In our relationship with the Lord, we sometimes think that it's not necessary to express our love for him. After all, he knows everything, so why bother? Even though he is all-knowing, he enjoys hearing the words "I love you." Getting into the habit of saying those words will draw you closer to him.
The seventh general minister of the Franciscan Order, John was known for his attempts to bring back the earlier spirit of the Order after the death of St. Francis of Assisi.
He was born in Parma, Italy, in 1209. It was when he was a young philosophy professor known for his piety and learning that God called him to bid good-bye to the world he was used to and enter the new world of the Franciscan Order. After his profession John was sent to Paris to complete his theological studies. Ordained to the priesthood, he was appointed to teach theology at Bologna, then Naples and finally Rome.
In 1245, Pope Innocent IV called a general council in the city of Lyons, France. Crescentius, the Franciscan minister general at the time, was ailing and unable to attend. In his place he sent Father John, who made a deep impression on the Church leaders gathered there. Two years later, when the same pope presided at the election of a minister general of the Franciscans, he remembered Father John well and held him up as the man best qualified for the office.
And so, in 1247, John of Parma was elected to be minister general. The surviving disciples of St. Francis rejoiced in his election, expecting a return to the spirit of poverty and humility of the early days of the Order. And they were not disappointed. As general of the Order John traveled on foot, accompanied by one or two companions, to practically all of the Franciscan convents in existence. Sometimes he would arrive and not be recognized, remaining there for a number of days to test the true spirit of the brothers.
The pope called on John to serve as legate to Constantinople, where he was most successful in winning back the schismatic Greeks. Upon his return he asked that someone else take his place to govern the Order. St. Bonaventure, at John's urging, was chosen to succeed him. John took up a life of prayer in the hermitage at Greccio.
Many years later, John learned that the Greeks, who had been reconciled with the Church for a time, had relapsed into schism. Though 80 years old by then, John received permission from Pope Nicholas IV to return to the East in an effort to restore unity once again. On his way, John fell sick and died.
He was beatified in 1781.
In the 13th century, people in their 30s were middle-aged; hardly anyone lived to the ripe old age of 80. John did, but he didn't ease into retirement. Instead he was on his way to try to heal a schism in the Church when he died. Our society today boasts a lot of folks in their later decades. Like John, many of them lead active lives. But some aren't so fortunate. Weakness or ill health keeps them confined and lonely—waiting to hear from us.
The world is charged with the grandeur of God. (Gerard Manley Hopkins) I dwell for a moment on the Presence of God around me, in every part of my body, and deep within my being.
Fill me with Your Holy Spirit Lord, so that I may have inner freedom. Let your Spirit instil in my heart a desire to know and love you more each day.
Knowing that God loves me unconditionally, I can afford to be honest about how I am. How has the last day been, and how do I feel now? I share my feelings openly with the Lord.
The Word of God
Monday of Holy Week
Reading 1 Is 42:1-7
Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, Upon whom I have put my Spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations, Not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, Until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching.
Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spreads out the earth with its crops, Who gives breath to its people and spirit to those who walk on it: I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, To open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.
Responsorial Psalm PS 27:1, 2, 3, 13-14
R. (1a) The Lord is my light and my salvation.
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The LORD is my life's refuge; of whom should I be afraid?
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
When evildoers come at me to devour my flesh, My foes and my enemies themselves stumble and fall.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Though an army encamp against me, my heart will not fear; Though war be waged upon me, even then will I trust.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Verse Before the Gospel
Hail to you, our King; you alone are compassionate with our faults.
Gospel Jn 12:1-11
Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him. Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, "Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days' wages and given to the poor?" He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions. So Jesus said, "Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me."
The large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came, not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too, because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him.
Some thoughts on today's scripture
▪ The home of Martha and Mary in Bethany was always a place of welcome and refuge for Jesus. With his life increasingly under threat he chooses to enjoy a meal there with his friends. But Mary's action of anointing his feet with costly perfume causes friction. Judas, who was also present, objects to such extravagance. Jesus defends Mary and links her action with his coming death and burial.
▪ Whose side are you on? Perhaps you can see some validity in what Judas says. Yet it is Mary who continues to be admired for her loving and uninhibited gesture.
Jesus, you always welcomed little children when you walked on this earth. Teach me to have a childlike trust in you. To live in the knowledge that you will never abandon me.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.
Monday of Holy Week Even in the last week of his earthly life, Jesus showed himself to be the master of the teaching moment. His companions in this scene had much to learn from him. He allowed Martha to serve him, affirmed Mary for her generosity, chided Judas for his duplicity, and challenged the disciples and the other guests to focus on what really matters in the long run.
It's a compelling scene, and John makes it easy for us to enter into it with our senses. We know important things about all the actors he names: hardworking Martha; restored-to-life Lazarus; critical, greedy Judas Iscariot; and Mary, the extravagant disciple whose loving act fills the house with a perfume that overpowers the cooking odors and the noise of the crowd.
