The Sacred Triduum

Last Supper

Lent ends with start of the Sacred Triduum. Each is a separate liturgical time. The Triduum or Three Days begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday evening and celebrates the greatest mystery of our redemption, the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord. The Three Days of the Triduum are celebrated as a single event.

In the words of St. Ambrose, “We must observe no only the day of the Passion but the day of the Resurrection as well. Thus we will have a day of bitterness and a day of joy; on the one let us fast, on the other let us seek refreshment….During this Sacred Triduum….[Christ] suffered, rested and rose from the dead.” (Epis. 23, 12-13)

At the Last Supper, Jesus extended the Paschal Mystery, his unique sacrifice for our salvation, to each of us through the Eucharist. The Eucharist recalls the Paschal Mystery not simply as a reminder of things past but makes it truly present. Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist is his greatest gift to the Church. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; … He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and …  abides in me, and I in him.” (John 6:51, 54, 56)

On Holy Thursday, at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we celebrate and commemorate that wonderful gift and the priesthood through which it is perpetuated. The antiphon for the Holy Thursday liturgy reminds us:  “Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.”

Friday confronts us with the mystery of the Cross which is more than a memorial of Christ’s death but involves each of us directly in His sacrifice. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that, “The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the “one mediator between God and men.”  But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, “the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the Paschal Mystery” is offered to all men. He calls his disciples to “take up [their] cross and follow [him]“, for “Christ also suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example so that [we] should follow in his steps.” (618)

Saturday Jesus rested in the tomb awaiting the moment of his victory over death.

 

Image: “The Last Supper” by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834-1890), courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Light is On for You

The Light is ON for You

The light of welcome and the grace of reconciliation will be waiting in every parish of the Diocese of Dallas on Wednesday April 16. Confession is difficult for many, particularly those who have been away from the Church or the sacrament for a long time. I know of nothing better on this topic than the recent words of encouragement and welcome from Pope Francis.

Speaking to a crowd in St. Peter’s Square “When was the last time you went to confession?” he added, “If a long time has passed, do not waste another day, go, the priest will be good. It is Jesus who is there, and Jesus is better than a priest, Jesus will receive you. He will receive you with love. Be courageous and go to confession! … Every time we confess, God embraces us, God celebrates! Let us go ahead on this path. May God bless you!”

The Holy Father continued, “It is not enough to ask for the Lord’s forgiveness in our own minds and hearts, but rather it is also necessary to humbly and trustfully confess our sins to a minister of the Church. …The priest does not only represent God, but rather the community as a whole, and anyone who seeks to confess only to God should remember that our sins are also committed against our brothers and against the Church, which is why it is necessary to ask forgiveness from them too… the priest receives this confession with love and tenderness, and forgives in the name of God.”

“The forgiveness of our sins is not something we can offer to ourselves; it is not the result of our efforts, but rather a gift from the Holy Spirit, which fills us from the wellspring of mercy and grace that surges endlessly from the open heart of Christ, crucified and risen again. … It reminds us that it is only by allowing ourselves to be reconciled through the Lord Jesus with the Father and with our brothers that we may truly be at peace”.

Recognizing that fear can often keep us from confession, the Pope added that “From a human point of view, to unburden oneself, it is good to speak with a brother and to tell the priest those things which lie so heavily upon our hearts. And one feels unburdened before God, with the Church, and with a brother. Do not be afraid of confession!”   The Holy Father went on to note,   “A priest’s heart is a heart that is able to be touched. … If it is true that tradition suggests the dual role of doctor and judge for confessors, we must never forget that the doctor cures and the judge absolves… Confession is not a sentencing court, but rather, an experience of forgiveness and mercy!”

 

Palm Sunday: My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

Palm Sunday

Formerly known as Palm Sunday, beginning the time of the Paschal Mystery, it is now normally called Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion or Passion Sunday.

Once again this responsorial psalm has been shortened for liturgical purposes. Go to your Bible to read the full text if possible

Because its first line, which in this rendering is also the antiphon or responsorial verse, was spoken by Jesus from the cross, this psalm may be styled as messianic. Indeed other verses, “They have pierced my hands and my feet,” and “they divide my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots” are found in Passion narratives.

Then there is a lamentation psalm in which the psalmist is an innocent man suffering persecution. It reflects the ordeals of the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13-53:1) and is most appropriate for the liturgical celebration that begins the final days of Lent.

The psalmist is rescued and restored to his community reminding us that while we contemplate the sufferings of Jesus, it is His victory, the Resurrection, that we celebrate.


RESPONSORIAL PSALM
Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24

℟. (2a) My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

All who see me scoff at me;
they mock me with parted lips, they wag their heads:
“He relied on the LORD; let him deliver him,
let him rescue him, if he loves him.”

℟. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

Indeed, many dogs surround me,
a pack of evildoers closes in upon me;
They have pierced my hands and my feet;
I can count all my bones.

℟. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

They divide my garments among them,
and for my vesture they cast lots.
But you, O LORD, be not far from me;
O my help, hasten to aid me.

℟. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

I will proclaim your name to my brethren;
in the midst of the assembly I will praise you:
“You who fear the LORD, praise him;
all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to him;
revere him, all you descendants of Israel!”

