Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Something Old, Something New

Around town, there are various pieces of art and decoration from the old church building, primarily the Stations of the Cross. I have seen another Station from the old church at a parishioner's house, I forget which Station, but the Knights of Columbus have the 12th Station, so here's a comparison of the new and old 12th Stations of Holy Name.

First, the old:

And the new:

Sunday, April 26, 2015

On Shepherds, Priests, and Sacrifice

We call the fourth Sunday of Easter "Good Shepherd Sunday" because on this Sunday we always hear about Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is one that has consoled Christians for generations. In fact, we can find shepherd images on the ancient Christian catacombs from the days when Christianity was still illegal because the authorities wouldn't recognize it as Christian. The idea of the Good Shepherd has always meant a lot to Christians, not because we so much like portraying ourselves as sheep, but because we recognize that there are elements of our lives that we can't control, and it's important to understand that someone, Jesus the Good Shepherd, does have them under control.

So the first thing we want to do is set this gospel reading in context, because Jesus didn't just stand on a street corner and start calling himself a shepherd to whoever might listen. He was speaking to specific people for specific reasons. So this speech from Jesus comes right on the heels of the story of the man born blind. In that story, Jesus heals a man who was blind from birth, and because of the healing the man is thrown out of the temple and even abandoned by his own parents. Through all this, the man comes to a deeper understanding of Jesus and comes to believe that he is the Son of Man. The Pharisees, on the other hand, become increasingly angry at Jesus and the good that he does, so Jesus is addressing those Pharisees as he describes himself as the good shepherd. The Pharisees are the hired men, those who do not care about the sheep. They are the ones who flee when danger comes instead of sacrificing themselves for the flock entrusted to them.

But Jesus on the other hand is the one who stays. Jesus is the one who cares to the point of sacrificing himself for the one he loves. He says, "I lay down my life in order to take it up again." Obviously he is speaking about his own coming death and resurrection, but he is also giving us a pattern for how we ought to live or lives. Like the Pharisees, living just for yourself leaves you angry, bitter, and distrustful of the good you see in others. It makes you like the hired man who can't withstand the tough times and flees at the first sign of danger. But living for others, laying down your life for others, is how you receive a fullness in your life, a new life, that you can't get anywhere else. "I lay down my life in order to take it up again." Laying down your life in the pattern of the Good Shepherd is a necessary part of receiving a new life of joy that you can't get anywhere else.

Quite intentionally, today is also the annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations, so today we pray as a Universal Church for Jesus to send us more priests. Jesus has ascended into heaven, but he still wants to care for you on this earth in a physical way, not just in a spiritual sense. So he has given his power to his priests to care for the flock, and he continues to lay down his life through his priests. Because here's the difference between the Pharisees, who are the priests of the old law, and Jesus, who is the high priest of the new law. The priests of the old law offered sacrifice for sins, but the priest was separate from the sacrifice. It was clear that the priest, the one who offers sacrifice, and the lamb, the thing being sacrificed, were distinct, were different from each other. But Jesus on the other hand offers himself as sacrifice for sins. Jesus is the high priest who offers sacrifice, he is the lamb being offered for sacrifice, and he is the altar on which sacrifice is offered. In the new law, in the priesthood of Jesus, there is no difference between the priest who offers and the sacrifice that is offered, but the priest and the sacrifice are made one on the Cross.

And this continues down to the present day. I am not my own priest, nor do I possess the priesthood of Brian Hess. I possess nothing, but rather I share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Every priest shares in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Therefore, when the priest stands at the altar to offer the sacrifice of the Eucharist, he is not offering a sacrifice that is separate from himself. But when the priest offers the bread and wine as the Body and Blood of Jesus, he is also offering himself as sacrifice. The priest who stands at the altar is no different than the gifts upon the altar that are being offered as sacrifice. And flowing from that, the priests whole life should be modeled on the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.

I explain all this in order to encourage you to pray, to beg you to pray, for your priests. Pray for the priest who live this sacrifice well. Pray for the priests who live and exemplify this sacrifice poorly. Every priest is a poor sinner like yourself who is desperately in need of God's mercy. Pray for the priests you love who have meant a lot to you. Pray for the priests you don't like who you have disagreed with. Pray for the priest who baptized you, who gave you first communion. Pray for the priest who hears your confession, who will bring you communion for the last time, give you the anointing of the sick, and prepare you to meet God face to face.

