(Good Friday) Friday, 29 March 2013 : Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, Holy Week (Scripture Reflection)

Our Lord Jesus Christ had died for us, and we commemorate this fact on Good Friday every year. Why did He choose to die? and why did He choose to suffer? Surely God has His ways to rescue us from our sins without having Christ suffer humiliation, mockery, and death? Surely He can just cleanse us from our sins through another way?

No, this is not simply the case. When Adam and Eve, our forefathers, sinned by disobeying God in the Garden of Eden, by obeying Satan and his wish that they eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. they were tainted by the taint of evil and sin. Because of this, they were banished from the presence of the Lord, just as Satan was banished due to his pride and sin that originated in his heart. Because the Lord is so holy and perfect that no one who has sinned can stand in front of God, in His presence and live.

Therefore, there is a need to rescue mankind, who was created by God in His own image, and brought to life by His own Spirit in the breath of life. God said to Moses that, in order to alleviate one’s sins, in the Book of Leviticus, He prescribed the burnt offering of the lambs and goats, which were offered by the appointed Levite priests, who offered them to the Lord, and in this offering, the temporal sins that the people have, were cleansed. But yet, this kind of offering is not worthy enough to completely redeem us from our death and sin.

That is because the blood of these lambs and goats are mere mortal bloods insufficient as the payment for our rebellions and our sins. Only Blood worthy enough, that is the Blood of the Lamb of God, that is worthy for the forgiveness and the cleansing of all the sins of all mankind, once and for all. This blood sacrifice also reestablished the bonds that mankind had with God, lost when our forefathers disobeyed God and listened to Satan and his temptations instead.

The Blood of the Lamb is the Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He freely poured down for us, just as the blood flowed down from the cross, and from his wounds. All of these wounds represent the reparations that Christ had paid for our sins and our faults. That through this holy and the only worthy blood, our defects that made us unworthy before God can be removed.

He washed us who believe in Him in His Blood, that we can once again be pure and as white as snow, just as said in the Psalm, but if we are truly repentant on our sins and sincerely seek the Lord and ask for His most gracious mercy.

Why today is called Good Friday? Because it is indeed a good day! We have to remember to put our faith constantly focused on the events that we commemorate on this day. For we are not Christians if we do not base ourselves on Christ, and we are not Christians if we do not believe in Christ who is not only glorified by God, but also was crucified on the cross, and who died a criminal’s death though He was sinless and faultless, all so that we ourselves can be freed from our sins, and have hope of a new life through Christ, who made all of this possible, hence today is a good day indeed.

He is the only one worthy of redeeming us from our faults, and out of His perfect and pure love for all of us, even for those who hated and rejected Him, He came to all of us, in our own mortal form, that through His mortality, and His life on this world, He could bring forth the full completion of the works of salvation God had begun with the prophets and since the days of Moses when He brought Israel out of Egypt, and even since the beginning of time.

Christ brought forth the commandments of love, that we are to love one another, just as He had loved us. He brought forth the perfect example of His own commandments, by laying down His life for all His friends, that is all of us. He humbled Himself and died on the cross, to die in humiliation that all of us can be glorified in Him, just as He was glorified in the glorious Resurrection, when God and mankind both triumphed in the ultimate struggle against evil, who first brought forth sin and taint on the first mankind.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us reflect, and reflect deeply on the humility that Christ had assumed, and in His great obedience to obey the will of His Father, that through His sacrifice, as the Lamb of God, brought without struggle to the slaughter that is the cross, and through the shedding of His Precious Blood, and the parting of His Precious Body, He had given salvation and life freely to us, if only we accept His precious gifts.

Therefore, let us pray that on this holy day, when Christ died for us, when He broke the chains of death and sin from us, that we can grow to love Him more and more, and be more and more courageous for the sake of our Lord crucified, and to continue preaching the good news on the Christ who was crucified but then was resurrected in triumph against sin and the evil one. When hope seemed lost, He turned a new chapter in life, through His resurrection.

Let us pray for one another, that the faith within us, will remain forever strong, and we will be able to carry our own crosses, alongside the cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God. Amen!

