He Has Risen!

Scripture Reading

On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.
(John 20:1-9)

Scripture Study

20:1 the first day: Sunday, the first day of the Jewish week. Mary Magdalene: A devoted disciple of Christ, who was delivered of demonic possession (Lk 8:2) and whose love for Jesus carried her all the way to the Cross (19:25; CCC 641).

20:2 out of the tomb: The empty tomb is the indisputable fact of Easter morning, as testified to even by the Roman soldiers who guarded the site (Mt 28:11–15). The disappearance of Jesus is the first indication that he has risen as he said (Mt 20:17–19). This is confirmed by several appearances throughout the next 40 days (Jn 20:19–21:1; Acts 1:3; CCC 640). we do not know: Presumes that Mary has come to the tomb with other women, as in Mt 28:1, Mk 16:1, and Lk 23:55–24:1.

20:4 the other disciple: John, the evangelist himself. Luke makes similar mention of certain disciples, including Peter, running to the tomb on Easter morning (Lk 24:12, 24). See introduction: Author. reached the tomb first: John defers to Peter by letting him enter the tomb first (20:6). This is more than a polite gesture, as it reflects his deference to the preeminent honor and authority that Jesus has bestowed on Simon (Mt 16:16–19). ● Allegorically (John Scotus Erigena, Hom. in Prol. Jn.): the tomb is the Sacred Scriptures. Peter is faith, which is the first thing we bring to its pages, and John is understanding, which afterward enters and penetrates their meaning more deeply. Morally, Peter and John represent the active and contemplative missions of the Church, so that even when contemplatives are the first to arrive at a deeper understanding of the faith, deference is given to the hierarchical leadership, who later defines and promulgates their authentic insights.

20:7 the napkin … the linen cloths: Corroborating evidence of the Resurrection. No thief would have taken the time to unwrap Jesus’ corpse and fold his burial clothes neatly in the tomb. In any case, the grave robbers of antiquity usually stole the expensive linens and left the body behind, not the other way around.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, our Easter Gospel contains St. John’s magnificent account of the resurrection. It was, says John, early in the morning on the first day of the week. It was still dark—just the way it was at the beginning of time before God said, “Let there be light.” But a light was about to shine, and a new creation was about to appear.

The stone had been rolled away. That stone, blocking entrance to the tomb of Jesus, stands for the finality of death. When someone that we love dies, it is as though a great stone is rolled across them, permanently blocking our access to them. And this is why we weep at death—not just in grief but in a kind of existential frustration.

But for Jesus, the stone had been rolled away. Undoubtedly, the first disciples must have thought a grave robber had been at work. But the wonderful Johannine irony is that the greatest of grave robbers had indeed been at work. The prophet Ezekiel says this, “I will open your graves and have you rise from them.”

What was dreamed about, what endured as a hope against hope, has become a reality. God has opened the grave of his Son, and the bonds of death have been shattered forever.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Holy Saturday

Scripture Reading

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning,
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.
And behold, there was a great earthquake;
for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven,
approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.
His appearance was like lightning
and his clothing was white as snow.
The guards were shaken with fear of him
and became like dead men.
Then the angel said to the women in reply,
“Do not be afraid!
I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified.
He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.
Come and see the place where he lay.
Then go quickly and tell his disciples,
‘He has been raised from the dead,
and he is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him.’
Behold, I have told you.”
Then they went away quickly from the tomb,
fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce this to his disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.
They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.
Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.
Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee,
and there they will see me.”
(Matthew 28:1-10)

Scripture Study

28:1 After the sabbath … dawning: since the sabbath ended at sunset, this could mean in the early evening, for dawning can refer to the appearance of the evening star; cf. Lk 23:54. However, it is probable that Matthew means the morning dawn of the day after the sabbath, as in the similar though slightly different text of Mark, “when the sun had risen” (Mk 16:2). Mary Magdalene and the other Mary – To see the tomb: cf. Mk 16:1–2 where the purpose of the women’s visit is to anoint Jesus’ body.

28:2–4 A great earthquake Peculiar to Matthew. Descended from heaven: this trait is peculiar to Matthew, although his interpretation of the “young man” of his Marcan source (Mk 16:5) as an angel; cf. Lk 24:23 where the “two men” of Mt 24:4 are said to be “angels.” Rolled back the stone … upon it: not to allow the risen Jesus to leave the tomb but to make evident that the tomb is empty (see Mt 24:6). Unlike the apocryphal Gospel of Peter (9:35–11:24), the New Testament does not describe the resurrection of Jesus, nor is there anyone who sees it. His appearance was like lightning … snow.

