Reflections on the Daily Readings
March 29 - April 4, 2015
The Season of Lent - Holy Week
Readings: Sunday Cycle B; Weekday Cycle I.
Divine Office - Psalter Week II/Propers.
Sunday 29: Palm (Passion) Sunday
Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 21; Philippians 2:6-11; Mark 14:1-15:47
The readings today all point to the person of Christ. Isaiah speaks of Christ as one who came to preach but who was beaten and insulted. St Paul speaks of the divinity of Christ and what he gave up in order to become one of us. The gospel from St Mark recounts the Passion and Death of Christ for us. While Palm Sunday recalls the triumphant entry of Christ into Jerusalem it is also the beginning of the end of his earthly life and gives us a contrast which helps us to focus on what is to happen later this week. It begins the week on a sad note and sets a very sombre tone for the days to come. Mark’s text very much highlights the fact that while Christ arrived in triumph he ended the week in abject abandonment – abandoned by those who turned out to welcome him to the city, abandoned by his closest friends. However, there is also a note of victory because we have the benefit of knowing the full story – that story being that Christ triumphed over death and won for us our salvation.
Monday 30: Monday in Holy Week
Isaiah 42:1-7; Psalm 26; John 12:1-11
Our first reading from Isaiah points to the person of Christ who is the fulfilment of the covenants made so long ago. We could in a way see the reading as God dedicating his Son for the work he is about to accomplish. The Psalm speaks of the Lord as our light and our help. The gospel passage is leading up to the Passion at the end of this week. Today we see a woman named Mary anointing the feet of Jesus and he tells those with him that she will need this ointment again for his burial. While Judas was indignant at the ointment being used in this way Jesus sided with Mary because the intention in her heart was pure and well placed. The reading also prepares us for the betrayal by Judas later this week. Meanwhile, the chief priests continue to plot his death.
Tuesday 31: Monday in Holy Week
Isaiah 49:1-6; Psalm 70; John 13:21-33, 36-38
The Prophet Isaiah today speaks beautifully of the servant of God, one who will be the light of the nations. Each of us is called to witness for God before men and women so that this passage may be said of each of us. We could in a way see the reading as Jesus speaking about his destiny as redeemer of the world. The Psalm is the prayer of a man persecuted by his enemies and who seeks the help of God. In the gospel we have the scene at the Last Supper. We are confronted with the fact that Judas is about to hand Jesus over to his accusers while St Peter will fail to stand up for Christ despite his vow. We too can fail God when the crunch comes but if we believe in his power and pray to him as the psalmist does in today’s Psalm, then he will stand by us and we will be the light of the nations.
Wednesday 1: Wednesday in Holy Week – Spy Wednesday
Isaiah 50:4-9; Psalm 68; Matthew 26:14-25
The reading from Isaiah takes up the theme found in yesterday’s first reading – that of answering God’s call and witnessing for him before our fellow men and women, which may at times bring suffering and persecution. The Psalm is of a man in great distress who calls on God for help against his enemies. The gospel reading sees Judas accepting thirty silver pieces for handing Jesus over to the Jewish authorities – hence the name “Spy Wednesday.” We all have the ability to be like Judas at times and to deny Christ for the sake of our other gods. Judas realised too late that what he was doing would not work and in his sorrow he repented in the only way he knew how. How often do we truly feel sorry for having betrayed the Lord for the ways of this world and if we did feel sorry, when did we last truly do penance for it? We are called to rely on God’s help and believe in the reprieve Christ gained for us so that we will become the witnesses Isaiah speaks of.
The Easter Triduum
Thursday 2: Holy Thursday
Morning: Chrism Mass
Isaiah 61:1-3, 6a, 8b-9; Psalm 88; Apocalypse 1:5-8; Luke 4:16-21
This celebration takes place in the Cathedral in every diocese on the morning of Holy Thursday and is presided over by the bishop as head of the diocese. During this Mass the sacred oils (the Oil of the Sick and the Oil of Catechumens) are blessed and the Oil of Chrism consecrated. They are then distributed to the churches throughout the diocese for use in the coming year. Also at this Mass, the bishop is joined by clergy from throughout the diocese which represents the unity of the diocese and of the universal Church. The clergy renew their commitment to priestly service before the bishop and the people.
