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May 17, 2018


PentecostThe Feast of Pentecost. Pentecost is a solemnity, the highest ranking liturgical feast, and it celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. It serves as the grand and glorious conclusion to the fifty-day Easter Season, seven continuous weeks that celebrate the greatest mystery of the Christian faith, the Resurrection. It brings the Paschal Mystery to completion.

Special Liturgical Features. The vestments are red which symbolize the Holy Spirit. There are two special Masses for Pentecost, a vigil Mass for Saturday evening and the Mass during the day for Sunday. A sprinkling rite is optional. There is a Sequence between the second reading and the gospel which may be sung or proclaimed. Infant baptisms are highly appropriate within the celebration of the Mass. There is a special solemn blessing for the dismissal that ends with a double Alleluia. The Easter Season is finished at the conclusion of Evening Prayer or Vespers at which time the Easter Candle is removed from the sanctuary and taken to its regular place, usually near the Baptismal font. If Evening Prayer is not celebrated, the Easter Candle usually is moved after the last Mass.

A Magnificent Moment. Pentecost recalls how the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles in the form of a strong driving wind and tongues as of fire which parted and came to rest on each of them. Immediately they were filled with the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:1-4). It was an outpouring of the Spirit on each apostle individually and the Church collectively. The Spirit imbued the apostles with great love, led them to the truth, set their faith ablaze, and filled them with great zeal. This immeasurable grace was the birth of the Church. Through the Spirit the Church is sanctified or made holy, and by the power of the Spirit each person is united to Christ and the peoples of every nation, race, and language are unified in the profession of one faith. The annual celebration of this feast makes the graces first bestowed upon the apostles available to every believer in every subsequent generation.

C+ Apostles in Need of Improvement. The apostles were average performers at best and they needed to make major upgrades. Jesus spent countless hours with them. He gave them his warm friendship and personalized instruction, invited them to be his companions and performed amazing miracles before them. In spite of this, the apostles were terrified during the storm at sea, failed to understand the parables, were unable to expel some demons, fought among themselves over who was most important, and abandoned and betrayed their Master. They were unable to comprehend who Jesus was or what he expected of them. Even after the Resurrection they remained bewildered, isolated, afraid, and silent.

The Transformative Moment. On Pentecost the Holy Spirit galvanized the apostles’ faith. It was a metamorphosis of epic proportions. The apostles emerged from the cocoon of the Upper Room completely remade. They were on fire with love for Jesus! Once fearful, they became bold and courageous. Once silent, they became assertive and outspoken. Once cautious, they took tremendous risks. Once followers, they became leaders. Once weak, they performed great and mighty deeds in Jesus’ name. Once concerned with safeguarding their own lives, they became willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of Jesus and the gospel.

Catch the Spirit! The Holy Spirit that transformed the apostles on the first Pentecost has the power to transform each of us. The Spirit outpoured on the first apostles is also outpoured on us in the celebration of Pentecost, the sacraments, prayer, and multiple other ways. Pentecost is an invitation to be bold! Catch fire! Shed inhibitions! Love! Forgive! Share! Serve! Speak the truth! Do great and mighty deeds! Make the name of Jesus known and loved!

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Mothers of the Gospels

May 11, 2018


Mother’s Day is an ideal time to reflect upon mothers in the gospels who are spiritual role models for the mothers of today. The two mothers who receive the most attention are Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, but there are a number of other mothers who are mentioned briefly that deserve consideration.

Peter’s mother-in-law. She was the mother of Peter’s wife, and when Jesus began his Galilean ministry, she lived with Peter and Andrew in their home in Capernaum. She became sick with a terrible fever. Jesus cured her, and she immediately waited on them (Mt 8:14-16; Mk 1:29-31; Lk 4:38-39). Her healing was for a purpose, so she could be of service to others. She imitated Jesus who came “not to be served, but to serve” (Mt 20:28). Christian mothers give generous and selfless service.