℟. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

Prayer

Prayer

More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.
Alfred Lord Tennyson

People have said to me, “Bishop, I want to pray but I don’t know how to start.” Of course the desire to pray is a prayer itself, but I believe that most of the time people who ask me this question are referring to spontaneous prayer. Most of us Catholics were taught to memorize prayers; the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, the Memorare, Acts of Faith, Hope and Love and Grace before Meals. Spontaneous prayer seemed alien to us and made most Catholics uncomfortable.

The best guide might be the Lord’s Prayer, which Jesus gave the Apostles when they asked to be taught how to pray. The Lord’s Prayer is addressed to the Father and begins with praise. “hallowed be thy name,” and pray for the coming of his kingdom, “thy kingdom come,” and that his will be fulfilled, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” So the Lord’s Prayer teaches us that praise and glory of God are essential elements and that prayer should ultimately be for God’s will to be accomplished.

In the second part of the Lord’s Prayer we come to prayer of petition, where we are asking for something, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Scholars tell us that in its original form this request was not just for daily bread but for supernatural sustenance. Then we seek pardon and forgiveness, “Forgive us our trespasses” which is followed by a promise to do the same in our relations with others, “as we forgive those who trespass against us.” And finally, we ask for the strength to persevere in our good intentions, “lead us not into temptation,” and to be protected from falling into evil, “but deliver us from evil.”

We take from Jesus’s teaching that there are prayers of praise, prayers of petition, prayers for forgiveness, and prayers for perseverance. Of course the Lord’s Prayer is the prayer “par excellence,” but there are many other forms of prayer. Many like the Jesus Prayer, which is “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, have mercy on me a sinner.” Many simply repeat the name of Jesus, or “My Jesus, mercy.”

Some find comfort in writing a letter to God. This might be an easy and effective way to learn to pray spontaneously. Put the concerns in your heart into words on paper.

Keep constantly in mind that God saves us as a people, and that community prayer, the highest form of which is the celebration of the Eucharist, must be an important part of our prayer life.

Image Source: Leland Francisco on Flickr

With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption

Fifth Sunday Of Lent
Who among us has not felt the depths of sorrow reflected in the desperate plea, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.” Each of us has cried out “Dear God where are you?” But, like the psalmist, these are not cries of despair. We are seeking to find God because we know that he is there in times of great crisis.

This is reflected in the final verse “I trust in the Lord, my soul trusts in His Word.”

While it begins with the psalmist’s deep lament, it nevertheless soon changes into hope and trust in God’s mercy and forgiveness not only for the psalmist but for redemption for Israel.

Psalm 130 is a penitential psalm, one of seven psalms used during Lent to express repentance. Several famous authors have chosen the Latin first line, De profundis [Out of the depths] as the title of one of their works. It is also used in liturgical prayers for the departed. Click here for more on the penitential psalms.


RESPONSORIAL PSALM
Psalm 130: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

℟.  (7) With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication.

℟.  With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.

If you, O LORD, mark iniquities,
LORD, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered.

℟. With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.

I trust in the LORD;
my soul trusts in his word.
More than sentinels wait for the dawn,
let Israel wait for the LORD.

℟.  With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.

For with the LORD is kindness
and with him is plenteous redemption;
And he will redeem Israel
from all their iniquities.

℟.  With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.

Protecting our Children

Children

Pope Francis’ institution of members to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors on March 22 was well- timed considering that April is National Child Abuse Protection Month.  The composition of the commission seems to be well- balanced in expertise and experience.

Protection of children and vulnerable adults is a top priority for the Diocese of Dallas.  Since the Charter for the Protection of Youth and Young People was signed, all dioceses are audited by an independent auditor for compliance with the 2002 charter.  I am pleased to report that the Diocese of Dallas has been in compliance every year.

Any person who works with children, youth and vulnerable adults, laity and clergy alike, must complete a safe environment interview and undergo reference checks, an initial training and criminal background check before being allowed to begin their ministry. It is required that training be renewed annually.  Programs specific to ministry needs are offered in training sessions focusing on topics that include domestic violence, bullying, social networking and elder abuse.

Direction of the program is handled by the Safe Environment Department under the supervision of the Chancellor of the diocese. The effectiveness of the program is manifest by the fact that safe environment training was provided in the past year for 21,550 volunteers, 2,307 diocesan and parish employees, 1,280 educators and 351 priests and deacons.

The Safe Environment Office works in close cooperation with the Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Director of Catechetical Services and the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.

Protection of our children, youth and vulnerable adults will always be a top priority for the Diocese of Dallas.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want

Fourth Sunday Of Lent

Once again this responsorial psalm has been shortened for liturgical purposes. Go to your Bible to read the full text if possible.

This is probably the most familiar and most loved of all psalms. It is a Song of Trust and Confidence. In its present form, it represents the Exiles’ hope of return to Jerusalem and the Temple (House of The Lord) and God’s healing love and mercy. In the world of the Exiles the term shepherd referred to the king. In retrospect the psalmist saw Israel’s denial of God’s kingship and covenant as the cause of its downfall.

Like the exiles, we too long to return to the Father’s House and his healing and forgiving love. This is probably why it is so often chosen as the responsorial psalm at funerals when our own mortality is always brought to mind.

Images in the psalm such as the dark valley, restful waters and green pastures all bring to mind incidents in our own lives that make this psalm seem so personal.

Many commit the 23rd Psalm to memory and I agree that it is a wonderful prayer in times of trial.


RESPONSORIAL PSALM
Psalm 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

℟. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.

℟.  The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.

℟.   The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

℟.   The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.

℟.   The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.