Sunday, April 27, 2014

DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY - Where was Thomas the Apostle that First Easter Night?

Second Sunday of Easter Year  Deacon John William McMullen


Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II were canonized early this morning. They both were good humored and could poke fun at themselves.
One day a journalist asked Pope John XXIII how many people worked at the Vatican; the pontiff replied, “About half.”
When he went to visit the Hospital of the Holy Spirit in Rome, the nun answering the door said: "Holy Father, I'm the Mother Superior of the Holy Spirit." To which he replied: Oh. Well, I’m only the Vicar of Christ.”
Pope John Paul II was elected when he was 59 years old, and was a lifelong skier. Someone once told him when he was a Cardinal that it was unbecoming for a cardinal to ski. To which he answered: It is only unbecoming for a cardinal to ski badly.
One time, when John Paul was tired, one of the sisters with him said: 'Holy Father, I'm worried about Your Holiness.' He responded: 'I am too.'"

The first Easter Sunday was a day of confusion; the disciples were perplexed in the face of the empty tomb.

The disciples were gathered in the upper room with the doors locked. What happened to him could happen to us.”

But the Risen Jesus broke through their fears and guilt and locked doors declaring: “Peace.”

Note well that Christ does not shame them.

He does not blame.

He forgives.

He extends mercy.

Jesus needed the disciples to be faith-filled. “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” Then he breathed the Holy Spirit upon them…for the forgiveness of sins…calling them to be Church…forming them into disciples for the world.

He transforms frightened and confused individuals into a community of disciples gathered together in love – called to become His very presence in the world and to continue together the mission the Father gave Him – to reveal the mercy of God and to give life, eternal life.

When we are locked behind closed doors and unable to reach out to others, he comes to us with his message of love and peace.

Some of us have deep wounds, deep hurts, fears, Yet Jesus forgives us for He is wounded as well. He still bears the marks of the nails and spear.

BUT Thomas was not with them that first Easter night!
So when the others tell him the good news, Thomas is caught in doubt. He will hear nothing of it. He has to experience it himself.

Thomas ONLY expected death. And when it happened, which he expected, he was still so heartbroken that he had to be alone and suffer and grieve alone, away from the community….

The resurrection story was too good to be true.

Where was Thomas? Why did he not join the others on that Sunday?

He may have needed to distance himself from all the disciples, and from all that reminded him of Jesus and anything associated with him.

Thomas may have even been angry that Jesus had failed.

He may have even been regretting his decision that he had ever followed the preacher from Nazareth.

And now some women claim that Christ is risen! He can’t believe that Jesus would appear first to WOMEN!

Maybe Thomas said to himself: “No, he didn't die…Well, yes, he did die, so there is no way he is alive. And He couldn't have appeared to Mary Magdalene!

“Happy endings just don’t happen.”

Thomas is focused on death and all that is negative. 

Thomas would not believe Jesus has been resurrected unless he could physically verify it for himself, even though he was a witness to the raising of Lazarus.

Many people tend to withdraw in difficult situations, at just the time when they need community the most (a symptom of depression)

This closes us off of God’s grace. In spite of our sorrow or disappointment, we should seek out the community of faith.
We can all be like Thomas. 

We all resist God's action in our lives and get mad at Him and fail to trust Him. 

We can be like Thomas and live in the past and stew over things in regret…

We can hide in the upper room; we can be like the others and stare into the tomb, we can sit there and obsess over our losses, lamenting what was!

And all the while we miss the joy!!! We fail to witness to the new life that is all about us!

Imagine that we were oblivious to the budding trees all around us, the plants and the flowers, and all the color of new life exploding all around us!

In our hearts, we could still be back in the darkest and coldest days of January and February, our hearts cold, still lamenting and mourning how cold that winter was and how cold and how much snow and ice…and how inconvenient it all was and all the misery and problems it caused.

BUT SPRING has sprung!

We have but to lift up our heads and open our eyes!

And we have but only to turn to today’s First Reading to see the transforming power of God upon the church community! 
In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke writes of the early church: (Acts 2:42-47) They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.

