April 30: Thursday of the Third Week of Easter

Rembrandt van Rijn, Baptism of the Eunuch, Museum Catherijne Convent, Utrecht, 1626

First Reading: Acts 8:26-40

“How can I, unless someone guides me (NRSV, Acts 8:31a)?”

Let us pray.

Father, how gracious you are to all of us in every situation. At each moment, you reveal yourself to us through your one spoken Word, uttered to all in every place and time. You have as well given us your written Word passed down to us through the centuries. Your truth is contained in the wisdom of the ages shared by the whole human family. If this were not enough, in the fullness of time, our Lord Jesus Christ, has come among us, your Word in the flesh, indeed truly the way, the truth and the life, present among us to teach, to comfort, to heal and even to die with us.

Father, our situation in life and history, the heavy burden of the sin of the world, and our own personal selfishness and sin, make it difficult fully to grasp your Word in every situation even though every moment, without fail, is always saving.

Your truth, Father, spoken to us all in the depth of our being through the Word, abounds throughout creation in ways we often least expect. May every one of us, Lord, come to a deeper understanding of who you are and what you challenge us to become. May we also encourage one another so that we may each one benefit from the truth revealed to all but only understood in part by any one of us. May each of us, in ways not always yet determined, share in mediating your Word to one another.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

April 28: Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter

Bernardo Daddi, The Martyrdom of St Stephen (detail), Santa Croce, Florence, 1324

First Reading: Acts 7:51--8:1

“Lord, do not hold this sin against them (NRSV, Acts 7:60a).”

Let us pray.

In the moment of his approaching death, Stephen called out to you, Father, begging forgiveness for those who were killing him. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus himself, begged for forgiveness for those putting him to death.

Father, I truly believe that you offer forgiveness to all of us for our sins, through the Word, even before we ask for it. All that is needed is that we turn away from the evil that we have done and once again freely accept your life into our own, even as we did in the power of the Spirit that first moment of our existence in our mother’s womb.

Father, as you offer us forgiveness and we accept it forgiving ourselves for what we have done, may we also, as Stephen did, turn to those who sin against us and pass on to them the forgiveness that we ourselves have received. To be forgiven is also to forgive in turn.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

April 27: Monday of the Third Week of Easter

Paolo Uccello, The Disputation of St. Stephen, Duomo, Prato, 1435

First Reading: Acts 6:8-15

And all who sat in the council looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel (NRSV, Acts 6:15).

Let us pray.

Father, divine power transfigured Jesus even in apparent ignominy and defeat. In Mark’s gospel, seeing the manner in which Jesus was dying, the pagan centurion at the foot of the cross came to believe: “Truly this man was God’s Son!” In John’s gospel, the last to be written, the power that came from Jesus is such that he is seen as resurrected already throughout his entire public ministry.

Stephen, one of the seven, ordained to “serve,” the first martyr for faith in Christ, was so full of grace and power that at his trial before the Sanhedrin his face shone like an angel.

Father, may I respond in such a way to the life which you always offer to me through the Word that I too may be changed, that others may come to believe your Word encouraged by everything that I say and indeed everything that I am.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

April 25: Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist

Andrea Mantegna, St. Mark the Evangelist, Das Städel, Frankfort am Main, c.1450

Gospel: Mark 16:15-20

And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it (NRSV, Mk 16:20).

Let us pray.

Father, when Barnabas traveled to Antioch, we read that a large number came to believe because Barnabas was a good man filled with the Holy Spirit and faith. When we accept your gift of life, Father, always offered us through the Word, now made flesh, dwelling within us, we are transformed. Your life fills us with great power that cannot help but radiate out from us to others.

Your Word is a human in our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the only mediator, Father, between you and us but the life and power that we receive from you through him can influence others to say “yes” to you through the Word as we have done.

If there is only one mediator, Father, you enable us through him to share in that mediation.As the Lord Jesus worked signs and wonder during his life on earth, so we too are called, and indeed empowered, to work signs and wonders among one another.

