At sunset on Holy Saturday we begin our celebration of the Feast of the Resurrection with the Easter Vigil. Did you ever wonder why we start celebrating Easter on Saturday night? The answer lies in the fact that the first followers of Jesus were Jews and the early Church adopted many of the Jewish traditions. Among them was the tradition that the new day begins at sunset and not midnight.
Jesus at the Last Supper established and defined the Catholic priesthood that would carry on the mission of the Father he was about to complete. As his Body, the Church would be more than a community of the redeemed, it would be His redeeming community in which He would continue to be present and encountered.
Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord begins the final week of our Lenten Journey which culminates in the Church’s greatest feast, the Resurrection.
Lent is not just the season of repentance; it is the season for reconciliation.
Jesus is the Great Reconciler and the Church is His reconciling community.
On Ash Wednesday, as we received our ashes, we were called to “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” The Gospel or Good News we are called to believe is that Jesus came to reconcile us to the Father.
“Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.” (James 5:14-15)
Suffering and illness are part of the human condition, the poignant prayer of the Psalmist, “Out of the depths I call to you Lord; Lord hear my cry! May your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy,” echoes through history.
“… there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.” (John 2:1-2)
Weddings are always joy-filled occasions. The Cana wedding must have been really special to have become the occasion of Jesus’ first miracle. I have always liked Lord Byron’s non-theological but poetic description of the event: “Water saw its God and blushed.”
“The Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you.” (John 14:28)
For many, the Holy Spirit is, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, a mystery wrapped in an enigma. And so it was for the early Church that spent nearly four centuries discerning the relationship among the three persons of the Holy Trinity and two centuries later a further clarification was necessary.
“Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.” (Rom 6:3-4)
Paul’s comments on jBaptism give us another insight into this sacrament of initiation. He introduces the symbolism of water. In the first passage of the Bible, in the Book of Genesis, creation is described as emerging from water. (Gen 1:1-2) Death is sinking back into water. Thus water can represent both life and death.