The Third Station
Jesus Falls the First Time
We recall the incident when Jesus healed the paralytic who had been lowered through the roof. When cured through the merciful love of Jesus the man walked home, giving praise to God (Luke 5:17-26)
17 Now it happened that he was teaching one day, and Pharisees and teachers of the Law, who had come from every village in Galilee, from Judaea and from Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was there so that he should heal.
18 And now some men appeared, bringing on a bed a paralysed man whom they were trying to bring in and lay down in front of him.
19 But as they could find no way of getting the man through the crowd, they went up onto the top of the house and lowered him and his stretcher down through the tiles into the middle of the gathering, in front of Jesus.
20 Seeing their faith he said, ‘My friend, your sins are forgiven you.’
21 The scribes and the Pharisees began to think this over. ‘Who is this man, talking blasphemy? Who but God alone can forgive sins?’
22 But Jesus, aware of their thoughts, made them this reply, ‘What are these thoughts you have in your hearts?
23 Which of these is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,” or to say, “Get up and walk”?
24 But to prove to you that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ — he said to the paralysed man-‘I order you: get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home.’
25 And immediately before their very eyes he got up, picked up what he had been lying on and went home praising God.
26 They were all astounded and praised God and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen strange things today.’
The Gospels present Jesus as walking about freely through Palestine preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing the people by his presence and his word. Now on his journey to Calvary Jesus is forced to walk on the way determined by the Roman soldiers — not just walking but carrying the burden of the cross. Jesus stumbles at first at the extra weight and finds it hard to get his balance. All of this was part of the crucifixion process to show that that the prisoner was being punished for some crime. The placard eventually placed above Jesus’ head would read: Jesus Nazareth King of the Jews. This was all done as human beings saw it. Jesus is the Son of God sharing our humanity. He gives added dimension to his actions, including carrying the cross. When Jesus cured the paralytic above from his sins and weakness the man was able to walk again and thereby give praise to God. Here Jesus gets up — struggle though it was — and heads to Calvary giving praise to this heavenly Father. He offers that divine power to us and strengthens us for our journey. He already has done this and will continue to do so.
We walk by faith.
We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you;
for by your cross and resurrection you have redeemed the world.
[See the Archives at the end of the Blog on this homepage.]
The Second Station
Jesus Willingly Accepts the Cross Which the Father had Given Him
From the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 26
30 After the psalms had been sung [at the Last Supper] they left for the Mount of Olives.
31 Then Jesus said to them, ‘You will all fall away from me tonight, for the scripture says: I shall strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered,
32 but after my resurrection I shall go ahead of you to Galilee.’
33 At this, Peter said to him, ‘Even if all fall away from you, I will never fall away.’
34 Jesus answered him, ‘In truth I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will have disowned me three times.’
35 Peter said to him, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the disciples said the same.
36 Then Jesus came with them to a plot of land called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Stay here while I go over there to pray.’
37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with him. And he began to feel sadness and anguish.
38 Then he said to them, ‘My soul is sorrowful to the point of death. Wait here and stay awake with me.’
39 And going on a little further he fell on his face and prayed. ‘My Father,’ he said, ‘if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it.’
40 He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, ‘So you had not the strength to stay awake with me for one hour?
41 Stay awake, and pray not to be put to the test. The spirit is willing enough, but human nature is weak.’
42 Again, a second time, he went away and prayed: ‘My Father,’ he said, ‘if this cup cannot pass by, but I must drink it, your will be done!’
43 And he came back again and found them sleeping, their eyes were so heavy.
44 Leaving them there, he went away again and prayed for the third time, repeating the same words.
45 Then he came back to the disciples and said to them, ‘You can sleep on now and have your rest. Look, the hour has come when the Son of man is to be betrayed into the hands of sinners.
46 Get up! Let us go! Look, my betrayer is not far away.’
47 And suddenly while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared, and with him a large number of men armed with swords and clubs, sent by the chief priests and elders of the people.
