Friday, 10 April 2020 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 18 : 1 – John 19 : 42

At that time, 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 that 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 eat 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 into 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 Nazorean, 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 Cleophas, 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 fulfil 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 fulfil 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.

Sunday, 5 April 2020 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Passion Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 26 : 14 – Matthew 27 : 66

Then one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “How much will you give me if I hand Him over to you?” They promised to give him thirty pieces of silver, and from then on, he kept looking for the best way to hand Jesus over to them.

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and said to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare the Passover meal for you?” Jesus answered, “Go into the city, to the house of a certain man, and tell him, ‘The Master says : My hour is near, and I will celebrate the Passover with My disciples in your house.'”

The disciples did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, Jesus sat at table with the Twelve. While they were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you : one of you will betray Me.” They were deeply distressed, and they asked Him, one after the other, “You do not mean me, do You, Lord?”

He answered, “The one who dips his bread with Me will betray Me. The Son of Man is going as the Scripture says He will. But alas for that one who betrays the Son of Man : better for him not to have been born.” Judas, who was betraying Him, also asked, “You do not mean me, Master, do You?” Jesus replied, “You have said it.”

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said a blessing and broke it, and gave it to His disciples saying, “Take and eat : this is My Body.” Then He took a cup, and gave thanks, and passed it to them, saying, “Drink this, all of you, for this is My Blood, the Blood of the Covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Yes, I say to you : From now on I will not taste the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink new wine with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

After singing psalms of praise, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, “You will falter tonight because of Me, and all will fall. For the Scripture says : I will strike the Shepherd and the sheep will be scattered. But after My resurrection, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”

Peter responded, “Even though all doubt You and fall, I will never fall.” Jesus replied, “Truly I say to you : this very night before the cock crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said, “Though I have to die with You, I will never deny You.” And all the disciples said the same.

Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with Him, and He began to be filled with anguish and distress. And He said to them, “My soul is full of sorrow, even to death. Remain here and stay awake with Me.”

He went a little farther and fell to the ground, with His face touching the earth, and prayed, “Father, if it is possible, take this cup away from Me. Yet not what I want, but what You want.” He went back to His disciples and found them asleep, and He said to Peter, “Could you not stay awake with Me for even an hour? Stay awake and pray, so that you may not slip into temptation. The spirit indeed is eager, but the body is weak.”

He again went away, and prayed, “Father, if this cup cannot be taken away from Me without My drinking it, let Your will be done.” When He came back to His disciples, He again found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open. He left them again, and went to pray the third time, saying the same words.

Then He came back to His disciples and said to them, “You can sleep on now and take your rest! The hour has come, and the Son of Man will be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. Look : the betrayer is here!” Jesus was still speaking when Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, who had been sent by the chief priests and the Jewish authorities.

The traitor had arranged a signal for them : “The One I kiss, He is the Man; arrest Him.” Judas went directly to Jesus and said, “Good evening, Master”; and he gave Him a kiss. But Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came for.” Then they laid hands on Jesus and arrested Him.

One of those who were with Jesus drew his sword, and struck at the servant of the High Priest, cutting off his ear. So Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place, for he who uses the sword will perish by the sword. Do you not know that I could call on My Father, and He would at once send Me more than twelve legions of Angels. If Scripture says that this has to be, should it not be fulfilled?”

At that moment, Jesus said to the crowd, “Why do you come to arrest Me with swords and clubs, as if I were a robber? Day after day I was seated among you teaching in the Temple, yet you did not arrest Me. But all this has come about in fulfilment of what the Prophets said.” Then all His disciples deserted Him and fled.

Those who had arrested Jesus brought Him to the house of the High Priest Caiaphas, where the teachers of the Law and the elders were assembled. Peter followed Jesus at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the High Priest; he entered and sat with the guards, waiting to see the end. The chief priests and the whole Supreme Council needed some false evidence against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death.

But they were unable to find any, even though false witnesses came forward. At last, two men came up and declared, “This Man said, ‘I am able to destroy the Temple of God and rebuild it in three days.'” The High Priest then stood up and asked Jesus, “Have You no answer at all? What is this evidence against You?” But Jesus kept silent.

So the High Priest said to Him, “In the Name of the living God, I command You to tell us : Are You the Messiah, the Son of God?” Jesus answered, “It is just as you say. I tell you more : from now on, you will see the Son of Man, seated at the right hand of God most powerful, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Then the High Priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has blasphemed. What more evidence do we need? You have just heard these blasphemous words. What is your decision?” They answered, “He must die!” Then they began to spit on Jesus and slap Him, while others hit Him with their fists, saying, “Messiah, prophesy! Who hit You?”

Meanwhile, as Peter sat outside in the courtyard, a young servant-girl of the house said to Him, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” But he denied it before everyone, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” And as Peter was going out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and told the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Peter denied it again with an oath, swearing, “I do not know that Man.”

After a little while, those who were standing there approached Peter and said to him, “Of course you are one of the Galileans : your accent gives you away.” Peter began justifying himself with curses and oaths, protesting that he did not know Jesus. Just then a cock crowed. And Peter remembered the words of Jesus, “Before the cock crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went away weeping bitterly.

Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people met together to look for ways of putting Jesus to death. They had Him bound, and led Him away to be handed over to Pilate, the governor. When Judas, the traitor, realised that Jesus had been condemned, he was filled with remorse, and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying an innocent Man to death.”

They answered, “What does it matter to us? That is your concern.” So throwing down the money in the Temple, he went away and hanged himself. The priests picked up the money and said, “This money cannot be put into the Temple treasury, for this is the price of blood.” So they met together, and decided to buy the Potter’s Field with the money, and to make it a cemetery for foreigners. That is why, to this day, that place has been called Field of Blood.

So what the prophet Jeremiah said was fulfilled : They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price which the Sons of Israel set in Him, and they gave them for the Potter’s Field, as the Lord commanded me. Jesus stood before the governor, who asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “You say so.”

The chief priests and the elders of the people accused Him, but He made no answer. Pilate said to Him, “Do you hear all the charges they bring against You?” But He did not answer even a single question so that the governor wondered greatly.

At Passover, it was customary for the governor to release any prisoner the people asked for. Now there was a well-known prisoner called Barabbas. When the people had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Whom do you want me to set free : Barabbas, or Jesus called the Messiah?” For he realised that Jesus had been handed over to him out of envy.

As Pilate was sitting in court, his wife sent him this message, “Have nothing to do with that holy Man. Because of Him, I had a dream last night that disturbed me greatly.” But the chief priests and the elders of the people stirred up the crowds, to ask for the release of Barabbas and the death of Jesus.

When the governor asked them again, “Which of the two do you want me to set free?” they answered, “Barabbas!” Pilate said to them, “And what shall I do with Jesus called the Messiah?” All answered, “Crucify Him!” Pilate insisted, “What evil has He done?” But they shouted louder, “Crucify Him!”

Pilate realised that he was getting nowhere, and that there could be a riot. He then asked for water, and washed his hands before the people, saying, “I am not responsible for His Blood, it is your doing.” And all the people answered, “Let His Blood be upon us and upon our children.” Then Pilate set Barabbas free, but had Jesus scourged, and handed Him over to be crucified.

The Roman soldiers took Jesus into the palace of the governor and the whole troop gathered around Him. They stripped Him and dressed Him in a purple military cloak. Then, twisting a crown of thorns, they forced it onto His head, and placed a reed in His right hand. They knelt before Jesus and mocked Him, saying, “Long life to the King of the Jews!” They spat on Him, took the reed from His hand and struck Him on the head with it.

When they had finished mocking Him, they pulled off the purple cloak and dressed Him in His own clothes again, and led Him out to be crucified. On the way they met a man from Cyrene called Simon, and forced him to carry the cross of Jesus. When they reached the place called Golgotha, which means the Skull, they offered Him wine mixed with gall. Jesus tasted it but would not drink it.

There they crucified Him, and divided His clothes among themselves, casting lots to decide what each one should take. Then they sat down to guard Him. The statement of His offence was displayed above His head, and it read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” They also crucified two bandits with Him, one on His right hand and one on His left.

People passing by shook their heads and insulted Him, saying, “Aha! You Who destroy the Temple and in three days rebuild it, save Yourself – if You are God’s Son – and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the Law mocked Him.

They said, “The Man Who saved others cannot save Himself. Let the King of Israel now come down from His cross and we will believe in Him. He trusted in God; let God rescue Him if God wants to, for He Himself said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” Even the robbers who were crucified with Him insulted Him.

From midday, darkness fell over the whole land until mid-afternoon. At about three o’clock, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabbacthani?” which means : My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? As soon as they heard this, some of the bystanders said, “He is calling for Elijah.”

And one of them ran, took a sponge and soaked it in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave Him to drink. Others said, “Leave Him alone, let us see whether Elijah comes to His rescue.” Then Jesus cried out again in a loud voice and gave up His Spirit.

Just then the curtain of the Temple sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after the resurrection of Jesus, entered the Holy City, and appeared to many.

The captain and the soldiers who guarded Jesus were greatly terrified, and when they saw the earthquake and all that had happened, and said, “Truly, this was God’s Son.” There were also some women there, who watched from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had seen to His needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

It was now evening, and there came a wealthy man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the Body of Jesus, and the governor ordered that the Body be given to him. So Joseph took the Body of Jesus, wrapped it in a clean linen sheet, and laid it in his own new tomb, which had been cut out of the rock.

Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb and left. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained sitting there in front of the tomb. On the following day, the day after the Preparation for the Sabbath observance, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate and said to him, “Sir, we remember that when that Impostor was still alive, He said, ‘I will rise after three days.'”

“Therefore, have His tomb secured until the third day, lest His disciples come and steal the body, and say to the people : He is risen from the dead. This would be a worse lie than the first.” Pilate answered them, “You have soldiers, go and take all the necessary precautions.” So they went to the tomb and secured it, sealing the stone, and placed it under guard.

