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Pope Francis’ Urbi et Orbi Address

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Pope Francis did not give a homily at the Easter Sunday Eucharistic celebration this morning in St. Peter’s Square due to the long “Urbi et Orbi” address that followed the mass.  The English language version of his address – to the city and the world – is found below.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Jesus Christ is risen!

Love has triumphed over hatred, life has conquered death, light has dispelled the darkness!

Out of love for us, Jesus Christ stripped himself of his divine glory, emptied himself, took on the form of a slave and humbled himself even to death, death on a cross.  For this reason God exalted him and made him Lord of the universe.  Jesus is Lord!

By his death and resurrection, Jesus shows everyone the way to life and happiness: this way is humility, which involves humiliation.  This is the path which leads to glory.  Only those who humble themselves can go towards the “things that are above”, towards God (cf. Col 3:1-4).  The proud look “down from above”; the humble look “up from below”.

On Easter morning, alerted by the women, Peter and John ran to the tomb. They found it open and empty. Then they drew near and “bent down” in order to enter it.  To enter into the mystery, we need to “bend down”, to abase ourselves.  Only those who abase themselves understand the glorification of Jesus and are able to follow him on his way.

The world proposes that we put ourselves forward at all costs, that we compete, that we prevail…   But Christians, by the grace of Christ, dead and risen, are the seeds of another humanity, in which we seek to live in service to one another, not to be arrogant, but rather respectful and ready to help.

This is not weakness, but true strength!  Those who bear within them God’s power, his love and his justice, do not need to employ violence; they speak and act with the power of truth, beauty and love.

From the risen Lord we ask the grace not to succumb to the pride which fuels violence and war, but to have the humble courage of pardon and peace.  We ask Jesus, the Victor over death, to lighten the sufferings of our many brothers and sisters who are persecuted for his name, and of all those who suffer injustice as a result of ongoing conflicts and violence.

Resurrection-Piero-della Francesca

We ask for peace, above all, for Syria and Iraq, that the roar of arms may cease and that peaceful relations may be restored among the various groups which make up those beloved countries. May the international community not stand by before the immense humanitarian tragedy unfolding in these countries and the drama of the numerous refugees.

We pray for peace for all the peoples of the Holy Land.  May the culture of encounter grow between Israelis and Palestinians and the peace process be resumed, in order to end years of suffering and division.

We implore peace for Libya, that the present absurd bloodshed and all barbarous acts of violence may cease, and that all concerned for the future of the country may work to favour reconciliation and to build a fraternal society respectful of the dignity of the person.  For Yemen too we express our hope for the growth of a common desire for peace, for the good of the entire people.

At the same time, in hope we entrust to the merciful Lord the framework recently agreed to in Lausanne, that it may be a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world.

We ask the risen Lord for the gift of peace for Nigeria, South Sudan and for the various areas of Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  May constant prayer rise up from all people of goodwill for those who lost their lives – I think in particular of the young people who were killed last Thursday at Garissa University College in Kenya –, for all who have been kidnapped, and for those forced to abandon their homes and their dear ones.

May the Lord’s resurrection bring light to beloved Ukraine, especially to those who have endured the violence of the conflict of recent months.  May the country rediscover peace and hope thanks to the commitment of all interested parties.

We ask for peace and freedom for the many men and women subject to old and new forms of enslavement on the part of criminal individuals and groups. Peace and liberty for the victims of drug dealers, who are often allied with the powers who ought to defend peace and harmony in the human family.  And we ask peace for this world subjected to arms dealers.

May the marginalized, the imprisoned, the poor and the migrants who are so often rejected, maltreated and discarded, the sick and the suffering, children, especially those who are victims of violence; all who today are in mourning, and all men and women of goodwill, hear the consoling voice of the Lord Jesus: “Peace to you!” (Lk 24:36).  “Fear not, for I am risen and I shall always be with you” (cf. Roman Missal, Entrance Antiphon for Easter Day).

Easter Video Reflection: How shall we find words for the Resurrection?

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How shall we find words for the Resurrection? How can we give expression to the conquest of death and the harrowing of hell and the washing which has joined us to God’s life? There are no words – there are only the wrong words – metaphors, chains of images, verbal icons – that invite us into a mystery beyond words. Jesus’ victory over death belongs to the Church’s ongoing pastoral and sacramental life and its mission to the world. The Church is the community of those who have the competence to recognize Jesus as the Risen Lord. It specializes in discerning the Risen One. As long as we remain in dialogue with Jesus, our darkness will give way to dawn, and we will become “competent” for witness. In an age that places so much weight on competency, we would do well to focus every now and then on our competence to discern Resurrection.

Easter Vigil: Pope Francis’ Homily

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Here is the official Vatican translation of Pope Francis’ Homily at the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica on Holy Saturday evening.

Tonight is a night of vigil.  The Lord is not sleeping; the Watchman is watching over his people (cf. Ps 121:4), to bring them out of slavery and to open before them the way to freedom.

The Lord is keeping watch and, by the power of his love, he is bringing his people through the Red Sea.  He is also bringing Jesus through the abyss of death and the netherworld.

This was a night of vigil for the disciples of Jesus, a night of sadness and fear. The men remained locked in the Upper Room.  Yet, the women went to the tomb at dawn on Sunday to anoint Jesus’ body.  Their hearts were overwhelmed and they were asking themselves:  “How will we enter?  Who will roll back the stone of the tomb?…”  But here was the first sign of the great event: the large stone was already rolled back and the tomb was open!

“Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe…” (Mk 16:5).  The women were the first to see this great sign, the empty tomb; and they were the first to enter…

Risen Christ among the dead“Entering the tomb.” It is good for us, on this Vigil night, to reflect on the experience of the women, which also speaks to us.  For that is why we are here: to enter, to enter into the Mystery which God has accomplished with his vigil of love.

We cannot live Easter without entering into the mystery.  It is not something intellectual, something we only know or read about… It is more, much more!

“To enter into the mystery” means the ability to wonder, to contemplate; the ability to listen to the silence and to hear the tiny whisper amid great silence by which God speaks to us (cf 1 Kings 19:12).

To enter into the mystery demands that we not be afraid of reality: that we not be locked into ourselves, that we not flee from what we fail to understand, that we not close our eyes to problems or deny them, that we not dismiss our questions…

To enter into the mystery means going beyond our own comfort zone, beyond the laziness and indifference which hold us back, and going out in search of truth, beauty and love.  It is seeking a deeper meaning, an answer, and not an easy one, to the questions which challenge our faith, our fidelity and our very existence.

To enter into the mystery, we need humility, the lowliness to abase ourselves, to come down from the pedestal of our “I” which is so proud, of our presumption; the humility not to take ourselves so seriously, recognizing who we really are: creatures with strengths and weaknesses, sinners in need of forgiveness.  To enter into the mystery we need the lowliness that is powerlessness, the renunciation of our idols… in a word, we need to adore. Without adoration, we cannot enter into the mystery.

The women who were Jesus’ disciples teach us all of this.  They kept watch that night, together with Mary. And she, the Virgin Mother, helped them not to lose faith and hope.  As a result, they did not remain prisoners of fear and sadness, but at the first light of dawn they went out carrying their ointments, their hearts anointed with love.  They went forth and found the tomb open.  And they went in.  They had kept watch, they went forth and they entered into the Mystery.  May we learn from them to keep watch with God and with Mary our Mother, so that we too may enter into the Mystery which leads from death to life.

Venerdi Santo: Testo della Meditazione del Santo Padre

Pope Francis presides at Way of the Cross outside Colosseum in Rome

Testo della Meditazione del Santo Padre alla conclusione della Via Crucis al Colosseo – Venerdi Santo

Originale in italiano (Trascrizione dall’audio)

Jesus Crowned with thorns Jan Mostaert smO Cristo crocifisso e vittorioso.