The mother of Zebedee’s sons. She was the mother of James and John. Her husband and sons were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. Her efforts to help her sons gain a firm foundation in their Jewish faith may have contributed to the fact that they were the third and fourth disciples called by Jesus. She paid Jesus homage (Mt 20:20) which indicated her faith in him. Then she asked if her sons could sit on the right and left of Jesus in his kingdom (Mt 20:21) which indicated her love and concern for her sons. She followed Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem in order to minister to him (Mt 27:55), and she served in partnership with Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph (Mt 27:56). She was at Golgotha and watched the death of Jesus on the Cross from a distance. Christian mothers have faith in Jesus, give him their utmost respect, want the best for their children, follow Jesus with love and devotion, associate with other Christian women, and go to great lengths to serve Jesus.

Mary, the mother of James and Joseph. She was the mother of the younger James, the son of Alphaeus (Mt 10:3; Lk 6:15; Acts 1:13), one of the twelve apostles, and Joseph who is also called Joses (Mk 15:40,47). She was one of the women who accompanied Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem to serve him, and she watched the crucifixion from afar (Mt 27:55-56). She and Mary Magdalene watched where Jesus was laid (Mk 15:47). She is also “the other Mary” who kept vigil outside Jesus’ tomb (Mt 27:61). After the Sabbath she and Mary Magdalene (Mt 28:1), Salome (Mk 16:1), and Joanna (Lk 24:10), brought spices to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. She listened to the angel and ran back to the disciples to announce the Resurrection (Mt 28:5-8). The apostles fled out of fear, while Mary faithfully remained with Jesus out of her deep love for him. Christian mothers stay close to Jesus at all times and are steadfast in their love for him, and form partnerships with other good women and do good works together.

The widow of Nain. Her husband had died, and then her only son died (Lk 17:12). His body was being carried to its final resting place and she was weeping. Jesus had taught, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Mt 5:4), and Jesus comforted the grief-stricken mother by raising her son from the dead and by returning him to her (Lk 7:14-15). Christian mothers love their children every moment of their child’s life, and if a child should die, the mother grieves over the loss, persists in her love, and provides a respectful burial. Christian mothers also have great compassion on other mothers who have suffered a death in their family and make a conscious effort to offer consolation and assistance.

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Mothers who are Saints

May 11, 2018


Mothers’ Day is a beautiful occasion to give tribute to mothers, each person’s own mother, for all of the love she has shared, and all mothers, for all they contribute to the wellbeing of the family and society. It is a day set aside to give special praise and thanks to those mothers who are alive and to honor the memory of those who have passed away. Spiritually, it is an opportunity to highlight mothers who are saints, because their good and holy lives can serve as an inspiration to the mothers of today.

Saints Perpetua and Felicity (180-203) are two great mothers of the Early Church. They lived in Carthage, a city in North Africa. Both were catechumens, baptized, and then arrested for their Christian faith. Perpetua gave birth to a son while under house arrest, and Felicity, her servant, gave birth to a daughter in prison. Aware of their impending deaths, they entrusted their children to other Christians so they would be raised in the faith. They were martyred on March 7, 203, both heroic witnesses to their children.

Sts. Constantine and Helena

St. Helena (255-330). She was the mother of Constantine, a Roman general who eventually became the Roman emperor. She converted to Christianity in 318 at the age of 63, and made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land c. 320. She discovered the True Cross, and with the authorization of her son, who by then was a catechumen, had the Temple to Venus over Calvary demolished, and shrines were built to honor Jesus’ death and Resurrection. Churches were also built on the Mount of Olives to honor the Ascension and in Bethlehem to honor the Nativity. As a mother, she had a strong spiritual influence on her son, both in the construction of churches and in his baptism which he accepted shortly before his death.

St. Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373). She was the mother of eight children, four boys and four girls. She dutifully raised her children as Christians, but she suffered bitter disappointments because her oldest daughter married a bad husband and her youngest son died in 1340. She served in the court of King Magnus II and Queen Blanche, and she tried to exert a positive spiritual influence upon them. She founded religious institutes for women and men, called for an end to the Avignon Papacy, and moved to Rome to minister to the sick and poor. She made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1371 and took three of her children with her, her sons Charles and Birger, and her daughter Catherine who was later named a saint. She had many visions and is famous for the way that she challenged sinners to reform their lives.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton (1774-1821). She was born in New York City, married at the age of 19, and was the mother of five children. Her husband William became sick with tuberculosis, the she moved the family to Pisa, Italy, for a warmer climate and to get help from his family, but he died six weeks later. Elizabeth was Episcopalian, and she stayed with William’s Catholic family in Italy and prayed with them every day in their family chapel. She decided to convert, and did so upon their return to New York. She attended daily Mass and prayed the Memorare, and she taught her children the importance of prayer. She was also a strong believer in the value of education, and she provided for the education of her own children. She opened a boarding school in New York, and later moved to Maryland with her family in 1808, established a school, and founded a community of religious sisters to teach and serve the poor, and later founded other schools and orphanages in Philadelphia and New York.

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St. Philip, apostle

May 4, 2018


St. PhilipSt. Philip is one of the original twelve apostles, and his name is included on four lists, three in the gospels (Mt 10:3; Mk 3:18; and Lk 6:14), and one in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:13). He is sometimes paired with other apostles: with St. Bartholomew (Mt 10:3) and St. Thomas (Acts 1:13) on the lists, with Andrew when he approached Jesus on behalf of some Greeks (Jn 12:22), and he shares a feast day with St. James the Less on May 3. The name Philip is derived from the Greek word philippos which means “lover of horses.”

Philip came from Bethsaida (Jn 1:44; 12:21), a fishing village on the north side of the Sea of Galilee, the same town as Andrew and Peter. He may have been a disciple of John the Baptist at first. Jesus personally invited Philip, “Follow me” (Jn 1:43), and he immediately became his follower. Then Philip went and found Nathanael, called him (Jn 1:48), and suggested that he go to see Jesus. Philip made a powerful profession of faith in Jesus when he declared: “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth” (Jn 1:45).

Jesus and Philip spoke briefly before the multiplication of the five loaves and two fish. To demonstrate the enormity of the miracle to come, Jesus asked Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” (Jn 6:5), and Philip replied, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little” (Jn 6:7).

On another occasion a number of Hellenes, Greek speaking Jews, had come to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. They approached Philip, possibly because he was the apostle who was most fluent in Greek, and made the request, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus” (Jn 12:21). “Philp went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus” (Jn 12:22).

At the Last Supper Philip asked Jesus, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us” (Jn 14:8). Jesus explained, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).

Philip is listed among the apostles who were in the Upper Room on Pentecost and received the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:13; 2:1-4). Church historians believe that Philip made a missionary journey to Phrygia, an area in west-central Asia Minor or Turkey, and possibly to Greece. There are differing accounts of his martyrdom. One tradition holds that he was stoned to death in Phrygia, while another holds that he was killed in Hierapolis, a prominent city in southwestern Asia Minor, under the persecution of Domitian, either crucified, possibly upside down, or thrust through with a lance. His remains were eventually transferred to Rome where he was entombed in the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles.

Philip the apostle is not to be confused with Philip the deacon (Acts 6:5) who preached in Samaria (Acts 8:4-8) and had a dramatic encounter with an Ethiopian (Acts 8:26-40).

St. Philip is the patron saint of Luxembourg and Uruguay. His symbols are a walking stick, a book or scroll, loaves of bread, a budded cross, a spear or lance, and a pile of stones.