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Matthew 27 : 11-54

Jesus stood before the governor, who asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “You say so.” The chief priests and the elders of the people accused Him, but He made no answer. Pilate said to Him, “Do you hear all the charges they bring against You?” But He did not answer even a single question so that the governor wondered greatly.

At Passover, it was customary for the governor to release any prisoner the people asked for. Now there was a well-known prisoner called Barabbas. When the people had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Whom do you want me to set free : Barabbas, or Jesus called the Messiah?” For he realised that Jesus had been handed over to him out of envy.

As Pilate was sitting in court, his wife sent him this message, “Have nothing to do with that holy Man. Because of Him, I had a dream last night that disturbed me greatly.” But the chief priests and the elders of the people stirred up the crowds, to ask for the release of Barabbas and the death of Jesus.

When the governor asked them again, “Which of the two do you want me to set free?” they answered, “Barabbas!” Pilate said to them, “And what shall I do with Jesus called the Messiah?” All answered, “Crucify Him!” Pilate insisted, “What evil has He done?” But they shouted louder, “Crucify Him!”

Pilate realised that he was getting nowhere, and that there could be a riot. He then asked for water, and washed his hands before the people, saying, “I am not responsible for His Blood, it is your doing.” And all the people answered, “Let His Blood be upon us and upon our children.” Then Pilate set Barabbas free, but had Jesus scourged, and handed Him over to be crucified.

The Roman soldiers took Jesus into the palace of the governor and the whole troop gathered around Him. They stripped Him and dressed Him in a purple military cloak. Then, twisting a crown of thorns, they forced it onto His head, and placed a reed in His right hand. They knelt before Jesus and mocked Him, saying, “Long life to the King of the Jews!” They spat on Him, took the reed from His hand and struck Him on the head with it.

When they had finished mocking Him, they pulled off the purple cloak and dressed Him in His own clothes again, and led Him out to be crucified. On the way they met a man from Cyrene called Simon, and forced him to carry the cross of Jesus. When they reached the place called Golgotha, which means the Skull, they offered Him wine mixed with gall. Jesus tasted it but would not drink it.

There they crucified Him, and divided His clothes among themselves, casting lots to decide what each one should take. Then they sat down to guard Him. The statement of His offence was displayed above His head, and it read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” They also crucified two bandits with Him, one on His right hand and one on His left.

People passing by shook their heads and insulted Him, saying, “Aha! You Who destroy the Temple and in three days rebuild it, save Yourself – if You are God’s Son – and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the Law mocked Him.

They said, “The Man Who saved others cannot save Himself. Let the King of Israel now come down from His cross and we will believe in Him. He trusted in God; let God rescue Him if God wants to, for He Himself said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” Even the robbers who were crucified with Him insulted Him.

From midday, darkness fell over the whole land until mid-afternoon. At about three o’clock, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabbacthani?” which means : My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? As soon as they heard this, some of the bystanders said, “He is calling for Elijah.”

And one of them ran, took a sponge and soaked it in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave Him to drink. Others said, “Leave Him alone, let us see whether Elijah comes to His rescue.” Then Jesus cried out again in a loud voice and gave up His Spirit.

Just then the curtain of the Temple sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after the resurrection of Jesus, entered the Holy City, and appeared to many.

The captain and the soldiers who guarded Jesus were greatly terrified, and when they saw the earthquake and all that had happened, and said, “Truly, this was God’s Son.”

Friday, 19 April 2019 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we gather together to celebrate the occasion of Good Friday, the day which commemorates the moment when Our Lord Jesus Christ bore His Cross and suffered for each and every one of us, and died on the Cross at Calvary, a pivotal and very important moment in the whole history of our salvation. That is why, despite the sufferings, pains and sorrows that are often associated with this day because of the Crucifixion, but we call this day Good Friday, because the Lord has truly brought us true goodness on this day.

And in order to understand this better, we have to understand and appreciate the significance of what happened on Good Friday, and know how Good Friday has changed our history and our lives forever. Before Good Friday, there was no hope yet for our salvation, and all of us mankind were still enslaved by sin, and there was no escape from our fate of death, for our disobedience and refusal to believe in God.

But after Good Friday, there is a fundamental transformation, as dramatically shown to us as the Lord’s death on the cross, and as the veil of the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Jerusalem was torn open into two. For through the crucifixion, our Lord’s death and resurrection, the Lord has fulfilled completely all that He has promised to all of us from the very beginning, that is from the moment when we mankind first fell into sin.

And the Lord, Our Saviour and Liberator, became the New Adam, as the Son of Man and Son of God, in overturning all the old sins and faults of the old Adam, by which all of us mankind have been brought into sin, and separation from God, our loving Father and Creator. The New Adam brought with Him instead, reconciliation and new life blessed by the grace of God, and countered all that the devil had put in place to bring about our downfall.

The old Adam represents the old life of sin, which we too have had a share in, in our own sinful existence, in our disobedience and refusal to be wholly devoted and committed to God. While the New Adam, Christ was the revelation of the new life that we have been called to embrace, a life wholly dedicated to God, and marked by the love which Christ Himself has shown us, a perfect and selfless love for God and for our fellow men.

