Posted by: fvbcdm | April 15, 2014

Tuesday of Holy Week (15 April 2014)

Catholic Daily Message for Tuesday of Holy Week (15 April 2014)

When we look at a crucifix, I think that we ordinarily think of the physical sufferings of Jesus on the cross. We can see the terrible spikes in his hands and feet, his body torn by the brutal whipping, his head crowned with thorns, and most of us know something about the fact that a crucified man dies basically of suffocation as his chest cavity becomes incapable of breathing, and he dies a slow, tortured death of oxygen deprivation along with the indescribable suffering of nails and a body totally lacerated by the whips.

Today, on this Tuesday in Holy Week, the Church turns our attention to the emotional, mental, and spiritual sufferings that Our Divine Lord underwent, which might well have been more terrible than any physical pain. The gospel passage for today opens as Our Lord sits down or reclines at table with the apostles for that Passover meal which we call the Last Supper. Saint John tells us that Jesus was troubled in spirit and said to them, “One of you will betray me.”

Jesus had hand-picked these twelve men some three years before. He was with them pretty much constantly during that time; they shared life together at a very close and intimate level.  A camaraderie, a fraternity, a spiritual bond was built up among them that we might well envy. He was preparing them to be the first bishops of his Church, the foundation stones of his kingdom. One of them would be the first Pope; two of them would be evangelists, i.e., writers of the gospels. The other nine would also devote their lives after Pentecost to the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus and the establishment of the Church wherever they went. And now, at the climactic moment of Our Lord’s life, one of those immensely privileged men actually turns traitor and betrays his divine master into the hands of his enemies—for what? For money. Judas deemed thirty pieces of silver enough to betray Jesus into the hands of those who were determined to kill him.

And then, the leader of the little band of apostles whom Jesus had chosen to be the first Pope, the “rock upon which he would build his church,” denied under oath that he even knew Jesus, fearing that he might suffer a fate like that of his Lord.

In this midst of all this human unreliability and undependability, Our Lord nonetheless says, “Now has the Son of Man been glorified and God has been glorified in him.” What does that mean? It means that Jesus has come to the high point of his redemptive life on earth. Whether we realize it or not, Jesus came into this world primarily to die in atonement for our sins and then to rise to share new and eternal life with us. This is why all four gospels devote as many words and as much space to the few hours between the last supper and the resurrection as to all the rest of their accounts of Our Lord’s life taken together. Jesus’s sufferings and death were terrible, but he welcomed them because they were the greatest act of his obedience to his heavenly Father. The betrayal by Judas and the denial by Peter were almost incredibly ungrateful, cowardly, calculating, and despicable. But they were the means by which our redemption was accomplished. What those men did was very sinful, but God writes straight with crooked lines. By their lack of love, and the malice and cruelty of high priest, Pilate, Herod, the soldiers, and the hostile populace, the sufferings and death of Our Lord were brought about and our salvation was achieved.

When we gaze upon the crucifix, we see what the prophet Isaiah described as, “A worm, and no man.” But what we also see is the Redeemer of the world at the supreme moment of his mission to the human race. Earlier in his life, Jesus had said, “I have a baptism with which I am to be baptized, and how eager I am that it be accomplished!” He was referring to his baptism in his own precious blood.

So again, we adore Our Divine Savior suffering for us physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And we do our best to be deeply grateful for that suffering so that as he hung upon the cross, he could look down the ages and see us now, offering him our hearts full of thanks for what he was undergoing at that time. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago

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