48 Now the traitor had arranged a sign with them saying, ‘The one I kiss, he is the man. Arrest him.’
49 So he went up to Jesus at once and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi,’ and kissed him.
50 Jesus said to him, ‘My friend, do what you are here for.’ Then they came forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.
51 And suddenly, one of the followers of Jesus grasped his sword and drew it; he struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his ear.
52 Jesus then said, ‘Put your sword back, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.
53 Or do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, who would promptly send more than twelve legions of angels to my defence?
54 But then, how would the scriptures be fulfilled that say this is the way it must be?’
55 It was at this time that Jesus said to the crowds, ‘Am I a bandit, that you had to set out to capture me with swords and clubs? I sat teaching in the Temple day after day and you never laid a hand on me.’
56 Now all this happened to fulfil the prophecies in scripture.
The cross of Christ has become the great symbol of our faith. Saint Paul made the statement: I glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:14). There is much more to the cross than the wooden beams. Jesus told us at the first prediction of his passion: Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me (Mark 8:34) to which Luke adds: take up your cross daily (Luke 9:23). So when did Jesus “accept” the cross which his Father had given him? Was it at the time of physically carrying the cross or earlier? The scripture above concludes with the frequent statement of Matthew that the Jesus’ events were all part of God’s overall plan. Jesus accepted his mission from the Father long before the Roman soldiers placed the wooden cross on his shoulders. Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane wonderfully expressed his embrace of the call given him by the Father. This is the glory of his cross. It is ours as well.
We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you;
for by your cross and resurrection you have redeemed the world.
Next Sunday is Palm Sunday, also known as Sunday of the Passion. It is the day when we listen to a Passion Account from the scriptures — this year it is according to Matthew. We shall offer here in the following days meditations on the last hours of Jesus, especially using his last steps, traditionally known as the Way of the Cross. (There is an alternate form of meditations given in the blog, also accessible on this home page.)
The First Station
Jesus is Condemned to Death by Jewish authorities and Pilate, the Roman Governor
From the Gospel of Matthew
59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus, however false, on which they might have him executed.
60 But they could not find any, though several lying witnesses came forward. Eventually two came forward
61 and made a statement, ‘This man said, “I have power to destroy the Temple of God and in three days build it up.” ‘
62 The high priest then rose and said to him, ‘Have you no answer to that? What is this evidence these men are bringing against you?’
63 But Jesus was silent. And the high priest said to him, ‘I put you on oath by the living God to tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’
64 Jesus answered him, ‘It is you who say it. But, I tell you that from this time onward you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’
65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘He has blasphemed. What need of witnesses have we now? There! You have just heard the blasphemy.
66 What is your opinion?’ They answered, ‘He deserves to die.’
1 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people met in council to bring about the death of Jesus.
2 They had him bound and led him away to hand him over to Pilate, the governor.
11 Jesus, then, was brought before the governor, and the governor put to him this question, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Jesus replied, ‘It is you who say it.’
12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and the elders he refused to answer at all.
13 Pilate then said to him, ‘Do you not hear how many charges they have made against you?’
14 But to the governor’s amazement, he offered not a word in answer to any of the charges.
15 At festival time it was the governor’s practice to release a prisoner for the people, anyone they chose.
16 Now there was then a notorious prisoner whose name was Barabbas.
17 So when the crowd gathered, Pilate said to them, ‘Which do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’
18 For Pilate knew it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over.
19 Now as he was seated in the chair of judgement, his wife sent him a message, ‘Have nothing to do with that upright man; I have been extremely upset today by a dream that I had about him.’
20 The chief priests and the elders, however, had persuaded the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas and the execution of Jesus.
21 So when the governor spoke and asked them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’ they said, ‘Barabbas.’
22 Pilate said to them, ‘But in that case, what am I to do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ They all said, ‘Let him be crucified!’
23 He asked, ‘But what harm has he done?’ But they shouted all the louder, ‘Let him be crucified!’
24 Then Pilate saw that he was making no impression, that in fact a riot was imminent. So he took some water, washed his hands in front of the crowd and said, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood. It is your concern.’
