This archive entry brought from our old site. All entries written by Father Tom Sullivan.
Friday 04/30/10 Readings Posted 04/29/10 10:25pm
Most of us grew up knowing those words of Jesus: “I am the way and the truth and the life.” One way of understanding them is to put a colon after the word way, making it, “I am the way: the truth and the life.” It then says there are two ways by which he enables us to get to the Father. He is first the true teaching about God. He is second the life of grace that empowers us to get to God.
Where this modern text speaks of many dwelling places, most of us first heard it as many mansions. That translation came from a long ago England when the word mansion meant any place to dwell.
Actually what Our Lord did was compare his advance mission to the Promised Land to that of the emissaries of Moses who scouted out the land west of the Jordan, dividing it into sections for each of the tribes and each of their clans.
Thursday 04/29/10 Readings Posted 04/28/10 10:05pm
The first sentence in our reading from the Acts tells us something that happened after Paul and Barnabas sailed from Cyprus up to Perga (in modern day Turkey.) “John left them and returned to Jerusalem.”
That John was actually Mark who wrote the first of the Gospels. Paul gave up on Mark for being a disciple who would give up because of being homesick. Later, after completing this first of their missionary journey’s, when they were embarking on a second Barnabas (who was Mark’s uncle) assured Paul that Mark had matured enough to become a trustworthy associate. Paul would not give Mark a second chance, so he and Barnabas split up over their difference.
In three of his later letters Paul spoke well of Mark, while St. Peter refers to him as his son. There is no match to the local color Mark supplies in his Gospel. His story is a fine example of giving a young person a second chance.
Wednesday 04/28/10 Readings Posted 04/27/10 9.55pm
Our Jesus told the crowd that by believing in him they were actually believing in God. That might have some of us asking, “What does he mean, isn’t he God?” To get the right fix on Our Lord’s meaning we must keep in mind that as well as being divine he was completely human. His Godliness did not eclipse his humanness when he was eating, walking, teaching. This might sound blasphemous, but we can say, “Jesus was not God.” No. “He was the God-man.” While having his human side in mind he said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.”
An unfortunate consequence of our confusing the God-man Jesus with God is that we fail to give sufficient thought to God, the beginning and end of all things, the being who dwarfs the limitless universe.
Monday 04/26/10 Readings Posted 04/26/10 7:00pm
In Chapter Ten of his Gospel John entwined two of Our Lord’s parables: the one in which he compared himself to a good shepherd and the one where he compared himself to the gate of the sheepfold. We usually give all out attention to the good shepherd parable, but today we must turn to the image of the gate.
A sheepfold was a common corral where a village’s young shepherds penned their little flocks while they went to their houses for sleep. The sheepfold’s wall would be topped with briars to discourage thieves from slipping over; and one of the little shepherds had to stand duty at a gate where he would give entry only to one of his fellow shepherds. In calling himself the gate Jesus was comparing himself both to the gate and the gatekeeper.
Perhaps Catholic priests once narrowly interpreted the gate to mean their ordination by which they, and not the ministers of other sects, had the right to shepherd God’s flock. But, there was no ordination in Our Lord’s time, and so his true meaning was something more general. What he meant was that teachers, parents, and other leaders should only give instruction that Jesus himself would impart to little ones. We can’t be telling our charges to behave in slippery ways.
Sunday 04/25/10 Readings Posted 04/25/10 3:00pm
Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice.” That sounds like the secret to happiness. Rather than being fixed in our views, rather than triumphantly exclaiming, “That’s what I have been saying all along;” rather than that, we say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”
But, how does one hear the Lord’s voice? We are apt to imagine his voice as coming to us magically, as a sudden impulse, but that was not how Jesus cleared his mind for hearing the Father. No: he spent the night in prayer. I believe Chapter Eleven of Isaiah gives us a description of our Lord’s thought process. “The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge and fear of the Lord. And, his delight will be fear of the Lord.”
We must be wise in preferring long-range happiness to pleasure. We must be understanding in searching out the benign motives of others. We must let our record of bad guesses lead us to seek out counsel. We must ask for the strength from God that will keep us going until we find the truth. We must work at getting all the truth.
Above all, we must prize that quality called fear of the Lord. It is comprised of our awareness of our living in God, along with our fear of offending him.
Someplace or other, years ago, I read a little talk from a mother superior to her ducklings. She told them they must, “Keep themselves supple for the movements of grace.”
Posted 04/23/10 7:05pm
The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles has stories of Peter happening on religious friends gathered at the home of a sick man, then at the home of a recently deceased lady.
Both stories have us recalling our taking part in such gatherings. There is warmth about get-togethers where folks are solicitous, bringing good things to eat.
There is a special intimacy in the story about the deceased Tabitha. We feel we are there with the good hearted people. Luke reminds us that in Greek the name Tabitha would be Dorcas, and a footnote tells us that in English it would be a gazelle.
There is something homey about women being there, showing Peter the garments Tabitha had made for them. Of course the great climax of the story is Peter’s bringing Tabitha back to life. At death beds I have sometimes yearned to see such a miracle, but even without it I have been moved by the sacramental holiness that people bring to the scene when they are seeing a friend off to eternity.
Friday 04/23/10 Readings Posted 04/22/10 9:24pm
The story of Paul’s conversion appears three times in the Acts of the Apostles. The versions are almost identical, but there is a small difference in the third time it is told. In Chapter 26 Paul remembers something else Jesus said when he appeared to him on the road. He said, “Saul, it is hard for you to kick against the goad.”
A goad is a sharp stick a rider uses to get a horse moving. When goaded a horse can either give in, and get moving; or dig in, and kick. In this case Jesus was saying that he had been jabbing Saul with insights into the genuineness of the Christian cause, but Saul had stubbornly resisted those graces.
This story makes us wonder if we have been kicking against the goad. Have we been resisting the good impulses to diet, to apologize, to visit someone in need? If so, this is the time to stop kicking, and to go along with God’s grace.
Thursday 04/22/10 Readings Posted 04/21/10 9:20pm
This morning I will be saying a second Mass at a grade school where most of the kids are not Catholic. The nun in charge there sends me an advanced copy of the readings and the theme around which they plan their weekly Mass.
For the Gospel they have chosen a passage in which Jesus said, “I want all of my followers to be one with each other.”
Obviously Sister feels Our Lord wants us to have a family feeling for all Christians, and perhaps beyond that, for all who whose good hearts have them following Jesus without their knowing they are following him.
We would do well if we put the prayer of St. Francis into action. It goes, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” We would do well to cultivate in ourselves a feeling of kinship with all mortals, seeing all as children of God just as we are.
Wednesday 04/21/10 Readings Posted 04/20/10 7:22pm
Most of us picture the Father as the severe God of the Old Testament. In contrast, we view Jesus as kind and forgiving, but what Jesus said in today’s Gospel turned that around.
He said, “I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.”
There he said that if he had his druthers he would tell some of us to get lost, but his Father would not let him be harsh. Since John marvelously tells us, “God is love,” the Old Testament’s picturing him as unforgiving was a case of the ancients getting him all wrong.
Tuesday 04/20/10 Readings Posted 04/19/10 7:00pm
Jesus began by rejecting an old belief held by the people. They all thought that when the Messiah came he would bring down manna from heaven the way Moses had. In asking Jesus for a sign they were asking him to establish himself as the Savior by showering them with bread.
From the start Jesus rejected their assumption by saying what Moses gave was not true bread from heaven. (He might have been speaking factually, since Bedouins still collect what they call manna, which is a honey-like excrement of aphids.)
Those words of Jesus were the beginning of a very long discourse in which he is bread from heaven in two distinct ways. In the second way he is our Holy Communion, a bread which we must eat for life; but before that he speaks of teaching us in the depth of our hearts; in that way his teaching is the bread our souls live on.
Monday 04/19/10 Readings Posted 04/18/10 8:10pm
The members of the Synagogue of the Roman Freedmen could not put up with St. Stephen, and in a way you can’t blame them. They were a scattering of young men from the Diaspora. The Romans practiced a dirty trick for keeping in line the Jews from around the Mediterranean. They took two or three young men from Cilicia, Cyprus, Alexandria, Spain, Sicily, and they kept them in Rome for five year stints for insurance. It kept Jewish families in their home places from rebelling.
These hostages usually were not particularly devout young Jews, but their being singled out for their Jewishness tended to make them more observant of its practices. They would become so orthodox that at the end of their hostage period they would choose to stay together in Jerusalem near the temple. Their zeal for keeping kosher and honoring the Sabbath would make them intolerant of the followers of Jesus who had priorities that included eating and mixing with unclean Gentiles.
They found Stephen’s disregard for their holy religion to be so utterly loathsome that they had to react.
This story tells us that people with views opposite to ours may be sincere, and deserving of our full tolerance. This attitude might be especially needful for us in an election year.
Sunday 04/18/10 Readings Posted 04/17/10 6:42pm
With light breezes, azaleas, Bradford pears, and boisterous patches of clover everywhere aren’t these spring mornings something? We can feel ourselves part of the spring morning in the Gospel story. Through the haze on the water we made out Jesus on the shore, kindling a fire for our breakfast.
There is a Latin phrase that comes in handy for making believe. It is mutates mutandi, and it means you just change things to make them fit. You change our pews for places in Peter’s boat. For the disciples you change the people around you who have come to church. They are like the disciples who said, “We’ll go too” when Peter announced he was going fishing.
Isaiah left us a few verses that reflect the pleasure of being together on the Lord’s Day. He said, you will rejoice in the Lord, you will be nourished by our heritage, and you will ride on the heights.
But in our imagination today we won’t be riding on the heights, we will be squatting on the shore as Jesus takes the bread, handing it around to us.
Saturday 04/17/10 Readings Posted 04/16/10 8:32pm
Each time we hear this story about Jesus walking on the water and calming the storm we should think of it as a parable in action.
That so-called Sea of Galilee was actually a wide place in the Jordan River, and from ancient times crossing over the Jordon was seen as a symbol of crossing over death.
The American spiritual says, “Show me that stream called the River Jordan, that’s the old stream what I longs to cross.” What it means is that the weary old man wants to die, and cross over into heaven.
In Chapter Three of the Book of Joshua the Israelites came to a flooded Jordan keeping them from crossing to the Promised Land, and God miraculously halted the river, making a way for them.
In today’s Gospel Jesus walks on the water to show that he has conquered death, and he then brings his own to the heavenly shore. That’s what our religion is all about: Jesus making a way for us through death to life.
Readings Posted 04/15/10 8:04pm
With Bible stories like this one of Jesus feeding five thousand it is sometimes good to faithfully recreate the scene in your mind. Jesus and the Apostles had rowed across the lake looking for a little peace and quiet, but they were followed by the crowds. The people had laid their farm work aside in preparation for their trip to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, and they all delighted in visiting the fresh green field of Bashan in the late spring.
The one thing in this scene that we are not up to imagining is the lengthy message of Our Lord. Our minds cannot duplicate his voice ringing out over the five thousand and more who were lying on the grass, picnic style.
As for the miracle of the bread and fish that would not run out, I always picture Jesus reaching again and again into a basket he had been given. It would not have immediately dawned on the crowd that he had pulled out much more than the five loaves and two fish.
When the crowds caught on to the miracle John tells us they began saying he must be the Prophet. They were referring to what Moses said in Chapter Eighteen of the Book of Deuteronomy: “A prophet like me will the Lord your God raise up for you from among your own kinsmen, listen to him.”
When Jesus heard what they were saying he ordered the Apostles to get back into their boat and pull away. He slipped back into the hills to avoid a rush to make him king.
Thursday 04/15/10 Readings Posted 04/14/10 7:19pm
In the Gospel Jesus spoke of himself as the Son to whom God the Father had given everything over. That is something hard for us to get straight in our minds. Usually a father exists maybe twenty years before his son comes along, but with God the Son was there with the Father from all eternity. Normally a son comes to be through the love of his father and his wife, but God had no wife in heaven.
This is so hard for us to picture that people feel it is best not to think of such things, but that is not right. The Bible tells about the relationship between the Father and the Son; and the reason it tells us is that it wants us to understand as far as we can.
This might sound silly, but one way of seeing the relationship between the Father and the Son is to think of the Son as the Father’s brainchild. The Letter to the Hebrews calls the Son the exact imprint of the Father; and Paul’s Letter to the Colossians calls the Son “the image of the invisible God.”
The smartest of our saints, Thomas Aquinas, explained the Son’s being the brainchild of the Father by saying that our all-intelligent God had, and always will have, a mental picture of himself that is the imprint of his being and his exact image. The Father loves his brainchild and his brainchild loves the Father.
Wednesday 04/14/10 Readings Posted 04/13/10 10:20pm
The reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells us that the high priest rose up with all his companions who were of the party of the Sadducees. We might identify the high priest and the Sadducees. From the year 600 B.C. Judea ceased its existence as an independent nation. It lived under the rule of Babylon, Persia, Greece, Syria, and Rome. Provided that they paid their taxes and maintained peace the Jews were allowed to manage their own, mostly religious, affairs. For that the man in charge was the high priest.
From 970 B.C. down to 152 B.C. that office was reserved for a man who was a direct descendent of Zadoc, the priest who risked death to anoint Solomon king. Then, in 152 B.C. Jonathan, a younger brother of Judas Maccabeus, broke an eight hundred year old sacred tradition by taking the office of high priest even though he was not descended from Zadoc.
His companions who took over Judea’s power and economy twisted the tradition around, saying, “Maybe Jonathan is not a blood descendent of Zadoc, but as high priest he is descended form him in his office. What’s more, we as his companions are the new Zadocites.” The word Sadducee was a corruption of their word Zadocite. They were businessmen who kept only the rudiments of Jewish law, and they were determined not to let Jesus or his Apostles interfere with their wealth.
Tuesday 04/13/10 Readings Posted 04/12/10 6:48pm
The Gospel introduces a man named Joseph who came from the isle of Cyprus. He owned a piece of property in Jerusalem, but he sold it and gave the proceeds to the Apostles to be used for the support of the Christian widows and orphans who had taken to living in common. Joseph was such a light hearted man, making everyone around him feeling better, that people gave him the nickname Barnabas, which means “the son of encouragement.”
Our English word encouragement is a happy word. It actually means “putting heart in.” We encourage people when troubles have robbed them of the heart to go on. There is an old expression “Heroes are born, not made.” It means some of us are blessed with a happy chemistry, a happy disposition that makes us into natural Barnabases. To become saintly Barnabases we have to hide our own sorrows, giving joy to others from your own scant store.
Posted 04/12/10 7:15am
Jesus said, “Unless one is born from above, he cannot enter the kingdom.” He went on to tell Nicodemus that God’s heavenly influence was like the wind, coming on us with our not being aware of it.
That was clear enough but the Greek language in which John wrote this Gospel has a peculiarity that has led to misunderstandings. The peculiarity was that anothen, the Greek word for “from above,” can sometimes be translated as “again.” Now, that was not the case here, where Jesus was speaking of the way God’s influence descends mysteriously from above. However, some Christians have come to view the Sacrament of Baptism as a meaningless ritual, similar to registering to vote, but not voting. They say only being born again in the Spirit has any value. They choose to twist the Greek word anothen to mean “again.”
What they are doing is borrowing authority from Jesus to justify their belief that to become true Christians we must be born again in the “Baptism of the Spirit.” When a preacher lays his hands on someone for the Baptism of the Spirit something real can happen. The person swoons, and then undergoes a change in attitudes.
I have two priest friends, Bud and Roy, who went to a church when a gifted priest was laying hands on hundreds coming up to the Communion rail. The priest, on seeing the great number coming up, asked Bud and Roy to come help him lay on hands. They protested that they did not have the gift, but he said that didn’t matter. So they went back and forth with the priest, laying hands on as many as he did, and finding as many swooned from their touch as from his. I was recently talking to Bud about it on the phone. He said that afterwards he went back to the rectory, and standing in front of the couch he tried collapsing backwards the way the people did, but he could not let go completely the way they did. I might be wrong, but my conclusion is that what happens is real, but not necessarily spiritual, the way hypnosis came to be recognized as a natural rather than a supernatural happening.
Posted 04/10/10 6:15pm
Thomas was the bravest of the Apostles. When they were all safe across the Jordan, and Jesus proposed going back into danger to see about Lazarus, the other Apostles pleaded with him to play it safe, but Thomas suggested that they all go over and die with Jesus. In the years that followed, he was also the most adventurous of the Apostles, bringing the faith to far off India.
So, we should go easy on calling him, “Doubting Thomas.” His unwillingness to believe that Jesus had really come back from the dead was proof of how thorough and final the death of Jesus had seemed to them all. Still, he had more reason for believing than we have. After all, he had seen Jesus work miracles, even bringing back from death Lazarus and the only son of a grieving widow. So when Thomas came around to saying, “My Lord and my God,” Jesus, discounted the value of that reluctant expression of faith. He put us ahead of Thomas, saying, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
With acceptance of the Resurrection being what makes us Christians, that acceptance means more than anything to us. That being so, how do we go about believing?
The editor in chief of the Encyclopedia Britannica gives us the answer to that. That man’s name was Mortimer Adler. As well as giving us our finest encyclopedia he also put together the 54 volumes of the Great Books of the Western World.
Our former bishop here in Florida, Bishop Paul Tanner, often puzzled over how Mortimer Adler would have included in the series two volumes by St. Thomas Aquinas when he didn’t even believe. Finally, he met with Adler, and he asked him, “After leaving out so many great books, how could you, an unbeliever, have included two volumes in which Aquinas explained the Catholic Faith?”
“I’m surprised that a bishop could ask that question,” Adler answered, saying, “You should know that faith is a free gift from God.”
Once when a man with a son in a desperate condition asked Jesus for a cure for his son Jesus asked, “Do you believe?” And the man’s answered with what must be our constant prayer, “I do believe, help my unbelief.”
Posted 04/09/10 6:15pm
A man with legs deformed from birth sat begging by the temple’s Beautiful Gate, and everyone in Jerusalem was aware of the man’s completely hopeless condition. Then Peter, invoking the name of Jesus, had the man walking, even jumping. The chief priests and leaders felt their own security rested on their putting an end to the Jesus movement, but they had no idea of how they might proceed. They wanted to squash it, but they didn’t want to go against God. So, they did nothing.
Any of us might be in a like quandary from time to time. One or more people might come along acting in a way that makes us uncomfortable. Then, rather than run the risk of acting against God we should follow the do-nothing example of the chief priests and leaders. We would also be following the sage advice of Father Mike Kelly. In such cases he’d always say, “Arragh, let ‘em tear away!”
Friday 04/09/10 Readings Posted 04/08/10 7:39pm
It is worthwhile noting the relationship of John to Peter in these latter chapters of John’s Gospel. We see three instances of how it worked. First, at the Last Supper Peter, wanting to know who the betrayer was, told John who lay upon the breast of Jesus to find out. Then, when Mary Magdalene told them of the empty tomb they both ran to see, and although John ran faster, he waited to let Peter go in first. In today’s Gospel John recognized Jesus on the shore, but he told Peter who plunged in, heading for Jesus.
In these instances John represents Christians who are especially intimate with God, while Peter represents authority in the Church. The Christians who are intimate with God must defer to church authority, and church authority must defer to those who are especially intimate with God.
Thursday 04/08/10 Readings Posted 04/07/10 5:55pm
In the reading from The Acts of the Apostles Peter quoted Deuteronomy 18:15 where Moses predicted, “A prophet like me will the Lord, your God. raise up for you from among your own people.”
Moses called himself and their future leader prophets. We usually use that word to denote one who foretells the future, but the Bible has another quite definite meaning. A prophet was one through whom God spoke to men.
Jesus will be like Moses at least in two ways. First they will both be lawgivers. Moses delivered the law of Mount Sinai, Jesus the Sermon on the Mount.
A second way in which Jesus was like Moses was that both men were exceptionally quiet. Numbers 12:3 says, “Moses was by far the meekest man on the face of the earth.” And Jesus could well say, “Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” It was a strange talent for great lawgivers to share. What should we learn from them?
Wednesday 04/07/10 Readings Posted 04/06/10 7:10am
Walking along with the disciples who were fleeing Jerusalem, hiding his identity, Jesus explained how and where the Old Testament made reference to him. Later, looking back on that, the two said, “Were not our hearts burning within us when he explained the Scriptures to us?”
We can have similar heart warming experiences. Always we begin by making ourselves aware of God all around and through us. Then, if we take up a Bible passage, and we let it simmer in our imagination, possible meanings of the passage will begin occurring to us. These thoughts are not direct revelations from God. They are our own thoughts, but I believe our awareness of his being with us, along with the prompting of his grace, has something to do with it.
Our thoughts need not be “holy” thoughts. Like if you are thinking about what John wrote about the Word of God, namely, that all things came to be through him, you can let your thoughts wander to what he might have had to do with designing DNA.
It isn’t right for us to construct theories that go against what the sacred writer was trying to convey. To avoid that fault it is worthwhile for us to study what reliable scholars tell us about passages.
Always in such reveries we should use every chance to speak directly to God.
Tuesday 04/06/10 Readings Posted 04/05/10 4:49pm
The amazing thing in the first reading today is the number of people whom Peter and the others baptized on Pentecost. It was three thousand!
How might they have gone about it? All we have to go on is the earliest written church records, and they come with the claim that it was that way with the Apostles from the beginning.
It was like a Baptist baptism. The person to be baptized would go down into a pool that he or she would see as representing the tomb of Jesus. The important thing was what went on in the heart and mind of the ones to be baptized. They would be telling themselves that the meaningful death of Jesus was not his physical death, but his death to sin. Going down into the pool the people would be saying, “By going into the tomb with Jesus I signify it is my firm intention to die to sin with him.
Monday 04/05/10 Readings Posted 04/04/10 8:45pm
There is nothing that priests enjoy so much as their old jokes. They tell them over and over. For centuries the Gospel for Easter Monday was the story of the two disciples who left Jerusalem on Easter afternoon, headed for the village of Emmaus.
Priests, after a busy Holy Week always left the rectory on the day after Easter. They were most often going golfing, but the housekeeper was instructed to inform anyone who asked that the priests, “had gone to Emmaus.”
But the Church ruined our fun forty years ago by switching Gospels, giving us instead the story of the two women going to the tomb. Well, anyway, it’s hard finding a priest on the day after Easter.
Easter Sunday 04/04/10 Readings Posted 04/03/10 5:20pm
The manner of Our Lord’s rising from the dead will always be a mystery, but the Bible opens some understanding for us by picturing the miracle as coming about by Jesus in death receiving the fullness of the Spirit of God.
In his lifetime Jesus was led by the Spirit but the Spirit was never his to impart to others. That lack was demonstrated at the close of Chapter Six of John’s Gospel when he was unable to move the hundreds of his followers who left when he told them he was the Bread come down from heaven. The twelve stayed with him only because they had no better place to go. There are two short Bible passages that tell how this changed.
First we look at Revelations, 5:12 where the angels and saints are in awe of him as they look down on the dead Jesus. They say, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing.”
Next we look at The Acts of the Apostles, 2:33 where Peter on Pentecost looks to what happened to Jesus as an explanation for him and the other apostles receiving the Spirit. Speaking of Jesus Peter says, “Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father and poured it forth, as you both see and hear.”
I hope it is not irreverent of me, but I see the Lamb’s use of the Holy Spirit as the jet fuel that set him soaring from the tomb.
Because this is a special day please put up with my telling an old Korean story that always comes to mind for me on Easter.
Fifty years ago my town of Yang Yang had not recovered from the war, and we were undergoing an endless winter that left many of the old folk dead. The price of rice was five times what it had been in September, and the charcoal bricks we were burning were more clay than coal. They could lift the temperature up from zero to just above freezing. There was a ten year old schoolboy who liked climbing over our hill on the way to school, and I often noted him when I came out from Mass.
One morning the little boy stopped at the edge of our hill, then hunkered down for a minuet. When the mailman an hour later bent down at the same spot I went out and looked over his shoulder. He had one finger on a small green nub that was like the tip of an asparagus shoot. I asked him what is was, and he said it was a paik wha gott. I went in and looked it up, and it was a lily. The boy and the mailman and others that day were not taken just by that one lily. They were thrilled at the certain prospect of all nature coming back to life.
Saturday 04/03/10 Readings Posted 04/03/10 5:50am
Holy Saturday is the Church’s day for Baptisms: not other people’s, but our own. Today we are meant to consider our Baptismal obligation. For that we should think back on Holy Saturday’s original link to Baptism. In the first century Holy Saturday was the only day in the year when Baptism was administered.
We are fully aware of the death of Jesus on Good Friday, and of his resurrection on Easter, but we should give more thought to Holy Saturday as the day on which Jesus lay in the tomb. The first Christians did that. They honored him as the one and only complete victor over selfishness. He had completely put to death all his sinful urges. As St. Paul put it: “His death was a death to sin.”
For Holy Saturday the first Christians dug a tank, filling it with water. In their imaginations they saw it as the tomb of Jesus. As each person to be baptized stepped down into the pool he or she swore to join Jesus in dying to sin.
Many of us were baptized as infants who were unaware of the pledge to die to sin that was at the heart of the ceremony. However, unless we now wish to revoke our baptisms, we are bound to live up to its pledge to put sinfulness out of our lives.
In the Mass on Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday the usual Profession of Faith is replaced by our sincere repetition of our Baptismal promises.
Good Friday 04/02/10 Readings Posted 04/03/10 5:50am
We say that Jesus made up for our sins on Good Friday, but how did he do that? One way of looking at it is to see billions of us on billions of occasions overlooking God’s will and the needs of others, and going ahead to suit ourselves. All that selfishness can be viewed as one great wave of sin sweeping across the seas. Now, in his suffering and death Jesus acted with such generosity that it became a tsunami of selflessness that pushed back our great wave of evil.
The whole life of Jesus was a conquering of his selfishness, but there was a moment when he dealt it its fatal blow. That came in the Garden of Olives. He had said, “Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from me.” But then he succeeded in his final effort to abandon self interest. He brought himself to say, “Father, not my will but thine be done” and in saying that his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.
It is Luke’s Gospel that illustrates the complete victory over self. That victory enabled Jesus to feel for the women of Jerusalem and their children. He was so free of self pity that he was moved to say, “Weep not for me but for yourselves and for your children.”
No other human has equaled the victory over self that he showed when the rude soldiers were driving in the spikes, and he felt like he had to say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Thursday 04/01/10 Readings Posted 04/03/10 5:50am
The Apostles had several expectations when they came together on Holy Thursday evening. First, they were expecting they would celebrate their people’s old covenant. Secondly they would be celebrating the ancient passing over into the Promised Land. Another thing they expected was that servants would be there to wash the dust off their feet.
It turned out that they were wrong about all their expectations. There were no servants there for the feet washing, (It would be a loss of dignity for any of them to wash feet. With most of the Apostles married, their wives would complain of the shame.) Jesus took care of that third expectation by getting down, and washing the dust off their feet. He said he was leaving them an example that he hoped they understood. He then reversed their second expectation by turning the Passover dinner into the prelude to his own Passover. He reversed their first expectation by establishing the New Covenant in his blood.