This is a blessed life I get to lead. I truly can't imagine how God could have blessed me more. So pray also for more young men to answer the call. God is calling many men to the priesthood, but he doesn't call them out of thin air. He calls them from a Christian community like this one, and he calls them through the community. And he calls them by name, so if you see a young man who might be called to be a priest, tell him so! You could be God's instrument to awaken the vocation of the priest who might baptize your children one day, or witness the marriage of your grand children, or forgive the sins of your great grandchildren. We can't begin to guess at the many ways God works through our Christian community.

Christ the Good Shepherd continues to work in his Church down to the present day, and he calls each of us to pray for those who shepherd in his place down to the present day.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Traditional Marriage in Less Than Two Minutes

Another website that has been getting more of my attention lately is ChurchPOP. They have a combination of news and satire that is very refreshing. They just shared a video from the Iona Institute - a group I'd never heard of - that promotes the place of marriage and family in society.
Notice the video's appeal to dogma and narrow-minded religion, notice how many times it mentions God, notice the JPMs (Jesus-per-minutes, explained here).

Wait a second.

It does none of those things! This is a concise argument that takes children as a starting point and explains why traditional marriage is not discrimination.

Obviously, this video is not the end-all video of the debate. I think the gay "marriage" debate is ultimately inseparable from cultural questions about contraception, sexual ethics, and our implicit view of children as a commodity. But the video is still good, and it's less than two minutes.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Who Would Dare to Love ISIS?

The website OnePeterFive, which I've been enjoying a lot lately, posted this video yesterday, although they were not the ones that created it.
As the world argues about the best ways to deal with ISIS, here's an idea we haven't really considered. The blood of martyrs, the blood of "the people of the Cross," has converted countless nations around the world to the religion of the Cross. In fact, I might say that it's the only effective tool for evangelization. Forced conversion never lasts. Charity and good works go a long way, a miraculously imprinted tilma can go even further, but nothing converts better than the blood of martyrs. Countless regimes have sought the destruction of Christianity, and they have all been consigned to history books. But Christianity endures, largely because of those who have so configured their lives to the Crucified God as to imitate him even by their deaths.

[This doesn't absolve the leaders of nations from dealing with ISIS. You may volunteer yourself for martyrdom, or martyrdom may be forced upon you by the wicked, but those chosen to protect the vulnerable cannot expose the vulnerable to martyrdom through negligence.]

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Peace Be With You

Throughout the Easter season, we hear various stories about Jesus appearing to people after his Resurrection, and sometimes we hear him use the phrase, "Peace be with you" like he did today. It's important to understand that after the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to a lot of people, spoke with them, and gave them words of hope, but he didn't use the greeting, "Peace be with you" for everybody. Anytime the phrase "Peace be with you" is used, it is used in greeting the apostles and disciples. It's not the only way he greeted them after the Resurrection, but they were the only ones who received that explicit greeting of peace.

Now, I think this happened for a couple reasons. The first reason is that they needed it. Imagine you are one of the apostles. The last time you saw Jesus, he was getting arrested by a mob in the Garden of Gethsemane, and you were fleeing the opposite direction. Now that he's back and everything he claimed about himself seems to be true, you're going to have to deal with your actions, or at least you think you are. So he appears, and you're heart is obviously filled with elation that he's alive, but also dread because you remember your cowardice at his hour of need. So you're really ready to be sharply rebuked by Jesus, maybe even dismissed from among his followers for your lack of faith. And when he opens his mouth, rather than a word of rebuke, he says, "Peace be with you." This word of peace contains the forgiveness you never thought you'd hear, and with that forgiveness, new hope for the future. The apostles needed to hear this word of peace from Jesus.

But why didn't Jesus greet more people with, "Peace be with you." Why didn't he extend this word of peace to more than just the apostles? It's not just an unfortunate coincidence that Jesus only greeted the apostles with this phrase, but rather there is a lesson in this for us. The other reason Jesus only said "Peace be with you" to his apostles is that Jesus wants us to experience his peace, but he wants us to experience it through his apostles, and the successors to the apostles, the bishops of his Church. Jesus wants us to experience his peace, the peace that only he can give, through his Church.