28:6–7 Cf. Mk 16:6–7. Just as he said: a Matthean addition referring to Jesus’ predictions of his resurrection, e.g., Mt 16:21; 17:23; 20:19. Tell his disciples: like the angel of the Lord of the infancy narrative, the angel interprets a fact and gives a commandment about what is to be done; cf. Mt 1:20–21. He is going … Galilee: like Mk 16:7, a reference to Jesus’ prediction at the Last Supper (Mt 26:32; Mk 14:28). Matthew changes Mark’s “as he told you” to a declaration of the angel.

28:8 Contrast Mk 16:8 where the women in their fear “said nothing to anyone.”

28:9–10 Although these verses are peculiar to Matthew, there are similarities between them and John’s account of the appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene (Jn 20:17). In both there is a touching of Jesus’ body, and a command of Jesus to bear a message to his disciples, designated as his brothers. Matthew may have drawn upon a tradition that appears in a different form in John. Jesus’ words to the women are mainly a repetition of those of the angel (Mt 28:5a, 7b).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, on this Holy Saturday our Gospel we hear St. Matthew’s account of the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the be-all and end-all of the Christian faith. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, all bishops, priests, and Christian ministers should go home and get honest jobs, and all the Christian faithful should leave their churches immediately.

As Paul himself put it: “If Jesus is not raised from the dead, our preaching is in vain and we are the most pitiable of men.” It’s no good, of course, trying to explain the resurrection away or rationalize it as a myth, a symbol, or an inner subjective experience. None of that does justice to the novelty and sheer strangeness of the Biblical message.

It comes down finally to this: if Jesus was not raised from death, Christianity is a fraud and a joke. But if he did rise from death, then Christianity is the fullness of God’s revelation, and Jesus must be the absolute center of our lives. There is no third option.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

The Suffering Servant

Scripture Reading

See, my servant shall prosper,
he shall be raised high and greatly exalted.
Even as many were amazed at him
so marred was his look beyond human semblance
and his appearance beyond that of the sons of man
so shall he startle many nations,
because of him kings shall stand speechless;
for those who have not been told shall see,
those who have not heard shall ponder it.

Who would believe what we have heard?
To whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
He grew up like a sapling before him,
like a shoot from the parched earth;
there was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him,
nor appearance that would attract us to him.
He was spurned and avoided by people,
a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity,
one of those from whom people hide their faces,
spurned, and we held him in no esteem.

Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,
our sufferings that he endured,
while we thought of him as stricken,
as one smitten by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our offenses,
crushed for our sins;
upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole,
by his stripes we were healed.
We had all gone astray like sheep,
each following his own way;
but the LORD laid upon him
the guilt of us all.

Though he was harshly treated, he submitted
and opened not his mouth;
like a lamb led to the slaughter
or a sheep before the shearers,
he was silent and opened not his mouth.
Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away,
and who would have thought any more of his destiny?
When he was cut off from the land of the living,
and smitten for the sin of his people,
a grave was assigned him among the wicked
and a burial place with evildoers,
though he had done no wrong
nor spoken any falsehood.
But the LORD was pleased
to crush him in infirmity.

If he gives his life as an offering for sin,
he shall see his descendants in a long life,
and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him.

Because of his affliction
he shall see the light in fullness of days;
through his suffering, my servant shall justify many,
and their guilt he shall bear.
Therefore I will give him his portion among the great,
and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty,
because he surrendered himself to death
and was counted among the wicked;
and he shall take away the sins of many,
and win pardon for their offenses.
(Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12)

Scripture Study

52:14. “Beyond human semblance”: this phrase sums up the description given in 53:2–3 and shows the intense pain reflected in the servant’s face: the description is so graphic that Christian ascetical writing, with good reason, reads it as anticipating the passion of our Lord: “The prophet, who has rightly been called ‘the Fifth Evangelist’, presents in this Song an image of the sufferings of the Servant with a realism as acute as if he were seeing them with his own eyes: the eyes of the body and of the spirit. […] The Song of the Suffering Servant contains a description in which it is possible, in a certain sense, to identify the stages of Christ’s Passion in their various details: the arrest, the humiliation, the blows, the spitting, the contempt for the prisoner, the unjust sentence, and then the scourging, the crowning with thorns and the mocking, the carrying of the Cross, the crucifixion and the agony” (John Paul II, Salvifici doloris, 17; cf. idem, Dives in misericordia, 7).

53:1. St Paul cites this verse to prove the need for preaching (Rom 10:16). The verse also underlines the extraordinary degree of undeserved suffering endured by the Servant. It is sometimes interpreted as a further sign of the humility of Christ, who, being divine, took on the form of a servant: “Christ is a man of humble thought and feeling, unlike those who attack his flock. The heart of God’s majesty, the Lord Jesus Christ, did not come with loud cries of arrogance and pride; he came in humility, as the Holy Spirit said of him: Who has believed what we have heard?” (St Clement of Rome, Ad Corinthios, 16, 1–3).