The first reading for this celebration from the Prophet Isaiah speaks very much of the presbyteral order – of those ordained to sacred ministry and who will carry on the work of God following the example of Christ. The second reading from St John’s vision in the Apocalypse speaks of what Christ has done for us by washing away our sins with his blood. It also says that those who pierced him will now see his glory. The gospel text from St Luke echoes the first reading and in it we see Jesus preaching in the synagogue in his home town of Nazareth. Through baptism we all have a common priesthood – that of spreading the gospel of Christ across the world beginning in our own small corner of that world. While this morning is a celebration of the ordained ministers gathered with their bishop it is also a celebration of the commitment we each have to work for the building of the kingdom of God.
Evening: Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14; Psalm 115; 1Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-15
The Lord’s Supper is celebrated in the evening time – just as the Passover Meal was celebrated in the evening to recall the first Passover in which the Jews left Egypt. As the blood of the lamb saved the Jews, so the blood of Christ brings salvation to the whole world. The first reading from the Book of Exodus recounts the instructions given to the people regarding the Passover meal. The letter of St Paul tells of the institution of the Eucharist when Christ gave his disciples bread and wine as his very own body and blood. The gospel shows us the scene in the upper room and in it we see Jesus washing the feet of those who were with him. In this way he showed that they were to be servants of all. After the gospel is read, the washing of feet takes place as a reminder to us today of the instruction Christ gave us. At the end of the Eucharistic celebration the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the tabernacle to the Altar of Repose and the altars stripped and crucifixes covered. This gives us a stark reminder that the Lord has been taken from us.
Friday 3: Good Friday – Celebration of the Lord’s Passion
Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 30; Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42
This celebration should take place in the mid-afternoon as this corresponds to the time when Jesus went to Calvary to be crucified. The Prophet Isaiah speaks of the suffering servant, of the one who died for our sake. It gives an account of the terrible suffering he underwent and the fact that it was our sins which caused that suffering. The passage from the letter to the Hebrews speaks of Christ as the one who lived a human life like us and, because he trusted in God and interceded for us, brought about our salvation. The gospel of St John recalls the Passion and death of Christ. The celebration begins with a silent procession to the sanctuary – the silence reminding us of the importance of what is happening. The Liturgy of the Word is followed by the Intercessions and then the Veneration of the Cross. The Veneration begins with the presentation of the Cross to the people before each person present goes forward and kisses the Cross – the sign of their salvation. The cross is then placed in a prominent position before the people as a reminder to them of what their sins have bought. The Celebration concludes with the Holy Communion.
Saturday 4: Holy Saturday – The Easter Vigil
The Triduum reaches its climax on this night with the celebration of the Easter Vigil. The vigil begins with the Service of Light in which the Easter Fire is lit and the new Paschal Candle blessed. From this each of the faithful lights a candle and carries it in procession into the church. When the procession reaches the sanctuary the great Easter Proclamation (Exsultet) is sung. This great hymn reminds us of what Christ and God have done for us. The Liturgy of the Word follows and the readings trace the history of salvation from the story of Creation to the Resurrection of Christ on this night. Where possible, the Sacrament of Baptism now takes place. If there is no one to be baptised then Easter Water is blessed and the faithful renew their baptismal promises before being sprinkled with the Easter Water. The Liturgy of the Eucharist is now celebrated for the first time since Holy Thursday and for this the altar is again covered with a cloth and burning candles are placed on or near it. The whole feeling of the Vigil is one of great joy and celebration for our salvation has been won for us and Christ has been glorified by his Father.
Memorials this Week:
© P. Breen, O.Carm. 2011
The Reflections above are available in printed form in:
Reflections on the Readings for every day of the Church's year.
Patrick J. Breen, O.Carm. Dublin: Columba Press. 2011. ISBN 978 1 85607 732 3.
And direct from the publishers: Columba Press, Dublin.