Now here we can learn a little something about our bishops and the way Jesus set up our Church, and we can learn it by looking at the liturgy, because the liturgy isn't just something we made up as an act of self-expression, but the liturgy is where we meet the real and living God. So when a priest begins Mass, he says, "The Lord be with you," but when a bishop begins Mass, he says, "Peace be with you." It's a subtle but important difference. Any power (if we may use that word) that a priest has to function as a priest is largely a dependent power. He doesn't have it of himself, he has power through his bishop, so he has to ask that the Lord be with you, and all the peace attached to that. But a bishop shares more fully in the priesthood of Christ, so by his own inherent authority, he can say, "Peace be with you," because he himself possesses the very peace of Christ.

Now the sign of peace before communion is something else entirely. While the bishop at the beginning of Mass gives us Christ's peace by his own authority, the sign of peace before communion is where we express charity to each other. At the sign of peace we don't authoritatively bestow Christ's peace like a bishop does, but we ask that Christ's peace may reside with our brothers and sisters. It's not a cocktail hour or a chance to greet friends, but it should be marked by the gentle sobriety that we find in the rest of the Mass.

Now, back to the main topic, that Jesus wants us to experience his own peace through his apostles and through his Church. First, let's identify what we mean by Christ's peace as a gift. When Jesus says, "Peace be with you," he's not just giving an awkward greeting, but he's offering his peace as a gift, and it's a gift we can't get anywhere else. Jesus's words have power. When he says, "This is my Body," it's really his Body, and when he says, "Peace be with you," he's really offering a peace that can only come from the Holy Trinity. The three Persons of the Holy Trinity live in perfect peace and joy with each other, so when Jesus offers us peace, it's a peace that comes from living in right relation with God and the world, and God wants us to live. This peace gives your life a sense of meaning, dignity, and tranquility that you can't get anywhere else. And now, Jesus has given real power to the leaders of our Church to bestow that peace on the world, so that we don't hear those words of peace only in our head or our heart, but we hear them spoken with the power of Jesus by his Church.

So the call for us is that if we want to experience this peace of Christ, this peace that comes through his Church, we have to live in right relation to his Church. Jesus has given his Church real power to bestow his peace, and he has given his Church real power to teach in his name. So if we like to hold opinions different than the Church and say, "The Church is wrong about this or that," or, "The Church teaches this, but I believe that," then we are removing ourselves from the peace that Jesus wants to give to us through his Church. Receiving Christ's peace comes from living in communion with his Church. The invitation from Jesus today is just to trust, to trust that he really has given his Church authority to teach, to trust that God wants whats best for us through the Church, and to trust that the peace that comes from living in communion with him is unlike anything else in the world. If we live in communion with Christ's Church, Christ's bride, then we can experience the gift of his peace that he wants to bestow on us through her, and one day we can experience perfect peace of life in Heaven.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Divine Mercy

Every year on the second Sunday of Easter we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. This celebration was instituted by John Paul II in the year 2000. He did so in response to the visions given to St. Faustina Kowalska. St. Faustina was a Polish nun who lived in the early 1900s and was given a vision of the Divine Mercy by Jesus that she was directed to spread to the whole world. Jesus said to Faustina, "Proclaim that mercy is the greatest attribute of God." This day is also the end of the Octave of Easter, this is the 8th day on which we celebrate the very day of Easter, not as something that is already over and done with, but as a reality that continues to endure in our lives. So it is right that on this Sunday we celebrate the Divine Mercy, because it is only by the fact of Jesus's death and resurrection that we can be sure that mercy is indeed God's greatest attribute.

During the Triduum, we focused intently on the events of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Resurrection during the night of Easter, and on each day we kind of took a magnifying glass to the events of the day to really pray with it and experience it. Now, a week later, we can draw back and take kind of a big picture overview of the whole Passion, Death, and Resurrection event, looking at it all especially through the lens of Divine Mercy.

The scriptures tell us God is love (1 Jn 4:8), and love has a couple aspects: love entails justice and mercy. But mercy is there first, last, and every step along the way. One preface we have during Ordinary Time says to God, "In goodness you created man and, when he was justly condemned, in mercy you redeemed him, through Christ our Lord." Death was what we experienced in justice for our sins, eternal life is what we have been given because of God's mercy. We celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday just one week after Easter because it is only by God's merciful love that we have been redeemed through Jesus' death and resurrection.