53:4–5. “He has borne our griefs [or, pains]”: the servant’s sufferings are not due to his own personal sins; they are atonement for the sins of others. “The sufferings of our Savior are our cure” (Theodoret of Cyrrhus, De incarnatione Domini, 28). He suffered on account of the sins of the entire people, even though he was not guilty of them. By bearing the penalty for those sins, he expiated the guilt involved. St Matthew, after recounting some miraculous cures and the casting out of devils, sees the words of v. 4a fulfilled in Christ (Mt 8:17). He interprets Jesus Christ as being the servant foretold by the prophet, who will cure the physical suffering of people as a sign that he is curing the root cause of all types of evil, that is, sin, iniquity (v. 5). The miracles worked by Jesus for the sick are therefore a sign of Redemption: “Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of his cross (cf. Eph 1:7; Col 1:13–14; 1 Pet 1:18–19), but this mystery is at work throughout Christ’s entire life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 517).

Scripture Reflection

This passage presents us with challenges typical of poetry.  It uses words and phrases rich in meaning but capable of more than one interpretation.  “My servant” is a case in point.  Is this servant the nation Israel—or the prophet—or the messiah?  Does the word “servant” mean one thing in one place and something else in another place?  Did God intend Israel to understand “my servant” one way in its original context and the church to understand it another way?

Very early in the life of the church, Christians identified the servant as Jesus Christ—the messiah—the one who “took our infirmities, and bore our diseases” (Matthew 8:17).  Matthew specifically identifies Jesus as the one who fulfills this Isaian prophecy (Matthew 12:17-21).  In the book of Acts, Philip, “beginning from this scripture, …preached to (the Ethiopian eunuch) Jesus” (Acts 8:35).

We should acknowledge that it is possible—even probable—that the prophet thought of the servant in one way but that God intended the church to reinterpret the prophet’s words in the light of the coming of Jesus Christ.  As noted above, the poetic quality of this passage lends itself to a variety of meanings.  It stands to reason that God would inspire the prophet to write in such a manner so that his words could be reinterpreted to reveal Jesus at the appropriate time.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

A Servant’s Heart

Scripture Reading

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

So when he had washed their feet
and put his garments back on and reclined at table again,
he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you?
You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.
If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet,
you ought to wash one another’s feet.
I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
(John 13:1-15)

Scripture Study

13:1 feast of the Passover: The original meaning of this feast, celebrating the passing of the angel of death over the Israelites and their escape from Egypt (Ex 12:13), is being reshaped by the works and words of Christ, who will “pass over” to the Father through the upcoming events of his Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension. This saving work of Jesus will inaugurate a new Exodus, liberating the human family from sin, selfishness, and Satan (1:29; 8:34–36) (CCC 1340). See note on Jn 6:4. to the end: i.e., “completely” or “to the fullest extent” (CCC 609).

13:2 during supper: The Synoptic Gospels specify that it was a Passover meal (Mt 26:19; Mk 14:16; Lk 22:15).

13:4 his garments: Symbolic of Christ’s human life. John’s carefully worded narrative makes this clear: the same Greek verbs that Jesus uses for laying down his life and taking it up again in 10:17–18 are here employed to describe how Christ “laid aside” his garments (13:4) in service and has “taken” them up again (13:12).

13:5 wash the disciples’ feet: A gesture of hospitality normally performed by a household slave, not the presiding host. Jesus thus shows himself a model of humility (1 Tim 5:10) and, at the same time, gives a preview of the heroic service he will render when he accepts the humiliation of the Cross (Mk 10:45; Phil 2:5–8).

13:8 no part in me: Peter cannot be a disciple of Christ on his own terms but must submit himself to the divine plan already determined by the Lord.

13:10 He who has bathed: Seems to imply that the apostles have already been baptized, although this is not explicitly stated in the Gospels. ● Jesus’ words hint at the distinction between Baptism, which washes away every stain of sin committed (actual) and contracted (Original), and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which cleanses us of the accumulated dust of sins committed after our baptismal washing (20:23; 1 Jn 1:9; CCC 1446).

13:15 an example: Jesus says with words what was already expressed in his deeds: we must pattern our lives after Jesus, whose actions show us how to love and honor our heavenly Father (Mt 11:29; CCC 520). Included in this is the willingness to serve others even to the point of death (15:13).