May we ever be responsive to our calling that like Jesus we too may effectively proclaim the coming of the kingdom to our sisters and brothers.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

April 24: Friday of the Second Week of Easter

Castillan-Moresque Haggadah, Rabbi Gamaliel and His Students, British Library, London, c.1300

First Reading: Acts 5:34-42

Then Gamaliel said to the members of the Sanhedrin, “Fellow Israelites, consider carefully what you propose to do to these men. . . because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God (NRSV, Acts 5:34,38b-39a)!”

Let us pray.

Father, may we be attentive to the words of Gamaliel who sensed deep within him, although not clearly, the Word spoken to him. Often we, like the members of the Sanhedrin, are so certain that we understand what has been revealed, only to be enlightened later by one more sensitive than ourselves. Even in high places within the Church there has been found need to apologize for conclusions hastily reached and imposed upon others.

Father, may we be open to the movement of your Holy Spirit in our midst that we may be ever more and more responsive to the one Word that is spoken to all in the depth of our being. May we always be ready to admit error in judgment and then to grow in understanding of your truth.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

April 22: Thursday of the Second Week of Easter

Metropolitan John the Icon-Painter: Christ the Savior and Lifegiver, Museum of Macedonia, Skopje, 1384

Gospel: John 3:31-36

Jesus said to Nicodemus, “The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life
(NRSV, Jn 3:35-36b).”

Let us pray.

Father, your love for the Son and your Son’s love for you is the Holy Spirit. Everything that you do in the one act that is your being is done through the Son, your Word. You give us a share in your divine life through the Word who is with us, and remains with us always, from the womb. It is the Word who challenges us to believe, to accept your life. This challenge, made at every moment, in every place, to everyone, at the depth of one’s being, is made manifest and visible, in the same one act that is your being, in the Word made flesh, your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. It is through acceptance of the Word that we receive eternal life.

Father, may all of us, everywhere, called also with the Christ to be your daughters and sons, say “yes” to the Word present to us that we may all share in your life through him, the Savior and Lifegiver, and grow in that life at every moment.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

April 21: Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter

Christoph Weigel, The Apostles Freed from Prison, Biblia ectypa Bildnussen auss Heiliger Schrifft Alt und Neuen Testaments, 1695

First Reading: Acts 5:17-26

But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, brought the apostles out, and said, “Go, stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this life (NRSV, Acts 5: 19-20).”

Let us pray.

Father, as you call us forth in every moment to accept and to grow in your life, that for which we long is freedom. However, that freedom, Father, is often misunderstood as merely freedom from the present condition in which we find ourselves. When freedom is understood in the limited manner of freedom “from,” the best that can happen for us is that we exchange one form of slavery for another. The Israelites longed for freedom from slavery in Egypt but no sooner across the sea in the desert they lamented that situation as well.

True freedom, we learn from your Word speaking within us and made manifest in our Lord Jesus, Father, is always freedom for someone. The apostles were freed from prison, not merely to be delivered from confinement, but to preach the good news to their sisters and brothers.

At every moment, Father, you call us forth from the situation in which we find ourselves, not merely to overcome its limitations, but that we might grow in your divine life and share it with our sisters and brothers through serving one another.

May the freedom that we long for, Father, always be freedom for you and for one another.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

April 21: Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter

Anonymous English Master, Christ and Nicodemus, British Library, London, c 1430

Gospel: John 3:7-15

Jesus said to Nicodemus: “You must be born from above (NRSV, Jn 3:7b).”

Let us pray.

Father, in your one act that is your being, you speak the uncreated Word. In the same one act you, Father, and the Word love one another in the procession of the Holy Spirit. In the same one act you create the universe and everyone who will ever live. In the same one act you offer everyone a share in your divine life through the Word in the Holy Spirit, even from the womb. It is this same one act, always saving, that we experience under visible signs in baptism, the Eucharist and in the other sacraments.

When Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born from above, Father, it is that our life as human beings is not only physical life passed on to us through our earthly parents but divine life that comes directly from you. It is the offering of divine life, accepted by us in the womb through the Word in the Holy Spirit, which truly defines us as human beings. It is the very life that you give to us at every moment by your same one eternal act if we will accept it. It is the very life, always given by the same one divine act that is your being, that we receive under visible sign in baptism and that we share in the Eucharist when we partake of the Body and Blood of your Son, the Word made flesh.