La Tua Via Crucis è la sintesi della Tua vita,
l’icona della Tua ubbidienza alla volontà del Padre,
è la realizzazione del Tuo infinito amore per noi peccatori.

E’ la prova della Tua missione.
E’ il compimento definitivo della rivelazione e della storia della salvezza.
Il peso della Tua croce ci libera di tutti i nostri fardelli.
Nella Tua ubbidienza alla volontà del Padre noi ci accorgiamo
della nostra ribellione e disubbidienza.

In Te, venduto, tradito. crocifisso dalla Tua gente e dai Tuoi cari,
noi vediamo i nostri quotidiani tradimenti e le nostre consuete infedeltà.

Nella Tua innocenza, Agnello Immacolato,
noi vediamo la nostra colpevolezza.

Nel Tuo viso schiaffeggiato, sputato, sfigurato,
noi vediamo la brutalità dei nostri peccati.
Nella crudeltà della Tua Passione, noi vediamo la crudeltà
del nostro cuore e delle nostre azioni.

Nel Tuo sentirTi abbandonato, noi vediamo tutti gli abbandonati dai familiari,
dalla società, dall’attenzione e dalla solidarietà.

Christ ByzantineNel Tuo corpo sacrificato, squarciato e dilaniato,
noi vediamo il corpo dei nostri fratelli abbandonati lungo le strade,
sfigurati dalla nostra negligenza e dalla nostra indifferenza.

Nella Tua sete Signore, noi vediamo la sete di Tuo Padre misericordioso
che in Te ha voluto abbracciare, perdonare e salvare tutta l’umanità.

In Te, Divino Amore, vediamo ancora oggi i nostri fratelli perseguitati,
decapitati, crocifissi per la loro fede in Te, sotto i nostri occhi
o spesso con il nostro silenzio complice.

Imprime Signore nel nostro cuore sentimenti di fede,
di speranza, di carità, di dolore per i nostri peccati
e portaci a pentirci per i nostri peccati che Ti hanno crocifisso.

Portaci a trasformare la nostra conversione fatta di parole
in conversione di vita e di opere.

Portaci a custodire in noi un ricordo vivo del Tuo volto sfigurato
per non dimenticare mai l’immane prezzo che hai pagato per liberarci.

Shroud Turin smGesù crocifisso rafforza in noi la fede, che non crolli di fronte alle tentazioni,
ravviva in noi la speranza che non si smarrisca
seguendo le seduzioni del mondo.

Custodisci in noi la carità, che non si lasci ingannare
dalla corruzione e dalla mondanità.
Insegnaci che la croce è via alla risurrezione.

Insegnaci che il Venerdì Santo è strada verso la Pasqua della Luce.
Insegnaci che Dio non dimentica mai nessuno dei suoi figli
e non si stanca mai di perdonarci e di abbracciarci
con la sua infinita misericordia.

Ma insegnaci anche a non stancarci di chiederGli perdono
e di credere nella misericordia senza limiti del Padre.

Anima di Cristo santificaci!
Corpo di Cristo salvaci!
Sangue di Cristo inebriaci!
Acqua del costato di Cristo lavaci!
Passione di Cristo confortaci!
O Buon Gesù esauriscici!
Dentro delle tue piaghe nascondici!
Non permettere che ci separiamo da Te.
Dal nemico maligno difendici!
Nell’ora della nostra morte chiamaci!
E comanda che noi veniamo da Te affinché noi Ti lodiamo
con i Tuoi santi nei secoli dei secoli, Amen.

Good Friday: Meditation of Pope Francis at the conclusion of the Stations of Cross at the Colosseum Good Friday evening

Pope Francis presides at Way of the Cross outside Colosseum in Rome

(English working translation from television transmission by Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB)

Jesus Crowned with thorns Jan Mostaert smO Christ crucified and victorious,
Your Way of the Cross is the summary of your life,
the icon of Your obedience to the will of the Father,
and the realization of your infinite love for us sinners.

It is the proof of Your mission.
It is the final fulfillment of the revelation and the history of salvation.
The weight of Your cross frees us from all of our burdens.

In Your obedience to the will of the Father,
we become aware of our rebellion and disobedience.

In You, sold, betrayed, crucified by Your own people and those dear to you,
we see our own betrayals and our own usual infidelity.

In Your innocence, Immaculate Lamb, we see our guilt.
In Your face, slapped, spat on and disfigured,
we see the brutality of our sins.

Christ ByzantineIn the cruelty of Your passion,
we see the cruelty of our heart and of our actions.

In Your own feeling of abandonment,
we see those abandoned by their families,
by society, by attention and by solidarity.

In Your body, sacrificed, ripped and torn,
we see the body of our brothers who have been abandoned along the way,
disfigured by our negligence and our indifference.

In Your thirst Lord, we see the thirst of Your merciful Father,
who desired to embrace, forgive and save all of humanity.

In You, Divine Love, we see even today, before our very eyes,
and often with our silence and complicity, our persecuted brothers and sisters,
decapitated, crucified for their faith in You.

Imprint in our heart, Lord, sentiments of faith, hope and charity,
of sorrow for our sins, and lead us to repent for our sins that have crucified You.

Lead us to transform our conversion with words
into a conversion of life and works.

Help us to preserve within us a living memory of Your disfigured face,
so that we may never forget the terrible price You paid to free us.

Crucifed Jesus, strengthen in us a faith that does not collapse
in the face of temptations; awaken in us the hope that does get lost
following the temptations of the world.

Shroud Turin smPreserve in us the charity that is not fooled by the corruption of worldliness.
Teach us that the cross is the way to the resurrection.
Teach us that Good Friday is the way to the Easter of light.

Teach us that God never forgets any of his children,
and never tires of forgiving us and embracing us with His infinite mercy.

But also teach us to never tire of asking Him for forgiveness
and believing in the boundless mercy of the Father.

Soul of Christ, sanctify us!
Body of Christ, save us!
Blood of Christ, inebriate us!
Water from the side of Christ, wash us!
Passion of Christ, comfort us!
O Good Jesus, hear us!
Hide us in your wounds!
Do not allow us to separate from You!
From the evil enemy defend us!
In the hour of our death, call us!
And command us to come to You,
so that we may praise You with Your Saints forever and ever.

AMEN.

Good Friday: Homily of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM, Cap. Preacher of the Papal Household

File photo of Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa preaching at Vatican

Homily of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM, Cap. Preacher of the Papal Household, at Good Friday Serivice for the Passion of the Lord in St. Peter’s Basilica.

We have just heard the account of Jesus’ trial before Pilate. There is one point in particular in that account on which we need to pause.

 Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged him. And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and clothed him in a purple robe; they came up to him, saying, “Hail King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. . . . So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” [Ecce Homo!] (Jn 19:1-3, 5)

Among the innumerable paintings that have the Ecce Homo as their subject, there is one that has always impressed me. It is by the sixteenth-century Flemish painter, Jan Mostaert. Let me try to describe it. It will help imprint the episode better in our minds, since the artist only transcribes faithfully in paint the facts of the gospel account, especially that of Mark (see Mk 15:16-20).

Jesus has a crown of thorns on his head. A sheaf of thorny branches found in the courtyard, perhaps to light a fire, furnished the soldiers an opportunity for this parody of his royalty. Drops of blood run down his face. His mouth is half open, like someone who is having trouble breathing. On his shoulders there is heavy and worn-out mantle, more similar to tinplate than to cloth. His shoulders have cuts from recent blows during his flogging. His wrists are bound together by a coarse rope looped around twice. They have put a reed in one of his hands as a kind of scepter and a bundle of branches in the other, symbols mocking his royalty. Jesus cannot move even a finger; this is a man reduced to total powerlessness, the prototype of all the people in history with their hands bound.