Just yesterday we heard the Gospel of the meeting of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. At that time Jesus said to her: I do not condemn you (John 8) and we recalled that earlier in John’s Gospel we have the quote that God so loved the world that he sent his Son, not to condemn but to save (John 3:16ff). Here at the First Station we are reminded of others condemning Jesus — one out of jealousy and one to please the crowd. Both should have known better. God’s own people failed to remember that God is the ultimate Judge and our lives are to be judged ultimately on his word. Pilate had the good Roman sense to know that justice is served when reality is the basis of judgment — Pilate knew the true reason why they sought Jesus’ death, jealousy, and he told them first: But what harm has he done? But Pilate was worried that they would turn against him. So he gave in.
God has the last word on everything. Our lives must be grounded in his word. Listening to his word is essential for life. Human authority, such as that of Pilate, is subject to God’s judgment as well. Fear of the Lord — a reverential respect and obedience to God — is also essential for life. Jesus has given us this double way of life. That is why he does not condemn us and gives us life through his death and resurrection.
We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you;
for by your cross and resurrection you have redeemed the world.
Here is today’s Gospel with a running commentary
Gospel, John 8:1-11
1 And Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
THE MOUNT OF OLIVES IS ASSOCIATED WITH THE PASSION OF CHRIST
2 At daybreak he appeared in the Temple again; and as all the people came to him, he sat down and began to teach them.
FIRST THING IN THE MORNING JESUS RETURNED TO THE TEMPLE AREA AND STARTED TO TEACH, EXPLAIN THE KINGDOM OF GOD TO THE PEOPLE, I.E. WHAT KIND OF A GOD WE HAVE
3 The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman along who had been caught committing adultery; and making her stand there in the middle
THE OPPOSITION LEADERS WANTED TO MAKE A PUBLIC DISPLAY, THINKING THEY WOULD CATCH JESUS AS A PERSON WHO DID NOT OBEY “THE LAW”
4 they said to Jesus, ‘Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery,
THEY ENTRAPPED THE WOMAN — ADULTERY WAS A TERM USED BY THE PROPHETS TO DESCRIBE UNFAITHFULNESS TO THE COVENANT. BASICALLY THEY WERE SEEKING TO SHOW JESUS WAS NOT BEING FAITHFUL TO THE COVENANT, FOR WHICH THEY COULD CONDEMN HIM
5 and in the Law Moses has ordered us to stone women of this kind. What have you got to say?’
WHAT HAVE YOU GOT TO SAY? MEANT PUTTING JESUS AS JUDGE OF THIS WOMAN
6 They asked him this as a test, looking for an accusation to use against him. But Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger.
THE SACRED WRITER JOHN INDICATES WHAT REALLY WAS GOING ON. JESUS’ RESPONSE IS SILENCE. HE DOES NOT RESPOND WITH ACCUSATION/CONDEMNATION OF ANYBODY, INCLUDING THE PHARISEES. JESUS IS GIVING EVERYONE THERE, ACCUSERS AND ACCUSED, WITH THE CHANCE TO PONDER WHAT GOD THE JUDGE HAD DONE IN MERCY FOR THEM. THEY HAD BEEN PRAISING GOD IN THEIR WORSHIP FOR YEARS FOR HIS MERCIFUL COVENANT LOVE
7 As they persisted with their question, he straightened up and said, ‘Let the one among you who is guiltless be the first to throw a stone at her.’
TIME IS UP FOR THEIR RESPONSE. “THE FIRST TO THROW THE STONE” WAS A SAYING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT (Deuteronomy 17:2-5) PERTAINING TO IDOLATRY, I.E. UNFAITHFULNESS TO THE GOD OF THE COVENANT OF MERCY. JESUS’ RESPONSE IS A CALL TO FAITHFULNESS TO GOD WHO IS MERCY ITSELF. GOD IS TO BE THE JUDGE NOT MAN.
8 Then he bent down and continued writing on the ground.
SILENCE AGAIN — TIME TO PONDER WHAT KIND OF GOD WE HAVE
9 When they heard this they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until the last one had gone and Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained in the middle.
