We are on a Lenten Journey

03-25-2018Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

We often use in "church speak" that we are on a Lenten Journey. We are trying to get someplace and we have to put in the time and effort to get there. For us as Christians, it is Easter. It is clearly the Celebration of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. Our image and theme is to help us to frame our minds and hearts to ultimately come to a deeper understanding of the meaning of Jesus Christ in our own personal life, and also the lives of everyone. Part of all this is walking with Jesus as he comes closer to Jerusalem, as he enters the City itself, and ultimately his Passion and Death on the Cross. The Passion of Christ is not simply a record of Jesus' suffering and death. If we realize that we are walking with Jesus through all this, then this journey of faith will take on a very deep and rich meaning for us.

Indeed, for some this will be a transformative trip this very year; for others, in other years. Our journey with Jesus is symbolic in many ways, but it is very real. Transformative moments in life take power from symbols and their underlying realities. Hearing the story of Jesus and listening to his words and actions and pondering and prayerfully meditating upon them, may give great purpose and meaning to your daily life in all the big and small things which you do.

The prophet Isaiah in our first passage speaks poignantly of the fulfillment of God's covenant in terms of the actions of God's humiliated Servant, who will ultimately be exalted. The meaning of this passage from humiliation to glorification - from death to life - is re-emphasized in the reading from Philippians which is the great Hymn to Christ. Similar to the Suffering Servant, Jesus is obedient, even to accepting a humiliating death. Because of Jesus' obedience, God instead glorifies him and bestows upon him his true identity: Messiah and Lord.

Our Gospel passage powerfully seizes the symbolism of the first reading and the poetry of the second and gives them real flesh and blood. The author writes that the Servant of God, taking on our flesh, suffers and dies that God's new covenant might take root in our hearts and lead us through death to life, safe and at home with God. Indeed, this is a powerful set of realities and ultimate truth.

This gospel of Mark clearly tells the many events leading to his death with tragic and stark realism. Mark quickly relates Jesus' cruel betrayal, denial, condemnation, and humiliation. Plainly, The describes Jesus' suffering and crucifixion. Hanging against the darkening sky, Jesus is taunted for his trust and obedience: "Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe." By his death Christ gives life to nascent faith - "Truly this man was the Son of God!" - and new hearts to all the world.

Of the Passion accounts, Mark's is the most direct and clear. It is a plain story. As a result we may fail to look beyond the story and see things with eyes of faith that this story is ultimately a story of the glory of our God. We call it " holy" for this reason.

The Passion of Jesus Christ as read at Mass helps us develop an attitude and way for this coming Holy Week. Listening to and being engaged in the story of the Passion of Jesus and His Resurrection makes any week quite holy. May we partake this week in the various services and Masses, knowing we will be growing in holiness as we walk along with Jesus.

Father Brian

P.S. I hope to see you at some of our most beautiful Masses and Services this coming week. Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil Saturday at 7:30 PM. Stations on Friday at Noon (the Common) and 3 PM (the Church).