Lenten Reflections – Holy Week

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Sunday 2 April

 

Scripture                   Matthew 21:1-11  

 

Reflection

“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest.” Words taken from the Gospel reading of the Procession on this Palm Sunday. Words that are said by hundreds of millions of people during every Mass when it comes to singing or reciting the “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord…” 

 

The “Blessed is He…” is a prediction contained in Psalm 118, written a thousand five hundred years before. It proclaims that Jesus came to earth fully vested with God’s authority to save humanity. It is truly a phrase that celebrates our Lord’s role as the Saviour of the world. We are enthusiastically inspired to welcome Christ into our lives in the same fashion because of the intensity of His love for us. We are never to turn again against Him, as those very same crowds did a few days later, after having welcomed Him riding on a donkey (an animal of peace), and placing palms at the gates of Jerusalem (symbols of faith and victory).

 

“Hosanna in the highest”, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” Hosanna means save us or save us now. In uttering these words, the crowds were acknowledging Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. They were hopeful that He would set up God’s Kingdom there and then, that He would take His rightful throne and extend heaven’s salvation to all, making their earthly lives so much easier.

 

What they wanted was political liberation that would save them from the Romans. They failed to understand that before He could take care of this, He had first to take care of sin. His spiritual salvation was to bring a result extending into eternity, and not just addressing a temporary worldly position.

 

Practical Suggestion

Jesus comes to us again this Easter to address the problem of sin. For Him, this issue is far greater than any we currently face. May we put load shedding, water shortages, corruption, political intrigue and so much more into a truly eternal perspective. Therein lies the answer to our hope and the joy ahead.

 

Prayer

Almighty God, impress upon our hearts the real meaning of Easter. Amen

 

Monday 3 April

 

Scripture                         John 12:  1- 11

 

Reflection

As we enter Holy Week, how are you demonstrating your love and devotion to Jesus? Today as Jesus visits the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary described in the Gospel, we recognise the different attitudes and behaviours of various people towards Jesus and His Ministry. We may also recognise one or some of these people in ourselves, our own attitudes and behaviour.  Which one are you?

 

The Chief Priests were terrified that the relative peace with their Roman overlords would be shattered by this itinerant preacher stirring up rebellion. Are you someone who lives a comfortable life and is fearful that a commitment to Jesus may upend your tranquil world?

 

Judas Iscariot remains out of the group, looking to criticise and find fault in the goodness of Mary. (Was this out of guilt for his looming betrayal of Jesus).  Do you stand on the fringes, criticising what is and isn’t happening in the church – possibly out of guilt for not committing to love and faithful participation? 

 

The Jewish crowds gathered as spectators to see Jesus and Lazarus – possibly in the hope of witnessing another miracle that they could talk about. Are you simply a spectator in regard to your faith, waiting for God to happen in your life?

 

Jesus’ disciples, who must have been there because Judas was there, and Lazarus demonstrated their love for Jesus by following Him, and listening to his teaching.  How attentive are you to the Word of God?  Do you seek to learn something new each time, or have you become dulled to the learning through familiarity with the stories?

 

Martha showed her love and devotion through service to others; making sure that everyone was fed and watered.  Do you dedicate time and resources to help those in need in our community?

 

Mary demonstrated sacrificial love to Jesus, giving him her most valuable possession and showering Him with her tears and love.  In doing so Mary prayed with her mind, heart and body.  Is your love for Jesus so absolute that you dedicate your mind, heart and body to him?

 

Practical Suggestion

In this Holy Week reflect on how you may be holding back in your dedication and love for Jesus.  Listen to and hear and accept your call from God. 

 

Prayer: 

My crucified love, my dear Jesus! I believe in You and confess You to be the true Son of God and my Saviour.  I adore You from the abyss of my own nothingness, and I thank you for the death you suffered for me, that I might obtain the life of divine grace. My beloved Redeemer, to You I owe all my salvation. My God, I love You above all things, and in all things, with my whole soul, because You are worthy of all love!   Amen.

Tuesday 4 April

 

Scripture:         John 13: 21 – 33, 36 – 38

 

Reflection

Today’s Gospel takes us to the upper room where Jesus dined with his disciples at the Last Supper. Jesus knew that his passion, death, and resurrection was imminent, and his spirit was troubled.  In this sad and troubled state, he dropped a bombshell! He predicted a double betrayal by his disciples. “I tell you most solemnly, one of you will betray me.” This was the first betrayal Jesus foresaw. His disciples could not believe that one of them can do such an act towards their master.  Later they learnt that Jesus was speaking about Judas.  Judas then left the upper room to set his plan in motion.