Father, to be a human being is to be offered divine life from you. As that life comes from above, may the focus of everything that we are always be, not on the things of earth, but always on you, Father, our only true future.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

April 20: Monday of the Second Week of Easter

John La Farge, Visit of Nicodemus to Christ, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., 1880

Gospel: John 3: 1-8

The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit (NRSV, John 3:8).’

Let us Pray.

Father, from that moment in our mother’s womb when we became physically capable of recognizing you and receiving you, then for the first time we experienced the wind of your Spirit, present in your Word, blowing over us, bestowing on us a share in your divine life and calling us to grow in that life.

Even when, in the moment, we say “yes,” Father, and accept the gift, it is never the end. Your Word remains ever-present to us in the power of the Spirit, summoning us to let go of what we have become up to that moment to become something new and unexpected.

How gracious you are to us, Father, for you never abandon us, even in our deepest sin, but your Word is always there offering forgiveness and calling us to repentance. Your Spirit is always blowing over us so that every moment is truly saving.

During these days, Father we celebrate the resurrection of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. May we recognize that with Jesus we too are resurrected even from the first moment of our lives. May we be ever faithful to the power of the resurrection given to us in the Word through the power of your Holy Spirit.

Alleluia. Amen.

April 19: The Second Sunday of Easter

Luca Signorelli (1441-1523): Doubting Thomas, La Basilica di Santa Maria, Loreto

Gospel: John 20:19-31

Thomas answered Jesus, “My Lord and my God (NRSV, Jn 20:28)!”

Let us pray.

Father, how often when we seek to find you we look outside of ourselves to the world around us. We seek evidence of your presence in your “footsteps,” your effects, in the world. We even prove your existence from your physical creation. Like Thomas we must be shown.

Father, you love us so much that your Word has become flesh to dwell among us in our Lord Jesus Christ. But that same Word who walked the earth also dwells within each one of us, even the most abject of sinners. Your Word calls us all into existence and remains always present to us challenging us to grow in your life that you share with us or, if we have rejected that life, to accept forgiveness and to start afresh.

Father, when we doubt, remind us to turn inward to find your Word closer than we are to ourselves. We may abandon you, Father, in sin but, in your Word always present to us, you never abandon us. You are there at every moment revealing yourself to us in him before whom we can only prostrate ourselves and declare: My Lord and my God.

Alleluia. Amen.

April 18: Saturday of Easter Week

Parmigianino, St. Peter and St. John Healing the Cripple, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, c 1530

First Reading: Acts 4:13-21

“We cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard (NRSV, Acts 4:20).”

Let us pray.

Father, everyone of us is charged to join with Peter and John as they declared before the Sanhedrin: “We cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

Father, you speak your one Word to all of us at every moment at the depth of our being. No one is excluded from that revelation. But our rehearsing aloud of what we have experienced at the depth of our being enables us all to clarify our understanding and for many of us it prompts us to turn more frequently within and discover what we have perhaps hitherto ignored or even misunderstood.

May we always seek clarification from other believers and especially from those charged with teaching within your Church. May we turn as well to all people of good will for enlightenment and guidance as we speak out with courage what we understand to be the truth. Keep our minds and hearts ever open to greater comprehension of the one Word that you always speak to us.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

April 17: Friday of Easter Week

Konrad Witz, The Miraculous Draught of Fish, Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Geneva, 1443-44

Gospel: John 21:1-14

Jesus said to them, “Cast the net to 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 because there were so many fish (NRSV, Jn 21:6).

Let us pray.

Father, the one mediator between you and us is the Word, made flesh in our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the Word, constantly present to us, even in the midst of sin, always offering forgiveness and newness of life, who defines our existence as human beings. Every moment then is a saving moment for us.