Let us begin the comparison and appreciate just how the Lord has overturned all the barriers and traps by which the devil had enslaved us with. In the Book of Genesis, Satan tempted both Adam and Eve, tempting them with the temptations of power and knowledge, embracing their ego and desires, that as Satan himself said, that if they took and ate of the fruits of the tree that God had forbidden them to eat, they would not die, but rather, became like God because they would come to know of all things good and evil, to be equal to God.

Eve succumbed to the temptation, and in turn, tempted Adam to do the same, and as a result, both sinned against God because of their disobedience, and Satan won his first victory against us, God’s beloved people. But almost immediately, God countered with a solemn promise and prophecy that Satan would be defeated and all of his wicked designs would be broken and defeated by His Saviour, the One Who was promised, and was fulfilled in Jesus, the Saviour of the whole world.

Jesus was born of Mary, His mother, and although He is the Divine Word Incarnate, the Son of God Who embraced the flesh of humanity, but He is also fully Man, just as He is fully Divine. And it is through Jesus, His Passion, suffering and crucifixion that Satan was handed the definitive and decisive blow, that completely countered and negated all the evil designs he had had for us mankind from the foundations of the world.

While Jesus is the New Adam, Mary is the New Eve. And both acted in ways that rebuked Satan’s attempts to bring about our downfall. While Eve was disobedient and persuaded Adam to disobey, Mary was faithful and committed totally to God, and in fact, faithfully stayed by the side of her Son, all the way through the Way of Suffering, following Him and remaining close by His side even when all of His disciples fled and ran in fear, right down to the feet of the Cross.

And this is the reflection of the ultimate faith, obedience and commitment that the Lord Jesus Himself showed, as He willingly obeyed His Father’s will, in taking up His Cross, despite of knowing fully what was awaiting Him, all the trials, torture, pain and suffering, challenges and difficulties, and the most humiliating and painful death He was to suffer from. He could have rejected it and abandoned His mission, and yet, He gave Himself so completely and obeyed so well that His prayers for our sake were heard and fulfilled.

While Adam was filled with greed and pride, and fell because of that pride, the Lord Jesus willingly emptied Himself from all glory, emptying Himself from the glory of His Kingship and Divinity, and accepted the most humiliating, inhumane and painful death, death of a criminal on the Cross, reserved for the worst of criminals and rebels at the time of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, while through pride and greed, Adam as well as Eve fell into sin, the Lord Jesus, together with His mother Mary through humility and faith regained for us our heavenly grace.

And last of all, while the old Adam and the first men fell because of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the forbidden tree, the Lord Jesus was crucified on another tree, the tree of the combination of all the sins and wickedness that we have committed because of our pride, our ego, our desire, all of the wicked things within us. And that tree, on which Our Lord and Saviour was hung, is none other than the Cross of our salvation.

Therefore, as we have seen and heard for ourselves, the Lord opposed the works of the devil on every front, and while men had faltered and fell into sin, the Lord showed that sin did not have the final say. For He is much more powerful than even sin and death, and His death on the Cross proved that He can conquer sin and death, and broke the hold that sin and death had over us all mankind, who believe and trust in Him. And we see the proof of this at the Resurrection.

And He also did this, by doing what the Father has willed Him to do, as mentioned by the second reading passage today, in the Epistle to the Hebrews. In that passage, we heard of how the Lord Jesus was described as a High Priest, and not just as any other High Priests, but the one and true, Eternal High Priest, Who has offered His offerings with tears and pain, with sorrow and suffering, for the offering He offered was not of animals and the blood of lambs, but of His own Flesh and His own Blood, He Who is our Paschal Lamb, making a new, Eternal and unbreakable Covenant with us.

A priest in the time of the Old Testament acted as the intermediary between God and man, as the bridge between God and man, linking what had been separated by sin. The priests offered on the altar, the blood of lambs to be the temporary atonement and source of consolation for the sins and rebelliousness of the people of God. But the priests themselves were sinners, and they had to offer sacrifices to atone for their own sins first as well. On the other hand, Christ, Who is the Sinless One, willingly took up upon Himself, both the role of the High Priest as well as the Paschal Lamb to be sacrificed.

We have to realise, brothers and sisters in Christ, that the Cross of Christ, is the Altar upon which our Eternal and True High Priest, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, has offered Himself as the only perfect and worthy offering and sacrifice, by which He brought upon us, healing, pardon and complete reconciliation with God, bringing on us the promised salvation, grace and everlasting life and glory.

By His own loving sacrifice, His own selfless offering and love for God His heavenly Father and for each and every one of us, Our Lord Jesus has brought upon us the salvation that God has long promised to us, and He has brought upon us a new hope and the Light that pierced through the darkness that is in our lives. With Christ, a new Light has dawned, and a new Hope has come into our midst, that with Him, there is hope for each and every one of us sinners.