Meditating on the passion, the philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote these words one day: “Christ will be in agony until the end of the world; we must not sleep during this time.”There is a sense in which these words apply to the person of Christ himself, that is, to the  head of the mystical body, and not just to its members. Not despite being risen and alive now but precisely because he is risen and alive. But let us leave aside this meaning that is too enigmatic and talk instead about the most obvious meaning of these words. Jesus is in agony until the end of the world in every man or woman who is subjected to his same torments. “You did it to me!” (Matt 25:40). He said these words not only about believers in him; he also said it about every man or woman who is hungry, naked, mistreated, or incarcerated.

For once let us not think about social evils collectively: hunger, poverty, injustice, the exploitation of the weak. These evils are spoken about often (even if it is never enough), but there is the risk that they become abstractions—categories rather than persons. Let us think instead of the suffering of individuals, people with names and specific identities; of the tortures that are decided upon in cold blood and voluntarily inflicted at this very moment by human beings on other human beings, even on babies.

XIR47615How many instances of “Ecce homo” (“Behold the man!”) there are in the world! How many prisoners who find themselves in the same situation as Jesus in Pilate’s praetorium: alone, hand-cuffed, tortured, at the mercy of rough soldiers full of hate who engage in every kind of physical and psychological cruelty and who enjoy watching people suffer. “We must not sleep; we must not leave them alone!”

The exclamation “Ecce homo!”  applies not only to victims but also to the torturers. It means, “Behold what man is capable of!” With fear and trembling, let us also say, “Behold what we human beings are capable of!” How far we are from the unstoppable march forward, from the homo sapiens sapiens (the enlightened modern human being), from the kind of man who, according to someone, was to be born from the death of God and replace him!

Christians are of course not the only victims of homicidal violence in the world, but we cannot ignore the fact that in many countries they are the most frequently intended victims.  Jesus said to his disciples one day, “The hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God” (Jn 16:2). Perhaps never before have these words found such  precise fulfillment as they do today.

A third-century bishop, Dionysius of Alexandria, has left us a testimony of an Easter celebrated by Christians during the fierce persecutions by the Roman emperor Decius:

First we were set on and surrounded by persecutors and murderers, yet we were the only ones to keep festival even then. Every spot where we were attacked became for us a place for celebrations whether field, desert, ship, inn, or prison. The most brilliant festival of all was kept by the fulfilled martyrs, who were feasted in heaven.

This is the way Easter will be for many Christians this year, 2015 after Christ.

There was someone who, in the secular press, had the courage to denounce the disturbing indifference of world institutions and public opinion in the face of all this killing of Christians, recalling what such indifference has sometimes brought about in the past. All of us and all our institutions in the West risk being Pilates who wash our hands.

However, we are not allowed to make any denunciations today. We would be betraying the mystery we are celebrating. Jesus died, crying out, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). This prayer was not simply murmured under his breath; it was cried out so that people could hear it well. Neither is it even a prayer; it is a peremptory request made with the authority that comes from being the Son: ”Father, forgive them!” And since he himself had said that the Father heard all his prayers (see Jn 11:42), we have to believe that he heard this last prayer from the cross and consequently that the crucifiers of Christ were then forgiven by God (not of course without in some way being repentant) and are with him in paradise, to testify for all eternity to what extremes the love of God is capable of going.

Ignorance, per se, existed exclusively among the soldiers. But Jesus’ prayer is not limited to them. The divine grandeur of his forgiveness consists in the fact that it was also offered to his most relentless enemies. The excuse of ignorance is brought forward precisely for them. Even though they acted with cunning and malice, in reality they did not know what they were doing; they did not think they were nailing to the cross a man who was actually the Messiah and the Son of God! Instead of accusing his adversaries, or of forgiving them and entrusting the task of vengeance to his heavenly Father, he defended them.

Jesus Crowned with thorns Jan MostaertHe presents his disciples with an example of infinite generosity. To forgive with his same greatness of soul does not entail just a negative attitude through which one renounces wishing evil on those who do evil; it has to be transformed instead into a positive will to do good to them, even if it is only by means of a prayer to God on their behalf. “Pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44). This kind of forgiveness cannot seek recompense in the hope of divine punishment. It must be inspired by a charity that excuses one’s neighbor without, however, closing one’s eyes to the truth but, on the contrary, seeing to stop evildoers in such a way that they will do no more harm to others and to themselves.

We might want to say,  “Lord, you are asking us to do the impossible!” He would answer, “I know, but I died to give you what I am asking of you. I not only gave you thecommand to forgive and not only an heroic example of forgiveness, but through my death I also obtained for you the grace that enables you to forgive. I did not give the world just a teaching on mercy as so many others have. I am also God and I have poured out for you  rivers of mercy through my death. From them you can draw as much mercy as you want during the coming jubilee year of Mercy.”

Someone could say, “So then, does following Christ always mean surrendering oneself passively to defeat and to death?” On the contrary! He says to his disciples, “Be of good cheer” before entering into his passion: “I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). Christ has overcome the world by overcoming the evil of the world. The definitive victory of good over evil that will be manifested at the end of time has already come to pass, legally and de facto, on the cross of Christ. “Now,” he said, “is the judgment of this world” (Jn 12:31). From that day forth, evil is losing, and it is losing that much more when it seems to be triumphing more. It has already been judged and condemned in its ultimate expression with a sentence that cannot be appealed.

Jesus overcame violence not by opposing it with a greater violence but by enduring it and exposing all its injustice and futility. He inaugurated a new kind of victory that St. Augustine summed up in three words: “Victor quia victima: “Victor because victim.” It was seeing him die this way that caused the Roman centurion to exclaim, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mk 15:39). Others asked themselves what the “loud cry” emitted by the dying Jesus could mean (see Mk 15:37). The centurion, who was an expert in combatants and battles, recognized at once that it was a cry of victory.

The problem of violence disturbs us, shocks us, and it has invented new and horrendous forms of cruelty and barbarism today. We Christians are horrified at the idea that people can kill in God’s name. Someone, however, could object, “But isn’t the Bible also full of stories of violence? Isn’t God called ‘the Lord of hosts’? Isn’t the order to condemn whole cities to extermination attributed to him? Isn’t he the one who prescribes numerous cases for the death penalty in the Mosaic Law?”

If they had addressed those same objections to Jesus during his life, he would surely have responded with what he said regarding divorce: “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so” (Mt 19:8). The same is true for violence: “at the beginning it was not so.” The first chapter of Genesis presents a world where violence is not even thinkable, neither among human beings themselves nor between people and animals. Not even to avenge the death of Abel, and therefore punish a murderer, is it permissible to kill (see Gen 4:15).

God’s true intention is expressed by the commandment “You shall not kill” more than by the exceptions to that command in the law, which are concessions to the “hardness of heart” and to people’s practices. Violence, along with sin, is unfortunately part of life, and the Old Testament, which reflects life and must be useful for life as it is, seeks through its legislation and the penalty of death at least to channel and curb violence so that it does not degenerate into personal discretion and people then tear each other apart.

Paul speaks about a period of time that is characterized by the “forbearance” of God (see Rom 3:25). God forbears violence the way he forbears polygamy, divorce, and other things, but he is preparing people for a time in which his original plan will be “recapitulated” and restored in honor, as though through a new creation. That time arrived with Jesus, who proclaims on the mount, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if anyone strikes you on the right check, turn to him the other also. . . . You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:38-39, 43-44).