 

Scripture Reflection

Walking in sandals on the filthy roads of Israel in the first century made it imperative that feet be washed before a communal meal, especially since people reclined at a low table and feet were very much in evidence. When Jesus rose from the table and began to wash the feet of the disciples, He was doing the work of the lowliest of servants. The disciples must have been stunned at this act of humility and condescension, that Christ, their Lord and master, should wash the feet of His disciples, when it was their proper work to have washed His. But when Jesus came to earth, He came not as King and Conqueror, but as the suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. As He revealed in Matthew 20:28, He came “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The humility expressed by His act with towel and basin foreshadowed His ultimate act of humility and love on the cross.

This truth is one that Christians can apply to their own lives. When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He told them (and us), “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15). As His followers, we are to emulate Him, serving one another in lowliness of heart and mind, seeking to build one another up in humility and love. When we seek the preeminence, we displease the Lord who promised that true greatness in His kingdom is attained by those with a servant’s heart. When we have that servant’s heart, the Lord promised, we will be greatly blessed.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

The Last Supper

Scripture Reading

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot,
went to the chief priests and said,
“What are you willing to give me
if I hand him over to you?”
They paid him thirty pieces of silver,
and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,
the disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Where do you want us to prepare
for you to eat the Passover?”
He said,
“Go into the city to a certain man and tell him,
‘The teacher says, My appointed time draws near;
in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.'”
The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered,
and prepared the Passover.

When it was evening,
he reclined at table with the Twelve.
And while they were eating, he said,
“Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
Deeply distressed at this,
they began to say to him one after another,
“Surely it is not I, Lord?”
He said in reply,
“He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me
is the one who will betray me.
The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him,
but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.
It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”
Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply,
“Surely it is not I, Rabbi?”
He answered, “You have said so.”
(Matthew 26:14-25)

Scripture Study

26:15 thirty pieces of silver: The price of a slave (Ex 21:32). Judas’ betrayal for “blood money” (27:6) stands in contrast to the lavish gesture of the woman (26:6–13). He places little value on Jesus and prefers instead personal gain.

26:17 first day of Unleavened Bread: Begins with the day of Passover. During this feast, the Jews ate only unleavened bread for seven days (Ex 12:14–20).

26:26–29 Matthew’s Last Supper account highlights three aspects of the Eucharist (CCC 1339–40). (1) Jesus identifies the unleavened bread and the chalice with his body and blood (26:26–28). Through his spoken words the mystery of “transubstantiation” takes place: his body and blood replace the entire substance of the bread and wine. Although his presence remains undetected by the senses, the force of the verb “is” (Gk. estin) should not be reduced to “represents” or “symbolizes”. The Church’s faith rests entirely on Jesus’ solemn words (cf. Jn 6:68; 2 Cor 5:7). (2) Jesus links the Eucharist with his forthcoming sacrifice on the Cross (27:35; Jn 19:34). The expression poured out (26:28) recalls how Old Covenant priests poured the blood of sacrificial offerings at the base of the Temple’s altar to make atonement for sin (Lev 4:16–20; cf. Deut 12:26, 27; Is 53:12). Shedding his own blood, Jesus is both the high priest and the sacrificial victim of the New Covenant; his priestly offering is present in an unbloody manner in the sacrament and secures for us the forgiveness of sins. (3) Christ’s presence in the Eucharist makes the sacrament a true communion with Jesus (1 Cor 10:16). The phrase blood of the covenant is drawn from Ex 24:8, where God entered a covenant of love and communion with Israel through sacrifice. The consumption of blood—always forbidden under the Old Covenant (Lev 17:11–12)—is now enjoined in the New, since it communicates Christ’s divine life to the believer (Jn 6:53; CCC 1329, 1374, 1381).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel recounts the preparations for Passover, which would be Jesus’ final meal before his death.

In Matthew’s Gospel, the Last Supper takes place during Passover, the day when the paschal lambs were slaughtered. Why is this important? Because Christ is himself the paschal lamb who will be slaughtered for the salvation of the world, and this sacrifice is made sacramentally present at every Mass.

Interestingly, Judas is present there at the Last Supper, the root of the Mass. This is startlingly good news. Why? It means Jesus associates with all of us sinners, in all of our dysfunction. He entered into the darkness in all of its power in order to bring the light. If even Judas was invited into the Lord’s presence, so are you.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Our Denial

Scripture Reading

Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant.
One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved,
was reclining at Jesus’ side.
So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant.
He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him,
“Master, who is it?”
Jesus answered,
“It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.”
So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas,
son of Simon the Iscariot.
After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him.
So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”
Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him.
Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him,
“Buy what we need for the feast,”
or to give something to the poor.
So Judas took the morsel and left at once. And it was night.