(Good Friday) Friday, 29 March 2013 : Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, Holy Week (Gospel Reading)

John 18 : 1 – John 19 : 42

When Jesus had finished speaking, He went with His disciples to the other side of the Kidron Valley. There was a garden there, which Jesus entered with His disciples.

Now Judas, who betrayed Him, knew the place, since Jesus had often met there with His disciples. So Judas took soldiers and some servants from the chief priests and Pharisees, and they went to the garden with lanterns, torches, and weapons.

Jesus knew all that was going to happen to Him; He stepped forward and asked, “Who are you looking for?” They answered, “Jesus the Nazarene.” Jesus said, “I am He.” Judas, who betrayed Him, stood there with them.

When Jesus said, “I am He,” they moved back and fell to the ground. He then asked a second time, “Who are you looking for?” and they answered, “Jesus the Nazarene.” Jesus replied, “I told you that I am He. If you are looking for Me, let these others go.” So what Jesus had said came true : “I have not lost one of those You gave Me.”

Simon Peter had a sword; he drew it and struck Malchus, the High Priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given Me?”

The guards and the soldiers, with their commander, seized Jesus and bound Him; and they took Him first to Annas. Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was the High Priest that year; and it was Caiaphas who had told the Jews, “It is better than one Man should die for the people.”

Simon Peter with another disciple followed Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the High Priest, they let him enter the courtyard of the High Priest along with Jesus, but Peter had to stay outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the High Priest, went out and spoke to the maidservant at the gate and brought Peter in.

Then this maidservant on duty at the door said to Peter, “So you also are one of His disciples?” But he answered, “I am not.” Now the servants and the guards had made a charcoal fire and were standing and warming themselves, because it was cold. Peter was also with them warming himself.

The High Priest questioned Jesus about His disciples and His teaching. Jesus answered Him, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in places where the Jews meet together, either at the assemblies in synagogues or in the Temple. I did not teach secretly. Why then do you question Me? Ask those who heard Me, they know what I said.”

At this reply, one of the guards standing there gave Jesus a blow on the face, saying, “Is that the way to answer the High Priest?” Jesus said to him, “If I have spoken wrongly, point it out; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike Me?”

Then Annas sent Him, bound, to Caiaphas, the High Priest.

Now Simon Peter stood there warming himself. They said to him, “Surely you also are one of His disciples.” He denied it, and answered, “I am not.” One of the High Priest’s servants, a kinsman of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you with Him in the garden?” Again Peter denied it, and at once the cock crowed.

Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the headquarters of the Roman governor. It was now morning. The Jews did not go inside, lest they be made unclean by entering the house of a pagan, and therefore not allowed to at the Passover meal. So Pilate came out and asked, “What charge do you bring against this Man?”

They answered, “If He were not a criminal, we would not be handing Him over to you.” Pilate said, “Take Him yourselves and judge Him according to your own Law.” But they replied, “We ourselves are not allowed to put anyone to death.”

It was clear from this what kind of death Jesus was to die, according to what Jesus Himself had foretold. Pilate then entered the court again, called Jesus and asked Him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “Does this word come from you, or did you hear it from others?”

Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed You over to me. What have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingship does not come from this world. If I were a king, like those of this world, My guards would have fought to save Me from being handed over to the Jews. But My kingship is not of this world.”

Pilate asked Him, “So You are a king?” And Jesus answered, “Just as you say, I am a king. For this I was born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is on the side of truth hears My voice.” Pilate said, “What is truth?”

Pilate then went out to the Jews again and said, “I find no crime in this Man. Now, according to custom, I must release a prisoner to you at the Passover. With your agreement, I will release to you the king of the Jews.” But they insisted and cried out, “Not this Man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.

Then Pilate had Jesus taken away and scourged. The soldiers also twisted thorns into a crown and put it on His head. They threw a cloak of royal purple around His shoulders; and they began coming up to Him and saluting Him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” and they struck Him on the face.

Pilate went outside yet another time and said to the Jews, “Look, I am bringing Him out, and I want you to know that I find no crime in Him.” Jesus then came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak, and Pilate pointed to Him, saying, “Here is the Man!”