 

Once Judas had left the upper room, Jesus informed the eleven disciples that he would leave them. He would leave them in death, and, after the resurrection, he would return to the heavenly Father.  Peter was someone who spoke first and thought later. He was always ready for action. He was impulsive and emotional. Even after Jesus had told them he was going away, the impulsive Peter had to say something: “Why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus then spoke of the second betrayal by them: “In all truth I tell you, before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.” 

 

Have you ever promised yourself that you would never do something, only to find yourself doing that very thing? Such was the betrayal of Peter. He didn’t do what he promised Jesus – that he would lay down his life for Jesus. On this Tuesday of Holy Week, we are reminded that there is one thing which set Peter’s betrayal apart from Judas’; Peter repented and received Jesus’ pardon. The Gospel of Luke (22:62) tells us that Peter wept bitterly after his denial of Jesus.  So with us, because we are human and weak, we fall just as Peter did. We have done things that we promised ourselves we will never do again. The good news is that God is waiting for us to turn back towards him.  He will forgive, he will heal.

 

Practical Suggestion

Make use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) before you begin the Sacred Triduum. 

 

Prayer

Lord Jesus, I wish to accompany you closely on the road to Calvary. Strengthen me today to listen to your voice and to leave behind my own ideas, agenda, and plans. I know that you love me with an eternal love; you proved this there on the wood of the cross. Now I long to respond with gratitude, peace, and a firm determination to spread your love. Amen.

 

 

Wednesday 5 April 

 

Scripture:                  Matthew 26: 14 – 25

“What are you prepared to give me if I hand him over to you?”

 

Reflection   

Jesus celebrated the Passover with His Apostles.  Table fellowship was most important to Jesus. He had enjoyed it with people from all walks of life; some good, and others labelled as bad.  It was around a table, over a meal, that conversation flowed, questions could be asked and answered, and Jesus would LISTEN!

 

But this great celebratory meal was marred by a spirit of betrayal.  Judas, seemingly motivated by greed, and possible disillusionment in Jesus, is willing to betray Him for a handful of coins.

 

Judas, in all the time he had spent in following Jesus, listening to His teachings, and witnessing miracle after miracle, had somehow missed out on really getting to know Jesus who advocated the necessity for extending the gift of forgiveness to anyone who had wronged another.  That gift of forgiveness would undoubtedly have been offered to Judas if he had asked for it.  But he did not!  And that is the saddest part of the story!

 

We also betray Jesus in countless ways.  Use these last days of Lent to truly repent, and seek forgiveness, so that we can rise to new life with Him at Easter!

 

Practical Suggestion

Reflect on betrayal.  Have you ever felt betrayed?  If so, how did you deal with it?  Meditate on the ways in which you may have ‘betrayed’ Jesus. What was the motivation?  Ask for forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. 

 

Prayer

Lord, I ask for Your forgiveness for the many times I have let you down, or betrayed You.  Help me to be strong in my faith and belief in You as the Saviour of the world. Amen.

 

Holy Thursday 6 April 

 

Scripture:         John 1: 1 – 15

 

Reflection

The phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” was popular during the 1990’s and bracelets and car stickers with the acronym “WWJD” were often seen displayed.  When you read this portion of John ‘s Gospel, you can be in no doubt about what Jesus did and what He expects His followers to do. (Verses 14-15)

 

In Mark 10:45 Jesus tells us that He came to serve not to be served and to give His life as a ransom for many.

 

What an amazing world this would be if those elected to serve the people would do so instead of lording it over them.  In our world it’s all about dog eat dog. We are told that in order to be successful in life we have to look after “Number One”. This is such a different message to the one that Jesus came to proclaim. Is it any wonder that our world is in such a mess!

 

Service is not always easy. It goes against the grain to continually put others before ourselves. Once in a while it is generally acceptable, but to adopt this as a way of life seems quite drastic. In actual fact, if everyone was looking out for everyone else, we would all be taken care of!  But the reality it seems, is that if you don’t look after yourself, there’s a good chance no one else will look after you.

 

No wonder this world is so desperate for a Saviour, and yet when Jesus came, He was ridiculed. His message went unheeded by the majority of people and it was so unpopular that it resulted in His crucifixion so that He would not be a disturbance to the status quo. 

 

Today His message is twisted to serve the greed of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Ignorant people are being hoodwinked into believing a so-called Gospel message totally contrary to the Lord’s message to serve one other. We know better and we need to start living this message in our daily life.

 

Practical Suggestion

Try to change our mindset and consider asking the question “How can I be of service to you today? In what way can I help you?” 

