Tag Archives: passover

Holy Thursday and the New Commandment – April 13, 2017

Jesus’ actions on Holy Thursday were revolutionary and radical. They are meant to shock our consciences. Indeed, St. Peter was so shocked he exclaimed, “You shall never wash my feet.” (Jn. 13:8) His sensibilities were offended that the Messiah, the very Son of God, would perform the actions of a typical household slave of those days. Jesus turned the world upside down. True greatness would no longer be measured in money, power and social status, but in simple humble service to our fellow man, as Jesus taught them, “He who is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Mt. 23:10)

It was in the Cenacle in Jerusalem that Thursday night that Jesus faced His imminent death. Just hours from His Passion and Crucifixion – this supreme moment in His life – all of His words and actions in the Upper Room carried special meaning and weight. Jesus waited until this moment at the Last Supper to institute the Eucharist and Holy Orders. In this intimate setting with His closest friends and Apostles, Jesus washes their feet, and gives us the Mandatum, or the mandate, the new commandment. As John tells us:

Jesus “rose from supper, laid aside His garments, and girded Himself with a towel. Then He poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.” (Jn. 13:4-5)

Following the washing of the disciples’ feet, Jesus says, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” (Jn. 13:14-15)

Here, with His final actions before Good Friday, Jesus shows the disciples that they are to humbly serve one another. He reinforces this with His final discourse, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (Jn. 13:34) On Holy Thursday, the beginning of the paschal Triduum, Jesus commissions all of His disciples, that is, all Christians, above all else, to love one another.

As with all things, Jesus’ words and example is the model for us to follow. Jesus Himself said He “came not to be served but to serve.” (Mt. 20:28) St. Paul too speaks of Jesus’ humility as He “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant.” (Phil. 2:7) He spoke often about the need for humility and service, and the necessity to live one’s life with Christian charity. One of Jesus’ great teachings is the parable of the Good Samaritan. He uses the parable to demonstrate what our mercy should resemble, and that we should “Go and do likewise.” (Lk. 10:37) In another parable, the Rich Man and Lazarus, Jesus warns us about the implications of not living a life of mercy and charity. In the parable, the rich man, who did not show mercy or compassion towards the poor man Lazarus, ends up in torment in Hades. Abraham reminds him that he had his opportunity to demonstrate mercy during his lifetime, but chose not to. These are sobering words from Jesus.

Perhaps the most jarring words on this is Jesus’ depiction of the Final Judgment. The Righteous inherit the kingdom and eternal life, with Jesus telling them: “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” (Mt. 25: 35-36) The Righteous had lived Jesus’ Beatitudes, especially “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Mt. 5:7) But to those who fail to perform works of mercy and charity, Jesus sends them to eternal punishment. Ultimately, we are judged by whether we follow Christ’s new commandment or not. In serving the needy, we are, in reality, serving Christ, as He said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (Mt. 25:40)

Jesus says the distinguishing characteristic of His disciples will be their “love for one another.” Tertullian remarked that the early Roman pagans would exclaim of Christians, “See how they love one another!” And what should this charity towards our neighbor look like? The Church teaches the corporal works of mercy, in which we minister to the bodily needs of the person, primarily as: “feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.” (CCC 2447) The Church similarly teaches that we should practice spiritual works of mercy as well, primarily by: instructing, advising, consoling, comforting, forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently, and praying for the living and the dead. These bring to mind Jesus’ words to St. Faustina on the absolute necessity for us to demonstrate mercy towards our neighbor through deed, word, or prayer. (Diary, 742)

Jesus’ new commandment is clear; we are to love one another. How then do we do this on a practical level? The varied number of ways we can fulfill this are as long as they are deep. We can do it in our everyday life and work. We can donate our time and money, or goods and services. We can volunteer at a soup kitchen, or be involved in a parish social ministry. One of the areas I find rewarding is working with the homeless population. Regardless of what the social and economic causes may be for homelessness, and whether our actions may be enabling them to some extent, Jesus did command us “Give to every one who begs from you.” (Lk. 6:30) To enter into the world of the homeless is to be barraged by sights, sounds, smells and struggles. It is to witness firsthand the brokenness in humanity in drug addiction and mental health sickness, and at times, crime. On the other hand, they are people just like you and me. Each homeless man or woman is a person, with an inherent dignity, made in the image of God. In their faces and bodies is Jesus. Although sometimes it is a difficult experience, I almost always feel enriched and spiritually renewed in serving them.