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The Effects of the Gift of the Holy Spirit at Confirmation

April 27, 2018


Confirmation imparts the gift of the Holy Spirit. The person who receives this sacrament has already received the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Baptism, and the Holy Spirit abides with a person always. The Holy Spirit comes when a person prays or reads Scripture, or when a person asks the Holy Spirit for guidance, inspiration, or courage. Confirmation is not the new arrival of the Holy Spirit, but rather an intensification of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit enlightens the mind and impassions the heart. It gives increased knowledge and understanding of Jesus, his gospel, and the mysteries of the faith. It also moves a person to love Jesus more dearly and strengthens the desire to please and obey him.

The gift of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation completes the Sacraments of Initiation and equips a person to live one’s faith as an adult. A Christian child has the support of parents and family, but when it is time to leave home and live independently, the Holy Spirit gives the interior strength to make good decisions and to live a holy and virtuous life.

Confirmation serves as the foundation of the Sacraments of Commitment, marriage and Holy Orders. The Holy Spirit often points a person toward a lifelong Christian vocation, to live the faith as a wife or husband, and as a mother or father, or as a priest. The Holy Spirit may also guide a person in other directions, such as the consecrated life as a religious sister or brother, or as a dedicated single person. The Holy Spirit also directs a person toward a profession that is of service to others and improves society.

The Holy Spirit emboldens a person’s words and deeds. The special graces of Confirmation enliven a person to speak more often, more openly, and with greater clarity and conviction, about their faith and beliefs; to be an evangelizer, ready and willing to spread the good news of Jesus and his gospel; and to be better prepared and more determined to testify to the truth.

The Holy Spirit stirs a person to give bolder public witness to their faith, to give outstanding example through love, joyfulness, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and service. The Holy Spirit empowers a person to do mighty deeds, to perform good works that do much good, actions that are visible, make a strong statement, and are persuasive to others.

The gift of the Holy Spirit at Confirmation draws a person into a stronger bond with the Body of Christ, the Church. It encourages a person to receive the sacraments and pray with the community regularly, to make friends at church who are fellow pilgrims on journey of faith, to have partners on larger tasks and service projects, to pass on the gift of faith to others, particularly children and those searching for God, and to give collective or corporate witness.

The Holy Spirit prepares a person for battle. The Spirit gives a person the firm resolve and fierce determination to reject temptation, stand up against evil, refute errors, defend the faith, and withstand attacks. The Spirit also gives the strength and stamina to persevere in the battle, to remain true to Christ, unwavering in belief, and constant in goodness.

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St. Anselm, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

April 20, 2018


St. Anselm

St. Anselm was born in 1033 in Aosta in Piedmont, Italy. His father strictly controlled the family home. When Anselm was fifteen he wanted to join the Benedictine monastery in Aosta, but his father refused to allow it, so when Anselm turned twenty-three he left home, traveled across the Alps, and went to Burgundy, France, where he went to study.

In 1059 he became a friend of Lanfranc, the prior of the Benedictine abbey in Bec, Normandy, and he became a Benedictine monk there in 1060. Anselm made rapid progress in the spiritual life, and he taught theology to his fellow students. Three years later Lanfranc was elected abbot of another abbey and Anselm replaced him as prior. Anselm developed a reputation as an excellent preacher, he did much to reform monastic life, and he was greatly loved by his fellow monks. He was consecrated abbot of the Bec Abbey in 1078, and he maintained close contact with his mentor Lanfranc who had become Archbishop of Canterbury.

Lanfranc died in 1089, and in 1092 the English clergy, who had come to know Anselm because of his visits to England to care for Benedictine property there, elected Anselm as his successor. Anselm insisted on the spiritual independence of the diocese and would not tolerate government interference, and as a result King William II refused to confirm his election.

Anselm moved to Canterbury in 1093, and the conflict with King William II escalated. The king demanded a large payment for his nomination as bishop, which he refused to pay, and would not allow him to convene synods. King William demanded that Pope Urban I remove Anselm, and he threatened to confiscate church property if he did not do so. Anselm was exiled in 1097. He went to Cluny, Lyons, and then to Rome, where he tendered his resignation. Pope Urban I reaffirmed his confidence in Anselm, ordered King William to permit his return, and insisted that all confiscated monies and properties be given back. Before Anselm’s return to England, Urban asked Anselm to attend the Council of Bari (1098) where he effectively defended Filioque, the Church’s doctrine of the double procession of the Holy Spirit from both the Father and the Son.