The true “Sermon on the Mount” that changed history is not, however, the one spoken on a hill in Galilee but the one now proclaimed, silently, from the cross. On Calvary Christ delivers a definitive “no” to violence, setting in opposition to it not just non-violence but, even more, forgiveness, meekness, and love. Although violence will still continue to exist, it will no longer—not even remotely—be able to link itself to God and cloak itself in his authority. To do so would make the concept of God regress to primitive and crude stages in history that have been surpassed by the religious and civilized conscience of humanity.

True martyrs for Christ do not die with clenched fists but with their hands joined in prayer. We have had many recent examples of this. Christ is the one who gave the twenty-one Coptic Christians beheaded in Libya by ISIS this past February 22 the strength to die whispering the name of Jesus.

Lord Jesus Christ, we pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in the faith and for all the Ecce Homo human beings who are on the face of the earth at this moment, Christian and non-Christian. Mary, at the foot of the cross you united yourself to your Son, and you whispered, after him,  “Father, forgive them!” Help us overcome evil with good, not only on the world scene but also in our daily lives, within the walls of our homes. You “shared his sufferings as he died on the cross. Thus, in a very special way you cooperated by your obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Savior.” May you inspire the men and women of our time with thoughts of peace and mercy. And of forgiveness. Amen.

Holy Thursday: Pope Francis’ for Mass of the Lord’s Supper

Holy_Thursday

Read below the English translation of the Holy Father’s homily during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on April 2, 2015, at the Roman prison in Rebibbia, courtesy of the Zenit International News Service:

This Thursday, Jesus is at table with the disciples, celebrating the feast of Passover. The passage of the Gospel that we have heard says a word that is precisely the center of what Jesus did for all of us: “He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. (Jn. 13,2).” Jesus loved us. Jesus loves us. But without limits, always to the end. The love of Jesus for us has no limits, it is always more. He never tires of loving anyone. He loves all of us to the point of giving His life. Yes, He gives his life for all of us, He gives his life for each one of us. And each one of us can say: “He gave His life for me.” He gave his life for you, for you, for you, for me for each one, with first and last name, because His love is like that: personal.

The love of Jesus never deceives because he never tires of loving, as He also never tires of forgiving, He never tires of embracing us. This is the first thing I wanted to tell you: Jesus loved each one of you “to the end.”

And then He does something that the disciples did not understand: He washed their feet. In that time, it was common; it was customary because the people, when they would arrive to a house, their feet were dirty with dust from the road. There weren’t any Sampietrini [stone pavement] in that time!

And at the entrance of the house, they would wash their feet. But it was not done by the head of the household; it was done by the slaves. It was the work of slaves. And Jesus cleans our feet, the feet of the disciples, like a slave. And He says to them: “What I am doing, you do not understand now,” he says to Peter, “but you will understand later.” (Jn. 13:7)

Jesus, has so much love that He made Himself a slave in order to serve us, to heal us, to clean us. And today, in this Mass, the Church wants the priest to wash the feet of 12 persons, in memory of the 12 disciples there. But in our heart, we must have the certainty, we must be sure that the Lord, when he washes our feet, He washes everything, He purifies us! He makes us feel once again His love.

In the Bible there is a sentence from the prophet Isaiah that is very beautiful. It says: “Can a mother forget her own child? Though a mother may forget her child, I will not forget you!” (Is. 49:15) That is how the love of God is for us.

And I will wash today the feet of 12 of you, but in these brothers and sisters, there are all of you. Everyone, everyone! All those who live here. You represent them, but I also have a need to be cleaned by the Lord. And for this, pray during this Mass so that the Lord may also clean my filth, so that I may become more your slave, more of a slave in the service of people, as Jesus was. Now, we will begin this part of the ceremony.

Holy Thursday: Pope Francis’ Chrism Mass Homily

Francis_Chrism_Mass

At 9:30 this morning in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis as Bishop of Rome presided at the Mass of Chrism, a celebration that takes places in all the Cathedrals of the world this week. Cardinals, Bishops and priests (religious and diocesan) present in Rome concelebrated the mass with him.  During the Eucharistic celebration, the priests renewed the promises they made at the moment of their ordination.  Holy Oils were then blessed: the oil of the sick the oil of catechumens and the sacred chrism.  Below is the homily delivered by Pope Francis after the proclamation of the Gospel.

“My hand shall ever abide with him, my arms also shall strengthen him” (Ps 89:21). This is what the Lord means when he says: “I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him” (v. 20). It is also what our Father thinks whenever he “encounters” a priest. And he goes on to say: “My faithfulness and my steadfast love shall be with him… He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father, my God and the rock of my salvation”’ (vv. 24, 26).

It is good to enter with the Psalmist into this monologue of our God. He is talking about us, his priests, his pastors. But it is not really a monologue, since he is not the only one speaking. The Father says to Jesus: “Your friends, those who love you, can say to me in a particular way: ‘You are my Father’” (cf. Jn14:21). If the Lord is so concerned about helping us, it is because he knows that the task of anointing his faithful people is demanding; it can tire us. We experience this in so many ways: from the ordinary fatigue brought on by our daily apostolate to the weariness of sickness, death and even martyrdom. The tiredness of priests! Do you know how often I think about this weariness which all of you experience? I think about it and I pray about it, often, especially when I am tired myself. I pray for you as you labour amid the people of God entrusted to your care, many of you in lonely and dangerous places. Our weariness, dear priests, is like incense which silently rises up to heaven (cf. Ps 141:2; Rev 8:3-4). Our weariness goes straight to the heart of the Father.

Know that the Blessed Virgin Mary is well aware of this tiredness and she brings it straight to the Lord. As our Mother, she knows when her children are weary, and this is her greatest concern. “Welcome! Rest, my child. We will speak afterwards…”. “Whenever we draw near to her, she says to us: “Am I not here with you, I who am your Mother?” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 286). And to her Son she will say, as she did at Cana, “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3).

It can also happen that, whenever we feel weighed down by pastoral work, we can be tempted to rest however we please, as if rest were not itself a gift of God. We must not fall into this temptation. Our weariness is precious in the eyes of Jesus who embraces us and lifts us up. “Come to me, all who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). Whenever a priest feels dead tired, yet is able to bow down in adoration and say: “Enough for today Lord”, and entrust himself to the Father, he knows that he will not fall but be renewed. The one who anoints God’s faithful people with oil is also himself anointed by the Lord: “He gives you a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit” (cf. Is 61:3).

Let us never forget that a key to fruitful priestly ministry lies in how we rest and in how we look at the way the Lord deals with our weariness. How difficult it is to learn how to rest! This says much about our trust and our ability to realize that that we too are sheep. A few questions can help us in this regard. Do I know how to rest by accepting the love, gratitude and affection which I receive from God’s faithful people? Or, once my pastoral work is done, do I seek more refined relaxations, not those of the poor but those provided by a consumerist society? Is the Holy Spirit truly “rest in times of weariness” for me, or is he just someone who keeps me busy? Do I know how to seek help from a wise priest? Do I know how to take a break from myself, from the demands I make on myself, from my self-seeking and from my self-absorption? Do I know how to spend time with Jesus, with the Father, with the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, with my patron saints, and to find rest in their demands, which are easy and light, and in their pleasures, for they delight to be in my company, and in their concerns and standards, which have only to do with the greater glory of God? Do I know how to rest from my enemies under the Lord’s protection? Am I preoccupied with how I should speak and act, or do I entrust myself to the Holy Spirit, who will teach me what I need to say in every situation? Do I worry needlessly, or, like Paul, do I find repose by saying: “I know him in whom I have placed my trust” (2 Tim 1:12)?

