (later Saint Don Bosco) of the Salesians. In 1887, after meeting Don Bosco, Gucio joined that order in Turin, with the ailing Bosco’s blessing. He studied theology and philosophy but his health continued to decline. On April 2, 1892 he was ordained as a priest by the Bishop of Ventimiglia, though his family discouraged this and refused to attend the ceremony. He died only a year later, on April 9, 1893, in Alassio, Italy, of tuberculosis, at the age of 34. He was beatified in 2004.
Spiritual reading: Therefore if you want to have in your heart the affections and dispositions that were those of Christ on earth, consult not your own imagination but faith. Enter into the darkness of interior renunciation, strip your soul of images, and let Christ form Himself in you by His Cross. (Thomas Merton)
Jesus said to the Pharisees: “I am going away and you will look for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” So the Jews said, “He is not going to kill himself, is he, because he said, ‘Where I am going you cannot come’?” He said to them, “You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.” So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “What I told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you in condemnation. But the one who sent me is true, and what I heard from him I tell the world.” They did not realize that he was speaking to them of the Father.
So Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me. The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him.” Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him.
Reflection on the gospel: Often in the gospels when Jesus reflects on his identity, he mentions his suffering. The question of his identity in a discussion with his disciples that prompts Peter to confess that Jesus is the messiah, for example, ends with Jesus’ prediction of his passion. In this gospel passage, Jesus says, “When you lift up the Son of Man,” we will know who he is. The lifting up of the Son of Man, of course, is a reference to the cross. Jesus tells us we cannot know him without understanding his complete annihilation on the cross and embracing his utter defeat.
Saint of the day: Carlos Armando Bustos Crostelli, O.F.M. Cap. was an Argentinian Capuchin, who was born in Córdoba, Argentina, in about 1943. He entered the Capuchin friars as a young teenager and did his studies at their local houses of formation. He was ordained a priest in 1970. After that, along with another friar named Pedro, he went to live in an impoverished section of Buenos Aires.
Immersing himself in the life of the severely poor drew Bustos to seek a deeper identification with the people among whom he lived. While maintaining a joyful demeanor, playing on his guitar, and cheering his colleagues with his jokes, the work he was doing to help the poor was bringing him into conflict with the Argentinian government. This drew him into a close collaboration with a small community of Little Brothers of the Gospel, a semi-contemplative religious order dedicated to sharing the lives of the poorest of the earth. His collaboration with Little Brother Patrick Rice, a native of Ireland, led him to start considering a transfer from the Capuchins to that congregation. To support himself, as well as sharing in the daily life of a working person, he started to drive a taxi. He was also in close touch with the Movement of Priests for the Third World. These were dangerous connections to have in Argentina under the Peronist government. The summer of 1974 saw the widespread killing of members of the Catholic clergy and religious orders throughout Argentina, as the government attempted to consolidate its power and crack down on dissent. On July 4, a small community of members of the Pallotine Congregation were murdered in their church, followed a month later by the mysterious death of the Bishop of La Rioja, Enrique Angelelli. This wave of death of the clergy and lay leaders in the Church led Bustos to begin criticizing the government publicly for its campaign against the Church.
Bustos was part of a team of members of the clergy who went to La Rioja to investigate the bishop’s death. In September 1976, he was among the members who released a document accusing the government of Angelelli’s death as part of a campaign against the Catholic Church for its commitment to working with the poor. The document gained international attention. Early the following year, he met with his bishop, Cardinal Raúl Francisco Primatesta, who was also the President of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina, and was known to be have close ties to the leaders of the military junta then ruling the country. He was seeking the cardinal’s help in stopping the attacks on priests and other members of the Church who engaged in work for the poor. The cardinal was noncommittal.
On April 8, 1977, Bustos was returning home after participating in services at the Church of the Rosary of Nueva Pompeya for Holy Thursday, the start of the Easter Triduum. He was stopped on the street by the police and arrested. It was later learned that he was then taken to a secret detention center, known as the “Athletic Club” (Spanish: Club Atlético), where he was tortured and interrogated. Nothing more was ever learned of his fate. Repeated requests by family members and the Capuchin friars brought no response from the military or government officials.