Today, on this blessed Good Friday, let us fix our attention on the One Who is hung on the Cross. Let us all gaze upon His wounded face, and look at all the wounds that cover His Precious Body. Let us realise that each and every one of those wounds are the very sins that we have committed each and every days of our life, even to the smallest and what is seemingly most trivial of sins. All of these are wounds that we have inflicted on the Lord, and yet, which He willingly took up on Himself because of the love He has for each and every one of us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, do we all know why is it that Christ suffered so dearly and so painfully? That is because of His love, His great and amazing love for all of us, even to the greatest of sinners. And it is because of this love that He experienced such great pain and sorrow, such suffering and agony, because He knows that unless we get rid from ourselves these sins, He will be separated from us eternally, as we fall into the eternal darkness, out of which there is no escape.

His agony on the Cross, as we continue to gaze on Him Who is hung on the Cross, is caused by all of our refusal to be faithful and to obey the will of God. His pain and sorrow are caused by our own pride, our own greed and jealousy, our ambition and selfishness, all of the wicked things we have done towards one another, every moments we have caused hurt on others, when we trample on the rights and dignity of our fellow brethren, and every time we fail to act with love, when there are people who are suffering and unloved in our midst.

Yet, He endured them all, because of His love for each and every one of us. His love and compassion for us so great that He even forgave His enemies and persecutors from the Cross, praying that their sins would not be held against them. Thus in the same way, God has also willingly loved us and desired to forgive us from our sins, and He extends His hands to us, to embrace us and to welcome us back, that we may be fully reconciled with Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on the love of Christ made evident in the Cross today, on this Good Friday and beyond. Let us all bear our own cross with love, following the examples of Christ, that we accept His ever generous offer of mercy and embrace His compassionate heart. Let us all turn wholeheartedly to Him and abandon all things that have separated us from Him, all things that have caused Him to be wounded, our sins and rebelliousness.

Let us from now on, endeavour and do our best to love God, Who has loved us first so much that He endured all those sufferings for us. And let us all also love one another, that we truly become the beacons and bearers of Christ’s Light and love in this world of darkness, that through our love, many more will come to believe in the Lord and in the salvation He has brought to us through His Cross. Let us follow the example of the Christ, the New Adam, and abandon the past sins we have, the life of the old Adam, who fell into sin.

May the glorious Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ be our guide always, that each and every one of us will grow ever deeper in faith and in our love for God, remembering at each and every moments of our life, the boundless love that He has shown us through the Cross. May He continue to be present within our hearts, that the love of Christ Crucified will fill us to the brim, and allow us to be loving to one another and towards God in the same way that Christ has loved us, all the way to the Cross. Amen.

Friday, 19 April 2019 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 18 : 1 – John 19 : 42

At that time, 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 that 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 eat 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 into 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 Nazorean, 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 Cleophas, 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 fulfil 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 fulfil 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.

Friday, 19 April 2019 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Hebrews 4 : 14-16 and 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.

Friday, 19 April 2019 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

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.

Friday, 19 April 2019 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

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 suffering 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 sins. 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.

Sunday, 14 April 2019 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Passion Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 22 : 14 – Luke 23 : 56

When the hour came, Jesus took His place at the table and the Apostles with Him. And He said to them, “I was eager to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for, I tell you, I shall not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

Then they passed Him a cup, and when He had given thanks, He said, “Take this, and share it among yourselves; for I tell you that, from now on, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Jesus also took bread, and after giving thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My Body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” And after the supper, He did the same with the cup, saying, “This cup is the new Covenant, sealed in My Blood, which is poured out for you.”

Jesus continued, “Yet the hand of the traitor is with Me on the table. Know that the Son of Man is going the way marked out for Him. But alas for that one who betrays Him!” They began to ask one another which of them could do such a thing. They also began to argue among themselves which of them should be considered the most important. Jesus said, “The kings of the pagan nations rule over them as lords, and the most hard-hearted rulers claim the title, ‘Gracious Lord.’”

“But not so with you; let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. For who is the greatest, he who sits at the table or he who serves? He who is seated, is it not? Yet I am among you as One Who serves. You are the ones who have been with Me, and stood by Me, through My troubles; because of this, just as the kingship has been given to Me by My Father, so I give it to you. You will eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones and govern the twelve tribes of Israel.”

“Simon, Simon, Satan has demanded to sift you like grain, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have recovered, you shall strengthen your brothers.” Then Peter said, “Lord, with You I am ready to go even to prison and death.” But Jesus replied, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day before you have denied three times that you know Me.”

Jesus also said to them, “When I sent you without purse or bag or sandals, were you short of anything?” They answered, “No.” And Jesus said to them, “But now, the one who has a purse or a bag must take it, or even his coat, and sell it, and but a sword. For Scripture says : He was numbered among criminals. These words have to be fulfilled in Me, and everything written about Me is now taking place.”

Then they said, “See, Lord, here are two swords!” But Jesus answered, “That is enough.” After this, Jesus left to go as usual to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed Him. When He came to the place, He told them, “Pray that you may not be put to the test.” Then He went a little further, about a stone’s throw, and kneeling down He prayed, “Father, if it is Your will, remove this cup from Me; however, not My will but Yours be done.” And from heaven there appeared to Him an Angel, who gave Him strength.