On seeing Him the chief priests and the guards cried out, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Pilate replied, “Take Him yourselves and have Him crucified, for I find no case against Him.” The Jews then said, “We have a Law, and according to the law this Man must die because He made Himself Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this, He was more afraid. And coming back to the court he asked Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Then Pilate said to Him, “You will not speak to Me? Do you not know that I have power to release You, just as I have power to crucify You?”

Jesus replied, “You would have no power over Me, unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed Me over to You is more guilty.”

From that moment, Pilate tried to release Him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who makes Himself a king is defying Caesar.”

When Pilate heard this, he had Jesus brought outside to the place called the Stone Floor – in Hebrew Gabbatha – and sat down in the judgment seat. It was the day of preparation for the Passover, about noon. Pilate said to the Jews, “Here is your king.” But they cried out, “Away! Take Him away! Crucify Him!” Pilate replied, “Shall I crucify your king?” And the chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!”

Then Pilate handed Jesus over to them to be crucified. They took charge of Him. Bearing His own cross, Jesus went out of the city to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew Golgotha. There He was crucified, and with Him two others, one on either side, and Jesus in the middle.

Pilate had a notice written and fastened to the cross, which read : “Jesus the Nazarean, the king of the Jews.” Many Jewish people saw this title, because the place where Jesus was crucified was very close to the city; and the title was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. The chief priests said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The king of the Jews’; but, ‘This Man claimed to be king of the Jews.'” Pilate answered them, “What I have written, I have written.”

When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took His clothes and divided them into four parts, one part for each of them. But as the tunic was woven in one piece from top to bottom, they said, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots to decide who will get it.” This fulfilled the words of Scripture : They divided My clothing among them; they cast lots for My garment. This was what the soldiers did.

Near the cross of Jesus stood His mother, His mother’s sister Mary, who was the wife of Cleopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw the mother, and the disciple whom He loved, He said to the mother, “Woman, this is your son.” Then He said to the disciple, “There is your mother.” And from that moment, the disciple took her to his own home.

Jesus knew all was now finished, and in order to fulfill what was written in Scripture, He said, ‘I am thirsty’. A jar full of bitter wine stood there; so, putting a sponge soaked in the wine on a twig of hyssop, they raised it to His lips. Jesus took the wine and said, “It is accomplished.” Then He bowed His head and gave up the Spirit.

As it was Preparation Day, the Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the cross during the Sabbath, for this Sabbath was a very solemn day. They asked Pilate to have the legs of the condemned men broken, so that the bodies might be taken away. The soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man and of the other man, who had been crucified with Jesus. When they came to Jesus, they saw that He was already dead, so they did not break His legs. One of the soldiers, however, pierced His side with a lance, and immediately there came out blood and water.

The one who saw it, has testified to it, and his testimony is true; he knows he speaks the truth, so that you also might believe. All this happened to fulfill the words of Scripture : ‘Not one of His bones shall be broken.’ Another text says : ‘They shall look on Him whom they have pierced.’ After this, Joseph of Arimathea approached Pilate, for he was a disciple of Jesus, though secretly, for fear of the Jews. And he asked Pilate to let him remove the body of Jesus. Pilate agreed, so he came and took away the body.

Nicodemus, the man who at first had come to Jesus by night, also came and brought a jar of myrrh mixed with aloes, about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it in linen cloths with the spices, following the burial customs of the Jews. There was a garden in the place where Jesus had been crucified, and, in the garden, a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And therefore, because the sepulchre was nearby, and the Jewish day of preparation was coming to a close, they placed the body of Jesus there.

(Good Friday) Friday, 29 March 2013 : Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, Holy Week (Second Reading)

Hebrews 4 : 14-16 – Hebrews 5 : 7-9

We have a great High Priest, Jesus, the Son of God, who has entered heaven. Let us, then, hold fast to the faith we profess. Our High Priest is not indifferent to our weaknesses, for He was tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sinning. Let us, then, with confidence approach the throne of grace; we will obtain mercy and, through His favour, help in due time.

Christ, in the days of His mortal life, offered His sacrifice with tears and cries. He prayed to Him who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His humble submission. Although He was Son, He learnt through suffering what obedience was, and once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for those who obey Him.

