Saturday, March 23, 2013

Into Holy Week

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent

23 March 2013

Institute of St. Thomas Aquinas in Kyiv

(for simultaneous translation into Ukrainian)
Ez. 37:21-28
Jn. 11:45-56

If I had to make a guess, I’d say that if there were a day in the week when our Catholic people may not get to Mass, when if not Monday then it would be Saturday, and with the big liturgy of Palm Sunday opening the intense days of Holy Week, well, today might even draw less attention or thought than most other Saturdays in the course of the liturgical year. In a sense, it is a pity because there is real drama in the Gospel passage from St. John which we read today; it sets the stage for our living through all that the Lord Jesus suffered in these next days. So, consider yourselves very fortunate today; this may be a rare occasion and a special grace just for you.

From today’s Gospel let us take just the last line:
“What do you think? That he will not come to the feast?”

The high priest Caiaphas prophesies that Jesus was going to die “for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.” We have here an explanation of our first reading, of what the Prophet Ezekiel was promising to the people in God’s Name. Notice that the Gospel states clearly that this cleansing of the people, this gathering of the people into one, was to be carried out through the shedding of blood, with the sacrifice at the hands of sinners of that one man, Whom we know to be God’s True Lamb, the acceptable Sacrifice for the salvation of the whole world.

One of the great worries which I have, first about myself and then about most faithful people I know, is that our hopes and longings are for the most part “Old Testament”; we may not be all that familiar with what is to be found in those first 45 books of the Bible, but if we yearn for anything in life then Ezekiel could better express our wants than perhaps the Gospel. We experience Caiaphas’ prophecy for the most part as tragic; it is desolate; there is too much deadly earnest here. We “Old Testament” folk would have a land, a king, laws and decrees; we would have peace and we would have God’s sanctuary, His temple among us. We remain dumb before the sacrifice of the Cross of Christ. We’re not ready for the Shepherd to be struck and the flock to be scattered. We’re not ready to see Caiaphas’ words for what the Gospel calls them, that is as a prophecy, as something other than a cold, political calculation. We’re not ready to be enveloped in all the darkness which precedes the dawn of Easter light. We’re not ready for our share in the Cross.

Where does the drama of this Saturday, of Passiontide, of Holy Week, of the Sacred Triduum lie? In whether or not Jesus will show up for His appointment with destiny? We know the answer to that question very well. Is not rather the drama of Holy Week something which unfolds within each of our hearts and within the community of believers as such? The question is not so much whether Jesus will take up His Cross, but in whether we will share it with Him, in whether through darkness, scourging and death we can recognize and rejoice in the kingship of the Son of David.

As it is a weekday, my homily should be shorter, so I’ll stop here and recommend you all to the Mother of God, to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She knew her part in the drama of Holy Week and she can teach us how to embrace the Cross of her Son, how to be prophetic witnesses in our day and time to the Gospel which brings light and life.


  1. Thank you. Have a Blessed Holy Week walking beside Jesus. May you experience his pain and agony. In Luke we hear of Jesus's look at Peter after the denial and then experience how Peter wept bitterly. I pray I will experience the same conversion and mercy and love that Peter did during this Holy Week. God Bless and we still have snow in Aberdeen. Spring is just an extension of Lent!

    1. Thanks, David!
      We're buried here in Kyiv under a record snow (20 in.) in about 24 hours with wind. It's almost like home:)


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