So with God's Divine Mercy in our minds, let's take a look at our readings. We always have the story of Thomas on this Sunday, and we've tried to interpret poor Thomas every which way, from letting him go down in history as doubting Thomas to trying to make him the patron saint of scientific empirical evidence, every year about a week after Easter, we try again to make sense of Thomas the Apostle.

Well this last week I read another article that tries to make sense of Thomas. This short article proposed, entirely in jest, that there is a lost version of John's gospel that explain why Thomas didn't believe. This article proposes a scene between Thomas and the ten apostles where Thomas says, "So you've seen the Lord?" They say yeah. "And he breathed the Holy Spirit on you?" Yeah. "Told you to forgive sins?" Yeah. "And that was all right here in this room?" Yeah. "Well, if you've been sent, then why ain't you went?"

This author makes a good point. Jesus has been raised, but the ten apostles are acting like he is still dead. He breathed on them and gave them the Holy Spirit, he gave them authority to forgive sins, and seven days later they're still in the upper room, not spreading the gospel, not forgiving sins. As far as Thomas could tell from the example of their lives, Jesus was still dead.

But Thomas and the other apostles, after this second encounter with Jesus, finally understood what a gift of mercy the resurrection was, and then they started to spread it. In fact, our tradition tells us that Thomas went further than all the others and he went all the way to India to spread the gospel of Jesus's resurrection.

So for ourselves, we have to make sure that the Resurrection, that the Divine Mercy of Jesus is truly alive in our lives. It took the apostles a long time to start acting like Jesus was risen, and until they did, no one was going to be convinced. The resurrection had to become a reality in their lives, it had to inspire them to a new boldness, before anyone could be convinced by their words.

It's that reality that we see in the first reading. The first reading tells us of the early Christian community in Jerusalem. They shared everything such that there was no needy person among them. That was how they lived the resurrection. They reasoned that if God has shown me such infinite mercy, such Divine Mercy, how can I help but show mercy to those around me?

So who is going to be convinced that Jesus is alive if you and I don't live like it? Who is going to be convinced he's alive if we live our same old lives? Who is going to be convinced that he's alive if we only come to church when it's convenient, if we only come together to worship the Risen Lord when it's convenient? Who is going to be convinced that Jesus is alive if we bicker, if we gossip, if we let conflict overrun our Christian community? Who is going to be convinced that Jesus is alive if we don't show his mercy to each other. My friends, if we don't let the resurrection of Jesus inflame our entire lives, then we only help to create a world of doubting Thomases, we create a world of people who can't believe in Jesus because those who preach him with their words don't show it with their lives. Jesus has to be the motivating factor behind every aspect of our lives.

Let the reality of the resurrection, the reality of the Divine Mercy, be present in your lives, such that the world may know the reason for your hope. Let the Divine Mercy of Jesus be the reason for your hope, and the reason for every good thing that you do.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Sunday

"You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified."

With these words, (the gospel from the Easter Vigil) the young man dressed in white addressed the women at the tomb and announced that the fundamental structure of the world has changed, that sin didn't have the last word, that death couldn't hold the Spotless Lamb of God. But he also addresses each of us. Jesus of Nazareth doesn't belong to the realm of the dead, the tomb doesn't own him anymore. Jesus of Nazareth isn't a doesn't figure from an ancient past. He is alive, to you and me, right now, because of Easter Sunday.

"He has been raised; he is not here."

With these words, every hope that had been destroyed three days prior is now restored, and not just restored, but multiplied a hundredfold. If Christ is risen, if the tomb is empty, then everything he predicted about his suffering and death, and therefore his resurrection, is true. And if everything he said about his resurrection is true, then maybe everything else he said is true too. Maybe my sins really are forgiven. Maybe there really is a place prepared for me in Paradise. Maybe there is hope. Just maybe.

Place yourself in the scene. The apostles on the morning of the resurrection were bewildered and confused, and as their snuffed-out hope was rekindled, their thoughts and prayers as they walked away from the empty tomb seemed to center around that thought. Maybe there is hope.