(Good Friday) Friday, 29 March 2013 : Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, Holy Week (Psalm)

Psalm 30 : 2 and 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17 and 25

In You, o Lord, I take refuge, may I never be disgraced; deliver Me in Your justice. Into Your hands I commend My Spirit; You have redeemed Me, o Lord, faithful God.

I have become an object of reproach for My foes, a horror for My neighbours, a fear to My friends. Those who see Me in the streets flee from Me. I am like the dead, unremembered; I have become like a broken pot, thrown away, discarded.

But I put My trust in You, o Lord, I said : “You are My God;” my days are in Your hand. Deliver me from the hand of My enemies, from those after My skin.

Make Your face shine upon Your servant; save Me in Your love. Be strong and take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.

(Good Friday) Friday, 29 March 2013 : Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, Holy Week (First Reading)

Isaiah 52 : 13 – Isaiah 53 : 12

It is now when My servant will succeed; He will be exalted and highly praised. Just as many have been horrified at His disfigured appearance : “Is this a man? He does not look like one,” so will nations be astounded, kings will stand speechless, for they will see something never told, they will witness something never heard of.

Who could believe what we have heard, and to whom has YHVH revealed His feat? Like a root out of dry ground, like a sapling He grew up before us, with nothing attractive in His appearance, no beauty, no majesty.

He was despised and rejected, a Man of sorrows familiar with grief, a Man from whom people hide their face, spurned and considered of no account. Yet ours were the sorrows He bore, ours were the sufferings He endured, although we considered Him as one punished by God, stricken and brought low.

Destroyed because of our sins, He was crushed for our wickedness. Through His punishment, we are made whole; by His wounds we are healed. Like sheep we had all gone astray, each following His own way; but YHVH laid upon Him all our guilt.

He was harshly treated, but unresisting and silent, He humbly submitted. Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearer, He did not open His mouth. He was taken away to detention and judgment – what an unthinkable fate! He was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for His people’s sin.

They made His tomb with the wicked, they put Him in the graveyard of the oppressors, though He had done no violence nor spoken in deceit. Yet it was the will of YHVH to crush Him with grief. When He makes Himself an offering for sin, He will have a long life and see His descendants. Through Him the will of YHVH is done.

For the anguish He suffered, He will see the light and obtain perfect knowledge. My just Servant will justify the multitude; He will bear and take away their guilt.

Therefore I will give Him His portion among the great, and He will divide the spoils with the strong. For He surrendered Himself to death and was even counted among the wicked, bearing the sins of the multitude and interceding for sinners.

(Holy Thursday) Thursday, 28 March 2013 : Mass of the Lord’s Supper – Cena Domini, Holy Week (Scripture Reflection)

Jesus showed us that to be a leader, one must be ready to be a servant. For a leader is not appointed for the sake of the leader, but rather for the sake of the people over whom the leader is appointed for. Therefore, Christ too, who is the Lord and Master of all things, are also in service to all those things He is Master of, that is all the mankind and all those children of God to whom He come.

No better form of service that our Lord had rendered to all the people, other than the gift of Himself, the Lamb of God, as the lamb of sacrifice in the manner of the lambs of the Passover, since that first Passover in Egypt, when the Lord told Moses to celebrate the Passover to mark the salvation of the people of Israel from the slavery of Egypt.

In Christ, there is a new salvation indeed, not just salvation from physical bonds, but indeed, the most important of all, the breaking of the bonds that had bound us since the time of our forefathers, from the time of Adam and Eve, the first mankind, when they rebelled against the Lord under Satan’s instigation and sinned. Thereafter, sin enslaved mankind, and made them do plenty of immoral things and things evil in the sight of God.

Yet Christ, the Son of God, who came into this world, out of the perfect love that God has for all of us, became the new Adam, who renewed mankind’s bonds with the Lord, by acting as the one and only bridge through which mankind, banished since the time of Adam onto the wild earth, to return back to God who loves them like a father loves his children. Christ broke the bonds of sin, and released mankind from slavery of sin, that is the spiritual slavery of the soul, much worse than any physical slavery.