As we share in the one life that is yours, Father, we also share in the mediating role of the Word. The life that we share with you, Father, we also share with one another. We are therefore challenged in every situation to encourage one another and to bear witness to one another.

As Jesus was sent to proclaim the good news of salvation, so we also are sent, all of us, to proclaim the gospel to our fellow human beings. We are all called to be fishers of our sisters and brothers.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

April 16: Thursday of Easter Week

William Blake, Christ Appearing to his Apostles, Tate Gallery, London, c.1795

Gospel: Luke 24:35-48

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem (NRSV, Lk 24:45-47).”

Let us pray.

Father, you reveal yourself to us in every moment in your one act that is your being, even from our first moment in the womb. Throughout our lives we long to grow in understanding of the Word spoken to us. Some of us, we call them prophets, see more clearly than the rest of us and show us the way to deeper understanding of your revelation made to all through the Word always present to us.

Father, our sisters and brothers, disciples of the Lord Jesus, only came to grasp who Jesus was in the experience of him raised from the dead. Their response as the risen Jesus opened their minds was that they should have realized it all along. Even then the understanding of those gathered in the Church continued to grow over the decades with further reflection, prayer and discussion.

May we, Father, in this Easter season, come to a fuller understanding of the reality of our Lord Jesus Christ, your Word made flesh, and of the life in which you always, through him, call us to grow. May we live the resurrection even now in this world in preparation for the world to come.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

April 15: Wednesday of Easter Week

Caravaggio, Supper at Emmaus, National Gallery of Art, London, 1601-02

Gospel: Luke 24:13-35

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight (NRSV, Lk 24:30-31).

Let us pray.

Father, there are moments when even the holiest and the wisest among us becomes confused as to your presence in our lives. Your Holy Spirit, who enlivens us whenever we accept him into ourselves, can often seem so far from us. Even your Word, who never abandons us, can, in the midst of our sinfulness, seem absent. Because of the sin of world and our own tendency to selfishness, bewilderment can overcome us and we can sense ourselves as lost.

It is then, Lord, that the blessing of the Eucharist becomes clear. It is in leaving the workaday world and entering sacred space to listen to the rehearsal of your written word and in breaking bread together that it can all become clear. Like the disciples on the way to Emmaus we too can become lost on the way only to find ourselves and you, Father, when we share the body and blood of Christ your Son and our brother in the Eucharist.

We believe, Father, that every moment is the saving moment and that we can find you in every situation but we remain grateful to you nevertheless for the tangible presence of the Word in Holy Scripture and in the breaking of bread, the Word who is always for us the Way and the Truth and the Life.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen

April 14: Tuesday of Easter Week

Lavinia Fontana, Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence 1581

Gospel: John 20:11-18

Jesus said to Mary Magdalene, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God (NRSV, Jn 20:17).’”

Let us pray.

Father, even as in Matthew’s gospel, for John, the first appearance of Jesus risen from the dead is to a woman. Here it is not the two Maries but Mary Magdalene alone. For John, she is the first apostle, the first one, not only to have seen the risen Lord, but the first to be sent to bring the good news to the others. Mary is the proto-apostle.

Jesus speaks to Mary of his ascension which we so often, Father, fail to understand. To begin, all of the paschal mystery (Jesus’ death, resurrection, ascension and the sending of the Spirit) is one moment that is anchored in space and time but also transcends it. The ascension of Jesus, to isolate an aspect of this one mystery, speaks, not of Jesus’ final departure from us, but of his definite presence among us.

In the ascension of Jesus, the Word, your eternal Son, always present to us in the depth of our being, calling us to grow in divine life, defining our very existence as human beings, is recognized as being hypostatically united to one of us in our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus not only lived on this earth and walked among us. The Word made flesh, Jesus, enthroned with you in heaven, Father, lives as well in the depth of our being, never abandoning us, even when we sin, but always challenging us to repentance and the acceptance of new life.

This, Father, is the message given to Mary to bring to the others. Many we always be faithful to it.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

April 13: Monday of Easter Week

Jerome Nadel, Christ Appears to the Women, ADNOTATIONES ET MEDITATIONES IN EVANGELIA, 1595

Gospel: Matthew 28:8-15

Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me (NRSV, Mt 28:10).”