When he had left, Jesus said,
“Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself,
and he will glorify him at once.
My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
You will look for me, and as I told the Jews,
‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Master, where are you going?”
Jesus answered him,
“Where I am going, you cannot follow me now,
though you will follow later.”
Peter said to him,
“Master, why can I not follow you now?
I will lay down my life for you.”
Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me?
Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow
before you deny me three times.”
(John 13:21-33, 36-38)

Scripture Study

13:22 uncertain of whom: Judas successfully camouflages his malice from the other disciples.

13:23 whom Jesus loved: i.e., the Apostle John. lying close: Festal meals were eaten, not in a sitting position, but in a reclining position on cushions spread around a short table.

13:27 after the morsel, Satan: Although Judas is sharing a meal with Jesus, he is feeding on the lies of the devil (8:44). The darkness that fills him draws him out into the “night” (13:30).

13:31 God is glorified: It is precisely when Christ accepts his suffering at the hands of evil men that he shows us the dimensions of God’s love for the world (Rom 5:8; Jn 3:16).

13:34 new commandment: The Torah commanded human love for ourselves and our neighbor (Lev 19:18). Jesus commands divine love for one another that is modeled on his own acts of charity and generosity (15:13; 1 Jn 3:16–18). This supernatural love comes not from us but from the Spirit (Rom 5:5; CCC 1822–29).

13:37 lay down my life: Peter is probably sincere but certainly overconfident. Soon his bravery will be crushed under the weight of human fear (18:25–27).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus foretells the betrayal of Judas and the denial of Peter, both of which are fulfilled in the accounts of the Passion. The story opens with the account of Judas’ betrayal. For a few lousy coins, he turns his back on his friend, his mentor. When we are in the grip of self-absorption, we will do anything, hurt anyone to get what we want, even for just a few dollars in return.

Once it was clear that Jesus was to be arrested, his disciples—all of whom had just protested their undying love—“left him and fled.” When they are called upon to take a stand, they flee. This is spiritual cowardice, and again, fellow sinners, how well do we know it?

Then we hear of Peter in the courtyard. Obviously, his denial is on display. He betrays Jesus three times, an act of cowardice on par with Judas’. These Gospel passages force us to examine our conscience. How have we betrayed Jesus? How have we denied him?

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

The Anointing

Scripture Reading

Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany,
where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.
They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served,
while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him.
Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil
made from genuine aromatic nard
and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair;
the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples,
and the one who would betray him, said,
“Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages
and given to the poor?”
He said this not because he cared about the poor
but because he was a thief and held the money bag
and used to steal the contributions.
So Jesus said, “Leave her alone.
Let her keep this for the day of my burial.
You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

The large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came,
not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus,
whom he had raised from the dead.
And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too,
because many of the Jews were turning away
and believing in Jesus because of him.
(John 12:1-11)

Scripture Study

12:1 Six days before the Passover: The chronology of the Fourth Gospel places this event on Saturday evening just before Holy Week. The following day is Palm Sunday (12:12).

12:3 pure nard: An imported spice from India. anointed the feet: Matthew and Mark have her also anoint the “head” of Jesus (Mt 26:7; Mk 14:3). the house was filled: The detail suggests John is testifying to what he himself smelled on the occasion. It may be symbolic of what Jesus says explicitly in the Synoptic tradition: the spread of the fragrance throughout the house anticipates the news of this event spreading throughout the world (Mt 26:13; Mk 14:9).

12:5 three hundred denarii: Nearly an entire year’s income for a laborer, since a single denarius was equivalent to a single day’s wage (Mt 20:2). It is tragic that Judas complained about Mary’s extravagance when he himself betrayed Jesus for much less—a mere “thirty pieces of silver” (Mt 26:15).

12:6 not that he cared: Judas wants to pocket the proceeds of the sale for himself, not to give it away as alms for the needy. the money box: Suggests that Judas was the treasurer in charge of the disciples’ funds (13:29; Lk 8:3).

12:8 The poor: Jesus is not indifferent toward the poor. Elsewhere he promotes almsgiving in no uncertain terms (Mt 6:2–4; Lk 6:30; 12:33). ● The words of Jesus echo the words of Deut 15:11, which states that the unceasing presence of the poor offers countless opportunities to give generously to less fortunate neighbors. The disciples, too, will have plenty of chances to give alms, but only a brief time remains to be generous toward Jesus while he remains among them (CCC 2449).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel, Mary of Bethany anoints Jesus for his death and burial. By this act, she anticipates the visit of three women to the tomb of Jesus. Early on the morning of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James, and Salome bring spices to anoint the body of Jesus.

They look in and see a young man—and they are frightened out of their wits. Can you imagine? You walk into a tomb, fully expecting to see a dead body, and you see instead someone alive and well–someone different than the man who was buried there! But that is not the end of their surprise. The man announces that the Jesus whom they seek is not there, that he has been raised up and will go ahead of them into Galilee.