THEY CAME TO THEIR SENSES AND REALIZED, EACH AND EVERY ONE, THAT GOD HAD BEEN MERCIFUL TO THEM MANY TIMES OVER — THEY CONTINUALLY IN THE TEMPLE GAVE HIM PRAISE FOR BEING KIND AND MERCIFUL, SLOW TO ANGER, RICH IN COVENANT LOVE
10 Jesus again straightened up and said, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’
THIS RECALLS OF JOHN’S GOSPEL (3:16-17): For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
11 ‘No one, sir,’ she replied. ‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus. ‘Go away, and from this moment sin no more.’
THE SIN IS STILL A SIN BUT GOD WILL CONTINUE TO POUR OUT HIS MERCIFUL LOVE IN THE FUTURE. HE IS OFFERING YOU A FUTURE OF HOLINESS
Jesus is the judge of the living and the dead
(Before entering into the sample Sunday prayers, you may wish to familiarize yourself with the scripture commentary which is provided on this homepage, just beneath this opening Tweet.
This is a quasi homily because the ideal homily takes much of its meaning from its actual setting in a “live” liturgy in which the Holy Spirit is at work uniting the body of Christ. This communion together is part of the reality of a homily within the action of the liturgy itself. It is offered here to bind together your small group of prayer on this Lord’s Day. The scripture commentary is meant to give some background to what God is saying and doing at this particular time.)
SAMPLE OF HOME PRAYER FOR THE LORD’S DAY
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Peace be with you.
Let us seek the merciful love of God:
Have mercy on us, O Lord
For we have sinned against you.
Lord, show us your mercy
And grant us your salvation.
Let us pray:
It is our heart’s desire and prayer of you, O Lord, God of your people, that we imitate by a joyful way of life the faithful covenant love of Jesus Christ, who freely gave himself and his life for us inspired by that same love that caused him to enter this world to save us.
Listen to the sacred scriptures:
[Go to the Today’s Readings section below on this webpage.]
Silent Reflection and/or share comments.
Among the unusual events of these days was our watching the funeral Mass of Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk live streamed on the Internet last Friday. The presentation was well done but somewhat awkward in that the whole time the Archbishop’s casket in front of the altar was all alone — the pews in the church were empty. This is not the ordinary way our Masses of Eternal Rest are celebrated.
Then today as we listen to God’s word relating the funeral rites for Lazarus long ago we also see a very different picture. The scriptures speak of the crowds that accompanied Martha and Mary to the tomb. They had come to their home to grieve with them. Martha and Mary had contacted Jesus earlier and had asked him to come be with them. This he did, after a purposeful delay, for the glory of God. Jesus in coming to the tomb made his presence felt. He was there because of his love for this family. He took a risk to come into the territory adjacent to Jerusalem where some leaders who disliked Jesus were threatening to kill him. In raising Lazarus from the tomb Jesus revealed the power of God in overcoming earthly death and assuring us of keeping his promise that we are called to be with the Lord forever and never be separated from him. All of this because of the divine covenant love prompting Jesus to give his life that we be in communion with God always.
Today the Church prays as we do with the Collect/Gathering Prayer that we have that same love behind everything Jesus did. We gathering around the remains of our deceased brothers and sisters and their families because Christ’s and his love dwells in us. We are very much a part of the funeral rites as we gather as the body of Christ to celebrate the Mass of Eternal Rest for our beloved departed. We did not get to do this the other day for Archbishop Pilarczyk. We shall get to do this later when the pandemic subsides.
Remember it is the love of Christ that impels us to do so. He is the one who said: There is no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13). He did it. So can we.
Praise be to God!
Period of Silence
Sample Prayer of the Faithful
Let us pray
for the Church entrusted with preserving and spreading the faith
for the eternal rest of Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk, whom God chose to lead us in the past
for all our faithful departed, especially those taken from us by the virus
for those suffering from the virus and their families
for those who have the disease and do not know it
for all those caring for the sick in medical facilities and at home
for those who in one way or another take care of our essential needs
for those who have no one to pray for them
In Jesus’ name we pray for ever and ever. Amen.
