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Holy Week - Reflections

April 22-27: April 22 Monday: Mt 28: 8-15: 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Hail!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” 11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “Tell people, `His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed; and this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.
The context: Today’s Gospel describes how the two Marys who had been at the foot of the cross – Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” – went to the tomb of Jesus early on Sunday morning. They were shocked at seeing an open tomb without Jesus’ body in it. As they ran back with fear and joy to report the news to the apostles, the risen Jesus greeted them and told them to inform the apostles that he would meet them in Galilee. The guards, too, went to the chief priests to report the Resurrection of Jesus. But they were promptly silenced by the Temple authorities who bribed them to spread the false news that Jesus’ body had been stolen by his disciples.
Life messages: 1) The Resurrection of Christ is the most sublime and foundational truth of our Faith. It is the presence of the risen Lord everywhere that gives meaning to our worship and prayers because Jesus is present everywhere to hear our prayers and grant our petitions.
2) In particular, the Risen Lord is present in the Holy Eucharist, in the Bible, in the praying assembly and in believing Christians, so we need never be out of contact with him.
3) Let us renew this fundamental belief of our Faith every day and recognize and serve the risen Christ in everyone around us. (Fr. Tony) L/19
April 23 Tuesday (St. George; Patronal feast of Pope Francis): Jn 20: 11-18: 11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my  Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” 18 Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
 The context: Today’s Gospel presents the great recognition scene in the New Testament when Mary Magdalene, at the tomb early in the morning, was not able to recognize the risen Jesus until Jesus called her by name. Gradual recognition, or misunderstanding, as a stage on the path to belief and understanding, frequently occurs in the narratives of John’s Gospel. [See, for example, the conversations Jesus had with Nicodemus (ch. 3), and the Samaritan woman (ch. 4).]  In today’s passage, we find it once again: Mary thought at first that Jesus was the gardener.
Mary Magdalene failed to recognize Jesus because of her false assumption that his body had been stolen. Her attention was concentrated on the empty tomb. Her tears of intense grief could also have blurred her vision. Once Mary had recognized Jesus, he gave her a message to be conveyed to his apostles about his plan to leave them and ascend to his Father. Mary’s message to Jesus’ disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” became the basis and essence of later preaching and Christians’ witness-bearing. St Thomas Aquinas said that one old lady (una vetera), might have more Faith than a host of learned theologians.
Life messages: 1) We can be open to experience the presence of the risen Lord in our lives through our prayer, our Sacramental life and our meditative reading of the Bible. These all enable us to bear witness to the risen Lord in our daily lives.
2) It is our powerful conviction of the Real Presence of the risen Lord, both in the Eucharist and in our lives, which gives us the strength to fight temptations and to serve our brothers and sisters in corporal and spiritual works of mercy. (Fr. Tony) L/19
April 24 Wednesday: Luke 24:13-35: 13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God  and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning 23 and did not find his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.  28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, 29 but they constrained him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, 34 who said, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
  The context: The Emmaus episode, which is found only in Luke’s Gospel, describes how Jesus shared the sorrow and frustration of the disciples at the sad and shameful death of their Master. Their hopes of Jesus’ conquest of the Romans and of his establishment of the glorious Davidic kingdom with his Divine power had been shattered. The risen Lord joined them as they walked along. He explained the Scriptures and reminded them of the prophecies about the Messiah’s death and Resurrection in order to show them how the events that had happened were the fulfillment of Messianic prophecies. But it was only when Jesus blessed and broke the bread and gave it to them, that they recognized Jesus, who promptly vanished from their sight. The phrase, “the Breaking of the Bread”, is used repeatedly in the Acts of the Apostles (also written by Luke), to refer to the ritual meal of the Christian community, the Eucharist (Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7; 27:35).  Disciples in every century have continued to recognize him in “the Breaking of the Bread.”
Life messages: 1) The risen Lord is with us in both the joyful and the sad moments of our lives. Too often, we have our hopes and dreams shattered by the untimely deaths of our dear ones, by a split in family relationships, by the worsening of our illnesses or by the loss of jobs. On such occasions, we have to learn to experience the risen Lord’s consoling and supporting presence in our lives.
2) As the disciples met the risen Lord on their way to Emmaus, we too must recognize and appreciate his presence in the Holy Eucharist, in the Word of God and in the praying community, at home and in our Churches. Jesus is still beside his followers. Often, he is only dimly recognized and only by few.  “You were with me,” wrote St. Augustine some centuries later, “but I was not with You” (Confessions, X, 27).  Let us learn to talk to Jesus whenever we are alone and listen to him when we read the Bible or hear it preached or explained. (Fr. Tony) L/19
April 25 Thursday (ST. Mark): Lk 24: 35-48: 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. 36 As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them. 37 But they were startled and frightened and supposed that they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them. 44 Then he said to them, “These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.