 

Prayer

Father, You sent Your Son into our world to teach us a different way of living. Serving others is not always easy and in my busy day to day life I often don’t take the time to consider when and where I could be of help to someone or make a difference in their life by just being more attentive to their needs. Forgive me for my self-centeredness and help me to be more loving and caring.  Amen 

 

Good Friday 7 April

Penitential Day of Fast and Abstinence  

 

Scripture:                  Hebrews 4: 4 – 16, 5: 7 – 9         

 

Reflection:  

Suffering in the form of life’s hardships, struggles, difficulties, pain, illness, mourning and setbacks, is often viewed as negative and some even consider it a punishment from God.  How wrong they are!  When God came to live amongst us, he experienced all these, and suffered the agony of the cross.

 

The Letter to the Hebrews reminds of this today: “For it is not as if we have a High Priest who is incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us; but we have one who has been tempted in every way we are, though he is without sin.”  Jesus came among us not to take our suffering away, but to enter into our sufferings with us, and to help us to bear life’s hardships and struggles; to share our sufferings.  He is in every suffering, in every cross we carry, and in every burden we bear.

 

Our loving, merciful, and compassionate Father does not lay heavy burdens on us nor impose suffering upon us to punish us to teach us a lesson.  Those who believe this have been influenced by false teachings.  The very last verse of Matthew’s Gospel expresses this so powerfully.  Jesus said: “And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.”  (Matthew 28:20) He is truly with us in every hardship and suffering that we experience.

 

The extreme suffering and agony Jesus endured at the hands of those who rejected him and his message, is what makes this day a Good Friday; good because it was done for us, and good because it is what he continues to do for us.  We all know what it is to share someone’s sufferings with them and when others have shared in our sufferings.  How much more then to know and be certain that our God, who is never far from us, especially when we experience suffering that is so unbearable that we think we have been forsaken by him.  God never forsakes us, his children, just as he did not forsake his Son Jesus during his agony on the cross.  God was with him, sharing in his suffering, just as he is always with us.  

 

Practical Suggestion  

Draw strength from the crucifix today.  Let Jesus on the cross be the focus of your attention and reflection.  Never forget that he is with you always, especially in the darkest times, the greatest pain, and the heaviest burdens. 

 

Prayer  

Lord Jesus, you willingly accepted the pain and suffering of the cross in order into the sufferings of mankind.  Today your love reaches out to me. May I embrace it in every aspect of my life.  Amen.

 

Holy Saturday 8 April

 

Scripture                   John 19: 31 – 42                 

 

Reflection

Today is a quiet, still, and reflective day.  We refrain from engaging in unnecessary activities, and there are no celebrations today.   Nothing happens until we have celebrated the Lord’s resurrection.  Our churches are quiet, there is no Mass celebrated during the day.  

 

 

We experience a profound sadness within us as we reflect on today’s Gospel passage, as the lifeless body of our Lord is gently taken down from the cross, wrapped with spices and in linen cloths, and placed in the tomb.  

 

 

It is the same sadness we experience when we leave the graveside after a burial, or the church after a funeral.  We all know this sadness; we have all been through the pain and grief at the death of people we love.

 

Tonight, once it is dark, we will gather for the Easter Vigil.  It is one of the most powerful liturgies in the Church’s year.  Yesterday, after the Veneration of the Cross Service of the Lord’s Passion, we left the church in silence.  There was no hymn and no blessing, just a prayer over the people.  Our gathering tonight will be in the dark, in silence, and in reflection. 

 

The darkness will be broken, dispelled by the light of the Easter fire!   The Paschal Candle will be marked and lit from the Easter fire, our Baptismal Candles will be lit from the Paschal Candle, and the Exultet (Easter proclamation) will be sung.

 

In this very visually powerful way, we will celebrate Jesus who has conquered the darkness of sin, death, and unbelief.  In his resurrection is the hope and promise of our resurrection.  As death had no power over him, so through him, it will have no power over us!

 

Throughout the world Catechumens will be Baptised, and we, together with them, will make our profession of faith, first made when we were Baptised and given the gift of faith, which leads us to eternal life.  On the Fifth Sunday of Lent, we heard Jesus say: “I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11: 25-26) Tonight, with Martha we will proclaim “Yes Lord, I believe!”

 

Practical Suggestion

Observe this day the way it is meant to be, in quiet and reflective contemplation.

 

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you turned the darkness before us into light.  You have led us out of the valley of darkness into the green pastures where you give us repose. In your Father’s House forevermore our dwelling place shall be.  Amen.

 

Read

John 20: 1 – 18  

 

These  Daily  Reflections  for  Lent  2023  are  written  by   George Cominos,  

Mike Montocchio, Fr. Wandile Cagwe, Irene Helsdon, Veronica Donnelly and Fr. Desmond Nair.  Please acknowledge the authors when copying and distributing.  We wish you a fruitful and blessed Holy Week and a joyful and happy Easter.   

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