Let us return for a moment to what today’s liturgy describes as the work of the priest: to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom to prisoners and healing to the blind, to offer liberation to the downtrodden and to announce the year of the Lord’s favour. Isaiah also mentions consoling the broken-hearted and comforting the afflicted. These are not easy or purely mechanical jobs, like running an office, building a parish hall or laying out a soccer field for the young of the parish… The tasks of which Jesus speaks call for the ability to show compassion; our hearts are to be “moved” and fully engaged in carrying them out. We are to rejoice with couples who marry; we are to laugh with the children brought to the baptismal font; we are to accompany young fiancés and families; we are to suffer with those who receive the anointing of the sick in their hospital beds; we are to mourn with those burying a loved one… All these emotions can exhaust the heart of a pastor. For us priests, what happens in the lives of our people is not like a news bulletin: we know our people, we sense what is going on in their hearts. Our own heart, sharing in their suffering, feels “com-passion”, is exhausted, broken into a thousand pieces, moved and even “consumed” by the people. Take this, eat this… These are the words the priest of Jesus whispers repeatedly while caring for his faithful people: Take this, eat this; take this, drink this… In this way our priestly life is given over in service, in closeness to the People of God… and this always leaves us weary.

I wish to share with you some forms of weariness on which I have meditated. There is what we can call “the weariness of people, the weariness of the crowd”. For the Lord, and for us, this can be exhausting – so the Gospel tells us – yet it is a good weariness, a fruitful and joyful exhaustion. The people who followed Jesus, the families which brought their children to him to be blessed, those who had been cured, those who came with their friends, the young people who were so excited about the Master… they did not even leave him time to eat. But the Lord never tired of being with people. On the contrary, he seemed renewed by their presence (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 11). This weariness in the midst of activity is a grace on which all priests can draw (cf. ibid., 279). And how beautiful it is! People love their priests, they want and need their shepherds! The faithful never leave us without something to do, unless we hide in our offices or go out in our cars wearing sun glasses. There is a good and healthy tiredness. It is the exhaustion of the priest who wears the smell of the sheep… but also smiles the smile of a father rejoicing in his children or grandchildren. It has nothing to do with those who wear expensive cologne and who look at others from afar and from above (cf. ibid., 97). We are the friends of the Bridegroom: this is our joy. If Jesus is shepherding the flock in our midst, we cannot be shepherds who are glum, plaintive or, even worse, bored. The smell of the sheep and the smile of a father…. Weary, yes, but with the joy of those who hear the Lord saying: “Come, O blessed of my Father” (Mt 25:34).

There is also the kind of weariness which we can call “the weariness of enemies”. The devil and his minions never sleep and, since their ears cannot bear to hear the word of God, they work tirelessly to silence that word and to distort it. Confronting them is more wearying. It involves not only doing good, with all the exertion this entails, but also defending the flock and oneself from evil (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 83). The evil one is far more astute than we are, and he is able to demolish in a moment what it took us years of patience to build up. Here we need to implore the grace to learn how to “offset”: to thwart evil without pulling up the good wheat, or presuming to protect like supermen what the Lord alone can protect. All this helps us not to let our guard down before the depths of iniquity, before the mockery of the wicked. In these situations of weariness, the Lord says to us: “Have courage! I have overcome the world!” (Jn 16:33).

And finally – lest you be wearied by this homily itself! – there is also “weariness of ourselves” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 277). This may be the most dangerous weariness of all. That is because the other two kinds come from being exposed, from going out of ourselves to anoint and to do battle (for our job is to care for others). But this third kind of weariness is more “self-referential”: it is dissatisfaction with oneself, but not the dissatisfaction of someone who directly confronts himself and serenely acknowledges his sinfulness and his need for God’s mercy; such people ask for help and then move forward. Here we are speaking of a weariness associated with “wanting yet not wanting”, having given up everything but continuing to yearn for the fleshpots of Egypt, toying with the illusion of being something different. I like to call this kind of weariness “flirting with spiritual worldliness”. When we are alone, we realize how many areas of our life are steeped in this worldliness, so much so that we may feel that it can never be completely washed away. This can be a dangerous kind of weariness. The Book of Revelation shows us the reason for this weariness: “You have borne up for my sake and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (Rev 2:3-4). Only love gives true rest. What is not loved becomes tiresome, and in time, brings about a harmful weariness.

The most profound and mysterious image of how the Lord deals with our pastoral tiredness is that, “having loved his own, he loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1): the scene of his washing the feet of his disciples. I like to think of this as the cleansing of discipleship. The Lord purifies the path of discipleship itself. He “gets involved” with us (Evangelii Gaudium, 24), becomes personally responsible for removing every stain, all that grimy, worldly smog which clings to us from the journey we make in his name.

From our feet, we can tell how the rest of our body is doing. The way we follow the Lord reveals how our heart is faring. The wounds on our feet, our sprains and our weariness, are signs of how we have followed him, of the paths we have taken in seeking the lost sheep and in leading the flock to green pastures and still waters (cf. ibid., 270). The Lord washes us and cleanses us of all the dirt our feet have accumulated in following him. This is something holy. Do not let your feet remain dirty. Like battle wounds, the Lord kisses them and washes away the grime of our labours.

Our discipleship itself is cleansed by Jesus, so that we can rightly feel “joyful”, “fulfilled”, “free of fear and guilt”, and impelled to go out “even to the ends of the earth, to every periphery”. In this way we can bring the good news to the most abandoned, knowing that “he is with us always, even to the end of the world”. Let us learn how to be weary, but weary in the best of ways!

Chrism Mass Booklet Vatican April 2, 2015

The Saints

Children_Saints

Noel-Blog

Welcome to S+L’s Weekly News Round-Up. As the Director of Marketing and Communications here at S+L, many interesting Catholic news stories and articles come across my desk on a daily basis. Some of them we’ll cover on our different television programs and others I’d like to share with you on this blog.

This blog column is where I’ll point out some of the more interesting news pieces that I’ve come across over the past week! Enjoy!

Ok, so we are in the home stretch for Lent. As you know, we are right in middle of “the” most important week of the liturgical year. Check out this excellent infographic that illustrates, in one view, the narrative of Holy Week gospels:

Info Graphic - Holy Week

The Lenten season is a time for us to reflect on our relationship with Jesus and what we can do to improve it. So who better to turn to than the saints! They are great teachers of how to listen to God and discern what He expects of us on this short journey here on earth.

That being said, here are a few pretty cool articles on saints that I thought I might share. This first piece from Church Pop is a bunch of pics of saints when they were children and it made me realize how I had always thought these saints were superhuman or something, but they were actually just like you and me! Check it out here.

As I continued my search, I found these fascinating stories of the miraculous events that took place in these saints’ lives. Many of them were killed for their faith but God used these public killings to change the hearts of those who witnessed them. Imagine having your head chopped off but still continue to preach! Yep, that’s what happened to St. Denis. Check out his story and find how these saints wouldn’t die!

Continuing on the “Saints” theme, here are some more great stories about the weird and wonderful ways that God works miracles when you are completed devoted and living by the words He gave us through Jesus. I really love the story about St. John Cantius when he was mugged and robbed and then ran back to the robbers to give them the extra money he had found in his pocket. The robbers were so amazed by what he did and they were converted! A great witness to what can happen when you practice Jesus’ teaching about “turning the other cheek”. Check out the other 7 epic saint stories.

QUIZ TIME!

Ok, here is an interesting online quiz on Saints. Let’s see how well you do on this one. I admit that this was a difficult one. This quiz is titled WHICH SAINT SAID IT?

My guess is that you didn’t do very well. Now, don’t get embarrassed since I’m talking from personal failed experience. But don’t worry, here is another quiz from CNN that, hopefully, is a little bit easier. Check it out – HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW JESUS?