And so, it is up to us to live out Christ’s commission of mercy and charity towards our neighbor: to love one another in humble service as He has loved us. This is Christ’s radical idea that upended the trajectory of the ancient world. The God-man took the form of a servant and washed the feet of His disciples. This is Jesus’ radical example for us. It was in this Passover setting that the sacrificial lamb gave way to the sacrifice of Christ: the prefigurement gave way to the reality. Christ gave us this sublime example and new commandment at the Last Supper, as He offered the sacrament of His love in the Eucharist. We too can offer ourselves, as a living sacrifice, in our mercy and charity towards others, in union with the sacrifice of Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 3:00 Hour, The Hour of Divine Mercy – January 27, 2016

From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:45-46)

Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.” (Acts, 3:1)

“O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus, as a fountain of mercy for us, I trust in You.” (Diary of St.Faustina, 187)

Jesus died at the three o’clock hour. This is known in the bible as “the ninth hour.” It was for this hour that Jesus had come into the world. In the beginning of His Passion, in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed to the Father, in agony and sweating blood, with foreknowledge of His coming torture and death, saying “Now My soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save Me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.” (Jn. 12:27) As the Catechism states “..for His redemptive passion was the very reason for His Incarnation.” (CCC 607) The Word of God became flesh and suffered and died as an expiation for our sins, in order to reconcile humanity with God. (CCC 457) St.John reinforces this point by declaring that the Father “sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 Jn.4:10) This atoning sacrifice, the Passion and death of the Son of God, was accomplished at the ninth hour, or at three o’clock, on a Friday afternoon. As the Scripture tells us, “And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit.” (Mt. 27:50) Jesus’ willing sacrificial death freed us from our sins and gave the possibility of conquering death and resurrecting us to eternal life.

The three o’clock hour inaugurates the new covenant, the New Testament between God and man, through the person of Jesus Christ. As the next line indicates, “And behold, the curtain of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom;” (Mt. 27:51) The curtain, or the veil, was the massive cloth that hung between the two holiest chambers in the Temple, hiding the inner most holiest of holies, or the presence of God. No man was allowed to approach the holy presence of God there, except only the High Priest himself, on one day of the year, the Day of Atonement. The fact that God rent the veil in half, down the middle, thus exposing the inner holy of holies, or God Himself, shows that the sacrificial death of Jesus now allows man again to approach God directly. God is no longer partitioned, or hidden from humanity, but rather, He is available now for all, intimately for each of us. As the letter to the Hebrews describes this radical change in the God-to-man dynamic, saying “..since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh..” (Heb. 9:19-20)

At the three o’clock hour, Creation itself is in distress over the dying and death of its Creator. From noon until three o’clock, as Jesus hung on the Cross, the sun withheld its light and darkness came over the land. We do not know exactly whether this was an eclipse or something supernatural. This hearkens back to the prophet Amos, who prophesied, “On that day, says the Lord God, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight.” (Amos, 8:9) With the earth too, at the three o’clock hour, when Jesus expires, there is a great earthquake. St.Matthew describes the scene saying, “and the earth shook, and the rocks were split” (Mt. 27:51), again echoing the prophet Amos, “Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who lives in it…. I will make it like the mourning for an only son, and the end of it like a bitter day.” (Amos, 8:8,10)  

At the three o’clock hour, in the midst of His Passion, Jesus, the only Son of the Father, took on the sins of the whole world, in order to free us from our sins. As St.Paul tells the Corinthians, “For our sake He made Him to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21) During the original Passover of the Israelites in Egypt, they offered the sacrifice of a one year old lamb “without blemish” (Ex.12:5), putting its blood on their house doorpost, so that the angel of death would “pass over” them, and keep them from dying. Later, in the Temple period, under the Mosaic law, the Temple priests sacrificed two lambs a day in expiation for the sins of the people. (Ex.29:38-39) So, now too, Jesus, as He went into His Passion and Crucifixion, was “like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, He was silent and opened not His mouth.” (Is. 53:7) The Old Mosaic lamb sacrifices were merely symbolic representations, typologies, to prepare the Jews for the one true sacrifice of the Son of God. Jesus is the true lamb of God. This is why, upon first seeing Jesus, John the Baptist declares, “Behold, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29) Jesus took on our sins and became sin on the Cross, for the sake of our eternal well-being.