From this grave of Jesus we learn that everything we took to be the case is not the case. God is the enemy of death, and he has shown us his power over death in the most unambiguous way; our lives no longer need to be dominated by the fear of death, and we see the proof of this in the most vivid way imaginable.

Keep all of that in mind as we read this beautiful story of Mary of Bethany anointing the feet of Jesus.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

Palm Sunday

Scripture Reading

Jesus stood before the governor, Pontius Pilate, who questioned him,
“Are you the king of the Jews?”
Jesus said, “You say so.”
And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders,
he made no answer.
Then Pilate said to him,
“Do you not hear how many things they are testifying against you?”
But he did not answer him one word,
so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Now on the occasion of the feast
the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd
one prisoner whom they wished.
And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas.
So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them,
“Which one do you want me to release to you,
Barabbas, or Jesus called Christ?”
For he knew that it was out of envy
that they had handed him over.
While he was still seated on the bench,
his wife sent him a message,
“Have nothing to do with that righteous man.
I suffered much in a dream today because of him.”
The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds
to ask for Barabbas but to destroy Jesus.
The governor said to them in reply,
“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”
They answered, “Barabbas!”
Pilate said to them,
“Then what shall I do with Jesus called Christ?”
They all said,
“Let him be crucified!”
But he said,
“Why? What evil has he done?”
They only shouted the louder,
“Let him be crucified!”
When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all,
but that a riot was breaking out instead,
he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd,
saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.
Look to it yourselves.”
And the whole people said in reply,
“His blood be upon us and upon our children.”
Then he released Barabbas to them,
but after he had Jesus scourged,
he handed him over to be crucified.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium
and gathered the whole cohort around him.
They stripped off his clothes
and threw a scarlet military cloak about him.
Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head,
and a reed in his right hand.
And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying,
“Hail, King of the Jews!”
They spat upon him and took the reed
and kept striking him on the head.
And when they had mocked him,
they stripped him of the cloak,
dressed him in his own clothes,
and led him off to crucify him.

As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon;
this man they pressed into service
to carry his cross.

And when they came to a place called Golgotha
— which means Place of the Skull —,
they gave Jesus wine to drink mixed with gall.
But when he had tasted it, he refused to drink.
After they had crucified him,
they divided his garments by casting lots;
then they sat down and kept watch over him there.
And they placed over his head the written charge against him:
This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.
Two revolutionaries were crucified with him,
one on his right and the other on his left.
Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying,
“You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,
save yourself, if you are the Son of God,
and come down from the cross!”
Likewise the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him and said,
“He saved others; he cannot save himself.
So he is the king of Israel!
Let him come down from the cross now,
and we will believe in him.
He trusted in God;
let him deliver him now if he wants him.
For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'”
The revolutionaries who were crucified with him
also kept abusing him in the same way.

From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land
until three in the afternoon.
And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”
which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Some of the bystanders who heard it said,
“This one is calling for Elijah.”
Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge;
he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed,
gave it to him to drink.
But the rest said,
‘Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.”
But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice,
and gave up his spirit.

And behold, the veil of the sanctuary
was torn in two from top to bottom.
The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened,
and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.
And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection,
they entered the holy city and appeared to many.
The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus
feared greatly when they saw the earthquake
and all that was happening, and they said,
“Truly, this was the Son of God!”
(Matthew 27:11-54)

Scripture Study

27:11 King of the Jews?: The Jerusalem leaders give Jesus a title with obvious political overtones. The concern is whether Jesus represents a challenge to the authority of Rome; if so, Pilate would have legal cause to execute him for sedition.

27:19 a dream: Matthew alone records this episode with Pilate’s wife. As in the Infancy Narratives, dreams are channels for divine warning and instruction (1:20; 2:12–13, 22).

27:24 a riot: The same word is translated “tumult” (Gk. thorybos) in Mt 26:5. The Jerusalem leaders originally hoped to avoid a public upheaval but now instigate one to their own advantage. washed his hands: Pilate’s vain gesture to excuse himself from the responsibility of Jesus’ death.

27:25 His blood be on us: An oath formula (cf. Josh 2:17–19). The Jerusalem mob invokes a curse upon itself, staking their lives to their decision.

27:27 praetorium: The residence of a Roman official (Pilate) in Jerusalem.

27:28 a scarlet robe: The military cloak of a Roman soldier.

27:29 King of the Jews!: A title suggested by the Sanhedrin and used mockingly by the soldiers (Lk 23:2). It is also the transcription on Jesus’ Cross (27:37). The wise men are the only figures in Matthew to use the title in a positive and honorable way (2:2). ● Allegorically: the title and articles used to slander Jesus signify his kingship and triumph over sin. The scarlet robe (27:28) represents Jesus’ defeat of Satan through his shed blood; the crown of thorns (27:29) points to the crown of glory that adorns Jesus at his Ascension; the reed (27:29) signifies the scepter of his heavenly kingdom. Through these images, Christ’s victory is paradoxically announced in the midst of his apparent defeat.