On a final note, I just had to share this one with you. I know its not on today’s theme of Saints, but this one I found very interesting. Apparently, there is a rise of Muslims converting to Christianity in Morocco and its causing some issues in the Muslim community. Read about it here.

I leave you now with this funny cartoon that has absolutely nothing to do with any of the topics above. Although some of my colleagues in the marketing team didn’t quite get it, I found it hilarious and couldn’t stop laughing. So I hope you have the same humour that I have and enjoy this mid-week chuckle!

Eden

Well, that’s it for me this week folks. I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on these stories. If you have any interesting stories yourself, please feel free to send them to me!

I hope you enjoy these little stories! I certainly have. Till next week!

– Noel

Good Friday: Way of the Cross led by Pope Francis

Way_of_the_Corss_Rome

It was 19 March 2013. Pope Francis had been elected just a few days before. He preached on Saint Joseph, the “protector” of Mary and Jesus[1], as a model of discretion, humility, silence, abiding presence and complete fidelity.

The present Way of the Cross will make constant reference to the gift of our being “protected” by God’s love, particularly by Jesus crucified, and to the task which we in turn have received, to be loving protectors of all creation, of every person, especially the poor, of ourselves and our families. In this way we will make the star of hope shine forth in our world.

We want to take part in this Way of the Cross in profound union with Jesus. Attentive to the words of the Gospel, we will soberly meditate on some of the thoughts and feelings present in the mind and heart of Jesus at that time of trial.

We will also consider some of those challenging situations which – for better or worse – are typical of our own time. By allowing them to resonate within us, we will show our desire to imitate our Lord Jesus Christ in his Passion.

Prayer

O Father, who willed to save mankind by the death of your Son on the cross,
grant that we who have known on earth the mystery of his love,
may be his witnesses, in our words and actions, in our daily lives,
before all those whom you place on our path.
Through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

First_StationFIRST STATION
Jesus is condemned to death

Intimacy, betrayal, condemnation

Adoramus…

From the Gospel according to Luke

“This is my body, which is given for you… This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood”.[2]

From the Gospel according to Mark

“Pilate spoke to them again, ‘Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews’. They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’. Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified”.[3]

JESUS’ THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS

I just celebrated Passover with my disciples. I had eagerly desired this:[4] my last Passover, before the passion, before my return to you! But then something went wrong. The devil put it in the heart of one of my disciples to betray me.[5]In the garden of Gethsemane he came up to me. With a sign of love he said, “Greetings, Rabbi!”. And he kissed me.[6]How bitter was that moment!

During the meal, I asked you, Father, to protect my disciples in your name, that they may be one, as we are one.[7]

OUR RESONANCE

Jesus, even more than your first disciples, we are weak in faith. We too risk betraying you, while your love should make us love you all the more.

We need prayer, watchfulness, sincerity and truth. That is how our faith can grow. A faith which is strong and full of joy.

LET US PRAY

Protected by the Eucharist

“May your body and blood, Lord Jesus, protect us for eternal life”.[8]

May this miracle take place for our priests who celebrate the Eucharist and for all of us, the faithful who approach the altar to receive you, the living bread come down from heaven.

All: Pater noster… Stabat Mater

SECOND STATIONSecond_Station
Jesus takes up his cross

“Numbered with the transgressors”

Adoramus…

From the Gospel according to Mark

“After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him”.[9]

JESUS’ THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS

The soldiers of the governor surround me. For them, I am no longer a person but a thing. They want to toy with me, to mock me. So they dress me up as a king. There is even a crown, a crown of thorns. They strike my head with a reed. They spit on me. They lead me off.[10]

I keep thinking of the striking passage of the prophet Isaiah about the Servant of the Lord. It says that he had no appearance of beauty; he was despised; he was a man of sorrows; he was like a lamb led to the slaughter; he was cut off from the land of the living; he was beaten to death. I am that Servant, sent to reveal the greatness of God’s love for man.[11]

OUR RESONANCE

You, Jesus, were “numbered with the transgressors”.[12] Among the first generation of Christians, simply because they spoke openly of you, Peter and John, Paul and Silas were cast into prison.[13] This has happened repeatedly throughout history.

In our day too, men and women are imprisoned, condemned and even slaughtered for the simple reason that they are believers or engaged in promoting justice and peace. They are not ashamed of your cross. For us they are wonderful examples to imitate.

LET US PRAY IN THE WORDS OF A MARTYR, SHAHBAZ BHATTI

On the morning of 2 March 2011, Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Minister for Minorities, was killed by a group of armed men. In his spiritual testament he had written:
“I remember a Good Friday when I was only thirteen years old. I heard a sermon on the sacrifice of Jesus for our redemption and for the salvation of the world. And I thought of responding to that love by showing love for our brothers and sisters, placing myself at the service of Christians, especially the poor, the needy and the persecuted who live in this Islamic country.
“I want my life, my character and my actions to speak for me, and to say that I am a follower of Jesus Christ. This is so strong a desire in me that I would consider it a privilege if Jesus should wish to accept the sacrifice of my life”.

In the light of this testimony, let us pray: Lord Jesus, you strengthen inwardly all who suffer persecution. May the fundamental right of religious freedom spread throughout the world. We thank you for all those who, like “angels”, give marvellous signs of your coming Kingdom.

All: Pater noster… Stabat Mater

 

Third_StationTHIRD STATION
Jesus falls beneath the cross

“Behold the Lamb of God”

Adoramus…

From the Book of the prophet Isaiah

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his wounds we are healed”.[14]

JESUS’ THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS

I stagger as I take my first steps towards Calvary. I have already lost a lot of blood. It is hard for me to bear the weight of the wood I have to carry. And so I fall to the ground.

Someone helps me up. I see people all around me. Surely there are some who love me. Others are just curious bystanders. I think of John the Baptist, who at the beginning of my public life, said: “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”.[15] Now the truth of those words is revealed.

OUR RESONANCE

O Jesus, on this day we must not be like the Pharisee who sings his own praises, but like the tax collector who does not even dare to look up.[16] So in trust we ask you, Lamb of God, to forgive our sins, in thought and word, in what we have done and what we have failed to do.

As we ponder the weight of your cross, we will not be ashamed to make the sign of the cross on our bodies: “It is an effective aid: free for the poor and effortless for the weak. For it is a grace from God”.[17]

LET US PRAY

Your Son shared our human life

We give you praise, Father most holy, because time and time again through the prophets you taught us to look forward to salvation. We praise you because you so loved the world as to send us your only-begotten Son. To accomplish your plan of redemption, he shared our human nature in all things but sin. To the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation, to prisoners freedom, and to the sorrowful of heart joy.[18]

Thank you, Father!

All: Pater noster… Stabat Mater

FOURTH STATIONFourth_Station
Jesus meets his Mother

A sword will pierce your soul

Adoramus…

From the Gospel according to Luke

“Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother, ‘This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed, so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul too’ … His mother treasured all these things in her heart”.[19]

JESUS’ THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS

My Mother is part of the crowd. My heart is racing. I can only catch a glimpse of her. Blood is streaming down my face.

When I was just forty days old, I was brought to the Temple to be presented according to the Law of Moses. A prophet spoke to my father and mother. His name was Simeon. He took me in his arms. He said that I would be a“sign of contradiction”, and he told my mother that “a sword will pierce your soul”. Those words have now become a searing reality, for her and for me. Today my presentation is complete.[20]

MARY’S RESONANCE

“O my God-sprung Son, you are dragged by the hands of this evil generation and you bear it; you came to be thrown into chains and willingly let yourself be led by them, you who are the liberator of the enchained human race from its chains! … How devastated I am! Speak, say a word to me, O Word of God the Father, do not pass by in silence before your handmaid, who became your mother”.[21]

Jesus, the drama played out between you and your mother in a street of Jerusalem makes us think of so many dramatic family situations in our world. No one is spared: mothers, fathers, children, grandparents. It is easy to judge, but it is more important to put ourselves in the place of others and to help them as best we can. This we will try to do.