Our Father, who art in heaven…
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Preparing for Sunday Worship in the Home
These days have brought up the question of the value of the Lord’s Day and its observance. Here are opening lines of what Pope John Paul II wrote to us over twenty years ago on the subject in his encyclical on the religious significance of observing Sundays as dedicated to the Lord:
The Lord’s Day — as Sunday was called from Apostolic times — has always been accorded special attention in the history of the Church because of its close connection with the very core of the Christian mystery. In fact, in the weekly reckoning of time Sunday recalls the day of Christ’s Resurrection. It is Easter which returns week by week, celebrating Christ’s victory over sin and death, the fulfilment in him of the first creation and the dawn of “the new creation” (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). It is the day which recalls in grateful adoration the world’s first day and looks forward in active hope to “the last day”, when Christ will come in glory (see Acts 1:11; 1Thessalonaians 4:13-17) and all things will be made new (see Revelation 21:5).
Here are the scripture citations to which he is refers:
2 Corinthians 5:17
Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer. So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away.
We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep. Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.” The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then he said, “Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true.” He said to me, “They are accomplished. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water. The victor will inherit these gifts, and I shall be his God, and he will be my son.
Through a regular weekly observance of the Lord’s Day, especially with Mass, is a chain of graces which culminates for each of us in heavenly glory. To break this chain opens us up to the danger of forgetting the Lord and what he has done and does for us and thus jeopardizing the receiving his promise of eternal life. It is that serious.
Even though the series of Sunday Masses has been temporarily interrupted, the Lord’s Day has not. We must find alternate ways to worship the Lord on these Sundays. What is presented here is meant to be a help in that direction.
First of all take a look at the scripture readings for this Fifth Sunday of Lent. You will find the links to them below on this homepage.
Ezekiel 37:12-14 – I will put my spirit in you that you may live.
Psalm 130 – With the Lord is faithful covenant love, with him generous ransom.
Romans 8:8-11 – If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead has made his home in you, then he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.
John 11:1-45 – I am the resurrection. Anyone who believes in me,
even though that person dies, will live
From here on out, my brother,
Ave atque Vale,
forever I salute you and bid you farewell in Christ Jesus our Redeemer.
The end of all things is at hand. Therefore, be serious and sober for prayers. Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace. Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:7-11
So I exhort the presbyters among you [bishops in the early Church], as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed. Tend the flock of God in your midst, overseeing not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
1 Peter 5:1-4
Funeral of Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk
Some time ago we marked this day on our Lenten calendar as the day for our annual Lenten Parish Communal Penance Sacrament. With all the cancellations taking place due to the pandemic the Lord changed what we had planned but he left this as a day of giving him thanks and praise for his merciful love. So we want to observe this day for that and in the process to realize that he is making this day when he shows us that the mercy and holiness we have received from him along with this people is a sign that he loves us and that our sins are forgiven.
To do this here we are going to consider one of his psalms of mercy and in the accompanying “blog” on this home page take a look at the wonderful page of the New Testament where Jesus forgives Peter for denying him at the time of the crucifixion.
Psalm 130, the famous De profundis, Out of the depths…, is one of the penitential psalms — part of which will be used this coming Sunday in connection with the raising of Lazarus Gospel. At that time we will join the Church in reciting (or singing along with the Man of La Mancha, see YouTube) these verses:
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication.
If you, O LORD, mark iniquities,
LORD, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered.
I trust in the LORD;
my soul trusts in his word.
More than sentinels wait for the dawn,
let Israel wait for the LORD.
For with the LORD is kindness
and with him is plenteous redemption;
And he will redeem Israel
from all their iniquities.
This brief and powerful hymn originated when God’s people gathered in pilgrimage to go his Temple dwelling in Jerusalem to praise him for his faithful merciful love of his people. Our Communal Sacrament of Penance is meant to do the same. God shows mercy to us as a people. We can see this how we have been brought together in the present crisis and together to beg his mercy which leads us to the praise him together as we wait for the dawn. The trusting in his word is the relying on his “promise.” Keeping his promise of mercy, which he is doing, tells us that he will be true to all his promises, e.g. eternal life. The NABR translates if you, Lord, mark iniquities… as if you, Lord, keep account of our sins… expresses more clearly that God never stops loving us, even when we have sinned. The purpose of God’s mercy and love is that we thank him and praise him — But with you is forgiveness, so that you may be revered. This is the day to join the Church in singing God’s praises for showing us his merciful covenant love over the years.