27:33 Golgotha: An Aramaic term meaning “skull”. The Vulgate translation of this word (Lat. Calvariae) is the source of the modern term “Calvary”. Golgotha lies outside Jerusalem’s walls (Jn 19:20) and probably acquired its name as a site commonly used for executing criminals.

27:34 gall: A mixture of herbs and myrrh used as a narcotic (cf. Mk 15:23). Jesus’ refusal of painkillers signifies his total acceptance of the Father’s will and the extent of his sacrificial love (cf. Jn 10:17–18; Rom 5:8).

27:35 crucified him: Crucifixion was designed to facilitate a slow and torturous death. Victims died from a combination of blood loss and asphyxiation. divided his garments: An allusion to Ps 22:18. This psalm is quoted by Jesus before his death (Mt 27:46; cf. Jn 19:24).

27:45 sixth hour … ninth hour: i.e., from noon until 3 p.m.

27:46 Eli, Eli: A mixed Hebrew and Aramaic quotation of Ps 22:1. ● Ps 22 depicts the plight of a righteous sufferer. Although innocent, he is mocked and abused by the ungodly. He thus turns to God in his distress and petitions God for deliverance. By citing the psalm’s opening line, Jesus expresses his agony as he experiences the full brunt of rejection. This evokes the entire plot of Ps 22, where the sufferer’s humiliation gives way to his vindication. Thus Jesus does not consider his Passion meaningless or a mark of failure; still less does he succumb to a sin of despair. Rather, he “trusts in God” (27:43) and surrenders his spirit to the Father (Lk 23:46). Like the innocent sufferer of Ps 22, he is confident that God will turn his misery into victory (cf. Lk 23:43).

27:51 curtain of the temple: Hung between the Temple’s two holiest chambers, the holy place and the most holy place (Ex 26:31–34). The veil was a sign that God’s infinite holiness could not be approached by sinners (cf. Heb 9:8). With Jesus’ saving death, forgiveness is secured for man, and access to heaven is reopened (Eph 2:18; Heb 10:19–22). This is announced by God himself, who tears the veil from top to bottom.

27:52 saints … were raised: Apart from Matthew’s Gospel, history is silent regarding this event and the OT personalities involved. No indication is given as to who was raised, how long they remained, or what kind of body these saints possessed; yet there would be no reason for Matthew to record it, except that witnesses from Jerusalem verified the facts (27:53). Theologically, it is essential to note that these OT saints were raised after (27:53) Easter morning, since Jesus was the first to be resurrected in glory (Col 1:18).

Scripture Reflection

Friends on this Palm Sunday we are privileged to become immersed in Matthew’s great Gospel of the Passion. There are so many ways that we could illumine this text. I will choose just one. Jesus is presented as the divine presence that has journeyed into sin in order to save us. Accordingly, all forms of human dysfunction are on display in the passion narrative. During those terrible hours, Jesus’ mission came to its fulfillment. What commenced at Bethlehem and continued at the Jordan River now comes to completion.

In contrast to the rock-hard attitude of Jesus, conforming himself to the will of his Father, we find almost all the ways that we flee the will of God. Betrayal, indifference, spiritual sloth, violence, cowardice, untruth, scapegoating, self-destruction, abuse of authority, wanton cruelty. No wonder that “darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.” At the beginning of creation, God said, “Let there be light.” But his world had become darkened in every way through sin.

But what is the simple and powerful good news? That Jesus associates with all of us sinners, in all of our dysfunction. He entered into the darkness in all of its power in order to bring the light.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Preparation

Scripture Reading

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?”
(John 11:45-56)

Scripture Study

11:47 the council: The Sanhedrin, the supreme court of the Jews. Though many reasons underlie their conspiracy against Jesus (11:53), the raising of Lazarus was particularly insulting to the Sadducees, who did not believe such a thing was possible in the first place (Acts 23:6–8).

11:48 the Romans will come: The statement is brimming with historical irony. The Romans did in fact destroy both Jerusalem and its Temple in a.d. 70, not because the Jewish authorities let Jesus continue his ministry in peace, but precisely because they condemned him to a violent death. In the end, it was not the acceptance of Jesus that threatened the city but the rejection of him that made its demise inevitable (CCC 596–97, 1753). our holy place: A reference to the Temple or to Jerusalem more generally (Acts 6:13; 21:28).

11:49 Caiaphas: The high priest of Israel from a.d. 18 to 36. As such, he was the recognized head of the Jewish “council” (11:47).

