Each of us travels down familiar roads
every day of our lives. We see familiar sights. And sometimes the very
familiarity of the sights we see every day blinds us to their nuances. There are
things to do and deadlines to meet. The paths we trod become means to various
ends. Indeed, the very routine of life may cause us to curse the paths that make
possible the completion of the responsibilities of our freely chosen states in life.
Holy Week sees us walk down the same
path year after year. We commemorate the same events we commemorated the
year before and the year before that. Its very familiarity can cause us to
think that there is little need to do any more meditation one year than we did
the year before. In reality, however, the very opposite is true: the older we get,
the more we realize how much we have missed on our annual journey down the
Via Dolorosa. For we can never exhaust the depths of the treasures found on
the path our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ took to reconcile us to the Father in
Spirit and in Truth on the wood of the Holy Cross.
I ask you to join with me as we prepare to
walk down the path of Holy Week in the year 2001, the first year of the Third
Our Lord told the Samaritan woman at
Jacobs Well that He wanted to drink of her faith. Our Lord wants to
drink of our faith. He thirsted for souls on the wood of the Holy Cross, and He
thirsts for the deepening of our lives of faith as the holy season of Lent draws to
its crescendo during its final two weeks: Passion Week and Holy Week (which
are two distinctive weeks in the Traditional calendar). No matter how dilatory
we may have been in our Lenten observances prior to that time, we have an
opportunity to use the final two weeks of Lent to withdraw ourselves more and
more from the world, focusing our attention on why our Lord became Incarnate
in our Ladys virginal and immaculate womb: to pay back to the Father in
His own Sacred Humanity the blood debt of our own sins.
Thirst is a very important Biblical image.
The Jews thirsted for water as they made their forty-year journey in the desert.
Indeed, they grumbled against God and Moses at Meribah and Massah,
causing Moses to lose his patience and blaze with anger against the people he
had been charged with leading from their enslavement to the Pharaoh to the
Promised Land (itself symbolic of the enslavement of mankind to the Devil prior
to our Lords New and Eternal Passover effected by the shedding of His
Most Precious Blood on the wood of the Holy Cross). The Chosen People
thirsted for water to satisfy a need for one of lifes basic necessities. What
they did not understand, obviously, was that God thirsted for their faith in Him,
Who had freed them from their cruel slavery at the hands of the Egyptians, just
as God thirsts for our faith in Him today through His true Church.
When you think about it, however, only a
handful of the Chosen People were ever given to see things clearly during the
course of their Exodus, settlement in the Promised Land of Canaan, the rise of
the era of Kings (and the rise of the Davidic line), the division between the
northern and southern kingdoms, the Babylonian Captivity, their rescue by
Cyrus, king of Persia, and their resettlement in Palestine prior to the Assyrian
invasion and Roman conquest. Time after time after time, the Old Testament
tells us that the Chosen People had to be reminded by the minor and major
Prophets (Amos, Hosea, Nathan, Gad, Nahum, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel) that
God was going to save them from their sins.
Isaiahs Suffering Servant songs,
which begin at Chapter 51, foretell the exact way in which liberation from
enslavement to sin would occur. An innocent lamb would be sent to the
slaughter, opening not his mouth. By his stripes we would be healed. He would
be thought of as afflicted, as one smitten by the people, one in whom there was
no stately bearing. The people did not understand. They went about their
secular business, not too differently from how many contemporary Catholics go
about their secular business today, giving the true Faith next to no thought as
they do so. And Ezekiel was the instrument God chose to foretell the
Resurrection: Behold I will open your graves, and will bring you out of
your sepulchres. (37:12) I will take away the stony heart out of
your flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh. (36:26)
The eyes of most of the Chosen People in
the period prior to our Lords Incarnation in our Ladys virginal
and immaculate womb were closed to teach us a very pointed lesson: faith is a
gift that must be cultivated, a gift we must thirst for with every beat of our
hearts. Those who do not thirst for an increase in their level of faith
their level of trust in the Blessed Trinity as He has revealed Himself through His
true Church will have their faith atrophy and be replaced by a
disordered trust in ones own self or the things, people, places, ideas, and
allurements of this passing world. The Jews of the Old Testament, at least, had
an excuse for their blindness in that their souls were still captive to the Devil by
means of Original Sin. We have no such excuse, have we?