For as long as we are enslaved by sin and the evil one, we have no hope of life in God, and we are doomed to death eternal with Satan and his fallen angels, to suffer the separation from the love of God for eternity. Christ ensured that this does not happen to us, as long as we are also welcoming of Christ’s love and redemption, that He offered freely to all mankind.

Christ poured out His Blood and His Body for all to eat and drink, through the bread and wine transformed into His Divine Presence in the Eucharist. Just like the unblemished lamb, whose flesh was eaten by the people of Israel, and whose blood marked the doorposts as a sign of salvation to God, that whoever marked by that blood, belongs to Him and deserves no death.

Therefore, similarly, Christ marked us through His Blood, and through His flesh, His Body. For no lamb is greater and more perfect than the Lamb of God Himself, and no blood or sacrifices are ever more worthy of redeeming one’s sins than that of the Blood of the Lamb itself. He gave Himself that we all may have hope of life, in Him! Such is the sacrifice and the service that He, who is Lord and Master, had rendered to all His people whom He loves.

Just like Christ who washes the feet of His disciples, He washes them clean from impurities, therefore the Blood of Christ too washes our sins away. Remember that in the Book of Revelations, John saw the large multitude of saints and martyrs who had washed their robes white in the Blood of the Lamb, that they be made holy and pure through their willingness to die for the sake of their Lord, and in defense of their faith.

Therefore, just like the martyrs and the saints, we too should wash ourselves clean through the Blood of the Lamb, which He freely gave to us. We are already cleaned externally as long as we bathe and ensure that all hygienic steps are taken, but what is much more difficult to clean is that of our interior, our heart, our mind, and our soul.

This is why we should bring the Lord into us, and we can do that by receiving worthily the Precious Body and/or Blood of our Lord. Just as the Church teaches us that either the Body or the Blood is already complete in itself, so it does not mean that if we only receive the Body then we receive the incomplete Lord.

No! This is not the case, and the most important things is to keep sacred the Temple of the Lord that is our being, our body, and our soul, that we make ourselves to be a worthy vessel, a worthy Temple, and a worthy Tabernacle in which our Lord resides. He who resides within us, through the Holy Spirit, and through his cleansing Blood, will purify us from our sins, if we are truly repentant and wish to be rid of such impurities.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, in the commemoration of this year’s Maundy or Holy Thursday, let us renew our commitment to the Lord, in order to receive Him into ourselves, and to partake in His Body and Blood, and welcome Him in our hearts, and humbly accepts His cleansing of our being and our soul, just as how He washed the feet of His disciples.

Let us all strive to be more faithful and be more loving, just as Christ had loved us to the point of death. May He shine over us and bless us with His grace, that we may have a great time in our celebration of the Easter Triduum, and will truly become the children of God, who values service to others, and to embody service in our leadership if we are chosen as leaders, and also to show God’s love through our actions, daily and even to the smallest of things that we do, that we show love in them. Amen.

(Holy Thursday) Thursday, 28 March 2013 : Mass of the Lord’s Supper – Cena Domini, Holy Week (Gospel Reading)

John 13 : 1-15

It was before the feast of the Passover. Jesus realised that His hour had come, to pass from this world to the Father; and as He had loved those who were His own in the world, He would love them with perfect love.

They were at supper, and the devil had already put into the mind of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Him. Jesus knew that the Father had entrusted all things to Him, and as He had come from God, He was going to God.

So He got up from the table, removed His garment, and taking a towel, wrapped it around His waist. Then He poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel He was wearing.

When He came to Simon Peter, Simon asked Him, “Why, Lord, do You want to wash my feet?” Jesus said, “What I am doing you cannot understand now, but afterwards you will understand it.” Peter replied, “You shall never wash my feet!”

Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you can have no part with Me.” Then Simon Peter said, “Lord, wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!” Jesus replied, “Whoever has taken a bath does not need to wash, except the feet, for he is clean all over. You are clean, thought not all of you.”

Jesus knew who was to betray Him; because of this He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

When Jesus had finished washing their feet, He put on His garment again, went back to the table, and said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call Me Master and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you must also wash one another’s feet. I have just given you an example, that as I have done, you also may do.”