You may wish to see a more recent translations of this psalm in the revised New American Bible, http://www.usccb.org/bible/psalms/130 or the New Jerusalem Bible, https://www.catholic.org/bible/book.php?id=23&bible_chapter=130.
This Lent we found the ”Face of Christ, carrying the cross” by El Greco inspiring and enabling us to focus our attention on the Mystery of Lent and Easter. Here is another painting by the same artist about 1575 A.D. and his meditation on the Annunciation of the Lord. I invite you to use it for your own meditation on the great Mystery of Christ becoming man which this Feast proclaims. You can easily search the Internet and find a larger version as well as other paintings of his on the same theme. Here are some of my thoughts.
At the center of this work is Holy Spirit who enabled Mary to conceive.
The heavens are split open and Jesus descends from above.
The Angel Gabriel holds lilies in his left hand, symbol of virginity.
His right hand is extended pointing to heaven and announcing the great event.
His wings identify him as a messenger from God, floating on a cloud.
Mary’s right hand is in a posture open to the angel’s word.
Her left hand rests on the “Bible”, i.e. the covenant of the Old Testament.
She is seen at prayer, symbolized by the prie dieu, conversing with God.
Beneath her feet is the ancient serpent, crushed by her heel (see Genesis).
Bottom right corner is a vase of flowers, indicating her fruitful virginity.
The whole history of God’s plan of salvation for us is here.
These are some of things that I see. You may find others.
But the multiple symbols show the depths and complexity of the Mystery of the Incarnation,
which we are celebrating today.
The temporary changes God has asked of us for his Lord’s Day prompts us to do some research in the scriptures for origin and reasons for the Sabbath/Lord’s Day. Here are a few passages (with notes from the New American Bible) to get us thinking of why ordinarily go to church on Sunday and keep it a day of rest, i.e. make it different than the rest of the week.
Keeping the Sabbath we a bone of contention between the Jewish leaders and Jesus — many references in the Gospels. Here is Jesus’ reply:
For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.
NAB note [Matthew 12:8] The ultimate justification for the disciples’ violation of the sabbath rest is that Jesus, the Son of Man, has supreme authority over the law
Then Jesus said to them, The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.
NAB note [Mark 2:27] The sabbath was made for man: a reaffirmation of the divine intent of the sabbath to benefit Israel as contrasted with the restrictive Pharisaic tradition added to the law.
Old Testament tradition traced the Sabbath back to the creation of the world. Notice the reason for God’s command in Exodus 31:13 below.
Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed. On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing; he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation.
Remember the sabbath day—keep it holy.
NAB note [20:8] Keep it holy: i.e., to set it apart from the other days of the week, in part, as the following verse explains, by not doing work that is ordinarily done in the course of a week. The special importance of this command can be seen in the fact that, together with vv. 9–11, it represents the longest of the Decalogue’s precepts.
NAB note [20:11] Here, in a formulation which reflects Priestly theology, the veneration of the sabbath is grounded in God’s own hallowing of the sabbath in creation.
Compare 31:13; Dt 5:15.
Exodus 31:13 You must also tell the Israelites: Keep my sabbaths, for that is to be the sign between you and me throughout the generations, to show that it is I, the LORD, who make you holy.
Observe the sabbath day—keep it holy, as the LORD, your God, commanded you. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God. You shall not do any work, either you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or donkey or any work animal, or the resident alien within your gates, so that your male and female slave may rest as you do. Remember that you too were once slaves in the land of Egypt, and the LORD, your God, brought you out from there with a strong hand and outstretched arm. That is why the LORD, your God, has commanded you to observe the sabbath day.
God is the only one who can make us a holy people. He does not want us to forget this. He gives us a weekly reminder. It is that important.