LET US PRAY

“Do whatever he tells you”

Holy Mary, mother of Jesus and spouse of Joseph, we ask you to accompany the Synod of Bishops on the family. Intercede for the Pope, the Bishops and all those directly engaged in its labours. May they be docile to the Holy Spirit and carry out their discernment with wisdom. May they keep in mind the words of the Psalm: “Mercy and truth will meet”.[22] At the wedding feast of Cana, you said to the servants: “Do whatever he tells you”.[23] Sustain all Christian spouses and parents, called to bear witness to the beauty of a family inspired and guided by the words of Jesus.

All: Pater noster… Stabat Mater

Fifth_StationFIFTH STATION
The Cyrenean helps Jesus carry his cross

Returning from the fields

Adoramus…

From the Gospel according to Luke

“As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus”.[24]

JESUS’ THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS

All around me I hear shouting. They have forcibly laid hold of a labourer who was passing by, perhaps by chance. Without much explanation they force him to shoulder my burden. I feel relieved. They tell him to walk behind me. Together we will go to the place of execution.

More than once, when proclaiming God’s kingdom, I had said: “Whoever does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple”.[25] But now this man is carrying my cross. Perhaps he doesn’t even know who I am, yet he is helping me and following me all the same.

OUR RESONANCE IN PRAISE OF SIMON

“Blessed too are you, Simon, who in your lifetime carried the cross behind our King. Those who carry the insignia of kings are proud, but kings will disappear with their insignia. Blessed are your hands, which lifted and bore in procession the life-giving cross of Jesus.”[26]

Lord, perhaps for some of us, too, our first encounter with you occurred in a completely unexpected way. But then it grew.

Let us consider it a great grace that there are still Cyreneans in our midst. They carry other people’s crosses. They do it with perseverance. They are motivated by love. They put into practice Saint Paul’s command: “Bear one another’s burdens”.[27] In this way they protect their brothers and sisters.

LET US PRAY

Who doesn’t need a Cyrenean?

Lord Jesus, you told us that “it is more blessed to give than to receive”.[28] Make us ready to be “Cyreneans” to others. May those who see our way of life find encouragement, as they watch us striving to cultivate all that is beautiful, just, true and essential. May the frail see us as humble, for we too are frail in so many ways. Those who receive tokens of our generosity will realize that we too have a thousand reasons to be thankful. Even those who cannot run can simply stand and wait, for they are dear to us. They will find us ready to slow our pace: we do not want to leave them behind.

All: Pater noster… Stabat Mater

SIXTH STATIONSixth_Station
Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

Women Disciples

Adoramus…

From the Gospel according to Luke

“[Jesus] went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.[29]

JESUS’ THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS

There are many women in the crowd. Kindness inspires one of them to come and wipe my face. This makes me think of so many other encounters. One was just a week ago. I went to dinner in Bethany, as the guest of my friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Mary anointed by feet with perfume made of pure nard. I said, to her surprise, that she should keep it for my burial.[30]

I can also remember sitting beside the well in Sychar. I was tired and thirsty. A Samaritan woman then came by, carrying a water jar. I asked her for water. I spoke to her about water which springs up to eternal life. She seemed to be waiting for this gift, to open her heart. She wanted to tell me everything about herself. I saw her, in amazement, delving into her conscience. And she returned home speaking of me and saying: “Could he be the Messiah?”.[31]

OUR RESONANCE

Jesus, this evening, in our midst, there is a significant presence of women. In the Gospel women have an important place. They looked after you and the apostles. Some of them were present at your passion. And they would be the first to bring the news of your resurrection.

The feminine genius impels us to a faith full of love for you.[32] All the saints teach us this. We want to follow in their footsteps.

LET US PRAY

The gift of spiritual motherhood

Lord Jesus, the proclamation of the faith in the world and the progress of Christian communities are largely sustained by women. Protect them as witnesses to that happiness born of an encounter with you, a happiness which is the mysterious secret behind their lives. Protect them as a radiant sign of motherhood at the side of the little ones, who, in their hearts, become the greatest.

All: Pater noster… Stabat Mater

Seventh_StationSEVENTH STATION
Jesus falls the second time

“Do not be far from me”
[33]

Adoramus…

From the Gospel according to Matthew

“Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane… and prayed. He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them: ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here and stay awake with me’. He prayed: ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want’”.[34]

From the Gospel according to Luke

“Then an angel from heaven appeared and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground”.[35]

JESUS’ THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS

It is not simply physical weariness. There is something deeper I have to endure. Last night I prayed long and hard to the Father, stretched out on the ground. My sweat was like drops of blood. My death was already upon me. Now I am sharing the ultimate, painful experience of every human being near death. Thank you, my Father, for sending an angel from heaven to comfort me at that moment!

OUR RESONANCE

Jesus, how much pain lies deep within those many souls racked by loneliness, abandonment, indifference, illness, or the loss of a dear one!

Boundless too are the sufferings of those trapped in painful situations, those who hear only lying and hateful words; those who encounter hearts of stone which cause tears and lead to despair.

The human heart – the heart of each one of us – awaits something completely different: the protection of love. You, Jesus, teach this to us and to all people of good will: “Love one another, as I have loved you”.[36]

LET US PRAY

My heart, protect and console!

Be open, my heart. Be as expansive as God’s own heart. Be open to bringing hope. Be open to caring. Be open to listening. Be open to pouring balm upon every wound. Be open to bringing light to those living in darkness. Protect and console, today, tomorrow and always.

All: Pater noster… Stabat Mater

 

EIGHTH STATIONEighth_Station
Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

“You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world”
[37]

Adoramus…

From the Gospel according to Luke

“A great number of people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children’”.[38]

JESUS’ THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS

Just a few days ago, I entered Jerusalem. A small crowd of disciples was there to welcome me. They even greeted me with the words: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”.[39] For all its simplicity, that moment was also most solemn. And yet the Pharisees showed their displeasure. The joy did not stop me from weeping at the sight of the city.[40] Now as I make my weary way towards Golgotha, I hear the cries of women weeping for me as they beat their breasts.

OUR RESONANCE

Perhaps today too, Jesus, looking at our cities, would have cause to weep. We too can be blind, failing to see the path to peace which you point out to us.[41]

But now we realize the summons contained in your words in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”. And in your words to the disciples: “You are the salt of the earth … You are the light of the world … Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.[42]

LET US PRAY

In the light of the heavenly Jerusalem

Lord God, you have called us to the heavenly Jerusalem, God’s dwelling-place among men. There, you have promised, every tear will be wiped from our eyes. Death, mourning, weeping and pain will be no more. You will be our God and we will be your people.[43] Protect our hope that, after the toil of our sowing in tears, we will come at last to the joy of the harvest.[44]

All: Pater noster… Stabat Mater

Ninth_StationNINTH STATION
Jesus falls the third time

The “journey” of Jesus

Adoramus…

From the Gospel according to John

“I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father”.[45]

JESUS’ THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS

My earthly journey is now at an end. When I was born, my Mother laid me in a manger.[46] I lived almost my whole life in Nazareth. I immersed myself in the history of the Chosen People.

On my journey as the One sent by the Father, I preached the breadth of his love, which overlooks no one; the length of his love, which is faithful in every generation; the height of his love, a hope which triumphs over death itself;[47]and the depth of his love, which sent me to call not the righteous, but sinners.[48]

Many heard and followed me, becoming my disciples; others did not understand. Some even fought me and ultimately condemned me. But at his moment I am called, more than ever, to reveal God’s love for all mankind.[49]

OUR RESONANCE

Jesus, in considering your love and the love of the Father, we wonder if we risk becoming beguiled by the world, which can only see your passion and death as “folly and scandal”, and not “the power and wisdom of God”.[50] Could it be that we Christians are lukewarm, while your love is a mystery of fire?