Let us pray.

Father, your apostle Paul teaches us that an apostle is one who has seen the risen Lord and is then sent to bring the good news to others. Paul understood himself as the least but also the last of the apostles, one born out of undue time.

In Matthew’s gospel, then, the first of the apostles are the two Maries, the holy women who went to anoint the body of Christ, who encountered Jesus in his risen body and were told to bring the good news of his resurrection to the others.

Father, as you bless the holy women who were the first to be sent, may we who have also received the good news of Jesus’ resurrection in our time so respond to the same blessing that we may be effective instruments of your grace to all of our sisters and brothers.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen

April 12: Easter Sunday

Piero della Francesca, The Resurrection, Pinacoteca Comunale, Sansepolcro, 1463-65

Gospel: John 20:1-9

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God (Col 3:1).

Let us pray.

Father, as we reflect on the mystery of this most important day on which we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, it becomes clear that Jesus was not resurrected only after his crucifixion, death and burial. Jesus was truly resurrected throughout his entire human existence. The life and the power which brought him through death was indeed his from the very beginning. That life was a gift from you, Father, to your Son, the Word, from all eternity and that life filled Jesus from the very first moment of his existence. It is because of that life that healing power went out of Jesus to others, that he was indeed the Way, the Truth and the Life.

The life which you have given to the Word from all eternity, Father, you share also with every one of us, if we accept it, even from the womb. It is the life that you give to us in baptism and that we celebrate and share with one another in the Eucharist. Because of our participation in this life, we too are resurrected beings from the beginning. This life and power enables us to face all of life’s difficulties, as Jesus faced them, and to be victorious over them. As healing went out from Jesus to others, it can also go out from us to be shared with our sisters and brothers.

And most of all, death, which so often seems the enemy and our undoing, can now be seen in the light of the resurrection as passage, as an hour of glory, summing up everything we have been, and leading us to fuller life, Father, with you.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

April 10: Good Friday

Matthias Grunewald, The Small Crucifixion, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., c.1511-20

Gospel: John 18:1--19:42

When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, "It is finished." And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit (NAB, Jn 19:30).

Let us pray.

Father, so often the passion and death and death of your Son Jesus are presented as momentary defeat that is then definitively reversed in the resurrection. But Jesus’ death, even in the midst of such terrible pain and suffering is really, as John puts it, his hour of glory. This is true, Father, not only in John’s gospel, in which Jesus is clearly in triumph on the cross, but in the other gospels as well.

In Mark’s gospel, the pagan centurion is able, for the first time for anyone to grasp the divinity of Jesus: this, not in spite of Jesus’ suffering but radiating out through his suffering. “This is truly the Son of God.”

In Luke’s gospel, healing goes out to the women of Jerusalem and forgiveness to Jesus persecutors and the good thief.

In Matthew’s gospel all of nature is convulsed by Jesus death. The earth quakes and even the dead rise from their graves.

But it is in John’s gospel that Jesus’ crucifixion is truly presented as victory. The Church begins from the cross and the sacraments of the Eucharist and baptism have their foundation in the blood and water that flows from Jesus side. Even the Holy Spirit is handed over to the Church as Jesus breathes his last.

Father, through and with Jesus the Word may death be for us as well not even temporary defeat and undoing but a glorious passage to a fuller life in you.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen

April 9: Holy Thursday

Ford Madox Brown, Jesus Washing Peter's Feet at the Last Supper, Tate Gallery, London, 1865

Gospel: John 13:1-15

“So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet (NRSV, Jn 13:14).”

Let us pray.

Father, your being and your act which are one consist in giving life, receiving life and sharing life in love. At every moment you invite everyone human to take part in that life, to share in it. In our Lord Jesus Christ, beyond inviting us to share in your life, you take upon yourself our human life and make it your own. In Jesus your life of giving, receiving and sharing is made visible for us in this world.