But then, later in the day when Jesus himself appeared to them, hope wasn't just restored, but a new kind of hope was born. Once we had seen the Risen Lord, then hope was born that death doesn't have the last say anymore. Jesus Christ, the eternal Word spoken by the Father, has risen from the grave, and he forbids death, that ancient foe, from troubling beloved humanity any longer.

When Jesus rose from death, the world was re-created. No longer is it a world where the natural progression is from good to bad, from life to death, but now it's a progression from good to glorious. Jesus has paid the debt so that after this earthly life we have a place prepared for us in Paradise.

This all happened simply out of love. You didn't deserve it, but the most Holy Trinity, Love itself, thought you were worth loving, and so Jesus came on a mission of love simply to reconcile you to his Father. Love requires the forgiveness of past transgressions. Love requires reconciliation.

On this day above all others, Jesus says, "Come, I love you, come share the life I won for you. Come, step out of the old life of sin into the new life of grace." So what is our job on this day? Our job is simply to say yes. When Jesus extends to us this offer of a new joy and a new life, our role is simply to say yes. Our role in this new covenant is to accept the grace offered, and then become a conduit of that grace into the world. The love that is at the heart of Easter Sunday we must spread into the whole world.

Easter highlights for us our absolute need for a savior. Because if we had been killed for our sins, if we had taken on the guilt of our own sins, we would have stayed dead. But when Jesus took on the weight of our sins and died, death couldn't hold him. He rose from death as the first fruits of a new and glorious creation.

So now we live in a new and permanent Easter Sunday, and Paul offers the best instruction on what we do with this: "If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth." There are indeed joys in this world, but every joy that this world can offer ultimately points to the true joy offered in Jesus, and every joy of this world pails in comparison to the joy offered in Jesus. So today we celebrate. No matter what our sins are, they are no match for Jesus's resurrection. Because his resurrection wipes out our sinfulness, we celebrate. So we think of what is above, we celebrate what is above.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Holy Saturday

On this day, while we wait at the tomb of Jesus, with hope mixed with sadness, the world is silent. The Office of Readings has a beautiful second reading for Holy Saturday, which I posted some years back. We wait, the body of Jesus rests, but his soul is going to free the souls of the just from the grip of death. Even those who lived before Christ couldn't enter Paradise until Jesus opened the way, so while his body lies in the tomb, his soul goes to seek them out and offer them the same salvation he offers you and me on Easter Sunday. This "Harrowing of Hell" has been depicted beautifully in art throughout the ages. With reference to Christ's descent into hell/the dead, the terms "hell" and "the realm of the dead" are often used interchangeably.

He is often shown rescuing Adam and Eve first:
Binding the demons that have held man captive, and freeing the souls of the just from the "jaws of hell":
Here he is quite literally breaking down the doors of hell to rescue the just, again, with Adam and Eve first:

"Death, you shall die in me; hell, you shall be destroyed by me."
-First Antiphon from Holy Saturday Vespers

Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday

"And bowing His head, He handed over the Spirit."

At this point, the world trembles in silence because the king has fallen asleep. The long affair of leading the Innocent Lamb to the slaughter or the sheep to the shearers, the bloody affair of cutting him off from the land of the living and assigning him a grave among the wicked, is finally over. And the world is silent.

In the Passion Narrative from John's Gospel, we hear a lot about Jesus's trial as he is shuffled around between Annas and Pilate and the high priests and the Roman soldiers, and it can all feel very noisy when we really pray into it. As we watch the soldiers and the high priests ridicule Jesus on the Cross, it can feel like there is no safe refuge left in the world as we watch Love itself be snuffed out by hatred.

But even as we watch Jesus, who was sent on a mission of love by his Father, allow his life to be violently ended by hatred, we have to notice that Jesus is in control the whole time. Even as he becomes the innocent victim for our sins, he is not a passive victim who just allows things to happen to him. He is the primary actor in this story. He chooses when to speak and when to remain silent. He fulfills the prophecies. He isn't abused unwillingly, he lets himself be abused. His whole life was directed to the Cross, and so handing over his spirit is his greatest moment, not his lowest. It was the ultimate act of obedience that restored the fallen world that we brought about by disobedience.