Anselm returned to England in 1100. King Henry I had assumed the throne after William’s death, and another round of disputes began. Henry insisted on the lay investiture of bishops and abbots. Anselm refused. Henry threatened further confiscation of church revenue and property, and sent Anselm into exile in 1103. Again, he returned to Rome. The new Pope, Paschal II, fully backed Anselm and refused to accede to Henry’s demands. When Anselm did return, the archbishop and the king reached a concordat: the king would no longer seek to invest bishops and the church would pay tribute to the king in the temporal realm.

Anselm is remembered as a brilliant theologian and philosopher, and he is regarded as the Father of Scholasticism. He is responsible for the definition of theology, “fides quaerens intellectum,” “faith seeking understanding.” He is the author of a number of major works: Monologium, metaphysical proofs on the existence of God; Proslogion, “Allocution,” on the attributes of God; Cur Deus Homo, “Why God Became Man,” a reflection on the Incarnation; as well as De fide Trinitatis, De conceptu virginali, De veritate, and Liber apologeticus pro insipiente.

St. Anselm died on April 21, 1109, in Canterbury, England, and was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1734. His symbol is a ship sailing over open water which represents spiritual independence from government interference.

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Emmaus Prayer

April 13, 2018


Road to EmmausLord, as we walk down the journey of life,
we ask that you would be our constant companion,
particularly on those days when we are disheartened
or when we have strayed off of your path.

When we are downcast,
we ask that you lift our spirits.
When we are confused,
we ask that you enlighten our minds.
When we are disappointed,
we ask that you give us hope.

You, Lord, have blessed us with your gospel.
Open our minds and hearts to receive your word,
and send your Holy Spirit to give us understanding.
May your teaching take root in our lives
and guide us in your ways.

While we have faith in you, Lord,
we also have our moments of doubt.
We ask that you would deepen our faith,
so that rededicated to you,
we would give bolder witness,
and freely and gladly give generous service.

You gently ask us to invite you into our hearts and homes.
With a spirit of welcome and humility,
we invite you to dwell with us always.
We offer our praise and thanks for the many ways that you feed us
and provide for our many needs.

Keep us closely connected to our brothers and sisters in faith.
Help us to see others with the eyes of love.
Fill us with your compassion.
May we work tirelessly to foster relationships in our community
built on the foundations of truth, mutual respect, cooperation, and trust.

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The Easter Season

April 6, 2018


Resurrection of JesusFifty Holy Days. The Easter Season is the Great Fifty Days from Easter to Pentecost. It is a week of weeks, seven sevens, 49 days, plus a fiftieth. The first forty days commemorate the time between the Resurrection and the Ascension (see Acts 1:3), and the last ten days commemorate the time from the Ascension to the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles on the first Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).

Jewish Roots. Passover and Pentecost are two of the three great Jewish pilgrimage feasts, and the time between them is a Festival of Weeks, 49 days, with the fiftieth, the feast of Pentecost.

Easter Week. The first week after Easter is called the Octave of Easter. It is the eight-day period from Easter Sunday to the Second Sunday of Easter. The Resurrection is the single greatest Christian feast, and our entire faith hinges on this mystery as St. Paul so eloquently explained: “If Christ has not been raised, then empty too is our preaching; empty, too, your faith” (1 Cor 15:14). But Jesus has been raised! This makes Easter our preeminent time of jubilant exultation, so tremendous that it cannot be adequately observed in a single day. The Octave is a time of intense rejoicing, followed by six more weeks of continuing festivity.