Father, your Word is always present to every one of us at our innermost being. He also remains present for us in a visible way in the sacred meal he has left as a memorial of his physical life, death, and resurrection. Whenever we gather to remember that last meal that Jesus shared with his disciples, we are aware that it is Jesus himself who is present with us blessing the bread and the cup and in these visible signs giving of himself so completely to us that as we partake of what appears to be bread and the wine we can say in faith that they are truly the body and blood of Christ.

At every moment when we say “yes” to you, Father, at the depth of our being, we are caught up more fully in the true sacrifice of sharing that is your life. Whenever we celebrate the Eucharist that life which we are called to share with you at every moment becomes ritually visibly and acted out in this sacred meal.

Father, we are grateful for your gift of your life always offered. We are grateful to you as well for loving us so much that you also in your Word take upon yourself our life and a human nature, and for remaining visibly present for us in your Church and the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist in which we ritually share under the appearances of bread and wine in everything that is our Lord Jesus Christ.

As Jesus shared everything that he is with us even to death, may we who partake of the Eucharist and his body and blood also serve one another.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen

April 8: Wednesday of Holy Week

Giotto di Bondone, Judas Betraying the Christ, Cappella Scrovegni Padua, 1304-06

Gospel: Matthew 26:14-25

Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him (NRSV, Mt 26:14-16).

Let us pray.

Father, when Judas heard Jesus calling him to be his disciple, he did not realize that the voice he heard was one that spoke to him constantly at his innermost being, every moment from the first within his mother’s womb. It was the voice of your Word, Father, which speaks to every one of us in every moment, the voice of your Word who became a human being in our Lord Jesus Christ.

When Judas, for money, thirty pieces of silver, succumbed to betraying Jesus, he thought that Jesus would just vanish from his life. But the Word, always present to us at the depth of our being, is who defines our being. We are humans called to share in your divine life, Father, because the Word is always there pressing in upon us, inviting us, challenging us, to greater growth. Or if we sin, calling us to accept forgiveness and to redirect our life.

Father, Judas thought that he would betray Jesus and it would be done with but there was no way in which he could banish the Word from his life. Nor is your Word ever vindictive, Father. No, in the face of Judas’ great sin, your Word only continued to offer the gift of life and Love that is the Holy Spirit.

Poor Judas! How unfortunate we all are in our sinfulness! Choosing evil but still having to live in the embrace of Love! May we, Father, through the Word in the Holy Spirit never to turn away from you but always to accept your gift of a fuller life that you offer us in every moment.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

April 7: Tuesday of Holy Week

Michiel van der Borch, Last Supper Christ gives a piece of bread to Judas, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, 1332

Gospel: John 13:21-33, 36-38

After Judas received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do (NRSV, Jn 13:27).”

Let us pray.

Father, how easy for us to keep our distance from Judas. To us, he is the consummate doer of evil. But, if we read on just a bit, we find Jesus confronting Peter and warning him, against Peter’s protests, that he will deny him. And then, shortly afterwards, in the garden, every one of the others flees. Jesus goes to his death betrayed, denied and abandoned. In the first three gospels there is no one at the foot of the cross to comfort the dying Jesus. Only the holy women watched from afar. True, in John’s gospel, his mother, the beloved disciple, and the two other Maries are there but their presence is clearly for a symbolic reason. John has the Church begin, not on Pentecost, but from the Cross.

And so Jesus was alone as he lay dying, with only you, his Father, to comfort him as you vindicated the just man in the 22nd psalm. It was not only Judas but all of Jesus’ disciples who finally turned away from him. And we too betray, deny and abandon, every time that we turn away in sin.

Yet in our sinfulness, Jesus never abandons us. The Word remains ever present to us, in the worst of sin, always offering us your forgiveness, Father, and challenging us to accept the Holy Spirit once more into our lives.

Father, keep us ever mindful of the great love that you show us in your Word who became a human being to be with us, not only at our innermost being, but to be present visibly showing us the way to you.

Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

April 6: Monday of Holy Week

Master of Jean Rollin II, The Supper at Bethany, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, c. 1455

Gospel: John 12:1-11

Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair (NRSV, Jn 12:3a).