This is why at the three o’clock hour He cries out just before His death, quoting the Psalmist, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps.22:1) Jesus quotes Psalm 22, which prophesied His suffering and death. All the Jews who were present would have known exactly what He was referencing. Psalm 22 speaks of an ignominious death of a righteous man, but who does not lose faith, and is ultimately justified before God. The parallels are amazing, and not because they are amazing coincidences, but because they fulfill the word of God exactly. The Psalmist prophesies, “All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads; commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver; let him rescue the one in whom he delights!” (Ps. 22:7-8) As St.Matthew describes this fulfillment:

“And those who passed by derided Him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked Him, saying, “He saved others; He cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He trusts in God; let God deliver Him now, if He desires Him; for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (Mt.27:39-43)

Psalm 22 continues foretelling the events that would unfold: “Yea, dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet; I can count all my bones; they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots.” (Ps.22:16-18) This parallels the account in the Gospels, “And when they had crucified Him, they divided His garments among them by casting lots; then they sat down and kept watch over Him there.” (Mt.27:35-36) Ultimately, the righteous man of Psalm 22 does not lose hope, but is justified. The Psalmist says, “The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord! May your hearts live for ever!” (Ps. 22:36) This is similar to the end of the Crucifixion account, which ends with the righteous praising God and saints rising from the dead. As St.Matthew described it:

“..the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe, and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Mt. 27:52-54)

The three o’clock hour is hour of great mercy for the whole world. It is the hour of divine mercy, when humanity was restored to fullness in its relation to God through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. Beginning in the 1930’s, Sister Faustina Kowalska of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Krakow, Poland began to have divine revelations from our Lord Jesus Christ. Sister Faustina, now Saint Faustina, recorded all of these revelations in her private diary, “Divine Mercy In My Soul.” Among the many revelations imparted by Jesus to St.Faustina in her diary is the great importance of the moment of the three o’clock hour. The moment of three o’clock, the moment of Jesus’ agony and death, is the great moment of God’s divine mercy for the whole world. Jesus told St.Faustina of the tremendous importance we should attach to this moment each day. As per Jesus’ words from her revelation:  

“At three o’clock, implore My mercy, especially for sinners; and, if only for a brief moment, immerse yourself in My Passion, particularly in My abandonment at the moment of agony. This is the hour of great mercy for the whole world. I will allow you to enter into My mortal sorrow. In this hour, I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of My Passion.” (Diary, 1320)

And again, Jesus reminded St.Faustina:

“As often as you hear the clock strike the third hour, immerse yourself completely in My mercy, adoring and glorifying it; invoke its omnipotence for the whole world, and particularly for poor sinners; for at that moment mercy was opened wide for every soul.  In this hour you can obtain everything for yourself and for others for the asking; it was the hour of grace for the whole world — mercy triumphed over justice.” (Diary, 1572)

“My daughter, try your best to make the Stations of the Cross in this hour, provided that your duties permit it; and if you are not able to make the Stations of the Cross, then at least step into the chapel for a moment and adore, in the Most Blessed Sacrament, My Heart, which is full of mercy; and should you be unable to step into the chapel, immerse yourself in prayer there where you happen to be, if only for a very brief instant.” (Diary, 1572)

The three o’clock hour is a privileged moment in the day for us, to claim mercy for the salvation of sinners, and the whole world, by virtue of Jesus’ passion, suffering and death. We can be there with Mary and St.John at the foot of the Cross. As Jesus implores us, we can, even “for a very brief instant,” at the three o’clock hour, immerse ourselves in prayer to Jesus, calling upon His divine mercy, in intercession for others. We can make a short prayer each and every day at 3:00, despite our busy days and schedules, whether at work, or at home, or in the car, or whatever we might happen to be doing at that moment. It is very easy to make this a part of our daily schedule. After a while, it will become second nature to us, pausing for a moment in our daily routines, to worship the divine mercy of Jesus and ask for intercession of behalf of the salvation of sinners. A brief prayer at the three o’clock hour should be a part of our prayer life, each and every day. In this way, we can trust in Jesus’ divine mercy for the salvation of our souls.