Blessed Easter and all Blessings, with love Fr Mark and Parishioners of St Bernard & St Ignatius

Thu 9 April 2020

My dear brothers and sisters,

This weekend we celebrate the most important feast in our Church year, the Easter Triduum. This is the time we reflect on our Lords Passion, Death and Resurrection. It is a time of special prayer. Although this year, we have to celebrate it with great sadness due to the Pandemic, we nevertheless can still make it a time of great joy. My prayers are with you all and I would like to assure you of my love for you and remembrance of you all during the times that I will be celebrating the Easter Liturgies  -  sadly alone. Below I leave you some thoughts of the Three stages of the celebration that we celebrate at this time.

Holy Thursday
On this day we commemorate the Institution of one of the greatest Sacraments given to us by Our Lord, namely, the Holy Eucharist. During this service we also have the Washing of the Feet. This is done to encourage us all to be of service to one another. After Our Lord had washed the disciple’s feet he told them just as he had, so too must they do, that is to be of service to one another. This is a call to humility.

When we look towards the institution of the Eucharist we need to ask ourselves a number of questions. First, Do I show appreciation for the Eucharist? This is especially important in this time of lockdown. Has my not being able to receive Our Lord in the sacrament of Communion developed in me a longing to receive him once again soon? For me, although I have been able to celebrate Mass every day and receive Our Lord, the absence of a congregation has been difficult because our reception of the Eucharist is a community affair.

The second thought would be to ask myself, Do I receive Communion with a great love and reverence? The Eucharist is the centre of our faith and is the summit of our celebration and praise of God our Father. This Thursday let us all spend some time in quiet and give thanks to our Lord for the Eucharist. Pray for an overcoming of the Coronavirus and a time where we can celebrate Sunday Eucharist again together. Our Lord is waiting for us to come to him and ask for his graces and blessings.

After the Mass we normally have a chance to sit and reflect near the Altar of repose. My suggestion would be that we all find a space in our homes, set up a table with a nice cloth on it, a lit candle, a bible and a crucifix and sit for a time praying with Our Lord as he had asked the disciples to do in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Good Friday
Good Friday we celebrate the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ

The Gospel at the service is the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to St John.
Reading through the Passion we meet a number of characters who have some influence on the whole chain of events. The central character of coarse is Our Lord, but there are a number of other characters good and bad that we see play an important role.

  • I would like to reflect on four:
  • - our Lord’s Mother,
  • - two apostles, and
  • - one who is not mentioned in the Gospels but by tradition was part of the Passion.

First we look at Our Lord’s Mother and Our spiritual mother. We can imagine what the Passion would have been like for Our Lady. The anguish that she must have suffered. This was the child that she had given birth to, the child she had nurtured, the child that had brought her great joy. Now she has to witness how he has been rejected, scorned, beaten and been led out of the city to be crucified.

In her mind was most probably an incident that had happened some thirty years earlier when she and Joseph had brought their child to the temple in Jerusalem in order to fulfil the law by presenting him to God according to the law of every first born male to be presented to the Lord. There the prophet Simeon had prophesized that Jesus would be the cause of the rise and falling of many in Israel and that a sword would pierce Our Lady’s soul.

Mary is more called to put her trust in the Lord that all that was happening was in accordance with the will of the Lord. Her meeting of her son on the road to his crucifixion would have been agonizing, yet when their eyes met, the look of love would have shone through, as well as anguish. Then she finds herself at the foot of the cross and there is nothing she can do for her child but watch him hang in agony. She would have longed to sooth him, provide medicine and bandage his wounds.

The Passion would have been as real for her as it was for the Lord. Emotions of sorrow, disbelief and helplessness would have prevailed. Then Our Lord from the Cross gives her to the Church through the apostle John as the Mother of the Church. This might have brought her some consolation but certainly not enough. She would have longed to have her son with her. After the body was taken down she held him in her arms, a difficult moment for her. We can imagine how she would have helped Joseph and Nicodemus clean and arrange his body for burial. It would have been loving hands gently touching him and doing one final act of love for her son. The question we should ask is do we do the same for our loved ones? Do we experience that same love for our Lord and our ones as Mary did? We also are called to walk with the Lord as Mary did.

The second character that we can reflect on is that of St Peter.

Peter was the leading apostle. He was the one who had proclaimed that Jesus was the Christ when he had asked his apostles “Who do people say I am?” and they gave several answers such as John the Baptist or one of the prophets and when Jesus asked “Who do you say I am?” Peter answers “You are the Christ”.

Just before Jesus and his apostles left for the Garden of Gethsemane, it was Peter who said that he was prepared to die for Jesus. Yet a couple of hours later he denies that he knows Jesus, not once, but three times. This for me shows how human Peter was. He was weak like the majority of us. Peter is human but humble enough to realize that he was wrong and that he had sinned against the Lord.

We are told that when the cock had crowed three times, he went outside and wept. He expressed sorrow for his denials and was repentant. Being repentant needs to go a little further as we see in the case of Peter. He had Faith in Jesus that despite what he had done, Jesus still loved him and would forgive him. He Had Hope. He believed still, deep in his heart, that Jesus was the Christ and Jesus would remain his friend and restore his Faith which he had lost for a time.

We are also called to be humble and acknowledge that we are weak at times and that we also fall to the temptation of Satan. Just like Peter, we also need to show repentance and put our Faith in the Lord. We too, need to realize that despite our failures that Jesus loves us and forgives us. We also need to have hope in our Lord that he will remain our friend and embrace us with his forgiveness.