Signs of Easter. The Easter, Paschal, or Christ candle is moved to a prominent place in the church for the entire Easter season, usually somewhere in the sanctuary, as a sign of the risen Christ. The vestments are white, sometimes accented with gold trim, symbols of victory and joy. The Gloria or Glory to God and the gospel Alleluia which were suspended during Lent are restored. The Creed may be replaced with the renewal of baptismal promises. There may be a Sprinkling Rite to recall the sacrament of Baptism. A double Alleluia is added to the dismissal.

Easter Sacraments. Baptism and Eucharist are the featured sacraments of the Easter Season. Infant baptisms are encouraged within the Sunday Masses of the Easter Season. It is also the preferred time to celebrate First Holy Communion. Parishes that have movable or portable baptismal fonts may transfer the font to a more conspicuous location.

Easter Scripture Texts. The first reading for every Sunday and weekday Mass throughout the Easter season is taken from the Acts of the Apostles, a forceful statement that Jesus, raised and ascended to heaven, continues to be present and is powerfully active within the community of believers. The second reading on Easter Sundays is taken from the New Testament, in Year A from the First Letter of Peter, in Year B from the First Letter of John, and in Year C from the Book of Revelation. All of the gospel texts for the Easter Season are taken from John except for the Third Sunday of Years A and B, and the Ascension.

Ways to Prolong the Easter Celebration. The Lenten fast is over, so rejoice with special meals or treats. The purple or violet of Lent is replaced by the white and gold of Easter, so wear brightly colored clothing to show your joyful spirit, and decorate with lilies and other flowers. The somber readings of Lent that dwell on penance and the Passion are over, so rejoice by reading the scriptural accounts of the Resurrection and post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, as well as the founding of the early Christian community in the Acts of the Apostles. Those who were candidates for the Easter sacraments have been welcomed into the Church, so maintain contact with them and help them strengthen their bond with the parish community. As Jesus demonstrated in his post-resurrection appearances at Emmaus (Lk 24:30) and along the Sea of Galilee (Jn 21:9,13), he is present in the breaking of the bread, so in order to experience the risen Christ we should attend Mass each Sunday, and if possible, some weekdays, too, to receive our risen Lord in the Eucharist.

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The Octave of Easter – Eight Days of Celebration

March 28, 2018


The Octave of EasterThe Octave of Easter is one of two octaves during the liturgical year. The other octave is the Octave of Christmas. An octave is an eight-day period set aside to celebrate the greatest mysteries of the Christian faith, the Resurrection and the Incarnation. Each mystery is so profound and momentous that it cannot be celebrated in a single day, so the celebration is extended for a full week after the actual date. It is a time of heightened jubilation and exaltation, when the joy within the Christian community is at a fever pitch. The Octave of Easter extends from Easter Sunday until the Second Sunday of Easter.

The joy and triumph of Easter is expressed in a number of special ways during the weekday liturgies of the Octave of Easter. The Gloria is sung or said at each Mass. Only Preface I of Easter is allowed during the Octave, not Easter Prefaces II through V. A double Alleluia is used for the dismissal at the end of each Octave Mass. The Easter Sequence may be used for any or all of the weekday Masses within the Octave. The Creed is not said.

The gospels during the Octave of Easter feature the appearances of Jesus after his Resurrection. The gospel on Monday is the account of Jesus’ appearance to a number of women who were returning from the tomb (Mt 28:8-15). Tuesday is his appearance to Mary Magdalene who was weeping beside the entrance to the tomb (Jn 20:11-18). Wednesday is his appearance to Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:13-35). Thursday is his appearance to the disciples huddled together in the Upper Room in Jerusalem on Easter Sunday night (Lk 24:35-48). Friday is his appearance to his disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (Jn 21:1-14). Saturday is an account of multiple appearances, first to Mary Magdalene, next to two men on the road to Emmaus, and then to the Eleven who were at table together (Mk 16:9-15). And finally, the Second Sunday of Easter is his appearance to the ten in the Upper Room on the first day of the week, and then seven days later, his subsequent appearance, not only to the ten, but also to Thomas (Jn 20:19-13).