Awe came upon everyone…All who believed were together and had all things in common….And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

In the Acts of the Apostles and in the Gospels, we see the early Church's commitment to the celebration of the Eucharist and hearing the Word of God – the teaching of the apostles and the breaking of the bread! and the importance of community fellowship, regular church attendance and attentiveness the needs of each member of the community.

The Church is called to joy! Faith and generosity should be contagious! We as Church should be attractive, causing others to want to join!

And there is new life budding forth here! The Lord is adding new members to the Church here!  

In less than a month several visitors have spoken with me, introducing themselves as either new members or they have been so moved by the hospitality among the people and the reverence in the Liturgies that they have decided to join our parish.

I witnessed a new member who invited her entire family to Easter Sunday Mass! What a witness!

There is new life here!

The tomb is empty! Alleluia!

We have a great treasure. And it is ours to share!
Yes, there will be trials, as Peter reminds us in the second reading. 

When we follow Christ, we will experience pain, sorrow, and even death. But life, not death, will have the last word.

As St. Paul wrote: “Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8.35, 37-39).

Despite the locked doors of our hearts, Jesus will break in and stand in our midst and bring us his Peace and Mercy!

May we, when we are confronted with sorrow, pain, and death, be like St. Thomas, and fall at the feet of our Lord Jesus and cry out: “My Lord and My God!”

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Resurrection of the Body key to Christian Belief

It is disturbing that a segment of Christians no longer believe in the "resurrection of the body" – either Jesus’ or their own on the Last Day.

For the Christians who may have forgotten the teaching of the scriptures and the Apostles' Creed, the "resurrection of the body (flesh)" means not only that the immortal soul will live on after death, but that even our mortal body will come to life again.

St. Augustine said in the fourth century, "On no point does the Christian faith encounter more opposition than on the resurrection of the body." However, many people today focus only on the spiritual life of the human person after death. But the Christian faith believes that the mortal body will rise to everlasting life on the Last Day.

In John 5:28-29, Jesus says, "Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation."

In John 11:25, Jesus declares, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live."  Then Jesus restored Lazarus to a physical life.

After the Resurrection, Jesus physically appeared to his disciples in this manner (as recorded in Luke 24:24-43): "(The disciples) were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, 'Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.'" And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them. "Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have."

Then St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:13-17, wrote: "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. ... And if Christ has not been raised, then empty (too) is our preaching; empty, too, your faith. Then we are also blasphemers, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins."

Finally, as if there is still any doubt, Paul, in Romans 8:11, reiterated, "The one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies."

So, contrary to popular opinion, Christ has been raised, and we, too, await that day with certain hope that, together with all who have died in Christ; we, too, will rise with him on the Last Day. Christians believe n or used to believe n that what happened to Jesus in his Resurrection from the dead will also happen to them in the resurrection on the Last Day.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

He is Risen. Indeed. Alleluia!

 Then the angel said to the women in reply,
“Do not be afraid! 
I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. 
He is not here, 
for he has been raised just as he said. 
Come and see the place where he lay."

Matthew 28.5-6

Alleluia! This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad! 

But the events of Good Friday were real. Jesus was nailed to the Cross. In the eyes of the world, Jesus died a failure. 

Yet today we declare He is risen! The message is one of Hope and Joy! 

But dead men don’t rise, we say. And the resurrected life eluded even the disciples. They did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to die and rise. Living with the mystery of the Resurrection is part of our journey as disciples of the Lord. The first disciples were afraid and doubtful; they were uncertain what the empty tomb meant.

We too have anxiety about what Christ’s Resurrection means for us. And even though we do not know what the future will bring, we know that Christ holds the future. He leads us into the Kingdom. Our task is not to have all the answers, but to follow Him in faith, trusting that God will be with us as we journey together.

Christ is risen. Indeed. The early church was overjoyed by the resurrection because of the experience of the Risen Lord. For Jesus’ Resurrection is much more than an Easter basket full of chocolate and plastic eggs. All that He has, he shares with us, even His risen life. And we can begin to share in this Life now, experiencing his life in ours. So, if the tomb is empty, everything is changed. 

Today has to be different from last Friday. The apostles and the early church truly risked their lives to gather as a community and pray and care for one another. We who belong to Christ intentionally care for one another; there is deep love among parishioners, a commitment to community, and much love embracing of one another’s wounds. Through prayer and sacrifice we see the faith in Jesus Christ being lived out in a visible way!