Spiritual reading: Love is the only satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence. (Erich Fromm)
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: The moment of engagement with Jesus transforms us. The scribes, the Pharisees, and the woman caught in adultery all come to Jesus preoccupied by their personal agendas. The scribes and Pharisees come to manipulate both circumstances and the woman to lay a trap for Jesus. The woman presumably comes in terror for her safety with no reason to believe she will live through the day. No one in the gospel passage approaches Jesus with an anticipation of his effect on them, and yet they all leave changed by their brief encounter. At his word, the scribes and Pharisees grow strangely humble, conscious of their personal fragility, and honest about their individual brokenness. The woman caught in adultery leaves not just glad to be alive but with more than that: she is forgiven and encouraged to become something new. The moment of encounter with Jesus is about surprise, self-knowledge, and unanticipated possibilities.
Saint of the day: The Servant of God Flavio Corrà was born into an affectionate and large family in Salizzole in Italy on April 7, 1917. He received his early education in elementary school and through private lessons. He joined Catholic Action as an adolescent. When he enrolled in Angelo Messedaglia Liceo Scientifico in 1934, he organized Catholic Action in the school. His commitment to Catholic Action grew as time went by as he took part in spiritual and organizational activities at the diocesan and national levels. He and his younger brother, the Servant of God Gedeone Corrà, respectively served as president and vice president of Catholic Action in their parish, conducting meetings of 90 young people. In these meetings, they would read the gospel, conduct discussions, and organize the catechetical program and group events. The two brothers went to church each morning and were daily communicants before they had to rush to catch the train to Verona to attend school.
Flavio Corrà was hired after high school as a teacher of mathematics. In 1939 he enrolled at the University of Padua in the School of Mathematics and Physics. Flavio felt drawn to religious life, but he also was attracted to a particular young woman. His spiritual director recommended that marriage suited him better than religious life, but Flavio was torn. He spent time in intense prayer, reading scripture, and journaling for a year before he asked the young woman’s father if he could date her. On December 3, 1941, Flavio was called up for military service. He wrote 153 letters and cards to his girlfriend discussing his vision of the married life as a program for becoming holy. He proposed plans to live with her as husband and wife lay missionaries in distant lands or among immigrants. These cards and letters attest to Flavio’s sense that marriage was a mission given by God. He proposed to her that marriage would be the means they both became saints. While serving in the army, he spoke frequently of the gospel and was seen with his rosary. Once time while on leave from the military, he taught children catechism.
After Benito Mussolini was deposed, Flavio abandoned military service and resisted German orders that he reenlist. Eventually, he joined the National Liberation Committee of his town and supported relief efforts after bombings there on January 28, 1944 that left 32 dead and many others homeless. Flavio and his brother Gedeone remained in hiding with relatives until their arrest by the fascists on the night of November 22, 1944. After cruel interrogations, they were handed over to the German SS on December 1, loaded onto a truck five days later, and transferred to camps. The last letter Flavio’s family received from him was on January 19, 1945. On January 18, he and Gedeone had been among 420 prisoners crammed together in six rail cars that traveled for 96 hours to the extermination camp of Flossenburg in Upper Bavaria. More than 50 of those passengers died en route to the camp. With little food, hard work in the stone quarry, and unhygienic conditions without medical care, the two brothers never abandoned their faith, praying always, and comforting as far as they could other destitute prisoners. The brothers died in cruel circumstances: Gedeone Corrà, on March 7, 1945 and Flavio Corrà, a month later on April 7. The cause for the two brothers’ canonizations opened in 2000.
Spiritual reading: It is said of a certain Talmudic master that the paths of Heaven were as bright to him as the streets of his native town. Hasidism inverts the other: It is a greater thing if the streets of a man’s native town are as bright to him as the paths of Heaven. For it is here, where we stand, that we should try to make shine the light of the hidden divine life. (Martin Buber)
Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill. So the sisters sent word to him saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” hen Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in a day? If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” He said this, and then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.” So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.” But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep. So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died. And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him.” So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.”
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away. And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her, “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. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”
When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.” As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him. For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him. So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”
So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” And when he had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”
Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.
Reflection on the gospel reading: Lent calls us each year to recollect that we miss the mark and beckons us to renew our lives just as Lazarus renewed his lease on life in Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus from death. When Jesus commands, “Lazarus, come out,” he speaks not just to Lazarus but to each of us. “Lazarus, come out.” “Mike, come out.” “Julie, come out.” The invitation of Lent is the invitation of Jesus to Lazarus: that we rise from death and embrace life.
Spiritual reading: The eyes of the Lord are rays of light who lighten those who are in the darkness and the shadow of death. The tongue of Christ is full of life for everyone whom death has conquered. The hands of Christ are restorers of life, with which he aids all and sets them on their feet. (St. Athanasius)