If we pay close attention to the details of the story, we see that in the midst of the anger of Calvary, Mary is a refuge of peace and of trust. In the midst of all the yelling and noise and hatred of Good Friday, Mary is an island of peace. She kept her eyes focused on Jesus, not letting herself get distracted by the anger of the world. So I want to focus on Mary with you briefly as a way to find peace in the midst of the anger of Good Friday, and through Mary, focus on Jesus.

The last words we have recorded from Mary are at the wedding feast at Cana, where she told the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." From then on, Mary is present but silent in the Gospels. But that command, "Do whatever he tells you," serves as a perfect summary of Mary's life and a perfect summary of her instructions to us. Our job as Christians is to follow Mary and "do whatever he tells you."

Mary's silence is the ultimate form of respect and adoration in the face of so great a mystery. No words do justice to the mystery of the Cross.  In the middle of all the anger of Calvary, Mary's silence is unique. So when Jesus gives Mary to John here, John represents two things. John was ordained a priest the previous evening at the Last Supper, and so John represents all priests. So just as the priest is ordained into the priesthood of Jesus, so the mother of Jesus becomes the special mother of all of Jesus's priests.

But John also represents all Christians through all time, and he stood in our place on Calvary. So when Jesus gives Mary to John and John to Mary, he entrusts Mary to each one of us, and perhaps more importantly, he entrusts all of us to his beloved mother. So amidst all of the suffering and trials of this life, we turn to Mary, because that's the instruction Jesus gave us from the Cross. From the home at Nazareth, to the Cross at Calvary, to our parish in Ranchester, Mary leads us to Christ. Today, Mary teaches the necessity of silence in the face of the mystery of the Cross.

Mary, Help of Christians, Pray for Us.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Maundy Thursday

As we begin our Triduum celebration, we fittingly begin by focusing on the Eucharist. Everything we do as Christians begins and ends with the Eucharist. The Eucharist is our lamb without blemish. The Eucharist is the sign and the reality of our covenant with our heavenly Father. So our first reading shows us the prefigurement to the Eucharist in the Passover and the Exodus from Egypt.

What we need to notice in this Passover story is the utter inability of the Jews to save themselves from their plight. They couldn't do it on their own, they needed God to intervene. And so he did, he commanded them to get a lamb without blemish, and they were saved by the blood of the spotless lamb. They were saved by the blood of the spotless lamb.

This covenant between God and the Jewish people, this first supper of the Passover of the Lord, finds its true fulfillment in the Last Supper, in Jesus's own passover from life to death. The first Passover, the blood of the spotless lamb spread on the wood of their doorposts, saved the people from slavery to the Egyptians, but it couldn't free us from sin or death. For that, a new covenant and a new Passover was needed.

So to institute this new covenant, Jesus went to the cross for us. The blood of the true spotless lamb on the wood of the cross is our doorway into a new kind of freedom that the Jews escaping from Egypt never could have imagined. God began proving his love for us at the Exodus, and he ultimately proved it once and for all at the cross.

And as a sign of this covenant, and as our means of entering into it, he gave us the Eucharist. Jesus transformed the meaning of the Passover meal. No longer does it simply recall the rescue from slavery, from Jesus's Last Supper onwards it would be the actual means of having communion with God.

So St. Paul tells us in our second reading, "I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." We're dealing with something truly special here because what we have here with Paul's letter to the Corinthians is the oldest written record of the Last Supper. Paul is writing these words in about 55 A.D., only about 25 years after Jesus himself spoke these words in the upper room, and Paul is clearly referring to something that has already been going on. My friends, this gift of the Eucharist is truly, truly ancient. It has been with us from the very beginning.

Paul also records Jesus saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood." This ancient gift is how we enter into the ever-new covenant, ever-new because it is a covenant with the true and living God. Incorporation into this covenant means incorporation into the Body of Christ, and in our gospel, Jesus, the head, shows us, the body, what this incorporation means. It means service to one another, symbolized by the washing of feet. It starts with the Jesus the head and works it way down through the hierarchy of the Church he is establishing so that ultimately, authority in this new Church means being called to service. The foot washing that will happen shortly is called the Mandatum Rite, the Latin mandatum is where we get the word mandate. So this is literally a new mandate from God, a new requirement. Service to your brothers and sisters isn't an optional part of Christianity if you feel called to it, it is absolutely required.