Take some time to imagine yourself in this scene. Picture the room and the people in it. Listen to the conversations at the table. Even try to imagine the background noises. Feel the touch of the wooden table, the heft of the drinking vessels, the fabric of the robes. Taste the food and drink. Smell the perfume.
Which character do you find it easiest to relate to? If it's Mary, what is going on in your heart and mind that motivates such extravagant generosity? How do you feel when Jesus not only accepts your offering but holds it up as an example by stating, "Wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be spoken of, in memory of her" (Matthew 26:13)?
If you identify with one of the other disciples, how do you react to Mary's outpouring of love and devotion? Perhaps, like Judas, you can think of a hundred better ways to spend the money that this perfume is worth. Perhaps you find Mary's action offensive, embarrassing, or shocking. "Doesn't she know her place?" Or maybe it surprises and delights you. But then again, maybe it challenges you and calls you to evaluate the depth of your love and devotion to the Lord.
As you figure out how you fit into the scene, ask the Holy Spirit to make this meditation the teaching moment you need right now. Jesus lifts his head and looks into your eyes with love. What does he want to say to you today?
"Jesus, I open my heart to you right now. Please whisper the words I most need to hear."
my2cents: The Lord says today "...I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, To open the eyes of the blind". I set you. I set you as a promise. I set you as a light. I set you to open the eyes of the blind. And lastly, to bring prisoners out of confinement. Let's just say, these little things you do and say, will have huge repercussions in the future. You may think they are small and insignificant but, not for the Lord. So do small things that lead to big things. And it is not too late, it is never too late so long as we live. The Lord didn't set others to do this, He set you. He set you as the promise keeper and light of the world you live in. To open the eyes of the blind so that they may be set free. So let's set it up. We pray today "The Lord is my light and my salvation. The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?" Keep in mind the Lord's life as we read this: "Though an army encamp against me, my heart will not fear; Though war be waged upon me, even then will I trust." As soon as the Jews heard of Lazarus rising and eating with Jesus they set out to kill them, both. The Lord teaches us in many ways, and this one comes by His life ultimately giving to the world what it desired...to devour His flesh. "When evildoers come at me to devour my flesh, My foes and my enemies themselves stumble and fall." In comes the Lord of our lives ""Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial." Today we have to realize many things. I remember a story of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, whom surely is considered a saint in Heaven, was talking to a man on a plane that was complaining about the Catholics (the man was an ex Catholic and an usher) and the man immediately began tearing into the Church, attacking her doctrines, disciplines and culture with every attack that modernists typically throw at the Catholic faith. Bishop Sheen sat there quietly, listening to the man's many complaints and occasionally interjecting a question. Silently, he was praying the entire time for a way to get through to this man. After several minutes of the long tirade, by a supernatural intuition, Fulton Sheen asked the man, "So tell me, how much did you steal?" The man was silent and began trembling; finally he broke down and admitted that when he was an usher he had stolen thousands of dollars from the collection plate at his parish. Today, we hear about Judas complaining about the oil being used on Jesus. It's not so much that Judas cared, but that he desired the oil, for it was being wasted on Jesus when it could've been wasted...well, let's just not say where because...truth hurts. This was typical of the day. The Jews were complaining about Jesus "taking the people away". I remember Deacon Mike leading the prison ministry saying that they only hung people in the Roman days for being thiefs, and why did they hang Jesus? What did He steal? The people...their hearts. The complaints are of selfish jestures, of what we want and believe and want to be true. For if the Lord dies it wasn't the Messiah they believed, and so they killed Him to prove their point...that God doesn't work the way they want Him to work. The message is true. Through the weekend, one character caught my attention in the Gospel...Barabbas. Oddly enough, the Hebrew meaning of Barabbas means "son of the father". The Jews wanted this physical warrior free over Jesus, the spiritual warrior. We want only as far as our nose can see. We do not want further. The aroma of the perfume was the smell of money to Judas the traitor. Let's not put him far off as we are no better. Judas was the treasurer, and his heart showed where his treasure was. He betrays the Lord as a test. The bible says we should never test the Lord but taste the Lord. Test the spirits but not tempt the Lord. Why? Because the Lord wins. The devil had taken possession of the world, and God sent His only begotten son to free the world from the sons of destruction. And the Lord asks the devil "how much do you want for my people to be set free?" And the devil says "your every last drop of blood and piece of flesh". And Jesus gave it all on the cross and it keeps being served to His children, for His children to live and life means eternity.
Mary chose what to waste her treasure on...Jesus. Martha by now was serving love. The disciples were sitting learning and taking in the light. On the other side of the fence were the opposite, starving animals, not humans, for humans love to death. Let this week then be a realization of love, a manifestation of love, a true surrender to Love, and the cross is the way. I wish I could adorn our humble church with marble and gold as a manifestation of the reality taking place upon the altar in the sacred vessels. All I can do is bow my head and accept His adorations and adorning and preciousness being placed upon my tongue...His body, His blood, and the fragrance of love fills the temple and streams of water gush forth in the dessert, my eyes begin to water and the soul begins to give light. This then, this is truly a Holy week. It points to love the whole way.