As He was in agony, He prayed even more earnestly, and great drops of blood formed like sweat and fell to the ground. When He rose from prayer, He went to His disciples, but found them worn out with grief, and asleep. And He said to them, “Why do you sleep? Get up and pray, so that you may not be put to the test.”

Jesus was still speaking when suddenly a crowd appeared, and the man named Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss Him, and Jesus said to him, “Judas, with a kiss do you betray the Son of Man?”

Those with Jesus, seeing what would happen, said to Him, “Master, shall we use the sword?” And one of them struck the High Priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. But Jesus ordered him, “No more of this!” He touched the man’s ear and healed him. Then Jesus spoke to those coming against Him, the chief priests, the officers of the Temple and elders; and He said to them, “Are you looking for a thief, a robber? Do you really need swords and clubs to arrest Me? Day after day I was among you, teaching in the Temple, and you did not arrest Me. But this is the hour of the power of darkness; this is your hour.”

Then they seized Him and took Him away, bringing Him to the High Priest’s house. Peter followed at a distance. A fire was kindled in the middle of the courtyard where people were gathered, and Peter sat among them. A maidservant noticed him. Looking at him intently in the light of the fire, she exclaimed, “This man also was with Him!” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him!”

A little later someone who saw him said, “You are also one of them!” Peter replied, “My friend, I am not!” After about an hour another asserted, “Surely this man was with Him, for he is a Galilean.” Again Peter denied it : “My friend, I do not know what you are talking about!” He had not finished saying this, when a cock crowed. The Lord turned around and looked at Peter, and Peter remembered the word which the Lord had spoken : “Before the cock crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter went outside, weeping bitterly.

Now the guards, who had arrested Jesus, mocked and beat Him. They blindfolded Him, struck Him, and then asked Him, “Who hit You? Tell us, Prophet!” And they hurled many other insulting words at Him. At daybreak, the council of the elders of the people, among whom were the chief priests and the teachers of the Law, assembled again. Then they had Jesus brought before them, and they began questioning Him, “Tell us, are You the Christ?”

Jesus replied, “You will not believe, if I tell you, and neither will you answer, if I ask you. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” In chorus they asked, “So You are the Son of God?” And Jesus said to them, “You are right, I am.” Then they said, “What need have we of witnesses? We have heard it from His own lips.”

The whole council rose and brought Jesus to Pilate. They gave their accusation : “We found this Man subverting our nation, opposing payment of taxes to Caesar, and claiming to be Christ the King.” Pilate asked Jesus, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “You said so.” Turning to the chief priests and the crowd, Pilate said, “I find no basis for a case against this Man.” But they insisted, “All the country of the Jews is being stirred up by His teaching. He began in Galilee and now He has come all the way here.”

When Pilate heard this, he asked if the Man was a Galilean. Finding the Accused to come under Herod’s jurisdiction, Pilate sent Jesus over to Herod who happened to be in Jerusalem at that time. Herod was delighted to have Jesus before him; for a long time he had wanted to see Him because of the reports about Him, and he was hoping to see Jesus work some miracle. He piled up question upon question, but got no reply from Jesus.

All the while the chief priests and the scribes remained standing there, vehemently pressing their accusations. Finally, Herod ridiculed Him and with his guards mocked Him. And when he had put a rich cloak on Him, he sent Him back to Pilate. Pilate and Herod, who were enemies before, became friends from that day.

Pilate then called together the chief priests and the elders and the people, and said to them, “You have brought this Man before me and accused Him of subversion. In your presence I have examined Him and found no basis for your charges; and neither has Herod, for he sent Him back to me. It is quite clear that this Man has done nothing that deserves a death sentence. I will therefore have Him scourged and then release Him.”

(At Passover, Pilate had to release a prisoner.)

Shouting as one man, the crowd protested, “No! Away with this Man! Release Barabbas instead!” This man had been thrown into prison for an uprising in the city and for murder. Since Pilate wanted to release Jesus, he appealed to the crowd once more, but they shouted back, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” A third time Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done? Since no crime deserving death has been proved, I shall have Him scourged and let Him go.”

But they went on shouting and demanding that Jesus be crucified, and their shouts grew louder. So Pilate decided to pass the sentence they demanded. He released the man they asked for, the one who was in prison for rebellion and murder, and he handed Jesus over in accordance with their wishes. When they led Jesus away, they seized Simon of Cyrene, arriving from the countryside, and laid the cross on Him, to carry it behind Jesus.

A large crowd of people followed Him; among them were women, beating their breasts and grieving for Him, but Jesus turned to them and said, “Women of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me! Weep rather for yourselves and for your children, for the days are coming when people will say, ‘Happy are the women without child! Happy are those who have not given birth or nursed a child!’ And they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ For if this is the lot of the green wood, what will happen to the dry?”

Along with Jesus, two criminals also were led out to be executed. There, at the place called the Skull, He was crucified together with two criminals – one on His right and another on His left. (Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”) And the guards cast lots to divide His clothes among themselves.