And we serve each other obviously by being attentive to the needs of the other person. But also, and we can't ignore this, we serve each other primarily by being attentive to the things of God, because frankly, apart from being in the same Body of Christ, none of us are brothers and sisters. It is only in Christ that we have communion. So we have to follow Christ in all things. We have to follow him in the good times and the bad. In our lives, we have to follow him when it's easy and when it's tough. In his life, we have to follow him when he silences the Pharisees and when he washes feet. We have to follow him on Palm Sunday and on Good Friday.

This evening, we follow him into the Garden of Gethsemane. We stay awake with him as he prays for this cup to pass from him. We join him in his final resolution to the Father, "Not my will, but yours be done." And we follow him all the days of our life.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Good Friday by Josh Garrels

I thought that in this week which we dare to call holy it would be good to go through the lyrics of one of Josh Garrels's most moving songs called Good Friday. It's a beautiful song and haunting song, so it can be a good song to help put one in the right mindset for the great events we commemorate at the end of this week.

The song starts by describing what our condition is like before Jesus comes, either before Jesus came into the world 2,000 years ago or when he comes into each of our lives today. Our pre-Christ condition is one of brokenness and confusion. Life feels like it should have more, and we search. I search for a meaning bigger than myself, for a meaning that I didn't create. I search for a love that will never die.
Broken wing, forgotten dream, shattered thing
That a man's hands can’t ever truly mend
Shadow land, desert sand, a man searches
For a love that’ll never die
But in the midst of suffering through a life without meaning, someone comes to offer you something better. You don't have to suffer alone, and you don't have to suffer meaninglessly. God has suffered for you, and through His sufferings, you can have a new freedom.
Truth be known, you’re not alone
Your aching bones will find a home
In a place where God he sets us free 
 And there is a bit of a desire for this new life, so you start looking for it:
Wake me up before you go
I will listen for the sound of your voice
Hints of this voice can be found in the world, but is more readily sensed in the deep recesses of the heart. As Augustine said, "You were within me, and I was in the world outside myself" (Confessions X, 17).
Hear the wind in the trees
It goes where it please
Like the breath in me
And all who have breath can sing 
Ultimately, voices have to belong to somebody. This voice deep inside you is the voice of a person, Jesus, who died and was laid in the ground. But he didn't die a meaningless death. There was hope in it. He warned us of his death, but we didn't understand what he told us. After he died, we wondered if that was the end of it.This is the chorus of the song and so ties together the longing of the first part of the song with the agony of the second.
When we laid your body down
In earth and in the ground
Oh child, rest your soul.

Will a hope be made good
When a word is understood
In the day, will we see you again?
But we know that we did see him again. Everything he said was proven true by the fact that he rose from the dead. And so we tell his story, and we keep telling his story. A dead man's story doesn't change the world the way a living man's story does.
Gather round, hear the sound
Of a story that’s so old that it’s been told
Before time
It's the story of God made man, of the light coming into the darkness and the darkness not overcoming it. I like the phrase that he was born into a world "that was dark as hell," because that is quite literally true. Jesus was the light that came into the world.
He was born in the flesh and the blood
In a world that was dark as hell, and dead in sin
 And yet, despite being the only hope against the darkness, his beginnings were humble.
Born of the spirit, and the virgin child
He’s the son of God, son of man
We, the people who walk in darkness, resist the light when it comes. Either we don't recognize it or we withdraw from it when we see it. And so he experienced sorrow, sorrow like we can't imagine.
I didn't recognize that look in his eyes
When they cried
With a sorrow that no man has ever known
He was sorrowful because we rejected him. He offered light and we preferred darkness, he offered love and we preferred hatred. So we killed him, and he experienced the full weight of humanity when he felt the abandonment of his Father.
Hang him high, watch him die, hear the cry
Crucified up on that God forsaken tree
And all who have breath can sing
And then we return to the chorus, to remind us that this Jesus who died for us is the only answer to the longing we each experience in our lives.
When we laid your body down
In the earth and in the ground
Oh Lord, rest your bones

Will a hope be made good
If your words are understood
In the day, will we see you again
And then Garrels beautifully ends with Jesus' cry from the "God forsaken tree":
Oh Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani?
Oh my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Oh Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani?
Oh my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Hopefully this haunting song helps your emotions to enter into the beauty and the tragedy of the Sacred Triduum. God bless!