11:51 he prophesied: Caiaphas unwittingly announces that Jesus will die for the salvation of the nation. This is not his own insight, but the grace of prophecy speaking through him in virtue of his priestly office and position as chief teacher of Israel.

11:52 the children of God: Recalls the “other sheep” that Jesus promised to gather into his “one flock” (10:16). It indicates that Christ calls to himself not only Israelites living in the land of Judea, but Israelites and Gentiles who are scattered throughout the Mediterranean world and beyond (Is 43:5–7; 66:18–21; Jer 31:10). The gospel of Christ thus reunifies the human family by gathering believers from every nation into the divine family of God (CCC 706, 2793).

11:54 Ephraim: A village of uncertain location, but probably north of Jerusalem in the lower region of Samaria.

11:55 the Passover: The third mention of this feast in John (2:13; 6:4). to purify themselves: Jews underwent a process of ritual purification before the Passover, since it was forbidden to celebrate the festival in a state of ceremonial uncleanness (Num 9:9–11; 2 Chron 30:18–21).

Scripture Reflection

Since the Passover was the most solemn Jewish feast, the people used to arrive in Jerusalem some days in advance to prepare for it by washings, fasts and offerings—practices established not by the Mosaic law but by popular piety; the rites of the Passover itself, with the sacrificing of the lamb, were a rite of purification and expiation for sins. The Passover of the Jews was a figure of the Christian Pasch or Easter, for as St Paul the Apostle teaches us, our paschal lamb is Christ who offered himself once and for all to the eternal Father on the cross to atone for our sins.

Saint Josemaria Escrivá in his book Christ Is Passing By, asks us: “If the Jews prepared to celebrate the Passover with all these rites and ablutions, it would seem obvious what steps we should take to celebrate or participate in the Mass and to receive Christ—our Pasch—in the Eucharist. On this earth, when we receive an important person, we bring out the best lights, music, and formal dress. How should we prepare to receive Christ into our soul? Have we ever thought about how we would behave if we could only receive him once in a lifetime?”

As we reflect on the coming Holy Week, let us be mindful of how we prepare to meet Christ in the blessed Eucharistic celebration.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Father and Son

Scripture Reading

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.
(John 10:31-42)

Scripture Study

10:34 your law: Sometimes this expression refers to the OT in general and not just to the Pentateuch (12:34; 15:25; 1 Cor 14:34). I said, you are gods: A citation from Ps 82:6. ● The psalm is a prayer for Yahweh to punish the corrupt shepherds of Israel. These leaders, who are charged with teaching and enforcing divine Law, are called “gods” by the Psalmist because of the divine authority they wield over the people. The abuse of this power makes their corruption all the more insidious. Jesus reasons that if sinful authorities are given a divine title because of their duties, how much more is he entitled to it who is guiltless and who speaks the words of God (8:45–47).

10:35 Scripture cannot be nullified: Three implications can be drawn from this statement. (1) Scripture cannot be set aside, since its teaching is as trustworthy and true as God himself (17:17). (2) The OT, represented in this context by a psalm, has permanent authority even under the New Covenant (Mt 5:17). (3) The authority of Scripture extends even to individual words, as in this context where Jesus’ whole argument rests on the import of a single word (“gods”) from Ps 82:6.

10:36 consecrated: The Greek means to be “sanctified” or “set apart as holy”. Christ is set apart by the Father to consecrate the world in truth (17:19). ● Jesus’ words resonate against the background of the Feast of the Dedication, which celebrates the consecration of the Second Temple by the Maccabees (1 Mac 4:48), just as its predecessors, the wilderness Tabernacle (Num 7:1) and the Solomonic Temple, had been consecrated (1 Kings 9:3). These sanctuaries of old are replaced by the new and consecrated temple of Jesus’ body (2:20–21).

10:38 believe the works: The miracles of Jesus are meant to authenticate his mission in the eyes of Israel (5:36; 14:11) and to corroborate his claims to divinity (5:18; 10:33). The Jews knew that only God, who has absolute power over creation, can suspend the laws of nature in a miraculous way (3:2; 9:33) (CCC 548).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jewish leaders attempt to stone Jesus because he claimed to be the Son of God. He defended his identity, saying “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.”

At the Last Supper, Jesus would further explain his intimate relationship with the Father. There he lays out for us the co-inherence that obtains at the most fundamental dimension of being, that is to say, within the very existence of God. “Lord,” Philip said to him, “show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus replied, “Philip, after I have been with you all this time, you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

How can this be true, unless the Father and the Son coinhere in each other? Though Father and Son are truly distinct, they are utterly implicated in each other by a mutual act of love. As Jesus says, “It is the Father who lives in me accomplishing his works.”

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.