The people stood by, watching. As for the rulers, they jeered at Him, saying to one another, “Let the Man Who saved others now save Himself, for He is the Messiah, the Chosen One of God!” The soldiers also mocked Him and, when they drew near to offer Him bitter wine, they said, “So You are the King of the Jews? Save Yourself!” Above Jesus there was an inscription in Greek, Latin and Hebrew, which read, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals hanging with Jesus insulted Him, “So You are the Messiah? Save Yourself, and us as well!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Have you no fear of God, you who received the same sentence as He did? For us it is just : this is payment for what we have done. But this Man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me, when You come into Your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “In truth I tell you, today, you will be with Me today in paradise.”

It was almost midday. The sun was hidden, and darkness came over the whole land until mid-afternoon; and, at that time, the curtain of the Sanctuary was torn in two. Then Jesus gave a loud cry, “Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit.” And saying that, He gave up His Spirit.”

The captain, on seeing what had happened, acknowledged the hand of God, “Surely, this was an upright Man!” he said. And all the people who had gathered to watch the spectacle, as soon as they saw what had happened, went home beating their breasts. But those who knew Jesus, and the women who had followed Him from Galilee, remained there at a distance. They witnessed all these things.

Then a member of the Jewish supreme council intervened, a good and righteous man named Joseph, from the Judean town of Arimathea. He had not agreed with the decision and action of his fellow members, and he lived uprightly in the hope of seeing the kingdom of God. Joseph went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ Body. He then took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a yet unused tomb, cut out of a rock.

It was the day of preparation and the Sabbath was beginning. So the women, who had come with Jesus from Galilee, followed Joseph to see the tomb, and how His Body was laid. Returning home, they prepared perfumes and ointments. And on the Sabbath day they rested, as the Law required.

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Luke 23 : 1-49

The whole council rose and brought Jesus to Pilate. They gave their accusation : “We found this Man subverting our nation, opposing payment of taxes to Caesar, and claiming to be Christ the King.” Pilate asked Jesus, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “You said so.” Turning to the chief priests and the crowd, Pilate said, “I find no basis for a case against this Man.” But they insisted, “All the country of the Jews is being stirred up by His teaching. He began in Galilee and now He has come all the way here.”

When Pilate heard this, he asked if the Man was a Galilean. Finding the Accused to come under Herod’s jurisdiction, Pilate sent Jesus over to Herod who happened to be in Jerusalem at that time. Herod was delighted to have Jesus before him; for a long time he had wanted to see Him because of the reports about Him, and he was hoping to see Jesus work some miracle. He piled up question upon question, but got no reply from Jesus.

All the while the chief priests and the scribes remained standing there, vehemently pressing their accusations. Finally, Herod ridiculed Him and with his guards mocked Him. And when he had put a rich cloak on Him, he sent Him back to Pilate. Pilate and Herod, who were enemies before, became friends from that day.

Pilate then called together the chief priests and the elders and the people, and said to them, “You have brought this Man before me and accused Him of subversion. In your presence I have examined Him and found no basis for your charges; and neither has Herod, for he sent Him back to me. It is quite clear that this Man has done nothing that deserves a death sentence. I will therefore have Him scourged and then release Him.”

(At Passover, Pilate had to release a prisoner.)

Shouting as one man, the crowd protested, “No! Away with this Man! Release Barabbas instead!” This man had been thrown into prison for an uprising in the city and for murder. Since Pilate wanted to release Jesus, he appealed to the crowd once more, but they shouted back, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” A third time Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done? Since no crime deserving death has been proved, I shall have Him scourged and let Him go.”

But they went on shouting and demanding that Jesus be crucified, and their shouts grew louder. So Pilate decided to pass the sentence they demanded. He released the man they asked for, the one who was in prison for rebellion and murder, and he handed Jesus over in accordance with their wishes. When they led Jesus away, they seized Simon of Cyrene, arriving from the countryside, and laid the cross on Him, to carry it behind Jesus.

A large crowd of people followed Him; among them were women, beating their breasts and grieving for Him, but Jesus turned to them and said, “Women of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me! Weep rather for yourselves and for your children, for the days are coming when people will say, ‘Happy are the women without child! Happy are those who have not given birth or nursed a child!’ And they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ For if this is the lot of the green wood, what will happen to the dry?”

Along with Jesus, two criminals also were led out to be executed. There, at the place called the Skull, He was crucified together with two criminals – one on His right and another on His left. (Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”) And the guards cast lots to divide His clothes among themselves.

The people stood by, watching. As for the rulers, they jeered at Him, saying to one another, “Let the Man Who saved others now save Himself, for He is the Messiah, the Chosen One of God!” The soldiers also mocked Him and, when they drew near to offer Him bitter wine, they said, “So You are the King of the Jews? Save Yourself!” Above Jesus there was an inscription in Greek, Latin and Hebrew, which read, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals hanging with Jesus insulted Him, “So You are the Messiah? Save Yourself, and us as well!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Have you no fear of God, you who received the same sentence as He did? For us it is just : this is payment for what we have done. But this Man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me, when You come into Your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “In truth I tell you, today, you will be with Me today in paradise.”

It was almost midday. The sun was hidden, and darkness came over the whole land until mid-afternoon; and, at that time, the curtain of the Sanctuary was torn in two. Then Jesus gave a loud cry, “Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit.” And saying that, He gave up His Spirit.”

The captain, on seeing what had happened, acknowledged the hand of God, “Surely, this was an upright Man!” he said. And all the people who had gathered to watch the spectacle, as soon as they saw what had happened, went home beating their breasts. But those who knew Jesus, and the women who had followed Him from Galilee, remained there at a distance. They witnessed all these things.

(Holy Week) Friday, 14 April 2017 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red
John 18 : 1 – John 19 : 42

At that time, 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 that 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 eat 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 into 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 Nazorean, 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 Cleophas, 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 fulfil 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 fulfil 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.

Thursday, 15 September 2016 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of our Lady of Sorrows (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, following after yesterday’s major commemoration of the triumph of the Holy Cross, we remember our Lord’s sorrowful mother Mary, also known as our Lady of Sorrows. We know Mary as the Mother of our Lord and God, but at the same time, she herself had endured such a great suffering and pain, after having brought up her Son in love, she had to witness how her own Son suffered and eventually died on the cross.

And Mary herself had known this ever since she was chosen by God to be the one to bear the Saviour of the world. God made it known to her through many means that her role would not be an easy one, but would be filled with challenges and sorrow would also fill her heart, as the prophetess Anna and Simeon the prophet would say to her that a sword would pierce her heart, even as she and St. Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple to be offered and presented to God.

She knew that her role and work in this world would not be an easy one. Many strange happenings occurred ever since the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her. Three wise men brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to her Son at His birth, proclaiming Him as Lord and the long awaited Messiah. But no one normally would give a gift of myrrh to someone, as it is a substance usually used in the preservation of the body of the dead.

And Jesus was lost in the Temple for three days, and when Mary and Joseph found Him, He spoke of having to be in His Father’s house. All these pointed to the very unusual role that Jesus, the Son of Mary would do in order to save all mankind. And as He grew up to be a Man strong and blessed by God His Father, more and more miraculous and great deeds He had performed, to the amazement of many, and as He embarked on His mission to save the world, throngs of people followed Him.

Throughout all these, what did Mary do? If we read from the Gospels, we would see how Mary kept all of them in her heart, and put her trust in the Lord over all the things that happened, knowing fully that the Lord had His plans for her, and through her obedience and the love which she had for her Son, Jesus, she followed through everything faithfully, and eventually, walking the same path of suffering, following Jesus on His way to the cross.

A mother must have loved her child, and that could not be more true in the case of Mary, in her love for Jesus her Son. No mother should ever see or witness her child suffers, and yet there was Mary watching the whole scene of how her Son suffered at the hands of His persecutors and enemies, casted out, rejected, spit against, and tortured, and she had to bear the agony of watching the great agony of her Son Jesus as He laid hanging on the cross at Calvary.

And she bore it all with faith, with strength and courage that few if none could match. Sorrowful as she was, and filled with agony as she was, she never once lost hope in her Son, knowing that what He has done, He did in order to save all of mankind, the mission for which He had come into this world for. And as a loving and devoted mother, Mary devoted herself to the mission which has been entrusted to her, that is to love her Son with all of her heart.

How is this relevant to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is relevant because the sufferings of Christ are our sufferings, for He Himself had borne all of the consequences and punishments for our own sins and wickedness. And Jesus Himself had entrusted His mother Mary to us and we all to her at the same time, when He laid dying on the cross, and spoke to her and to His disciple St. John the Apostle and Evangelist.

At that moment, He entrusted Mary to John’s care and vice versa. And through that very act, He therefore also entrusted her to us as our mother as well, and all of us were entrusted to her same loving care, the very same one she had shown to her Son Jesus. And if Mary sorrowed because of the pains and sufferings that Jesus suffered which is our sins, then should we all not take heed and learn that the more we sin, the more we cause sorrow to our beloved mother?

To that extent, she has appeared many times over the centuries, in the numerous apparitions approved by the Church, foremost and most renowned of which are the apparitions in Lourdes and Fatima. And in all of these, she appeared before some of us, speaking and calling fervently for our repentance, and for us to turn our backs to sin and abandon our wickedness, that we may find our way back to the Lord and His merciful love.

Mary is our greatest intercessor and help before God, for she alone stood nearest to the throne of God’s Mercy, as she is His mother, who have interceded for our sake for a long, long time, praying for the sake of each and every one of us. Shall we then appreciate what our beloved mother Mary had done for us? She has loved us all just as she loved her Son Jesus, and she wants all of us to be saved, and not to suffer as her Son had suffered, which He did for our sake.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us ask Mary, our Lady of Sorrows, to pray for us, while we ourselves do our best and commit ourselves to repent from our sinful ways. Sorrowful and with grief we walk through this life, that one day our sorrow and sadness may be lifted from us, and that God will replace these with the joy and happiness of His everlasting grace. Mary, o our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.