Let us ask the Lord to grant that we may devote ourselves to the service of the Gospel; keep us attentive to the needs of all, sharing their grief and pain, joys and hopes, comforting those who are burdened, that we may go forward with them along the way of God’s Kingdom. And together may we bear witness with great confidence to the Resurrection joy of Jesus Christ!


Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

(Readings for today from Matthew 26-27; Mark 14-15; Luke 22-23; & John 18-19) 
The gospel of the day is John 18-19

Jesus is the grain of wheat that falls to the earth and dies.

His life appeared to be a horrible failure. Hatred seems to have conquered love.

And we see Jesus on the cross, the naked king, stripped of his dignity, his divinity obscured by blood and spittle, dirt and grime.

Disciples of all ages throughout the ages suffer rejection, are mocked, misunderstood, laughed at, pushed aside, ignored, sometimes tortured and killed for their faith, for truth and justice.

They have become like Jesus.

A grain of wheat has to die in order to bear fruit.

Many people today continue to be crucified today, living in what seems to them senseless pain, a pain that has many faces and forms - broken relationships, living in violent homes, experiencing unhappy marriages, illnesses, disease, and untimely death.

They struggle to find dignity and freedom and meaning. Many lose faith. They call out to us as men and women of compassion to stand by them, like Mary and John at the foot of the cross.

So are we willing to embrace this death?

This is what we are being invited to participate in: the suffering, the pain and also the glory that lies over the hill of Calvary.

Jesus is betrayed by one of his own disciples, a friend.

Simon-Peter denies he even knew him, while another Simon, a stranger from Cyrene helps carry the Cross.

A condemned man recognizes his own sin and turns to Christ for mercy and belonging and calls him by name.

The women remain faithful - faithful to the Cross - at the foot of the Crucified.

His own Mother beholds in agony the death of her Son as the beloved disciple comforts her in her grief.

And Joseph of Arimathea risks everything by asking for the body of Jesus while Nicodemus secures his own expulsion from society for finally following Christ in light.

They were willing to belong to Jesus in the most gruesome moment of his life.

So what about us? How committed are we to the crucified Lord?

Are we willing to embrace this ugliness, this abandonment, this pain?

For if we are not willing to belong to all of this, if we cannot take up the Cross, we cannot share in the resurrection.

From the moment when Christ was raised upon the Cross, it seemed to be a sign of failure, but it was the new beginning: for from the depths of his death is raised the promise of eternal life. 

This horrifying story of violence, hatred, and cruelty ends with an immense ray of hope. 

Death does not have the last word! Violence and hate have been transformed into tenderness and forgiveness through the power of God.

When JESUS died upon the Cross, he disrupted and interrupted the world’s escalating violence that was displayed against him in the Crucifixion.

Jesus stretches his arms on the cross and absorbs all of the world’s violence and does not retaliate. He robs the violent of their strength and energy.

"Jesus’ message directly challenged the core values of the Roman Empire. Pontius Pilate condemns and executes Jesus in order to eliminate a threat to the authority of the Roman Empire. He wants to stop Jesus’ message of a kingdom of justice with compassion for the poor, with leaders who are first and foremost servants of others. The irony is that in executing Jesus, Pilate sets in motion the events bringing the kingdom of God to its fulfillment. Pontius Pilate’s actions are unable to defeat God’s purpose, proving that the Kingdom of God will triumph over all earthly empires despite all their efforts to keep it from happening." - Brian Singer-Towns (From THE PASCHAL MYSTERY: Christ's Mission of Salvation, published by St. Mary's Press, 2011, Winona, MN)

May today be an opportunity for us to embrace His Cross so that we can have a share in his Resurrection.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Holy Thursday - Communion leads to Humility and Service and Perseverance

Holy Thursday

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.” 
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed 
on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins." 

Matthew 26.26-28

The Institution of the Holy Eucharist

“When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22.14-15).