The first readings during the weekdays of the Octave of Easter are taken from the Acts of the Apostles. These texts contain the initial preaching of the apostles with multiple references to the Resurrection. Monday is a portion of Peter’s Pentecost sermon in which he states that “God raised him [Jesus] up, releasing him from the throes of death” (Acts 2:24). Tuesday further explains how the crucified Jesus was “made both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:36). Wednesday is the cure of the beggar at the Beautiful Gate by the power of the risen Jesus (Acts 3:1-10). Thursday is another sermon by Peter in which he states that “God raised him from the dead” (Acts 3:15). Friday tells how Peter and John testified before the Sanhedrin that “God raised him [Jesus] from the dead” (Acts 4:10). Saturday is an acknowledgment that the miraculous deeds done by Peter and John were accomplished through the power of the risen Jesus (Acts 4:16).

The Octave of Easter provides believers an extended opportunity to celebrate the greatest single mystery of the Christian faith.

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Thursday of the Lord’s Supper – Eucharist and Humble Service

March 23, 2018


Last SupperThe Last Supper took place on the first Holy Thursday. It was that night that Jesus instituted the Eucharist, but curiously, the gospel for the Mass on Holy Thursday is not the Institution Narrative, it is the footwashing.

The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium, No. 11). It is foremost among the other sacraments because it is received most often, unites a person to Jesus who is truly present, affords a special opportunity for a close personal conversation with Jesus, is spiritual sustenance and a fountain of grace for a lifetime, places a person in communion with the other members of the Body of Christ, forgives venial sins, and provides the companionship of Jesus on the journey through human life and the final journey to heaven and eternal life.

Important as the Eucharist is, it is not the gospel on Holy Thursday, it is the second reading (1 Cor 11:23-26). It is one of the four accounts of the Institution of the Eucharist in the New Testament (Mt 26:26-30; Mk 14:22-26; Lk 22:14-20). Why is an Institution Narrative not used for the gospel on Holy Thursday? And why take a passage from the Gospel of John, the only evangelist whose gospel does not have the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper?

Holy Thursday Foot Washing

It is not because John believes that the Eucharist is unimportant. He is the only evangelist to write a Bread of Life Discourse (Jn 6:22-71), an extended reflection on the importance of the Eucharist. John alone calls Jesus the bread of life, says that the Eucharist bread from heaven, and explains that his flesh is true food and his blood true drink, that Jesus will dwell within whoever receives the Eucharist, and that it leads to eternal life.

The footwashing is the gospel on Holy Thursday, and John is the only evangelist to report it. It took place at the Last Supper before the institution of the Eucharist and for John, the footwashing and the Eucharist are closely related. The footwashing prefigures the crucifixion. Jesus humbly gave of himself when he washed his disciples’ feet, and he humbly gave of himself when he gave his life on the Cross; and this parallels the Eucharist in which Jesus gave his body and blood under the form of bread and wine, and then gave his body and blood on the Cross.

Eucharist is about True Presence. Jesus is present under the forms of bread and wine, and with the footwashing, John is conveying another perspective on True Presence. Jesus is present in the form of humble service. Jesus was present to his disciples when he took off his outer garments and knelt down at their feet, a touching demonstration of humility, and then washed and dried their feet, a tender expression of love in menial service. When a disciple offers humble service to anyone, particularly in lowly ordinary tasks, and does so out of love, Jesus is made present.

And the Eucharist is ordered to service. Once a person receives the Eucharist at Mass and leaves the church, the person has been energized to serve others in the name of Jesus. The communicant humbly and cheerfully gives humble service, particularly in the little things, giving freely, without seeking repayment or notice. Service drains energy, and once depleted, the communicant needs to go to Mass to receive Holy Communion again to be reenergized for the next round of service. The Eucharist leads to service, and service leads to the Eucharist.

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