The context: Today’s Gospel passage describes the first post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus to the apostles while they were listening to the first-hand account of his appearance by the two disciples who had gone to Emmaus and had met Jesus on the way. This apparition is reported by both Luke and John.
The apostles could not believe that their Risen Lord was before them. Hence, Jesus had to show them the marks of the wounds in his hands and feet in proof. He also asked for a piece of broiled fish and ate it before them. Thus, Jesus confirmed his apostles’ Faith in his Resurrection by giving them these two proofs and inviting them to touch him. Then Jesus explained to them that all that had happened during the past week had been done to fulfill the Messianic prophecies given in the Torah, by the Prophets and in the Psalms.  His suffering, death and Resurrection took place exactly as they had been prophesied. (Throughout his account, St. Matthew cites the Old Testament prophecies that have been fulfilled in Christ, because the Evangelist’s immediate readers were Jews, who needed and would accept these fulfillments as proofs that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah). The next unfolding of Jesus’ mission was to be the preaching of repentance and the forgiveness of sins. That would be begun by the apostles; it would be carried on and finally brought to completion by the Church before Jesus’ Second Coming and Final Judgment of the living and the dead. 
Life messages: 1) We, too, are called to bear witness for all around us to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, just as the first apostles were commissioned by Jesus to bring the Good News of salvation to all the nations.
2) What is essential for the success of our preaching and witnessing mission is our firm and lively awareness of the presence and support of the Risen Lord in our lives.  (Fr. Tony) L/19
April 26 Friday: disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing. 4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it  in, for the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his clothes, for he  was stripped for work, and sprang into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. 9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and although there were so  many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
The context: Today’s Gospel story is about our risen Lord’s persistent search for the apostles, even when they had gone back to their fishing profession, trying, perhaps, to forget the disastrous events leading to the crucifixion of their Master.  John presents this incident as the third of Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances.  The incident proves that Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances were not mere hallucinations.  In the first part of today’s Gospel, the risen Jesus appears to the apostles and gives them a symbol of their mission in a miraculous catch of fish, followed by a grilled fish breakfast which Jesus had prepared for them. The second part is a dialogue between Jesus and Simon where Simon is asked three times whether he loves Jesus and answers that he does, as if in reparation for his triple denial of Jesus.  As his primary mission, Peter is given the care of the vulnerable lambs and sheep, and he is told that fidelity to this mission will lead him to martyrdom.
Life messages: We need to open our eyes, ears and hearts wide to see, hear and experience the risen Lord coming into our lives in various forms, circumstances and events. These include: 1) The risen Lord blessing us with success and achievements:  We often fail to acknowledge the presence of the risen Lord behind our unexpected successes, great achievements, promotions at work, miraculous healings, and success in relationships. But the risen Lord is right there at our parties, celebrations and occasions of rejoicing. 2) The risen Lord is present in our pains and suffering: Acts 9:1-13 tells us how the risen Lord transformed the life of Saul by flattening him on the Damascus road and making him temporarily blind so that he would come to see that Jesus was the Christ and the Son of God and believe.  The same Jesus often visits us in the form of accidents, illnesses, the loss of dear ones, pain and suffering, and problems in relationships. 3) The risen Lord visits us through our friends and well-wishers: He is present in those who visit us and encourage us in our sad and desperate moments.  The risen Lord visits us in the form of unexpected help from the least expected persons in our dire needs 4) The risen Lord is present in our Christian worship: Jesus is present on our altars during the Holy Mass to share his Divine life with us, in the words of the Holy Scripture, in the Sacraments and wherever two or three are gathered in his name (Matthew 18:20).  (Fr. Tony) L/19
April 27 Saturday: Mk 16: 9-15: 9 Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. 12 After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. 13 And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. 14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they sat at table; and he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because  they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.
The context: Today’s Gospel mentions the three appearances of the risen Lord and Jesus’ entrusting to the apostles their mission to preach his Good News. According to Mark, Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene. But Jesus’ apostles did not believe her. Later, he appeared to two disciples during their trip to Emmaus. When they had returned to Jerusalem and while they were explaining their experience, Jesus appeared to the eleven apostles gathered there. After gently chiding them for their unbelief and hard-heartedness, Jesus gave them his preaching mission or the “universal Apostolic mandate.”
Life messages:  1) The preaching and witnessing mission of Jesus applies especially to the successors of the Twelve Apostles, namely, the Bishops in communion with Peter’s successor, the Pope. 2) However, Vatican II declared in the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity (Apostolicum Actuositatem), that the whole “Church was founded to spread the Kingdom of Christ over all the earth for the glory of God the Father, to make all men partakers in Redemption and Salvation” (AA, 2).  “On all Christians, accordingly, rests the noble obligation of working to bring all men throughout the whole world to hear and accept the Divine message of salvation” (AA, 3). (Fr. Tony) L/19