Let us follow the example given us by Peter. Just as Jesus gave Peter the chance to recommit his Faith and Love in the Lord at the sea of Tiberius so too, we can recommit our Faith and Love for the Lord by giving him Thanks and Praise.

The next character we need to look at is Judas Iscariot.

Judas was considered the intellectual of the Apostolic group. He was given the responsibility of the common purse but, as we read in the Gospel of John, he was a thief. On the outside Judas expressed his love for Our Lord but, it was what was in his heart that in the end which brought out his true character.

Before we condemn Judas completely we need to think a little deeper. Maybe in the beginning Judas did have a great love for Our Lord and had good intentions, but things that happened might have led to disappointment. He had a certain perception of who the Messiah would be, maybe a great political leader or military figure who would overthrow the hated Roman occupier. In his disappointment he goes to the religious leaders and asks for money to betray Our Lord. Again we see his love for money.

Also we need to note that Judas didn’t deny that he knew Jesus. After the betrayal we read that when Jesus was convicted, Judas came to realize that he had betrayed innocent blood. He shows remorse and repents of his sin but, unlike Peter, he gives into despair. Judas does not have enough Faith and Hope to believe that Jesus would forgive him. For Judas there was no hope. His recourse is to go and hang himself. In his mind he had committed the unforgivable sin.

I am sure that if Judas had believed in Jesus’s love and went and asked for forgiveness in the way Peter did, Our Lord would have forgiven him. For us, it is the same. We also at times commit certain sins that we might be tempted to believe that they are so big, or that because we continue to commit them, that we think that the Lord would not forgive us. The reality is that we must put that thought behind us and believe that the love of Our Lord is so big that he will forgive us all the time. Jesus is waiting for us to come to him and seek his forgiveness. We need not despair in the same way that Judas did but call on the Lord and he will hear us.

Lastly the character that we don’t find in the scriptures is that of Veronica.

At the sixth station we reflect on' Veronica wipes the face of Jesus'. There are a number of scripture scholars who infer that she was the woman who, caught in the act of adultery, the religious leaders brought to Jesus to test him. Jesus wrote in the sand, although we are not told what he wrote, told them that ''he who is without sin may throw the first stone". Once they had all walked away, He forgives the woman and tells her not to sin again.

If this is a fact, that Veronica was that woman or not, the small act of kindness shown by this woman is a gesture of kindness shown to a person in need. Jesus left an image of his face on the cloth, tradition tells us. This would have been a sign of love to Veronica.

What we can learn from Veronica is that we can only show small kinds of love to people compared to what Jesus can do for a person, but as Jesus left an imprint on Veronica’s cloth, so Jesus leaves an imprint on our hearts.

When we look at these four characters, it is likely we can identify with all of them. There are times when we are like Our Beloved Mother and we show love and empathy to those who are suffering. Maybe Peter when at times we deny that we know Jesus because we don’t want to lose friends or it is not popular to identify ourselves as being Catholic. Maybe we have betrayed Jesus by giving into the temptations of Satan. Lastly, at times we are the Veronica’s of this world, where we have shown small acts of kindness. Whichever character we identify with, one thing we must always believe, is that Jesus always loves us and is waiting for us to repent and believe in his love and forgiveness.

The culmination of the Easter Triduum is our celebration of Easter.

This is the day that Our Lord rose from the Dead. This was Jesus’s triumph over death.
When we read the resurrection narrative we see that no one saw Jesus rise from the dead. We are told that the women who went to the grave only found an empty tomb.
Think of the panic that must have seized them at that point. Although Our Lord had spoken about the fact that he would rise from the dead, their thoughts were that someone had stolen the body.
Then something wonderful happens, Jesus appears to them. They see the Risen Lord, not an apparition but the resurrected body of Jesus.

The same happened for the apostles, not a ghost but a body that they can touch. This is affirmed when the apostle Thomas puts his finger into the holes made by the nails in Jesus’s hands and his hand into the hole made by the spear in his side.
On another occasion by the sea of Tiberias, Jesus eats fish and bread with the apostles. It is the witness of these few people that we come to the belief of the Resurrection. Their faithful witness and the power of the Holy Spirit is what we come to believe in the Resurrection. This witness has been handed down through the ages.

At this time of Easter, we are called to allow the light of Christ to enter our lives, to enlighten our lives. When we allow the Holy Spirit to enter our hearts, we allow ourselves not only belief in the Resurrection because of someone witnessing for us, but we come to the realization that the Resurrected Lord dwells in our hearts.

It is what gives us hope, especially in this time of crises in the world today.

The Resurrection is the wonderful gift of God to redeem his people. Death is something we need not fear. It is our hope and faith that there is eternal life after death in this world.

As we celebrate the Easter Triduum, let us all celebrate in communion with one another, put our hope in the Lord and reflect on this greatest gift of God, who out of love, sent his only begotten Son into the world to redeem the world.

On Easter Sunday let us renew our commitment to our lord by lighting a candle and renewing our Baptismal promises:
Do you reject Satan?
Response:          I do
And all his works?
Response:          I do
And all his empty promises? 
Response:          I do
Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth?
Response:          I do
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, Our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered death and was buried, rose again from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father?
Response:           I do
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting? 
Response:          I do

I would like to wish you all a Blessed and Peaceful Easter that you may rejoice in the resurrection of the Lord.
May Almighty God Bless you.

+In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Fr Mark