Do we realize that before God came among us, we did not even know who God was? When you, the only-begotten Son, came into our world, God who had formed us in his image, let us look up to him and promised us the Kingdom of heaven. How then will we not love the one who loved us first?.[51]

LET US PRAY

“Abba, Father”

Lord God, we dare to call you “our Father”. To think of ourselves as children is a marvellous gift for which we are eternally grateful. We know, Father, that we are but a speck of dust in the universe. You have granted us a great dignity, you have called us to freedom. Free us from all forms of slavery. Do not let us wander far from you. Father, protect each of us. Protect every man and woman on the face of the earth.

All: Pater noster… Stabat Mater

 

TENTH STATIONTenth_Station
Jesus is stripped of his garments

The robe

Adoramus…

From the Book of Psalms

“They divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots”.[52]

JESUS’ THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS

I stand in silence. I feel humiliated by so apparently banal an act. I was already stripped hours ago. I think of my Mother, who is here. My humiliation is also hers. Once more her heart is pierced. To her I owe the robe which was torn from me, which is a sign of her love for me.[53]

OUR RESONANCE

Lord, your robe makes us think of a moment of grace and so many violations of our human dignity.

The grace is that of Baptism. A newly-christened child is told: “You have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself with Christ. See in this white garment a sign of your Christian dignity. With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.[54] Here is the deepest truth about human life.

Yet the love which which you protect each creature also makes us think of appalling realities: human trafficking, child-soldiers, slave labour, children and adolescents robbed of their souls, wounded in their deepest being, barbarously violated.

You urge us in humility to beg forgiveness of all who have suffered these atrocities, and to pray that the conscience of those who darkened their lives will at last be stirred. In your presence, Jesus, we renew our resolve to “overcome evil with good”.[55]

PRAYER

The two ways

“Blessed indeed is the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the path with sinners, nor abides in the company of scorners, but whose delight is the law of the Lord, and who ponders his law day and night. He is like a tree that is planted beside the flowing waters, that yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves shall never fade; and all that he does shall prosper”.[56]

All: Pater noster… Stabat Mater

Eleventh_StationELEVENTH STATION
Jesus is nailed to the cross

The supreme “throne” of God’s love

Adoramus…

From the Gospel according to John

“Then they handed him over to them to be crucified … Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews’”.[57]

JESUS’ THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS

They are driving nails into my hands and feet. My arms are outstretched. The nails excruciatingly pierce my flesh. I am immobilized in body, but free in heart, with the same freedom with which I went forth to my passion.[58] Free, for I am full of love, a love which embraces all.

I look at the men who are crucifying me. I think of those who have ordered them to do this: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing”.[59] Beside me are two other men condemned to crucifixion. One of them asks me to remember him when I come into my kingdom. Yes, I tell him, “Today you will be with me in Paradise”.[60]

OUR RESONANCE

We gaze at you, Jesus, as you are nailed to the cross. And our conscience is troubled. We anxiously ask: When will the death penalty, still practiced in many states, be abolished? When will every form of torture and the violent killing of innocent persons come to an end? Your Gospel is the surest defence of the human person, of every human being.

PRAYER

“Have mercy on us!”

Lord Jesus, to teach us how to offer our lives in love you embraced the cross; at the hour of death you heard the plea of the penitent thief. Sinless Saviour, you were numbered with the transgressors and submitted to the judgement of sinners.[61]

All: Pater noster… Stabat Mater

 

Twelfth_StationTWELFTH STATION
Jesus dies on the cross

“Christ, we need you” 
(Blessed Paul VI)

Adoramus…

JESUS’ WORDS ON THE CROSS

Jesus cried with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”.[62] Then, turning to his Mother, he said, “Woman, here is your son!”, and to the disciple John, “Here is your mother”.[63] He said, “I am thirsty”.[64] He said, “It is finished”.[65] And finally, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”.[66]

OUR RESONANCE

On the cross, Jesus, you prayed. That was the way you experienced the supreme moment of your call and mission.

In that hour you turned to your Mother and to the disciple John. Through them, you also turned and spoke to us. We were entrusted to your Mother. You asked us to welcome her into our lives and to be protected by her, even as you were.

It impresses us deeply that, during an agony which lasted for hours, you cried out to God in the words of Psalm 21, words which express the sufferings but also the hopes of the just.

The evangelist Luke recounts that, at the moment of your death, you said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”.[67] The Father’s response will be your resurrection.

PRAYER

“Omnia nobis est Christus”  (Saint Ambrose)

– Christ, we need you, to know ourselves and our destiny.

– We need you to discover the true basis of human fraternity, the foundations of justice, the treasures of charity, the supreme good of peace.

– We need you, the great bearer of our sorrows, to know the meaning of suffering.

– We need you, the conqueror of death, to set us free from despair and denial.

– Christ, we need you, to learn true love and to advance, in joy and with the strength of your love, along our weary way, until at last we encounter you, the beloved, the awaited, blessed for all ages.[68]

All: Pater noster… Stabat Mater

 

Thirteenth_StationTHIRTEENTH STATION
Jesus is taken down from the cross

The royal way for the Church

Adoramus…

From the Gospel according to Matthew

“The centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus… said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’. Many women were also there … Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee”.[69]

OUR RESONANCE

– “In you, Jesus – word made flesh – we are called to be the Church of mercy.

– In you – who chose to be poor – the Church is called to be poor and the friend of the poor.

– As we contemplate your face, our own cannot be different than yours.

– Our weakness will be strength and victory, only if it reveals the humanity and meekness of our God”.[70]

LET US PRAY

“Father, extend to the whole human family the kingdom of justice and peace which you have prepared through your only-begotten Son, our king and saviour. Thus the blessing of true peace will be granted to humanity; the poor will find justice; the afflicted will be consoled and all the peoples of the earth will be blessed in him, our Lord and our God, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever”.[71]

All: Pater noster… Stabat Mater

FOURTEENTH STATIONFourteenth_Station
Jesus is placed in the tomb

Protected for ever

Adoramus…

From the Gospel according to John

“After these things, Joseph of Arimathea… asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission, so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews”.[72]

THE FEELINGS OF TWO FRIENDS OF JESUS

The bodies of those condemned to crucifixion were judged unworthy even of burial. Yet two men of standing, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, were concerned to protect the body of Jesus.

“How fortunate for you and me” – Joseph tells us – “that we became disciples of Jesus![73] Before I was a secret disciple. But now I have found great courage. I even approached Pilate to obtain Jesus’ body.[74] More than out of courage, I did it out of affection and joy. I am happy to have provided a new tomb hewn in the rock.[75] To all of you I say: Love our Saviour!”

Nicodemus could well add: “I first met Jesus by night. From him I was invited to be born from above”.[76] Only slowly did I come to understand his words. Now I am here to honour his body. I readily brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes.[77] But in fact Jesus did much more for me: he brought new fragrance to my life!”.

MARY SPEAKS TO OUR HEART

“John stood close to me. Beneath the cross my faith was sorely tried. As in Bethlehem and then in Nazareth, now once more I ponder these things in silence.[78] I have put my trust in God. My hope, the hope of a mother, is not spent. You too need to trust! For all of you I implore the grace of a strong faith. And for those experiencing dark days, consolation”.

LET US PRAY

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.
Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.

All: Pater noster… Stabat Mater

(CNS photo/Paul Haring)