Let us pray.

Father, you speak to us, everyone of us who has every lived, at each moment of our lives, through your Word at the depth of our being. But that one Word is also made manifest and visible in many particular situations.

In the great sacrament of human existence, your Word is made flesh; he becomes a human being, in our Lord Jesus Christ. He shares our life, everything we are; he teaches us and heals us; he even passes through death with us.

Your Word is also visibly present in the world through the gathering of those who believe in him, your Church, as it proclaims your written Word contained in Sacred Scripture and celebrates your one saving work among us in sacramental actions, especially in baptism and the Eucharist.

Father, even from ancient times, kings and priests were set aside for your service through sacred anointing with oil. Prophets were understood to be anointed immediately by your Spirit.

The evangelists are in agreement that the Lord Jesus, after his baptism by John, was anointed by the Holy Spirit who descended upon him in the form of a dove. In baptism, and when we are confirmed in our ongoing faith in you, Father, we, your daughters and sons, are anointed with oil as a visible sign of our calling in the Holy Spirit. Your presbyters are likewise anointed with oil as are the sick and those facing the great passage through death.

Father, we are ever grateful to you for your presence in the Word and in the Spirit at our innermost being, uniting us all in one divine life, and for your visible presence in the Word made flesh and in the Church, in which we celebrate your sacraments.

As Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, anointed the feet of Jesus in preparation for his death, may we too anoint our sisters and brothers as they prepare for the journey through death and thus encourage them to join with the Word on this passage which can be for all their hour of glory.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen

April 5: Passion Sunday

Pietro Lorenzetti, Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, Basilica di San Francesco, Assisi, c.1320

Liturgy of the Palms
Gospel: Mark 11:1-11

Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord(NRSV, Mark 11:9)!”

Let us pray.

Father, in the gospel of Luke, Jesus’ physical life here on earth begins with a pilgrimage from Nazareth to Bethlehem. For Matthew, there is also pilgrimage, to save the infant from death, pilgrimage from Bethlehem to Egypt and eventually to Nazareth.
In the entire synoptic tradition, Mark, Matthew and Luke, Jesus’ public ministry is a great pilgrimage from Galilee to Jerusalem where the paschal mystery of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection then unfolds.

So much, Father, of our story as your people is pilgrimage: out of Egypt through the desert and into the land. Centuries before Moses, Abraham also went on pilgrimage leaving his home in Mesopotamia in search of you on a quest that brought him to the land.

Today, Father, we celebrate Jesus’ final ceremonial pilgrimage over the crest of the Mount of Olives down across the Kedron Valley into Jerusalem. It was a day of triumph for Jesus leading, however, as the days went on, to his eventual betrayal, arrest, passion, and crucifixion; his passage through death, which John describes as his hour of glory.

Father, all of human life is pilgrimage, from that first moment, still in the womb, when in response to your Word, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we say “yes” to your gift of life, human and divine. All of life, from that moment on, is an everlasting journey towards you, Father, who are our only true Future.

Whenever we foolishly turn away from you in sin, you are always there in your Word challenging us to accept your forgiveness and renewal of your life in the Holy Spirit. You are there with us especially as the Word guides us through physical death as he himself, during this Holy Week, passed through it in his human nature. The Word is our Way to you, Father, on a journey that never ends but leads on and on into an ever increasing share in your life.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

April 4: Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Unknown Illustrator of Jerome Nadal's 'Evangelicae Historiae Imagines', The Council Plots the Death of Jesus,1593

Gospel: John 11:45-57

So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs (NRSV, Jn 11:47).”

Let us pray.

Father, at every moment you call us forwarded to a greater understanding of your Word spoken once and for all as well as further growth in your divine life. How unfortunate for us in any situation that we conclude that we have arrived at final answers about you and our life in you. The only result for us can be arrogance that is ready to strike out at those around us.

Jesus is your very Word made flesh and yet many among us refused to accept him because his message did not fit the mold of what was expected and his preaching instead of being good news to summons us forwarded was understood as threat. The result was that we rejected Jesus by putting him to death, an ignominious death on the Cross. So caught up in our own understanding were we that we tried foolishly to banish your Word made flesh from this world.

