These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.
Something strange is happening- – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear. —An Ancient Holy Saturday Homily
COLLECT All-powerful and ever-living God, your only Son went down among the dead and rose again in glory. In your goodness raise up your faithful people, buried with him in baptism, to be one with him in the eternal life of heaven, where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. (Jn 19:25-27)
I have been crucified with Christ, and the life I live now is not my own, it is Christ living in me; oh I still live my human life, but it is a life of faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me. (Saint Paul, Galatians 2:19-20)
O Love, how deep, how broad, how high, how passing thought and fantasy, that God, the Son of God should give himself for love of me. (Saint Bernard of Clairvaux)
Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. (Jn 13:1)
In the Fourth Gospel, the Foot Washing is the center of the last supper that Jesus has with his disciples. As the Lord says, “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.” If Jesus can “get low” to go to the Cross, then we are called to “get low” and wash each other’s feet. Maybe that’s what “he loved them to the end” is all about. Jesus, the one who came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for us all.
One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over. (Mt 26:14-16)
Traditionally, the Wednesday of Holy Week is called Spy Wednesday. It is noteworthy that all four gospels record that it was one of the Twelve, one of the leadership, who betrayed Jesus. Perhaps that’s why the church was reluctant to canonize its leaders. In the past, there weren’t that many canonized popes. One reason, there was a 50 year wait period before beginning the process of canonization. Today it’s different. But there are still good reasons why we shouldn’t shout “Súbito Santo!” too quickly.
Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant. One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus’ side. So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant. He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him, “Master, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.” So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. (Jn 13:21-16)
Receive me now, O Son of God, as a participant in your mystical supper, for I will not betray your mystery to your enemies nor give you a kiss like Judas, but like the thief I confess you:
Remember me, Lord, when you come into your kingdom.
—Liturgy of St John Chrysostom
Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him. Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. (Jn 12:1-3)
I remember the dedication of the new altar at Our Lady of Fatima Chapel in Winston-Salem when it belonged to Saint Benedict the Moor Parish. The bishop dumped the whole container of the Oil of Chrism on the surface of the altar and began to rub it in to the wood of the altar. Everyone was astounded at the extravagance of the gesture as the fragrance of the Chrism filled the whole Chapel.
Christ became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name. (Phil 2:8-9)
He became one with us . . . even sharing a shameful death. I remember sitting in the witness chair during jury duty answering the judge’s questions. And one of the questions was if I would support the death penalty. My answer, “No, your honor, because that’s what they did to my Lord.”