Recall that Moses and Elijah had appeared in glory with Christ and “converse with him about his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. (Luke 9.30-31)

Once Jesus entered Jerusalem and cleansed the Temple, the city was all abuzz with many pilgrims in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover and Jesus had attracted much attention – he had been teaching and working miracles. But especially since he had cleansed the Temple, there was a plot to against Jesus owing to the people’s messianic hopes and yet the Temple authorities knew the Romans would not tolerate such rioting or insurrection. The religious authorities cooperated with the Romans in order to maintain their status, position, and privilege.

Immediately after Jesus had instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, he reveals that one of the twelve will betray him! And the disciples begin to debate among themselves who among them would do such a thing. (Lk. 22.23).

Then an argument broke out among them about which of them should be considered the greatest! (Mk. 10.41-45; Mt. 20.24-28). Luke 9.46; 23.24 

“Deny yourself,” “Take up your Cross,” “Lose your life for my sake” yet in Lk. 9.46 “An argument broke out among them about which of them should be considered the greatest.

Can we imagine? He is giving his last lecture, his last teaching, and farewell address, and the disciples are arguing about their place at table and the prestige they ought to be afforded!

Rivalry among the disciples themselves – jealousy, petty arguments – even among Jesus disciples and Christian followers. And immediately after they receive the Eucharist from his very hands. Lk. 22.23

The competition – an argument broke out?! Jesus had already covered this topic in Luke 9.46 and even in Matthew 20.20-28, the mother of James and John – Salome – the wife of Zebedee – actually came to Jesus with the request that her sons sit at his right and left.

Jesus has warned his disciples against ambition (Mk. 9.33 and Mk. 10.33-40) 

Jesus summoned them and said to them,“You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10.42-45).

Discipleship isn't about power or authority.

Jesus then reiterates the teaching that they would serve and be servants!
“…Let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. For who is greater: the one seated at table or the one who serves? Is it not the one seated at table? I am among you as the one who serves (Luke 22.26-27).  

“The greatest among you must be your servant” (Mt. 23.11).

Even those who partake of the Holy Eucharist can be guilty of ambition and have the infectious disease of ambition and seeking of position and prestige.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke – and even Saint Paul in his letter to the Corinthians writes about the Eucharist:

"Is not the cup he cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf" (1 cor 10. 16-17).

Tradition of the Institution.

"For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. (1 Cor. 11.23-29).

Luke relates: "Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.”20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you" (Luke 22.19-20).

In John, like the synoptics, he does celebrate a Passover Meal, but it is not the traditional meal, it is Jesus’ new Passover.

Jesus dies on the preparation day for Passover, for He is our Paschal Lamb. (The Paschal Lamb is not a sacrifice of atonement, but one of sealing and renewing the covenant with God).

Matthew, Mark, and Luke focus on the institution of the Holy Eucharist ; John has already dealt with the Eucharist in John 6:

Jesus declares: “I am the Bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (John 6.35).  “This is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day. (John 6.40). “This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world”(John 6.50-51).

“The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6.52-58).

Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? – (John 6.60-61)

As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” (John 6.66-67).

Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

 If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, 
you ought to wash one another’s feet.

I have given you a model to follow, 
so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” 

John 13:14-15

The Washing of the Disciples Feet

John’s Gospel – Chapter 13

The farewell discourse.

He knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. …the devil had already induced Judas…to hand him over. So during the supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet….”

“Love is the path to God, but in John’s gospel Jesus’ depiction of love is very specific: laying down one’s life for others.” – Scott M. Lewis (Collegeville Biblical commentary series).

Saint John knew that Paul and the Synoptic writers had related the institution of the Eucharist in their writings, so he focuses on the Foot Washing at the Last supper, whereby our Blessed Lord is continuing to teach the disciples about service to others, dying to self, and what Eucharist should lead all believers to do….

If the Eucharist is significant, it will lead to humility and service to one another.

Kenosis / Dying to self 

The Incarnation leads to self-abasement

Only a slave was to wash feet. (The Son of God emptied himself and became a slave Phil 2.5-11).

He gives us a pattern of self-giving love.

Jesus is shattering the world’s idea of greatness and worldly honor, domination and making others subservient.

“He replaces it with a new model for human relationships: loving and humble service and laying down one’s life for others.”

“The foot-washing symbolizes the salvific death of Jesus….[and it also] likely invokes the baptism that is the rite of passage into the community and a sharing in the Jesus’ death.”

“As teacher and lord, Jesus was willing to wash their [the disciples’] feet; how much more should they be willing to do the same for one another

The foot-washing is given as a model or paradigm not only of humble and loving service, but of self-sacrificing love. he is not proposing an anemic [cold, stilted, purely ceremonial] Holy Thursday ritual, but a pattern or model to be imitated in every aspect of life, from small acts of kindness to sacrificial death! It only has the power to bless when it is understood and put into practice.” – Scott M. Lewis

Pope Benedict XVI writes of the condescension of God in Christ, whereby He reveals what God is really like: “He divests himself of his divine splendor; he, as it were, kneels down before us; he washes us and dries our soiled feet in order to make us fit to sit at table for God’s wedding feast.

"He loves us to the end and draws us out of our self-centeredness and pride
With the sacrament of the Eucharist, He renews us from within, and unleashed a new life within us.

“Jesus’ action becomes ours, because He is acting in us.”

As Saint Paul wrote: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ Jesus who lives in me” (Gal. 2.20).

"Their is a connection between humble service and glory: It is in Jesus a downward path in his abasement even to the Cross, that God’s glory is seen...."

In the act of the Eucharist, "Breaking and distributing: it is the act of distrusting that creates community….the archetypal human gesture of giving, sharing, and uniting acquires an entirely new depth in Jesus’ Last Supper through His gift of Himself….this gesture of Jesus has thus come to symbolize the whole mystery of the Eucharist: in the Acts of the Apostles and in early Christianity  generally, the ‘breaking of the bread’ designates the Eucharist. In this sacrament we enjoy the hospitality of God, who gives Himself to us in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. Thus breaking bread and distributing it—the act of attending lovingly to those in need—is an intrinsic dimension of the Eucharist.

“’Caritas’ (charity) care for the other is NOT an additional sector of Christianity alongside worship; rather it is rooted in it and forms part of it. The horizontal and the vertical are inseparably linked in the Eucharist, in the ‘breaking of the bread’.

"The Eucharist is also a visible process of gathering…it involves entering into communion with the living God, who inwardly draws people together. The Church comes into being from the Eucharist. She receives her unity and her mission from the Eucharist. She is derived from the Last Supper, that is to say, from Christ’s death and Resurrection, which he anticipated in the gift of His body and blood. [pages 132-144 Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week].

Jean Vanier wrote: “Washing feet is related to the Eucharist” – “to receive communion is to be in communion with Jesus.

“Communion at the Table of the Lord cannot be separated from the communion lived in washing each other’s feet.”

Noted Preacher and Scripture Scholar, Fred Craddock, notes: The Passover Lamb binds one in covenant with God, it offers a new kind of freedom, release from sin and death, and those who share in the covenant are joined to one another, life to life, as signified and sealed in the cup shared among themselves—binding disciples together in a congregation, as members of one another.

William Barclay argues, [as I do], that the argument scene in Luke 22.24 may well have precipitated the foot-washing in John 13. Here in the shadow of the Cross, His disciples are still arguing who is the greatest of all.

"A desire for prominence and prestige versus the greatness of service.

"Sometimes people get all bent out of shape because they are passed over for a promotion or a place of prominence in church. Some people sulk and brood if they are given even an unintentional slight. Either that or they explode in anger.

"We can fall into the trap of getting focused on our rights, our prestige, but then we see the Very Son of God kneeling on the ground washing our filthy feet.

"The foot-washing is two-fold – it teaches humility and service and the importance of Baptism. Unless you pass through the waters of baptism, [die and rise with Christ and enter the Church], you cannot partake of the life of Christ and the Church. Baptism is the entryway to the Church.

"If one is too proud to be baptized, or too proud to confess that he is a sinner, then he cannot have a share in Christ. We also cannot be too proud to admit that we have a need for a savior. The savior saves from sin; if we say we are not sinners, then we claim to have no need of a savior.

Then after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives (Matthew 26.30). 

When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep.

He said to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour?

Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test.

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 

Matthew 26.40-41

The Agony in the Garden 

Jesus had prophesied his death three times in the gospel. And now Jesus is face to face with the hour….

Jesus said, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup of suffering pass me by, but not my will, your will be done.”

It is interesting to note that the horror of the Cross and all the evil that will be visited upon Jesus is, even for him, nearly too much to bear, for he asks to be delivered from it…

It is the one time he asked to be delivered from the Cross. So we see that Jesus was truly tempted.

Jesus’ true agony…he is saddened that Peter will not stay awake and keep watch in prayer with him.  Jesus refers to Simon-Peter as Simon – the old Simon – for he had slipped back into his original character, his old identity.

Father, if it is possible, let this cup of suffering pass me by, but not my will, but your will be done.”

This is the Agony in the Garden.

Jesus tells Simon-Peter to “Stay awake”.

Pope Benedict XVI, wrote about Jesus Agony in the Garden: “[Jesus took] Peter, James, and John...[and asked that these three disciples stay awake and pray with him in the Garden, and] even though they are repeatedly overcome by sleep, are the witnesses of Jesus’ night of anguish. Mark tells us that Jesus “began to be greatly distressed and troubled”. The Lord says to his disciples: “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch” (14:33-34).

“The summons to vigilance has already been a major theme of Jesus’ Jerusalem teaching, and now it emerges directly with great urgency. And yet, while it refers specifically to Gethsemane, it also points ahead to the later history of Christianity.

“Across the centuries, it is the drowsiness of the disciples that opens up possibilities for the power of the Evil One. Such drowsiness deadens the soul, so that it remains undisturbed by the power of the Evil One at work in the world and by all the injustice and suffering ravaging the earth.

“In its state of numbness, the soul prefers not to see all this; it is easily persuaded that things cannot be so bad, so as to continue in the self-satisfaction of its own comfortable existence. Yet this deadening of souls, this lack of vigilance regarding both God’s closeness and the looming forces of darkness, is what gives the Evil One power in the world.

“On beholding the drowsy disciples, so disinclined to rouse themselves, the Lord says: “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” This is a quotation from Psalm 43: 5, and it calls to mind other verses from the Psalms. He is praying from the psalms.

"In the Passion, too—on the Mount of Olives and on the Cross—Jesus uses passages from the Psalms to speak of himself and to address the Father. Yet these quotations have become fully personal; they have become the intimate words of Jesus himself in his agony. – [From Pope Benedict's book Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, pages 185-187].

Jesus experiences great anxiety and anguish – Jesus throws himself down and lies prostrate.

Jesus is face to face with death and asks “If possible, let this cup of suffering pass me by….”  He doesn't desire it, but he freely accepts. 

Jesus is rooted in his intimacy with his Abba. His humanity and divinity are fully united into the divine will “Your will be done” “Thy will be done”

And He is resolved to fulfill his Father’s will and freely accepts this death.
(He could have easily escaped the Garden of Gethsemane, and he had passed through his enemies hands on other occasions, but not tonight)

Jesus surrenders to the Cross.

What was Jesus’ first temptation–avoid the cross, avoid the cross, avoid the Cross.

Satan offered him three shortcuts away from the Cross. Bread, possessions, material comfort, pleasure; the fantastic, the spectacular, of jumping off the temple roof, you’ll be popular; and the temptation to power, control. All three temptations were for Jesus Christ to avoid the Cross, to abandon the cross.

And, by the way, those three temptations are our temptations as well.
And here again in the Garden he is face to face with the temptation to avoid the cross! To abandon the Cross!

But let us be honest: we too have our own chalices of suffering – it can be difficult to embrace our pain, it can be difficult – very difficult – to pray when we are in pain, or ill, or dying. Yet we can place our trust in the loving hands of Abba, Father.

Jesus is totally honest – honest with his Father – and with his disciples. He expressed his feelings humbly to the disciples: “My soul is sorrowful-even to death. Remain here with me and keep watch.”

I wonder if there were people who could see Jesus on a collision course with the powers that be – I wonder if his suffering and death were expected by some of the observers of his day – because his love and his mercy is so good – and the world viciously attacks that which is good.

Yes, Christ Jesus knew the bitter poison in the chalice of suffering that awaited Him. Yet, he accepted the death. He did it for each of us.

And he arose from his prayer, resolved and strengthened to embrace His Cross.
He must drink the cup and the face down evil.

Jesus is strengthened by his prayer. 

And now He rises to take up the Cross.