But Jesus who from the beginning was resurrected life itself passed victorious through the death to which we condemned him and, risen from the grave, proclaimed the power of the resurrection, always available at every moment in history, in the lives of all who would repent and accept him in faith.

Father, may our spirits ever be open to a greater understanding of who you are and the life and destiny to which you call us. May we always be ready to cast off our prejudices and misjudgments, to be repentant of our sins, and accept greater understanding and life in the power of the Holy Spirit through your Word, impossible to banish in any way, always dwelling in us.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

April 3: Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Alexander Master, Christ healing a boy, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, c.1430

Gospel: John 10:31-42

But if I do them [good works], even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand
that the Father is in me and I am in the Father (NRSV, John 10:38).’

Let us pray.

Father, over the centuries there has been a long debate as to whether we can be saved by our good works. In the end, we realize that it not the works that save but it is faith, the acceptance in trust and confidence of the great gift of your divine life that you offer, through the Word ever-present to each and every human being at every moment, even from the womb.

The acceptance of your gift raises us up to share in everything that you are, the giving, receiving and sharing that is your inner life. Just as you give Life to the Word and Word receives that Life and you both share that Life in the Love that is the Holy Spirit, so we too, transformed by the gift that we have freely accepted, find ourselves inevitably but freely giving, receiving and sharing with one another. Good works proceed without fail from true faith as it is lived out.

As the truth about Jesus was clear in the signs he performed, may our faith be manifest to others by the good works that faith empowers us to do.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

April 2: Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Alexander Master, Attempt to Stone Jesus, Koninklijke bibliotheek, The Hague, c.1430

Gospel: John 8:51-59

"Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death (NRSV, Jn 8:51)."

Let us pray.

Father, as we reflect upon John’s Gospel, it becomes clear that Jesus is resurrected throughout his entire life here on earth. Death for Jesus, as ignominious as it seems, is not his undoing but rather his hour of glory. Every moment of Jesus’ life is a manifestation, Father, of the living out of your inner life: giving and receiving shared in love. The power of this life goes out from Jesus to heal others who would accept it. No one, nothing, can extinguish this truly divine life. Death then for Jesus is not undoing, a defeat, even a temporary one, later to be overcome. For Jesus, death is passage from a worldly existence into the world to come, where he now sits at your right hand.

Jesus’ death, Father, is truly sacramental, an outward sign of inward grace. Your one act that is saving in every situation is lived out on earth in every moment of Jesus’ life but never more manifest than in his death which sums up in one instant the total giving of his life to you, Father, in love.

Father, may we join with our sisters and brothers of all times and places who have accepted resurrected life here on earth through the Word dwelling within them and whose deaths also are not defeat but passage to a fuller existence with you in the Holy Spirit.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

April 1: Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Simeon Solomon: Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego
Preserved from the Burning, Fiery Furnace
Private Collection, 1863

Readings for Mass
First Reading: Daniel 3:14-20, 91-92, 95
Responsorial Psalm: Daniel 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56
Gospel: John 8:31-42

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free (NRSV, Jn 8:31-32).”

Let us pray.

Father, so often, when we long to be free, it is freedom “from” something that we seek. As long as the Israelites understood their freedom as merely freedom from slavery in Egypt, they simply exchanged one form of slavery for another. Once across the sea into the desert they could only bemoan their condition and murmur and rebel against you, Father. Freed from their Egyptian taskmasters, they were still enslaved.

Freedom, Father, is always found in accepting your life, of being caught up in you, receiving life from you, yes, but also fully giving of self to you through the Word in Love that is the Holy Spirit. True freedom is always finally never merely freedom “from” but always freedom “for.”

The prophet Daniel tells the wonderful story of the three boys cast into the fiery furnace. They lived not for themselves, Father, but only for you. They were victorious over their fiery fate even as your Son Jesus was victorious on the cross and we can be victorious as well, in any situation however dark, if only we forget ourselves and live for you, Father, and for all of our sisters and brothers.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen