Saturday, April 07, 2007

Mental Prayer for Easter Sunday - The Resurrection

Mental Prayer Meditation Helps

Presence of God.

Grace I Ask: Jesus, risen from the dead, give me a strong belief in all the truths of faith You teach.

Mental Picture (cf. Matt. 28:1-15): Outside Jesus' tomb before dawn... three Roman soldiers sprawl in sleep on the ground... a huge stone blocks the entrance to the tomb... inside on a slab lies the body of Jesus, cold in death. Dawn... the first rays of sunlight gild the temple towers... suddenly the ground heaves and shudders as an earthquake rolls over Judea. Back rolls the huge stone... and there stands Jesus, glorious, shining, the majestic smile of victory on His face. Christ has risen­...our Leader and King lives!

My Personal Application: Christ's greatest mira­cle! The foundation of our faith! For three years He taught us the truths of faith and the sure way to heaven. As a proof that He was truly God, He often predicted this miracle. Now He fulfills it. Truly dead after Calvary, He rises to life in triumph. Do I realize that this miracle proves Jesus was God beyond a shadow of a doubt? Do I see that it stamps the seal of Divinity on every truth that Jesus taught? And among them, the truth that He leads His army to certain victory.

I Speak to Christ: Jesus, newly risen in glory, I adore You. I believe You are truly God's Son. I believe in the truths of faith You taught. I believe that Your commandments are my way to heaven. Strengthen my faith. Make it firm in the faithless world in which we live today.

Thought for Today: "He is risen as He said."
Adapted from Mental Prayer, Challenge to the Lay Apostle
by The Queen's Work,(© 1958)

May 12 - Rosalind Moss

Rosalind Moss
A Jewish woman who journeyed through Evangelical Protestantism into the Catholic Church

From a Jewish background, the direction of Rosalind’s life was dramatically altered in her adult years when she embraced Jesus as the Messiah of the Jewish people. Her initial conversion took her from a 15-year business career as a successful executive with corporations in New York and California to full-time Evangelical ministry, earning a master's degree in Ministry from Talbot Theological Seminary.

A series of events in the summer of 1990 set her on a compelling course to find out if the Catholic Church is in fact the Church Christ established 2,000 years ago. After an intensive and heart-wrenching search, and 18 years of Evangelical Protestantism, she entered the Catholic Church at Easter 1995.

As a member of St. Joseph Radio’s Speaker’s Bureau and now as a staff apologist with Catholic Answers, Rosalind travels the world speaking and teaching through parishes, conferences, women’s and family retreats, books and publications, TV and radio. She is the editor of Home at Last: 11 Who Found Their Way to the Catholic Church, which includes her own journey to the Church. She appeared on EWTN’s “Journey Home” program and is a frequent guest on “St. Joseph Radio Presents.” In addition to her semi-monthly radio program, “From the Heart” on “Catholic Answers Live”, Rosalind co-hosts EWTN’s “Household of Faith” and “Now that We’re Catholic!”

Come and hear Rosalind share her enthusiasm for the Catholic Faith!

Holy Mass & Two dynamic talks by Rosalind Moss

* Old St. Ferdinand Shrine Tour
* Spiritual and Educational Materials Available

Saturday, May 12, 2007 from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Historic Old St. Ferdinand Shrine * 1 Rue Saint Francois  Florissant, MO

Free will offerings appreciated. * Please call 636-244-0089 for more information.


Sponsored by St. Joseph Radio and the Friends of the Old St. Ferdinand Shrine
Tune in to “St. Joseph Radio Presents” live every Saturday at 2:00 p.m. (Eastern) on Shortwave, AM/FM, Internet and Sirius Satellite Radio

April 14, 15- Encampment & Music Festival

Saturday & Sunday, April 14 & 15
10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Explore a re-enactment of a pre-1840 encampment in the Saint Ferdinand de Florissant Territory.

Meet the Living History Re-enactors who recreate the clothing,
mannerisms and general way of life of the people of the 1800s:
fur trappers, farmers, families and a Jesuit priest.

Taste bread freshly baked in an early nineteenth century outdoor bread oven.

See demonstrations of crafts of the times, including bead work.

Participate in potato sack races, old-time baseball and games for all ages.

Enjoy music performed by students from seven local elementary schools.

Bring your family, chairs and a picnic lunch.
(Hot dogs will be available for purchase)

Take a tour of the Shrine. Find out how Saint Ferdinand III, Saint John Francis Regis, Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, Fr. Pierre Jean De Smet, S.J. and even Saint Valentine played a role in the Shrine’s history.

Old Saint Ferdinand Shrine
The oldest standing church of the Upper Louisiana Territory and a landmark of the Florissant Valley.

1 Rue Saint Francois • Florissant, MO


For more information please call Bill Bray at 314-831-4237

April 21 - Still on schedule?

As seen this week in St Louis:
Women Led-Prayer opportunity for Catholic women (especially those called to ordination) to lead prayer

Our next liturgy will be April 21st at 9:00 am at St. Cronan's Parish


Gospel for Saturday Evening, The Easter Vigil

The Resurrection of the Lord

From: Luke 24:1-12

The Women Are Told That Jesus Is Risen

[1] But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices which they had prepared. [2] And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, [3] but when they went in they did not find the body. [4] While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel; [5] and as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. [6] Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, [7] that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise." [8] And they remembered his words, [9] and returning from the tomb they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. [10] Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told this to the apostles; [11] but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. [12] But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home wondering at what had happened.


1-4. The affection which led the holy women to make the necessary preparations for the embalming of Jesus' body was, perhaps, an intuition of faith which the Church would express more elaborately much later on: "We firmly believe that when his soul was dissociated from his body, his divinity continued always united both to his body in the sepulchre and to his soul in limbo" ("St Pius V Catechism", I, 5, 6).

5-8. True faith concerning the resurrection of Jesus teaches that he truly died, that is, his soul was separated from his body, and his body was in the grave for three days; and that then by his own power his body and soul were united once more, never again to be separated (cf. "St Pius V Catechism", I, 6, 7).

Although this is a strictly supernatural mystery there are some elements in it which come within the category of sense experience--death, burial, the empty tomb, appearances, etc.--and in this sense it is a demonstrable fact and one which has been verified (cf. St Pius X, "Lamentabili", 36-37).

Jesus Christ's resurrection completes the work of Redemption, "For just as by dying he endured all evil to deliver us from evil, so was he glorified in rising again to advance us towards good things, according to Rom 4:25 which says that 'he was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification'" (St Thomas Aquinas, "Summa Theologiae", III, q. 53, a. 1, c.).

"'Christ is alive.' This is the great truth which fills our faith with meaning. Jesus, who died on the cross, has risen. He has triumphed over death; he has overcome sorrow, anguish and the power of darkness. 'Do not be amazed' was how the angels greeted the women who came to the tomb. 'Do not be amazed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here' (Mk 16:6). 'This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it' (Ps 117:24).

"Easter is a time of joy--a joy not confined to this period of the liturgical year, for it should always be present in the Christian's heart. For Christ is alive. He is not someone who has gone, someone who existed for a time and then passed on, leaving us a wonderful example and a great memory.

"No, Christ is alive, Jesus is the Emmanuel: God with us. His Resurrection shows us that God does not abandon his own. He promised he would not: 'Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you' (Is 49:15). And he has kept his promise. His delight is still to be with the children of men (cf. Prov 8:31)" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 102).

Through Baptism and the other sacraments, a Christian becomes part of the redemptive mystery of Christ, part of his death and resurrection: "You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead" (Col 2: 12). "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Col 3:13).

9-12. The first people to whom the angel announced the birth of Christ were the shepherds at Bethlehem; and the first to be told of his resurrection are these devout women: one further sign of God's preference for simple and sincere souls is the fact that he gives themthis honor which the world would not appreciate (cf. Mt 11:25). But it is not only their simplicity and kindness and sincerity that attracts him: poor people (such as shepherds) and women were looked down on in those times, and Jesus loves anyone who is humbled by the pride of men. The women's very simplicity and goodness lead them to go immediately to Peter and the Apostles to tell them everything they have seen and heard. Peter, whom Christ promised to make his vicar on earth (cf. Mt 16:18) feels he must take the initiative in checking out their story.
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Mental Prayer for Holy Saturday

The Burial of Christ

Mental Prayer Meditation Helps

Presence of God

Grace I Ask: "Holy Mother, pierce me through. In my heart each wound renew of my Savior crucified."

Mental Picture (cf. John 19:38-42): Joseph of Arimathea takes the Body of Christ to his tomb. Mary, His Mother, prepares to wrap His body in the winding sheet. As she lovingly arranges it, her heart speaks:

"So you are dead, my Son. Your heart that loved sinners and bled for them beats no more. Your lips that gave man truth, that spoke the words of forgiveness and of God's love, are now cold and still. Your hands that gave sight to the blind and speech to the dumb, that quieted the storm on the lake and multiplied loaves and fishes now, in death, are empty. Your feet that carried you wherever there were men to be saved or healed or comforted, that walked one night on the water, were torn by nails upon the cross.

"Yes, my Son, you are dead. And with you I have died, though my heart still beats and my body still breathes. My life ended when you bowed your head and lived no more.

"I remember the wonder in my soul when the angel told me you would come... the joy when I laid you in the straw when angels sang. I feel the touch of your childish fingers that once formed the world. I remember my loneliness when you left me to go about your Father's business.

"You are dead, my Son; but these things crowd my mind. And the memory too of the proud and weak Roman politician who unjustly condemned you... of the chosen people, so hardened and blind... of the bloody road... of your dying cry - all these I cannot forget.

"Yet I know your glory. One remembered word destroys my fears, one promise gives me courage. I cover your face and lay you in the tomb... and I pray aloud, 'Oh rise, my Son! Arise!'"

My Personal Application: I listen to the words of the Queen of the Heaven, my Mother. "To Jesus hrough Mary." Mother, give me the courage to follow Him even in bearing His cross... and so share in His resurrection.

Thought for Today: "Holy Mother, pierce me through..."
Adapted from Mental Prayer, Challenge to the Lay Apostle
by The Queen's Work,(© 1958)

April 9 - Evening of Recollection

Evening of Recollection will be at the Chapel at Immaculate Conception Parish-Dardenne this coming Monday night, April 9th, from 7:30 - 9:30.

If you cannot stay for the entire evening it would be worthwhile to spend some time in quiet prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

Meditations will be given by a priest of Opus Dei and a short talk on a spiritual aspect of sanctifying our life will be given by a member of Opus Dei. Evening closes with Benediction and some time afterward for fellowship. Confession will also be available.

Hope you can continue you Easter joy by joining us.

HT to Joe F for the update.

Good Friday - Lessons from Christ's Death

"And bowing His head, he gave up His spirit." St. John, 19:30.

The Cross of the Legion of Honor, one of the highest decorations of the French government, was given, after death, to a French nun by the name of Mother Mary Elizabeth of the Eucharist, who was Superior of the Convent of Our Lady of Mercy at Lyon.

She had been deported into Germany, to the concentration camp at Ravensbruck, when the German Gestapo, during the occupation of France, discovered in the basement of her convent guns belonging to the under­ground. During the dreadful days in the concentration camp her encour­agement, her cheerfulness, and her fearless example kept many another prisoner from despair and even suicide.

The day came when the camp officials selected a group of women to be put to death in the gas chamber of the prison. Among those to whom this cruel lot fell was the mother of several children. It was then our heroine, Mother Elizabeth, stepped forward and volunteered to take the place of the anguished mother. Her offer was accepted, and on Good Friday of 1945, at the age of 56, the heroic French nun marched calmly to death in the chamber. For this deed of heroism and charity her government later decorated her with highest honors.

That Good Friday of 1945 reminds us of the Good Friday of the year 33. It was then that the greatest Hero of all history, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, went willingly to death for every single one of us. On this Good Friday we recall His death. We gather in grief to give Him the honor of our gratitude and love. We gather to gaze with loving thought upon His tortured body, writhing on the cross. We watch with Him as He breathes His last. We adore Him as He hangs there. We thank Him. We beg His pardon for our sins which nailed Him there. And then we beg our Lord to teach us the lessons of His death.

Surely, that French mother for whom the heroic nun gave her own life, never forgot the love of the one who died for her. Neither must we ever forget the love of Him who died for us. No doubt, too, on every Good Friday, the anniversary of the day when that Sister gave her life that another might live, the one who was saved would think of that sacrifice. So, too, on this anniversary of the day when Christ died for me, I will think of Him with loving gratitude. As I look at my Lord bowing His head and giving up His spirit, four thoughts come to mind:

He died; I will not fear death. He died for me; I will die for Him. He died in pain; I will accept pain. He died for my sins; I will never sin again.

1. The death of Christ takes away most of the fear of death. Why should I fear death, since­ - "He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even to death on a cross?" Philippians, 2:8.

A. Originally death was not the destiny of man. It came as a punish­ment of the first sin. "By the envy of the devil, death came into the world." Wisdom, 2:24.

Even our Lord, as Man, experienced a horror and fear of death. Little wonder that mere men would fear the end of this life.

B. But that dread of death Jesus took away by dying Himself. He came into the world not only to redeem us, not only to die for us, but to show us by His death how we are to die, to take the sting out of death, to give us courage in the face of it.

C. It is normal and natural for man to fear death, but it is not normal to let that fear run to excess, especially for us who stand here beneath the cross today and watch our Lord passing away.

You may have heard the ancient legend of the three trees that stood in a dense forest. They often wondered what would become of them when the woodsman cut them down. One day they decided to pray for what they wished to be when they were turned into lumber.

The first tree asked to become part of a beautiful palace, where kings and queens might dwell, where the great would come to gaze with amazement.

The second tree asked to become part of a great ship that would sail the seven seas, and travel around the world.

The third tree preferred to stay in the forest where he might grow into the tallest of all, and forever point like a finger to God.

Sometime later came a woodsman with saw and axe, and down went the first tree. But instead of being made into a beautiful pal­ace, it was made part of a common stable. Yet, in that stable a Virgin Mother and her just husband took shelter on a certain night when a beautiful Baby was born. Ever since, kings and peasants, the great and the small, have honored that simple stable, and have echoed the song of the angels that night: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will."

After thirty more years the second tree was chopped down, and its lumber was made, not into a mighty ship, but into a small boat that was launched on the Sea of Galilee. From that boat a tall, mag­nificent Man spoke to the multitudes on the shore, spoke a message that has sailed the seven seas, and reached all the shores of the world.

A few years later the third tree was felled. Its lumber was hewn into a cross, on which the Baby of our stable, who was later the Man in the boat, was devilishly nailed to die the most cruel death that beastly men could devise. The wood of that tree stands not in one woods, but it stands on all the hills of the world - pointing upward, pointing to God and God's heaven.

In this way the prayers of all three trees were answered in a more glorious way than they had ever dreamed. Before that third tree we stand today - the tree of the cross, as it points to heaven, as it takes away the sting of death, and assures us of a happier home above.

2. Jesus not only died, He died for us. Who, then, will refuse to die for Him?

A. Millions - the martyrs - died for Christ because He had died for them. We may or we may not be called upon to give our lives as the mar­tyrs did.

B. Nevertheless, if we are called upon to die the slow death of duty, we will gladly yield up our spirit for Him. Sometimes it would seem better to suffer the momentary agony of martyrdom, rather than the daily death of humdrum, drab, and wearisome duty. Die to self every day, as He died for you.

C. In any case we shall all have to die some time. Why not do so will­ingly, courageously? One of the best sacrifices, and at the same time one of the best prayers we can offer the Almighty is to accept death wherever, whenever, and however God decides. You might offer such a prayer to Christ on the cross this afternoon.

D. You might even ask for the spirit of the saints, those special heroes and heroines of God, who found the source of their spirit of sacri­fice here at the foot of the cross. One often wonders how they did it - how they denied themselves even many of the lawful pleasures of life, how they labored day and night for the glory of God, how they eagerly and joyfully accepted suffering and humiliation, oppo­sition and defeat, and the darkness and discouragement that come frequently to those who serve the Lord. All this they learned at the foot of the cross. They reasoned: Christ died for me; I will die for Him.

3. Jesus not only died, and died for us; He died in extremest pain. Look closely at that cross today. Look at it as Jesus takes up the cruel wood to carry it to Calvary. Look at Him bend and fall beneath its weight, Watch Him as He greets His grief-stricken Mother. Reach out with your hands to help Him as did Simon of Cyrene.

With Veronica, hurry to wipe away the blood and spittle from His sacred face, so that His countenance may be painted not merely upon a cloth, but upon your very heart.

See Him fall again and again. Join the weeping women as they sympathize with His sufferings. Look, the soldiers tear His clothes from His sacred Body, fling Him upon the hard wood, and then, horror of horrors, drive nails through His hands and feet. Up, up they raise the cross and drop it roughly into the hole prepared for it.

There He hangs, His Body one mass of wounds from head to foot. What a cruel crown He wears, with its long sharp thorns piercing His temples. The weight of His Body drags down upon His riven hands and feet. The wounds grow wider and wider. Every nerve and muscle and bone is tor­tured beyond human endurance. How true the words of the prophet:

"Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows: and we have thought him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted." Isaias, 53:4.

Added to His other tortures is a consuming, burning thirst. This is made greater by His cruel tormentors, who give Him vinegar and gall to drink. Blood and tears almost blind His eyes. But through that blood He beholds His Mother and He tells us to behold her. Broken-hearted she stands there with a few faithful followers. Yes, He is even abandoned by His friends. Instead, a crowd of enemies call out revilings and blasphemies, wounding His heart even more cruelly than His Body. And all this lasted for three long hours, three dark and bitter hours, three red and cruel hours, until the heart that was filled with love for men, burst with that love. Then, bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

A. Of all who have suffered, none have suffered more than Jesus - in mind and in body. We have read the stories of the martyrs - how they were thrown to lions, how their bodies were soaked in oil and were burned to light up the Roman nights, how they were tied to the tails of wild horses, to the wheels of chariots, how they were burned and maimed and stabbed and crushed and pierced with pointed sticks, how they were even nailed, like their Master, to cruel crosses. Yet, all their sufferings were small compared to His. And those witnesses willingly bore those tortures for the sake of Him who had suffered for them.

B. Since the fall of Adam and Eve it is the lot of all men to suffer. No one escapes. Read your daily paper with thought, and you find peo­ple of all classes and races, of all professions and trades, of all social levels and of all walks of life - all of them suffering either in mind or body or in both, at some time or other. Visit the rooms of our hospitals, and you will find all ages and all colors and creeds, even 'Christian' Scientists, who maintain that there is no such thing as pain.

C. But the greatest variety you will find in the way people suffer. Many complain. Others groan and sigh. Still others deny that there is an All-good God. Some will demand every possible kind of pain-killer, while others, like the promoters of mercy-killing, will bring on death to end the sufferings of a patient in pain.

How far they have wandered from the cross of Calvary. How ignorant they are of the lessons our Lord taught on Good Friday. How miserable must suffering be for those who have not studied in the school of the Savior. How blind they are to the meaning and value of pain.

The story is told of a father whose eight-year son was run down by a hit-and-run driver. The little body was mangled and maimed into a mass of flesh and blood. The child died in torture and pain. Grief-stricken, the father rushed from the death-room of the hospital to the rectory of his pastor. There he shouted in bitter defiance: "You and your God! How could He let my little boy die like that, if He is so merciful? Where was this merciful God of yours when my son was run over?" ­

Gently and sympathetically the pastor answered:
"He was right where He was when His own Son was killed."

Indeed, only in the light of the death of Christ can we under­stand all other death. Only in the light of Christ's sufferings can we understand all other suffering. Only beneath the cross, can we comprehend the crosses that come to all of us. Only in the spirit of our Savior can we bear those crosses.

D. Suffering can even become a blessing. Every priest who has the privilege of dealing with souls can tell of people who first began to think of their salvation, who first became serious about the saving of their souls, when some affliction struck them. Lying on their backs in a hospital, with their eyes toward heaven, many a soul has for the first time thought seriously about his salvation. Death and sickness and set-backs of all kinds have opened the eyes of many to the real meaning of life, the real purpose of their existence. Death has even reconciled those who had lost their love.

Years ago in one of the cities of our west a husband and wife became estranged and finally separated. The divorce decree gave cus­tody of their only child to the mother. The husband left to live in a distant city. Not long afterwards their little son died. It was only after the funeral that the father heard of it. He took time from his business to make a trip back home. As soon as he arrived he hur­ried out to the cemetery, to the grave of their little boy. With tears streaming down his cheeks, he stood by the little mound of earth. Suddenly he heard a step behind him. He turned. There was his estranged wife. At first they both were tempted to turn away, but the chain of their love was in that grave. Instead of turning away, they clasped hands and embraced over the grave of their son. They were reconciled, never to separate again.

Nothing less than death could have reconciled those two. It was a bitter remedy for their selfishness and lack of understanding, but it worked. So, nothing less than the death of Christ could reconcile us poor, sinful human beings to our heavenly Father. Only in the light of Christ's sufferings and death can we understand the suffer­ing and death in the world. It has a purpose, a purpose that is often hidden from our eyes, yet a purpose that is dear to the heart of our heavenly Father.

E. Without suffering it is impossible to be a disciple and follower of Christ. Either we accept the pain that comes to us, or we do some penance of our own choosing, or we perform the official penances­ like fasting and abstinence - of Mother Church. Christ Himself has told us:

"If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For he who would save his life will lose it; but he who loses his life for my sake will save it." St. Luke, 9:23,24.

What a great difference there often is between our promises of penance and our performance. What a difference between our pro­fession of love for Christ, and the carrying out of our love in action.

Unwillingness to sacrifice for one we profess to love, proves the love is shallow and weak. How flabby and feeble the love so-called of one who refuses to sacrifice, to suffer for the God-man who died on a cross with nails through His hands, spikes through His feet, a spear through His heart, bitter gall on His lips, and a crown of thorns on His head.

4. Christ not only died in pain for us; He died for our sins. Sin is an offense against an all-good God. Sin is an infinite, unlimited insult. Man, on the contrary, is a finite, limited being. He cannot make amends of him­self for the infinite insult he has offered God by disobeying the Almighty. If we were to put all the penances and sufferings of the saints, all their prayers and fastings and watching, all their tortures and trials and virtues, on the one hand of a scale, they could not outweigh the crime of one sin­gle mortal sin. But, put into that scale the sufferings and death of Christ, and reparation is made to God, because Christ was the God-man, the true Son of the true God.

Look at that tortured Body of Christ and learn the malice of sin. Look at our Lord hanging there and learn how terrible it is to disobey the com­mandments of the Almighty. Look at Him long and lovingly, look at Him thoughtfully, look at Him with sorrow and repentance for all your sins and all the sins of the world. Sin nailed Him to that cross. By avoiding sin we can take Him down. May that be one of our deepest resolves on this Good Friday afternoon.

As we watch our Lord bow His head and breathe His last sigh, we will realize that His death takes away the sting of our death, that He died for us, and we will die for Him; that He died in pain so that we might accept pain for His sake; that He died for our sins that we might resolve to sin no more. Lord, Jesus crucified - have mercy on us. Amen.
Adapted from Lent and the Capital Sins
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (© 1952)

Commentary on the Gospel for Good Friday - the Lord's Passion

This is the Commentary ONLY
The Gospel for today is: John 18:1-19:42


1. The previous chapter, dealing as it did with the glory of the Son of God (cf. Jn 17:1, 4, 10,22,24), is a magnificent prologue to our Lord's passion and death, which St John presents as part of Christ's glorification: he emphasizes that Jesus freely accepted his death (14:31) and freely allowed himself to be arrested (18:4, 11). The Gospel shows our Lord's superiority over his judges (18:20-2 1) and accusers (19:8, 12); and his majestic serenity in the face of physical pain, which makes one more aware of the Redemption, the triumph of the Cross, than of Jesus' actual sufferings.

Chapters 18 and 19 cover the passion and death of our Lord - events so important and decisive that all the books of the New Testament deal with them, in some way or other. Thus, the Synoptic Gospels give us extensive accounts of what happened; in the Acts of the Apostles these events, together with the resurrection, form the core of the Apostles' preaching. St Paul explains the redemptive value of Jesus Christ's sacrifice, and the catholic epistles speak of his salvific death, as does the Apocalypse, where the Victor, enthroned in heaven, is the sacrificed Lamb, Jesus Christ. It should also be noted that whenever these sacred writings mention our Lord's death they go on to refer to his glorious resurrection.

St John's Gospel locates these events in five places. The first (18:1-12) is Gethsemane, where Jesus is arrested; after this (18:13-27) he is taken to the house of Annas, where the religious trial begins and Peter denies Jesus before the high priest's servants. The third scene is the praetorium (18:28-19:16), where Jesus is tried by the Roman procurator: St John gives an extensive account of this trial, highlighting the true character of Christ's kingship and his rejection by the Jews, who call for his crucifixion. He then goes on (19:17-37) to describe the events which occur after the procurator's unjust sentence; this scene centers on Calvary. St John then reports the burial of our Lord in the unused tomb near Calvary belonging to Joseph of Arimathea.

The climax of all these events is the glorification of Jesus, of which he himself had spoken (cf. Jn 17:1-5) - - his resurrection and exaltation to his Father's side.

Here is Fray Luis de Granada's advice on how to meditate on the passion of our Lord: "There are five things we can reflect on when we think about the sacred passion. [...] First, we can incline our heart to sorrow and repentance for our sins; the passion of our Lord helps us do this because it is evident that everything he suffered he suffered on account of sins, so that if there were no sins in the world, there would have been no need for such painful reparation. Therefore, sins - yours and mine, like everyone else's - were the executioners who bound him and lashed him and crowned him with thorns and put him on the cross. So you can see how right it is for you to feel the enormity and malice of your sins, for it was these which really caused so much suffering, not because these sins required the Son of God to suffer but because divine justice chose to ask for such great atonement.

"We have here excellent motives, not only to abhor sin but also to love virtues: we have the example of this Lord's virtues, which so clearly shine out during his sacred passion: we can follow these virtues and learn to imitate then especially his great humility, gentleness and silence, as well as the other virtues for this is one of the best and most effective ways of meditating on the sacred passion - the way of imitation.

"At other times we should fix our attention on the great good the Lord does us here, reflecting on how much he loved us and how much he gave us and how much it cost him to do so. [...] At other times it is good to focus our attention on knowledge of God, that is, to consider his great goodness, his mercy, his justice, his kindness, and particularly his ardent charity, which shines forth in the sacred passion as nowhere else. For, just as it is a greater proof of love to suffer evils on behalf of one's friend than to do good things for him, and God could do both [...], it pleased his divine goodness to assume a nature which could suffer evils, very great evils, so that man could be quite convinced of God's love and thereby be moved to love him who so loved man.

"Finally, at other times one can reflect [...] on the wisdom of God in choosing this manner of atoning for mankind: that is, making satisfaction for our sins, inflaming our charity, curing our pride, our greed and our love of comfort, and inclining our souls to the virtue of humility [...], abhorrence of sin and love for the Cross" ("Life of Jesus Christ", 15).1-2. "When Jesus had spoken these words": this is a formula often used in the fourth Gospel to indicate a new episode linked with what has just been recounted (cf. Jn 2:12; 3:22; 5:1; 6:1; 13:21; etc.).

The Kidron (etymologically "turbid") was a brook which carried water only during rainy weather, it divided Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, on slopes of which lay the garden of Gethsemane (cf. Mt 26:32; Lk 21:37; 22:39). The distance from the Cenacle, where the Last Supper took place, to the garden of Gethsemane was little more than a kilometer.

3. Because Judea was occupied by Romans, there was a garrison stationed at Jerusalem - a cohort (600 men) quartered in the Antonia tower, under the authority of a tribune. In the Greek what is translated here as "a band of soldiers" is "the cohort", the name for the whole unit being used though only part is meant: it does not mean that 600 soldiers came out to arrest Jesus. Presumably the Jewish authorities, who had their own temple guard - referred to here as "officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees" - must have sought some assistance from the military. Judas' part consisted in leading the way to where Jesus was and identifying the man to be arrested.

4-9. Only the fourth Gospel reports this episode prior to Jesus' arrest, recalling the words of the Psalm: "Then my enemies will be turned back in the day when I call" (Ps 56:9). Our Lord's majesty is apparent: he surrenders himself freely and voluntarily. This does not, however, mean that the Jews involved are free from blame. St Augustine comments on this passage: "The persecutors, who came with the traitor to lay hold of Jesus, found him whom they sought and heard him say, 'I am he'. Why did they not lay hold of him but fell back to the ground? Because that was what he wished, who could do whatever he wished. Had he not allowed himself to be taken by them, they would have been unable to effect their plan, but neither would he have done what he came to do. They in their rage sought him to put him to death; but he also sought us by dying for us. Therefore, after he displayed his power to those who had no power to hold him, they did lay hands on him and by means of them, all unwitting, he did what he wanted to do" ("In Ioann. Evang.", 112, 3).

It is also moving to see how Jesus takes care of his disciples, even though he himself is in danger. He had promised that none of his own should perish except Judas Iscariot (cf. Jn 6:39; 17:12); although his promise referred to protecting them from eternal punishment, our Lord is also concerned about their immediate safety, for as yet they are not ready to face martyrdom.10-11. Once again we see Peter's impetuosity and loyalty; he comes to our Lord's defense, risking his own life, but he still does not understand God' plans of salvation: he still cannot come to terms with the idea of Christ dying - just as he could not when Christ first foretold his passion (Mt 16:21-22). Our Lord does not accept Peter's violent defense: he refers back to what he said in his prayer in Gethsemane (cf. Mt 26:39), where he freely accepted his Father' will, giving himself up to his captors in order to accomplish the Redemption.

We should show reverence to God's will with the same docility and meekness as Jesus accepting his passion. "Stages: to be resigned to the will of God; to conform to the will of God; to want the will of God; to love the will of God" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 774).

13-18. Jesus is brought to the house of Annas, who, although he was no longer high priest, still exercised great religious and political influence (cf. note on Lk 3:2). These two disciples, St Peter and the other disciple, probably John himself, are disconcerted; they do not know what to do, so they follow Jesus at a distance. Their attachment to him was not yet sufficiently supernatural; discouragement has displaced bravery and loyalty - and will soon lead to Peter's triple denial. However noble his feelings, a Christian will be unable to live up to the demands of his faith unless his life has a basis of deep piety.

19-21. During this first interrogation - preliminary to his later examination by the Sanhedrin (Lk 22:66-71) - Jesus lays stress on the fact that he has always acted openly: everyone has had an opportunity listen to him and to witness his miracles - so much so that at times he has been acclaimed as the Messiah (cf. Jn 12:12-19 and par.). The chief priests themselves have seen him in the temple and in the synagogues; but not wishing to see (cf. Jn 9:39-41), or believe (cf. Jn 10:37-38), they make out that his objectives are hidden and sinister.

22-23. Again, we see Jesus' serenity; he is master of the situation, as he is throughout his passion. To the unjust accusation made by this servant, our Lord replies meekly, but he does defend his conduct and points to the injustice with which he is being treated. This is how we should behave if people mistreat us in any way. Well-argued defense of one's rights is compatible with meekness and humility (cf. Acts 22:25).

25-27. Peter's denials are treated in less detail here than in the Synoptic Gospels, but here, as there, we can see the Apostles' humility and sincerity which lead them to tell about their own weaknesses. Peter's repentance is not referred to here, but it is implied by the mention of the cock crowing: the very brevity of St John's account points to the fact that this episode was well known to the early Christians. After the resurrection the full scope of Jesus' forgiveness will be evidenced when he confirms Peter in his mission as leader of the Apostles (cf. Jn 21:15-17).

"In this adventure of love we should not be depressed by our falls, not even by serious falls, if we go to God in the sacrament of Penance contrite an resolved to improve. A Christian is not a neurotic collector of good behavior reports. Jesus Christ our Lord was moved as much by Peter's repentance after his fall as by John's innocence and faithfulness. Jesus understands our weakness and draws us to himself on an inclined plane. He wants us to make an effort to climb a little each day" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ is Passing By", '75).

28. The Synoptics also report the trial before Pilate, but St John gives a longer and more detailed account: in 18:28-19:16 is the center of the five parts of his account of the Passion (cf. note on 18:1). He describes the events that take place in the praetorium, highlighting the majesty of Christ as the messianic King, and also his rejection by the Jews.

There are seven stages here, marked by Pilate's entrances and exits. First (vv. 29-32) the Jews indict Jesus in a general way as an "evildoer". Then follows the dialogue between Pilate and Jesus (vv. 36-37) which culminates in Christ stating that he is a King, after which Pilate tries to save our Lord (vv. 38-40) by asking the people if they want him to release "the King of the Jews".

The centerpoint of the account (19:1-3) is the crowning with thorns, with the soldiers mockingly doing obeisance to Christ as "King of the Jews". After this our Lord is led out wearing the crown of thorns and draped in the purple robe (vv. 4- 7) - the shameful scene of the Ecce Homo. The Jews' accusation now turns on Jesus' making himself the Son of God. Once again, Pilate, in the praetorium again, speaks with Jesus (vv.8-12) and tries to probe further into his divine origin. The Jews then concentrate their hatred in a directly political accusation: "Everyone who makes himself a king sets himself against Caesar" (Jn 19:12). Finally (vv. 13-16), in a very formal way, stating time and place, St John narrates how Pilate points to Jesus and says: "Here is your King!" And the leaders of the Jews openly reject him who was and is the genuine King spoken of by the prophets.

"Praetorium": this was the Roman name for the official residence of the praetor or of other senior officials in the provinces of the Empire, such as the procurator or prefect in Palestine. Pilate's usual residence was on the coast, in Caesarea, but he normally moved to Jerusalem for the major festival periods, bringing additional troops to be used in the event of civil disorder. In Jerusalem, at this time and later, the procurator resided in Herod's palace (in the western part of the upper city) or else in the Antonia tower, a fortress backing onto the northeastern corner of the temple esplanade. It is not known for certain which of these two buildings was the praetorium mentioned in the Gospel; it was more likely the latter.

"So that they might not be defiled": Jewish tradition at the time ("Mishnah"; "Ohalot" treatise 7, 7) laid down that anyone who entered a Gentile or pagan house incurred seven days' legal defilement (cf. Acts 10:28); such defilement would have prevented them from celebrating the Passover. It is surprising that the chief priests had a scruple of this sort given their criminal inclinations against Jesus. Once more our Lord's accusation of them is seen to be well founded: "You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel" (Mt 23:24).

29-32. St John has omitted part of the interrogation which took place in the house of Caiaphas and which is reported in the Synoptics (Mt 26:57-66 and par.), which tell us that the meeting at Caiaphas' terminated with Jesus hem declared deserving of death for the blasphemy of proclaiming himself the Son of God (cf. Mt 26:65-66). Under the Law of Moses blasphemy was punishable by stoning (cf. Lev 24:16); but they do not proceed to stone him - which the certainly could have done, even though the Romans were in control: they were ready to stone the adulterous woman (cf.Jn 8:1-11) and a short time later they did stone St Stephen (cf. Acts 7:54-60) - because they wanted to bring the people along with them, and they knew that many of them regarded Jesus a Prophet and Messiah (cf. Mt 24:45-46; Mk 12:12; Lk 20:19). Not daring to stone him, they will shrewdly manage to turn a religious charge into a politics question and have the authority of the Empire brought to bear on their side they preferred to denounce Jesus to the procurator as a revolutionary who plotted against Caesar by declaring himself to be the Messiah and King of the Jews; by acting in this way they avoided risking the people's wrath and ensured that Jesus would be condemned by the Roman authorities to death by crucifixion.

Our Lord had foretold a number of times that he would die in this way (cf. Jn 3:14; 8:28; 12:32-33); as St Paul later put it, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us - for it is written, 'Cursed be every one who hangs on a tree"' (Gal 3:13; cf. Deut 21:23).

33-34. There is no onus on Pilate to interfere in religious questions, but because the accusation levelled against Jesus had to do with politics and public order, he begins his interrogation naturally by examining him on the main charge: "Are you the King of the Jews?"

By replying with another question, Jesus is not refusing to answer: he wishes to make quite clear, as he has always done, that his mission is a spiritual one. And really Pilate's was not an easy question to answer, because, to a Gentile, a king of the Jews meant simply a subverter of the Empire; whereas, to a Jewish nationalist, the King-Messiah was a politico-religious liberator who would obtain their freedom from Rome. The true character of Christ's messiahship completely transcends both these concepts - as Jesus explains to the procurator, although he realizes how enormously difficult it is for Pilate to understand what Christ's Kingship really involves.

35-36. After the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the fish, Jesus refused to be proclaimed king because the people were thinking in terms of an earthly kingdom (cf. Jn 6:15). However, Jesus did enter Jerusalem in triumph, and he did accept acclamation as King-Messiah. Now, in the passion, he acknowledges before Pilate that he is truly a King, making it clear that his kingship is not an earthly one. Thus, "those who expected the Messiah to have visible temporal power were mistaken. 'The kingdom of God does not mean food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit' (Rom 14:17). Truth and justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. That is the kingdom of Christ: the divine activity which saves men and which will reach its culmination when history ends and the Lord comes from the heights of paradise finally to judge men" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ is Passing By", 180).

37. This is what his kingship really is: his kingdom is "the kingdom of Truth and Life, the kingdom of Holiness and Grace, the kingdom of Justice, Love and Peace" (Preface of the Mass of Christ the King). Christ reigns over those who accept and practise the truth revealed by him - his Father's love for the world (Jn 3:16; 1 Jn 4:9). He became man to make this truth known and to enable men to accept it. And so, those who recognize Christ's kingship and sovereignty accept his authority, and he thus reigns over them in an eternal and universal kingdom.

For its part, "the Church, looking to Christ who bears witness to the truth, must always and everywhere ask herself, and in a certain sense also contemporary 'world', how to make good emerge from man, how to liberate the dynamism of the good that is in man, in order that it may be stronger than evil, than any moral, social or other evil" (John Paul II, "General Audience", February 1979).

"If we [Christians] are trying to have Christ as our king we must consistent. We must start by giving him our heart. Not to do that and still talk about the kingdom of Christ would be completely hollow. There would be no real Christian substance in our behavior. We would be making an outward show of a faith which simply did not exist We would be misusing God's name to human advantage. [...] If we let Christ reign in our soul, we will not become authoritarian. Rather we will serve everyone. How l like that word: service! To serve my king and, through him, all those who have been redeemed by his blood. I really wish we Christians knew how to serve, for only by serving can we know and love Christ and make him known and loved" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ is Passing By", 181-182).

By his death and resurrection, Jesus shows that the accusations laid against him were based on lies: it was he who was telling the truth, not his judges and accusers, and God confirms the truth of Jesus - the truth of his words, of deeds, of his revelation - by the singular miracle of his resurrection. To men Christ's kingship may seem paradoxical: he dies, yet he lives for ever; he is defeated and is crucified, yet he is victorious. "When Jesus Christ him appeared as a prisoner before Pilate's tribunal and was interrogated by him...did he not answer: 'For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth'? It was as if with these words [...] he was once more confirming what he had said earlier: 'You will know the truth, and truth will make you free'. In the course of so many centuries, of so many generations, from the time of the Apostles on, is it not often Jesus Christ himself that has made an appearance at the side of people judged for the sake of truth? And has he not gone to death with people condemned for the sake of truth? Does he ever cease to be the continuous spokesman and advocate for person who lives 'in spirit and truth'? (cf. Jn 4:23). Just as he does not cease to be it before the Father, he is it also with regard to the history of man" (J Paul II, "Redemptor Hominis", 12).

38-40. The outcome of the interrogation is that Pilate becomes convinced of Jesus' innocence (cf. Jn 19:4, 12). He probably realizes that the accusations made against Jesus were really an internal matter in which the Jews were trying to involve him; but the Jewish authorities are very irate. It is not easy for him to find away out. He tries to do so by making concessions: first, he has recourse to a passover privilege, offering them the choice between a criminal and Jesus, but this does not work; so he looks for other ways to save him, and here also he fails. His cowardice and indecision cause him to yield to pressure and commit the injustice of condemning to death a man he knows to be innocent.

"The mystery of innocent suffering is one of the most obscure points on the entire horizon of human wisdom; and here it is affirmed in the most flagrant way. But before we uncover something of this problem, there already grows up in us an unrestrained affection for the innocent one who suffers, for Jesus, [...] and for all innocent people - whether they be young or old - who are also suffering, and whose pain we cannot explain. The way of the cross leads us to meet the first person in a sorrowful procession of innocent people who suffer. And this first blameless and suffering person uncovers for us in the end the secret of his passion. It is a sacrifice" (Paul VI, "Address on Good Friday", 12 April 1974).

1-3. Christ's prophecy is fulfilled to the letter: the Son of Man "will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon; they will scourge him and kill him, and on the third day he will rise" (Lk 18:32f; cf. Mt 20:18f).

Scourging was one of the most severe punishments permitted under Roman law. The criminal was draped over a pillar or other form of support, his naked back exposed to the lash or "flagellum". Scourging was generally used as a preliminary to crucifixion to weaken the criminal and thereby hasten his death.

Crowning with thorns was not an official part of the punishment; it was an initiative of the soldiers themselves, a product of their cruelty and desire to mock Jesus. On the stone pavement in the Antonia tower some drawings have been found which must have been used in what was called the "king game"; dice were thrown to pick out a mock king among those condemned, who was subjected to taunting before being led off for crucifixion.

St John locates this episode at the center of his narrative of the events in praetorium. He thereby highlights the crowning with thorns as the point which Christ's kingship is at its most patent: the soldiers proclaim him as King of the Jews only in a sarcastic way (of. Mk 15:15, 16-19), but the evangelist gives us to understand that he is indeed the King.

5. Wearing the insignia of royalty, Christ, despite this tragic parody, projects the majesty of the King of Kings. In Rev 5:12 St John will say: "Worth is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!"

"Imagine that divine face: swollen by blows, covered in spittle, torn by thorns, furrowed with blood, here fresh blood, there ugly dried blood. And, since the sacred Lamb had his hands tied, he could not use them to wipe away the blood running into his eyes, and so those two luminaries of heaven were eclipsed and almost blinded and made mere pieces of flesh. Finally, so figured was he that one could not make out who he was; he scarcely seemed human; he had become an altarpiece depicting suffering, painted by those cruel artists and their evil president, producing this pitiful figure to plead his before his enemies" (Fray Luis de Granada, "Life of Jesus Christ", 24).

6-7. When Pilate hears the Jews accuse Jesus of claiming to be the Son of God, he grows still more alarmed: his wife has already unnerved him by sending him a message, after a dream, not to have anything to do with this "righteous man". But the shouting (v. 12) orchestrated by the Jewish authorities pressurizes him into agreeing to condemn Jesus.

Although technically Jesus is crucified for supposedly committing a political crime (cf. note on Jn 18:29-32), in fact it is on clearly religious grounds that he is sent to death.

8-11. Pilate is impressed by Jesus' silence, by his not defending himself, and when the procurator says that he has power to release him or to condemn him, our Lord then says something quite unexpected - that all power on earth comes from God. This means that in the last analysis even if people talk about the sovereignty of the king or of the people, such authority is never absolute; it is only relative, being subject to the absolute sovereignty of God: hence no human law can be just, and therefore binding in conscience, if it does not accord with divine law.

"He who delivered me" - a reference to all those who have contrived our Lord's death, that is, Judas, Caiaphas, the Jewish leaders, etc. (cf. 18:30-35). They are the ones that really sent Christ to the cross; but this does not exonerate Pontius Pilate from blame.

13. "The Pavement", in Greek "Iithostrotos", literally a "pavement", "flagged expanse", therefore a yard or plaza paved with flags. The Hebrew word "Gabbatha" is not the equivalent of the Greek "lithostrotos"; it means "height" or "eminence". But both words refer to the same place; however, its precise location is uncertain due to doubts about where the praetorium was located: cf. note on Jn 18:28.

Grammatically, the Greek could be translated as follows: "Pilate... brought Jesus out and sat him down on the judgment seat": in which case the evangelist implies that Pilate was ridiculing the Jewish leaders by a mock enthronement of the "King of the Jews". This would fit in with Pilate's attitude towards the Jewish leaders from this point onwards (vv. 14-22) and with the purpose of the inspired writer, who would see in this the enthronement of Christ as King.

14. "The day of Preparation", the Parasceve. The sixth hour began at midday. Around this time all leavened bread was removed from the houses and replaced by unleavened bread for the paschal meal (cf. Ex 12:15ff), and the lamb was officially sacrificed in the temple. St John notes that this was the time at which Jesus was condemned, thereby underlying the coincidence between the time of the death sentence and the time the lamb was sacrificed: Christ is the new Paschal Lamb; as St Paul says (cf. 1 Cor 5:7), "Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed".

There is some difficulty in reconciling what St John says about the sixth hour, with the information given in Mark 15:25 about Jesus being crucified at the third hour. Various explanations are offered, the best being that Mark is referring to the end of the third hour and John to the beginning of the sixth hour both would then be talking of around midday.

15. The history of the Jewish people helps us understand the tragic paradox of the attitude of the Jewish authorities at this point. The Jews were very conscious all along of being the people of God. For example, they proudly asserted that they had no Father but God (cf. Jn 8:4). In the Old Testament Yahweh is the true King of Israel (cf. Deut 33:5; Num 23:21; 1 Kings 22:19; Is 6:5); when they wanted to copy the neighboring peoples and asked Samuel for a king (cf. I Sam 8:5. 20), Samuel resisted, because Israel had only one absolute sovereign, Yahweh (1 Sam 8:6-9). But eventually God gave in to their request and himself designated who should be king over his people. His first choice, Saul, was given sacred anointing, as were David and his successors. This rite of anointing showed that the Israelite king was God's vicar. When the kings failed to meet the people's expectations, they increasingly yearned for the messianic king, the descendant or "Son" of David, the Anointed "par excellence" or Messiah, who would rule his people, liberate them from their enemies and lead them to rule the world (cf. 2 Sam 7:16; Ps 24:7; 43:5; etc.). For centuries they strove heroically for this ideal, rejecting foreign domination.

During Christ's time also they opposed Rome and Herod, whom, not being a Jew, they regarded as an illegitimate king. However, at this point in the Passion, they hypocritically accept the Roman emperor as their true and only king. They also reject the "easy yoke" of Christ (cf. Mt 11:30) and bring the full weight of Rome down upon him.

"They themselves submitted to the punishment; therefore, the Lord handed them over. Thus, because they unanimously rejected God's government, the Lord let them be brought down through their own condemnation: for, rejecting the dominion of Christ, they brought upon themselves that of Caesar" (St John Chrysostom, "Hom. on St John", 83).

A similar kind of tragedy occurs when people who have been baptized and therefore have become part of the new people of God, throw off the "easy yoke" of Christ's sovereignty by their obstinacy in sin and submit to the terrible tyranny of the devil (cf. 2 Pet 2:21).

17. "The place of a skull" or Calvary seems to have got its name from the fact that it was shaped like a skull or head.

St Paul points to the parallelism that exists between Adam's disobedience and Christ's obedience (cf. Rom 5:12). On the feast of the Triumph of the Cross the Church sings "where life was lost, there life has been restored", to show how,just as the devil won victory by the tree of paradise, so he was overpowered by Christ on the tree of the Cross.

St John is the only evangelist who clearly states that Jesus carried his own cross; the other three mention that Simon of Cyrene helped to carry it. See note on Mt 27:31 and Lk 23:26.

Christ's decisiveness in accepting the cross is an example which we should follow in our daily life: "You yourself must decide of your own free will to take up the cross; otherwise, your tongue may say that you are imitating Christ, but your actions will belie your words. That way, you will never get to know the Master intimately, or love him truly. It is really important that we Christians convince ourselves of this. We are not walking with our Lord unless we are spontaneously depriving ourselves of many things that our whims, vanity, pleasure or self-interest clamor for" ([St] J. Escriva, "Friends of God", 129).

As Simeon had prophesied, Jesus would be a "sign that is spoken against" (Lk 2:34) - a standard raised on high which leaves no room for indifference, demanding that every man decide for or against him and his cross: "he was going therefore to the place where he was to be crucified, bearing his own Cross. An extraordinary spectacle: to impiety, something to jeer at; to piety a great mystery. [...] Impiety looks on and laughs at a king bearing, instead of a scepter, the wood of his punishment; piety looks on and sees the King bearing that cross for himself to be fixed on, a cross which would thereafter shine on the brow of kings; an object of contempt in the eyes of the impious, but something in which hereafter the hearts of the saints should glorify, as St Paul would later say, But God forbid that I should glory; save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (St Augustine, "In Ioann. Evang.", 117, 3).

18. Knowing what crucifixion in ancient times entailed will help us understand much better the extent of the humiliation and suffering Jesus bore for love of us. Crucifixion was a penalty reserved for slaves, and applied to the most serious crimes; it was the most horrific and painful form of death possible; it was also an exemplary public punishment and therefore was carried out in a public place, with the body of the criminal being left exposed for days afterwards. These words of Cicero show how infamous a punishment it was: "That a Roman citizen should be bound is an abuse; that he be lashed is a crime; that he be put to death is virtually parricide; what, then, shall I say, if he be hung on a cross? There is no word fit to describe a deed so horrible" ("In Verrem", II, 5,66).

A person undergoing crucifixion died after a painful agony involving loss of blood, fever caused by his wounds, thirst, and asphyxiation, etc. Sometimes the executioners hastened death by breaking the person's legs or piercing him with a lance, as in our Lord's case. This helps us understand better what St Paul says to the Philippians about Christ's humiliation on the Cross: "he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant [or slave], being born in the likeness of men... ; he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:7-8).

St John says little about the other two people being crucified, perhaps because the Synoptic Gospels had already spoken about them (see notes on Lk 23:39-43).

19-22. The "title" was the technical term then used in Roman law to indicate the grounds on which the person was being punished. It was usually written on a board prominently displayed, summarizing the official document which was forwarded to the legal archives in Rome. This explains why, when the chief priests ask Pilate to change the wording of the inscription, the procurator firmly refuses to do so: the sentence, once dictated, was irrevocable: that is what he means when he says, "What I have written I have written." In the case of Christ, this title written in different languages proclaims his universal kingship, for it could be read by people from all over the world who had come to celebrate the Passover - thus confirming our Lord's words: "I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world" (Jn 18:37).

In establishing the feast of Christ the King, Pope Pius XI explained: "He is said to reign 'in the minds of men', both by reason of the keenness of his intellect and the extent of his knowledge, and also because he is Truth itself and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all mankind. He reigns, too, in the wills of men, for in him the human will was perfectly and entirely obedient to the holy will of God, and further by his grace and inspiration he so subjects our free will as to incite us to the most noble endeavors. He is King of our hearts, too, by reason of his 'charity which surpasseth all knowledge', and his mercy and kindness which draw all men to him; for there never was, nor ever will be a man loved so much and so universally as Jesus Christ" (Pius XI, "Quas Primas").23-24. And so the prophecy of Psalm 22 is fulfilled which describes accurately the sufferings of the Messiah: "They divide my garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots" (Ps 22:19). The Fathers have seen this seamless tunic a symbol of the unity of the Church (cf. St Augustine, "In Ioann. Evang.", 118,4).

25. Whereas the Apostles, with the exception of St John, abandon Jesus in the hour of his humiliation, these pious women, who had followed him during his public life (cf. Lk 8:2-3) now stay with their Master as he dies on the cross (cf. note on Mt 27:55-56).

Pope John Paul II explains that our Lady's faithfulness was shown in four ways: first, in her generous desire to do all that God wanted of her (cf. Lk 1:34); second, in her total acceptance of God's Will (cf. Lk 1:38); third, in the consistency between her life and the commitment of faith which she made; an finally, in her withstanding this test. "And only a consistency that lasts throughout the whole of life can be called faithfulness. Mary's 'fiat' in the Annunciation finds its fullness in the silent 'fiat' that she repeats at the foot of the Cross" ("Homily in Mexico Cathedral", 26 January 1979).

The Church has always recognized the dignity of women and their important role in salvation history. It is enough to recall the veneration which from the earliest times the Christian people have had for the Mother of Christ, the Woman "par excellence" and the most sublime and most privileged creature ever to come from the hands of God. Addressing a special message to women, the Second Vatican Council said, among other things: "Women in trial, who stand upright at the foot of the cross like Mary, you who so often in history have given to men the strength to battle unto the very end and to give witness to the point of martyrdom, aid them now still once more to retain courage in their great undertakings, while at the same time maintaining patience and an esteem for humble beginnings" (Vatican II, "Message to Women", 8 December 1965).

26-27. "The spotless purity of John's whole life makes him strong before the Cross. The other apostles fly from Golgotha: he, with the Mother of Christ, remains. Don't forget that purity strengthens and invigorates the character" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 144).

Our Lord's gesture in entrusting his Blessed Mother to the disciple's care, has a dual meaning (see p. 19 above and pp. 35ff). For one thing it expresses his filial love for the Virgin Mary. St Augustine sees it as a lesson Jesus gives us on how to keep the fourth commandment: "Here is a lesson in morals. He is doing what he tells us to do and, like a good Teacher, he instructs his own by example, that it is the duty of good children to take care of their parents; as though the wood on which his dying members were fixed were also the chair of the teaching Master" (St Augustine, "In Ioann. Evang.", 119, 2).

Our Lord's words also declare that Mary is our Mother: "The Blessed Virgin also advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associating herself with his sacrifice in her mother's heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim who was born of her. Finally, she was given by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross as a mother to his disciple" (Vatican 11, "Lumen Gentium", 58).

All Christians, who are represented in the person of John, are children of Mary. By giving us his Mother to be our Mother, Christ demonstrates his love for his own to the end (cf. Jn 13:1). Our Lady's acceptance of John as her son shows her motherly care for us: "the Son of God, and your Son, from the Cross indicated a man to you, Mary, and said: 'Behold, your son' (Jn 19:26). And in that man he entrusted to you every person, he entrusted everyone to you. And you, who at the moment of the Annunciation, concentrated the whole program of your life in those simple words: 'Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word' (Lk 1:38): embrace everyone, draw close to everyone, seek everyone out with motherly care. Thus is accomplished what the last Council said about your presence in the mystery of Christ and the Church. In a wonderful way you are always found in the mystery of Christ, your only Son, because you are present wherever men and women, his brothers and sisters, are present, wherever the Church is present" (John Paul II, "Homily in the Basilica of Guadalupe", 27 January 1979).

"John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, brought Mary into his home, into his life. Spiritual writers have seen these words of the Gospel as an invitation to all Christians to bring Mary into their lives. Mary certainly wants us to invoke her, to approach her confidently, to appeal to her as our mother, asking her to 'show that you are our mother"' ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ is Passing By", 140).

John Paul II constantly treats our Lady as his Mother. In bidding farewell to the Virgin of Czestochowa he prayed in this way: "Our Lady of the Bright Mountain, Mother of the Church! Once more I consecrate myself to you 'in your maternal slavery of love'. "Totus tuus"! I am all yours! I consecrate to you the whole Church - everywhere and to the ends of the earth! I consecrate to you humanity; I consecrate to you all men and women, my brothers and sisters. All peoples and all nations. I consecrate to you Europe and all the continents. I consecrate to you Rome and Poland, united, through your servant, by a fresh bond of love. Mother, accept us! Mother, do not abandon us! Mother, be our guide!" ("Farewell Address" at Jasna Gora Shrine, 6 June 1979).

28-29. This was foretold in the Old Testament: "They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink" (Ps 69:21). This does not mean that they gave Jesus vinegar to increase his suffering; it was customary to offer victims of crucifixion water mixed with vinegar to relieve their thirst. In addition to the natural dehydration Jesus was suffering, we can see in his thirst an __expression of his burning desire to do his Father's will and to save a souls: "On the Cross he cried out "Sitio"!, 'I thirst'. He thirsts for us, for our love, for our souls and for all the souls we ought to be bringing to him along the way of the Cross, which is the way to immortality and heavenly glory" ([St] J. Escriva, "Friends of God", 202).

30. Jesus, nailed on the cross, dies to atone for all the sins and vileness of man. Despite his sufferings he dies serenely, majestically, bowing his head now that he has accomplished the mission entrusted to him. "Who can sleep when he wishes to, as Jesus died when he wished to? Who can lay aside his clothing when he wishes to, as he put off the flesh when he chose to?... What must be hope or fear to find his power when he comes in judgment, if it can be seen to be so great at the moment of his death!" (St Augustine, "ln loann. Evang.", 119, 6).

"Let us meditate on our Lord, wounded from head to foot out of love for us. Using a phrase which approaches the truth, although it does not express its full reality, we can repeat the words of an ancient writer: 'The body of Christ is a portrait in pain'. At the first sight of Christ bruised and broken - just a lifeless body taken down from the cross and given to his Mother - at the sight of Jesus destroyed in this way, we might have thought he had failed utterly. Where are the crowds that once followed him, where is the kingdom he foretold? But this is victory, not defeat. We are nearer the resurrection than ever before; we are going to see the glory which he has won with his obedience" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ is Passing By", 95).

31-33. Jesus dies on the Preparation day of the Passover - the Parasceve - that is, the eve, when the paschal lambs were officially sacrificed in the Temple. By stressing this, the evangelist implies that Christ's sacrifice took the place of the sacrifices of the Old Law and inaugurated the New Alliance in his blood (cf. Heb 9:12).

The Law of Moses required that the bodies should be taken down before nightfall (Deut 21:22-23); this is why Pilate is asked to have their legs broken, to bring on death and allow them to be buried before it gets dark, particularly since the next day is the feast of the Passover.

On the date of Jesus' death see "The Dates of the Life of our Lord Jesus Christ" in "The Navarre Bible: St Mark" pp. 48ff.

34. The outflow of blood and water has a natural explanation. Probably the water was an accumulation of liquid in the lungs due to Jesus' intense sufferings.

As on other occasions, the historical events narrated in the fourth Gospel are laden with meaning. St Augustine and Christian tradition see the sacrament and the Church itself flowing from Jesus' open side: "Here was opened wide the door of life, from which the sacraments of the Church have flowed out, without which there is no entering in unto life which is true life. [...] Here the second Adam with bowed head slept upon the cross, that thence a wife might be formed of him, flowing from his side while he slept. 0 death, by which the dead come back to life! is there anything purer than this blood, any wound more healing!" (St Augustine, "In Ioann. Evang.", 120, 2).

The Second Vatican Council, for its part, teaches: "The Church - that is, the kingdom of Christ - already present in mystery, grows visibly through the power of God in the world. The origin and growth of the Church are symbolized by the blood and water which flowed from the open side of the crucified Jesus (Vatican II, "Lumen Gentium", 3).

"Jesus on the cross, with his heart overflowing with love for men, is such an eloquent commentary on the value of people and things that words only get in the way. People, their happiness and their life, are so important that the very Son of God gave himself to redeem and cleanse and raise them up" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ is Passing By", 165).

35. St John's Gospel presents itself as a truthful witness of the events of our Lord's life and of their spiritual and doctrinal significance. From the words of John the Baptist at the outset of Jesus' public ministry (1:19) to the final paragraph of the Gospel (21:24-25), everything forms part of a testimony to the sublime phenomenon of the Word of Life made Man. Here the evangelist explicitly states that he was an eyewitness (cf. also Jn 20:30-31; 1 Jn 1:1-3).

36. This quotation refers to the precept of the Law that no bone of the paschal lamb should be broken (cf. Ex 12:46): again St John's Gospel is telling, us that Jesus is the true paschal Lamb who takes away the sins of the world (cf. Jn 1:29).

37. The account of the Passion concludes with a quotation from Zechariah (12:10) foretelling the salvation resulting from the mysterious suffering and death of a redeemer. The evangelist thereby evokes the salvation wrought by Jesus Christ who, nailed to the cross, has fulfilled God's promise of redemption (cf. Jn 12:32). Everyone who looks upon him with faith receives the effects of his Passion. Thus, the good thief, looking at Christ on the cross, recognized his kingship, placed his trust in him and received the promise of heaven (Cf. Lk 23:42-43).

In the liturgy of Good Friday the Church invites us to contemplate and adore the cross: "Behold the wood of the Cross, on which was nailed the salvation of the world", and from the earliest times of the Church the Crucifix has been the sign reminding Christians of the supreme point of Christ's love, when he died on the Cross and freed us from eternal death.

"Your Crucifix. - As a Christian, you should always carry your Crucifix with you. And place it on your desk. And kiss it before going to bed and when you wake up: and when your poor body rebels against your soul, kiss it again" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 302).

38-39. Our Lord's sacrifice produces its firstfruits: people who were previously afraid now boldly confess themselves disciples of Christ and attend to his dead Body with exquisite refinement and generosity. The evangelist mentions that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus used a mixture of myrrh and aloes in lavish amount. Myrrh is a very expensive aromatic resin, and aloes a juice extracted from the leaves of certain plants. They were used as an __expression of veneration for the dead.

40. The Fourth Gospel adds to the information on the burial given by the Synoptics. Sacred Scripture did not specify what form burial should take, with the result that the Jews followed the custom of the time. After piously taking our Lord's body down from the cross, they probably washed it carefully (cf. Acts 9:37), perfumed it and wrapped it in a linen cloth, covering the head with a sudarium or napkin (cf. Jn 20:5-6). But because of the imminence of the sabbath rest, they were unable to anoint the body with balsam, which the women planned to do once the sabbath was past (cf. Mk 16:1; Lk 24:1). Jesus himself, when he praised Mary for anointing him at Bethany, had foretold in a veiled way that his body would not be embalmed (cf. note on Jn 12:7).

41. Many of the Fathers have probed the mystic meaning of the garden - usually to point out that Christ, who was arrested in the Garden of Olives and buried in another garden, has redeemed us superabundantly from that first sin which was committed also in a garden, the Garden of Paradise They comment that Jesus' being the only one to be buried in this new tomb meant that there would be no doubt that it was he and not another that rose from the dead. St Augustine also observes that "just as in the womb of the Virgin Mary none was conceived before him, none after him, so in this tomb none before him, none after was buried" ("In Ioann. Evang.". 120, 5).

Among the truths of Christian doctrine to do with Christ's death and burial are these: "one, that the body of Christ was in no degree corrupted in the sepulchre, according to the prediction of the Prophet, 'Thou wilt not give thy holy one to see corruption' (Ps 16:10; Acts 2:31); the other... that burial, passion and death apply to Christ Jesus not as God but as man, yet they are also attributed to God, since, as is clear, they are predicated with propriety of that Person who is at once perfect God and perfect man" ("St Pius V Catechism", I 5, 9).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Fr Norma Weslin - "Not Guilty"!

From Operation Rescue:
Pro-Life Priest Found Not Guilty Of Federal Charges
April 5th, 2007

Omaha, NE – A jury deliberating for three hours found Fr. Norman Weslin not guilty today of charges he violated the Federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.

Weslin was arrested last April when he entered the Bellevue abortion mill run by LeRoy Carhart, the nationally known abortionist who has twice defended partial-birth abortion to the U.S. Supreme Court. Weslin had knelt in prayer inside a security vestibule and never actually entered the clinic’s office. While inside he occasionally spoke through a mail slot asking women to spare their children from abortion.

Weslin had faced 18 months in a federal prison, three years probation, and a $25,000 fine if convicted.

“We are thankful that Fr. Weslin was exonerated of this charge. His courage in reaching out to pregnant women with loving compassion and practical assistance is an inspiration to us all,” said Troy Newman, President, Operation Rescue.
A tip of the hat to Patte for the update!

And thanks to all who offered prayers for Fr Weslin and those who held his future in their hands!

Reflections for Good Friday

Good Friday-Dispositions for Holy Communion

Good Friday - Charity

Good Friday - Christ, Model of Obedience

Alter Christus - Fulget Crucis Mysterium

A Reflection for Good Friday - The Two Thieves

Mental Prayer for Good Friday

Jesus Dies

Mental Prayer Meditation Helps

Presence of God

Grace I Ask: Dear Lord, give me the courage to follow you crucified.

Mental Picture: Everything is very quiet now... in a loud voice Christ has given His spirit to His Father, has bowed His head and died. A wild rumor is running through the crowd: "The veil in the temple has ripped from top to bottom." Now the sun goes dark... the earth shakes... the mob looks up at the man it has killed. In the cold, reddish half-light, His body gleams like one open wound. The people are afraid; "His blood be upon us and upon our children," they had said. They run away in terror.

Now there is silence again. He is alone save for His Mother standing erect, like a statue carved by grief... His friend John, a strong man, crying... and the woman Magdalen, heaped in misery at His feet.

The silence is broken by the cracking of bones... the centurion and his soldiers are making sure that the thieves will die. They come to Christ, look up, touch His feet... "This one is dead." The centurion lifts his spear... blood and water gush from Christ's heart. "This was indeed the Son of God!"

My Personal Application: I look at Christ upon the cross. This was what He thought of sin... this was what He thought of hell... this was His love for me. I look at Him, my king... and I call to Him... "I put you there! Let me take you down!" And in the depths of my soul I hear His answer: "I will not come down; you must come up to me."

If I am to faithfully follow Christ, I must follow Him to Calvary. I have chosen to serve a King who is crucified, a King whose flag is the cross.

Thought for Today: "God forbid that I should glory in anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Adapted from Mental Prayer, Challenge to the Lay Apostle
by The Queen's Work,(© 1958)

Urgent Prayers Needed for Priest

I received an email today:
Our good friend and stalwart prolife martyr, Father Norman Weslin [who is 75, I believe] has been on trial in federal Court in Omaha this week for what could be his third F.A.C.E. conviction. The crime this time is not blocking any door or act of physical “violence” except entering the killing center, praying the rosary and pleading for moms to allow their babies to be born.

This morning the jury hears closing arguments after a very demonic trial and series of false testimony which began on Tuesday and concluded on Wednesday. The female federal judge, an obvious pro-abort, will instruct the jury of 9 men and 3 women who will deliberate and render a verdict as early as this afternoon, Holy Thursday, April 5th.

Please contact as many intercessors as you can today, imploring their prayers that “the righteousness of this cause will shine like the noonday sun.” This godly, elderly priest, who probably has spent more time in jail than any of us, remains as always, fearless, but physically not quite what he was 19 years ago when I first met him at Key Road prison in Atlanta, GA. Pray Pray Pray

Thanks for forwarding this message.
Pastor Chet Gallagher
There is more information at Operation Rescue here.

F.A.C.E is the Federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, passed in 1994, which mandates prison time for those who block access of anyone entering an abortion mill. If convicted Fr. Weslin faces 18 months in a federal prison. The trial is expected to wrap up on Thursday. worker Hannah Burns testified Tuesday that all women entered the clinic without any problem. While on the stand, she reportedly mocked the priest for praying at the clinic and showed contempt for his religious beliefs. (my emphasis)
Say some extra prayers for this priest today, please.

Maundy Thursday

This day, Maundy Thursday (also "Holy Thursday" or "Shire Thursday"1) commemorates Christ's Last Supper and the initiation of the Eucharist. Its name of "Maundy" comes from the Latin word mandatum, meaning "command." This stems from Christ's words in John 13:34, "A new commandment I give unto you." It is the first of the three days known as the "Triduum," and after the Vigil tonight, and until the Vigil of Easter, a more profoundly somber attitude prevails (most especially during the hours between Noon and 3:00 PM on Good Friday). Raucous amusements should be set aside...

The Last Supper took place in "the upper room" of the house believed to have been owned by John Mark and his mother, Mary (Acts 12:12). This room, also the site of the Pentecost, is known as the "Coenaculum" or the "Cenacle" and is referred to as "Holy and glorious Sion, mother of all churches" in St. James' Liturgy. At the site of this place -- our first Christian church -- a basilica was built in the 4th century. It was destroyed by Muslims and later re-built by the Crusaders. Underneath the place is the tomb of David.

. . .

Mexican bishop threatens excommunication

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Mexico said Wednesday that legislators who vote in favor of a proposed bill to legalize abortion in Mexico City would automatically be excommunicated when the first procedure was performed under the law.

Bishop Marcelino Hernandez said that, rather than any specific canonical procedure, that lawmakers who back the bill would automatically separate themselves from the church.
Someone needs to let these politicians know that, while they may not be able to receive Holy Communion in Mexico, they would certainly be welcomed in the US and in many dioceses and parishes...Excommunication is II!

Noted Catholic Writer Examines Failure of Catholics to Live Faith

For Immediate Release, April 4, 2007
Noted Catholic Writer Examines Failure of Catholics to Live Faith

Stafford, VA—American Life League President and co-founder Judie Brown’s new book Saving Those Damned Catholics (Xlibris, 2007) examines in stark detail the myriad problems of faith faced by Catholics and the Church as a whole and places blame on church leaders.

“Far too many Catholic bishops and priests—perhaps even a majority—are doing a lousy job of shepherding their flocks and saving souls,” writes Mrs. Brown. “These bishops and priests are in a state of rebellion against the church and her teaching.”

“Some people think the Catholic Church is a democracy. It’s not. It is not a social club and it is not destructible from within or without. But right now, in America, the church’s integrity is being denied by far too many of her very own,” said Mrs. Brown.

Mrs. Brown documents how the relativist American culture is poisoning Catholics’ long held beliefs and there are few willing to stand on doctrine of the faith.

Judie Brown reveals startling statistics about what American Catholics believe:

Catholics who think using birth control is acceptable: 88%

Catholics who condone premarital sexual relations: 67%

Catholics who condone homosexual relations: 48%

She also explains why high-profile Catholics in the media such as FOX’s Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity and MSNBC’s Chris Matthews are allowed to repeatedly misrepresent the faith.

Judie Brown is President and Co-founder of American Life League and is one of the most prolific Catholics writing today. She is married, has three children and ten grandchildren. She resides with her husband in Palm Springs, CA.

To schedule and interview with Judie Brown, please call Kevin McVicker at Shirley & Banister Public Affairs at (703) 739-5920 or (800) 536-5920.

Easter in Vietnam: An Extraordinary Account

The Vatican vice-minister of foreign affairs recounts his recent visit to the country, where the Catholic Church is flourishing in spite of the absence of freedom – as in the first centuries of Christianity
by Sandro Magister

Gospel for Holy Thursday (Evening Mass of the Last Supper)

From: John 13:1-15

Jesus Washes His Disciples' Feet

[1] Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. [2] And during supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray Him, [3] Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, [4] rose from supper, laid aside His garments, and girded Himself with a towel. [5] Then He poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. [6] He came to Simon Peter; and Peter said to Him, "Lord, do You wash my feet?" [7] Jesus answered him, "What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand." [8] Peter said to Him, "You shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part in Me." [9] Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" [10] Jesus said to him, "He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over; and you are clean, but not all of you." [11] For He knew who was to betray Him; that was why He said, "You are not all clean."

[12] When He had washed their feet, and taken His garments, and resumed His place, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done for you? [13] You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. [14] If then your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. [15] For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done for you."


1. Jewish families sacrificed a lamb on the eve of the Passover, in keeping with God's command at the time of the exodus from Egypt when God liberated them from the slavery of Pharaoh (Exodus 12:3-14; Deuteronomy 16:1-8). This liberation prefigured that which Jesus Christ would bring about--the redemption of men from the slavery of sin by means of His sacrifice on the cross (cf. 1:29). This is why the celebration of the Jewish Passover was the ideal framework for the institution of the new Christian Passover.

Jesus knew everything that was going to happen; He knew His death and resurrection were imminent (cf. 18:4); this is why His words acquire a special tone of intimacy and love towards those whom He is leaving behind in the world. Surrounded by those whom He has chosen and who have believed in Him, He gives them His final teachings and institutes the Eucharist, the source and center of the life of the Church. "He Himself wished to give that encounter such a fullness of meaning, such a richness of memories, such a moving image of words and thoughts, such a newness of acts and precepts, that we can never exhaust our reflection and exploration of it. It was a testamentary supper, infinitely affectionate and immensely sad, and at the same time a mysterious revelation of divine promises, of supreme visions. Death was imminent, with silent omens of betrayal, of abandonment, of immolation; the conversation dies down but Jesus continues to speak in words that are new and beautifully reflective, in almost supreme intimacy, almost hovering between life and death" ([Pope] Paul VI, "Homily on Holy Thursday", 27 March 1975).

What Christ did for His own may be summed up in this sentence: "He loved them to the end." It shows the intensity of His love--which brings Him even to give up His life (cf. John 15:13); but this love does not stop with His death, for Christ lives on and after His resurrection He continues loving us infinitely: "It was not only thus far that He loved us, who always and forever loves us. Far be it from us to imagine that He made death the end of His loving, who did not make death the end of His living" (St. Augustine, "In Ioann. Evang.", 55, 2).

2. The Gospel shows us the presence and activity of the devil running right through Jesus' life (cf. Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 22:3; John 8:44; 12:31; etc.). Satan is the enemy (Matthew 13:39), the evil one (1 John 2:13). St. Thomas Aquinas (cf. "Commentary on St. John, in loc.") points out that, in this passage, on the one hand, we clearly see the malice of Judas, who fails to respond to this demonstration of love, and on the other hand great emphasis is laid on the goodness of Christ, which reaches out beyond Judas' malice by washing his feet also and by treating him as a friend right up to the moment when he betrays Him (Luke 22:48).

3-6. Aware that He is the Son of God, Jesus voluntarily humbles Himself to the point of performing a service appropriate to household servants. This passage recalls the Christological hymn in St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians: "Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant..." (Philippians 2:6-7).

Christ had said that He came to the world not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45). In this scene He teaches us the same thing, through specific example, thereby exhorting us to serve each other in all humility and simplicity (cf. Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:3). "Once again He preaches by example, by His deeds. In the presence of His disciples, who are arguing out of pride and vanity, Jesus bows down and gladly carries out the task of a servant.[...] This tactfulness of our Lord moves me deeply. He does not say: `If I do this, how much more ought you to do?' He puts Himself at their level, and He lovingly chides those men for their lack of generosity.

"As He did with the first twelve, so also, with us, our Lord can and does whisper in our ear, time and again: `exemplum dedi vobis' (John 13:15), I have given you an example of humility. I have become a slave, so that you too may learn to serve all men with a meek and humble heart" ([St] J. Escriva, "Friends of God", 103).

Peter understands particularly well how thoroughly our Lord has humbled Himself, and he protests, in the same kind of way as he did on other occasions, that he will not hear of Christ suffering (cf. Matthew 8:32 and par.). St. Augustine comments: "Who would not shrink back in dismay from having his feet washed by the Son of God....You? Me? Words to be pondered on rather than spoken about, lest words fail to express their true meaning" (St. Augustine, "In Ioann. Evang.", 56, 1).

7-14. Our Lord's gesture had a deeper significance than St. Peter was able to grasp at this point; nor could he have suspected that God planned to save men through the sacrificing of Christ (cf. Matthew 16:22 ff). After the Resurrection the Apostles understood the mystery of this service rendered by the Redeemer: by washing their feet, Jesus was stating in a simple and symbolic way that He had not come "to be served but to serve". His service, as He already told them, consists in giving "His life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45).

Our Lord tells the Apostles that they are now clean, for they have accepted His words and have followed Him (cf. 15:3)--all but Judas, who plans to betray Him. St. John Chrysostom comments as follows: "You are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. That is: You are clean only to that extent. You have already received the Light; you have already got rid of the Jewish error. The Prophet asserted: `Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil from your souls' (Isaiah 1:16).... Therefore, since they had rooted evil from their souls and were following Him with complete sincerity, He declared, in accordance with the Prophet's words: `He who has bathed is clean all over'" (St. John Chrysostom, "Hom. on St. John", 70, 3).

15-17. Jesus' whole life was an example of service towards men, fulfilling His Father's will to the point of dying on the Cross. Here our Lord promises us that if we imitate Him, our Teacher, in disinterested service (which always implies sacrifice), we will find true happiness which no one can wrest from us (cf. 16:22; 17:13). "`I have given you an example', He tells His disciples after washing their feet, on the night of the Last Supper. Let us reject from our hearts any pride, any ambition, any desire to dominate; and peace and joy will reign around us and within us, as a consequence of our personal sacrifice" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 94).

Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.