Indeed, those of us who are baptized
Catholics have been given true spiritual sight through no merits of our own.
Each one of our sins, however, can blind us more and more to the extent that we
must thirst for an increase in faith, an increase in hope, and an increase in
charity. Each one of our sins can lead us away from the Divine Lover who
greets us with unsurpassed love in every tabernacle in every Catholic Church in
the world, His Real Presence being signified by a red lamp, itself indicative of
the ardor of His love for us. Our sins, though oh, how our sins can make
us as blind as the Jews who lived at the time of our Lords Passion and
Death. Indeed, it was our sins (having transcended time) that helped keep most
of the Chosen People from seeing the truth that Truth Himself had been made
flesh and had come to Earth to pay back in His own Sacred Humanity the blood
debt of their own (and our own) sins.
Thus, we must truly thirst to look at the
events of Holy Week with renewed faith, hope, and love. We must not trudge
our way through the end of a six-week period of prayer, fasting, alms-giving,
and mortification. We must enter deep into the mysteries contained within the
week during which time the new Adam canceled out the sin of the old Adam,
stretching out His arms on the wood of the Holy Cross to embrace the whole of
humanity for all eternity to lift it up on the vertical beam to the Father in Spirit
and in Truth. Holy Week is a summary of the life story of each person. And we
must thirst to see our life story contained in all of its events.
There are times we welcome the Lord
with joy, just as the crowd welcomed Him with joy on Palm Sunday, shortly
after Jesus of Nazareth had raised His friend Lazarus from the dead. It is so
very easy to welcome the miracle worker, so very difficult to stand by the foot of
the Cross and be known as a friend and disciple of One hated and reviled by all
of our friends. Yes, it is easy to praise the Name of the Lord. It is so much more
difficult to embrace His Cross, accept His Holy Truths in a spirit of humility and
docility, and unite ourselves fully to the Cross as the only means by which we
can help repair the damage we have done to our own spiritual sight by our sins.
There are times when we are Judas
Iscariot. There are times when we take the thirty pieces of silver
sometimes quite literally to betray our Lord and to satisfy some longing
of ours (illicit pleasure, job security, family peace, financial advancement,
human respect). We just turn away, placing our trust in the things of this world
politics, political ideologies, politicians and their programs, our own
ingenuity and supposed cleverness, technology to resolve the problems
that are remediable only by means of the cooperation of individual souls with
the graces won for them on the wood of the Holy Cross by the Theandric
Person, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
There are times when we want to stay in
the Upper Room in Jerusalem, soaking in the words of our Lords last
discourse in which He pointedly told us we would be hated by all on
account of Him and His Holy Name marveling at the wonder of how
the simple elements of the earth can be transformed into the Body, Blood, Soul,
and Divinity of the God-Man, Who promised that He would give us the True
Manna come down from Heaven Which is His own Flesh and His own Blood.
And then there are the times we want to flee from that Upper Room, preferring
to hunger and to thirst for the food and drink of this world, treating those who
serve us our sumptuous meals far better than we treat the priests (spiritual
descendants of those ordained at the Last Supper) who make possible for us the
nourishment of our souls with the Bread of Life and the Cup of Eternal
There are times when we are very much
with our Lord in his Agony in the Garden of Gethsemani. There are times when
we do indeed meditate upon the fact that He suffered His Agony in the Garden
because He feared in His Sacred Humanity coming into contact with the very
antithesis of His Sacred Divinity: sin. However, there are the times when we
are very much like Peter, James, and John, each of whom fell fast asleep as the
Master sweated droplets of His Most Precious Blood, seeing each of the sins of
every human being who had lived on Earth before Him, had lived during His
life, and would live until the end of time. Indeed, most of the time we are fast
asleep when we should be vigilant and alert in prayer before the Blessed
There are times when we want to flee
from our Lord, just as all but one of the Apostles did. We do not want to profess
His Holy Name publicly. We do not want to work for the establishment of His
Social Kingship and restore the primacy of the See of Peter as the ultimate
arbiter on matters of faith and morals and on matters of fundamental
justice. We just want to keep our mouth shut and keep out of trouble, just as the
Apostles left our Lord to be manhandled by the Sanhedrin prior to the night He
spent in prison, alone and abandoned.
Most of all, though, we live our lives in
the crowd. For the same crowd that cried out Hosanna! Hosanna!
Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord on Palm Sunday called
out for our Lords Crucifixion just five days later. We human beings are
pretty fickle. So quick to condemn, so slow to forgive, especially when it comes
to our own family members and friends. Some grudge, real or imagined, causes
us to denounce and reject a family member or friend, a fellow human being
made in the image and likeness of the Triune God and redeemed by the
God-Man on the heights of Golgotha. Whatsoever you do to the least of
My brethren, that you do unto Me. How slow we are to see Him in the
people are who closest to us.
In His ineffable mercy, however, God
always wants to draw us close to Him. While it is true that our sins placed us the
wrong side of the Cross on Good Friday, our Lord has given us a chance to
present with Him every day of our lives (except for Good Friday and Holy
Saturday) as His one sacrifice to the Father in Spirit and in Truth is
re-presented in an unbloody manner on an altar of Sacrifice in Holy Mass.
Every Mass we hear affords us the opportunity to meditate upon the sufferings
our Lord endured in order to fulfill the Fathers will that we might be
reconciled to Him through the shedding of the Blood of the true Passover Lamb.
Our Lord thirsted for souls not only on
Good Friday. He thirsts for souls yet. He thirsts for souls to be present at Holy
Mass in a spirit of recollection and silence. He thirsts for souls to pray and to
work for the restoration of the liturgy in the Latin rite that more perfectly and
more beautifully conveys the sacredness of the events in which our redemption
was wrought for us by Him. He thirsts for souls to meditate upon how He
redeemed every single suffering of our lives through the suffering our sins
imposed upon Him in His Sacred Humanity. There is nothing any of us can
endure (no bodily pain, no terminal disease, no rejection, no failure, no loss of
material goods) that is the equal of what one of our venial sins caused Him to
suffer in His Passion and Death. He thirsts for us to realize that, interiorize it,
and live it out more fully with every beat of our hearts, consecrated as they must
be to the Immaculate Heart of His Most Blessed Mother and to His own Most
Sacred Heart. And He thirsts for us to be the administrators of the Divine
Mercy He extended to us so freely as He made excuses for His executioners
(namely, us): Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are
doing. He thirsts for us to do the same.
Our Lord also thirsts for us to be totally
consecrated to His Mother, who stood so valiantly by the foot of the Cross as
she watched the fruit of her virginal and immaculate womb suffer the ravages
our sins imposed upon Him. Our Lord thirsts for us to go to Him through His
Mother, just as He came into the world through her to effect our redemption.
We cannot possibly understand the sorrows and the triumph of Holy Week if we
are not totally consecrated to our Lady, placing ourselves completely under her
maternal protection as we endeavor to cooperate with the graces won for us by
her Divine Son as He re-created us on the wood of the Holy Cross. She was
present at the foot of the Cross. She is present during every celebration of Holy
Mass. She prays for us to thirst for the things of eternity, to thirst for the
salvation of our souls, to thirst to grow in sanctity, and to thirst to be known
proudly as the children she gave spiritual birth to in great pain and sorrow.
The Chosen People thirsted for water but
died nevertheless. The Samaritan woman was told she would be given water
and never be thirsty again. We know that our Lord has given us the Church,
conceived out of the elements of Blood and Water that poured forth from His
Wounded Side, to be the means by which our thirst for the truths of the Faith
are always quenched. The Holy Ghost, Who is the Vivifier (the Lifegiver), means
to thirst for a greater love of the Cross, being ever ready to embrace It, ever
ready to see on It the One Who has liberated us from the power of sin and death
and to see beneath It the woman who wants us to rely upon her
maternal intercession to thirst each day for a greater love for her Son through
her as sons and daughters of the true Church.
O death, where is thy victory?
Death, where is Thy sting? Our Lords death on the Holy Cross,
which seemed to the world His ultimate failure, is the means of our passageway
to eternal life. It is also the means by which we come to know who we are
and how we are to treat all others in a spirit of mercy and true love for
the welfare of their immortal souls.
I will save a reflection on the
Resurrection for Holy Week. This reflection is aimed at providing some food for
thought as we walk through the final weeks of Lent into Holy Week, being
prepared to thirst to make it the best Holy Week of our lives.