Welcome to our weekly podcast, ‘Preaching and You Were Sleeping’ - a brief reflection on the Gospel reading, to prompt you towards deeper prayer and action for the week. This is brought to you by Fr Clarence Devadass, a priest of the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Jesus’ earliest message as He began His public ministry was repentance (Cf. Mark 1:15), and now the ministry of the disciples of Jesus must be founded on the same. The attraction to the early Church was that it was a community of forgiveness and reconciliation. The “terms and conditions” of being a disciple is to make one another feel welcomed, loved and forgiven.
The Church must be the doorway to God’s mercy and that is why Pope Francis says that “there is no Christianity without mercy. If all our Christianity does not lead us to mercy, we are on the wrong path, because mercy is the only true goal of every spiritual journey. It is one of the most beautiful fruits of charity [love].”
For the disciples to understand this profound moment, one important thing needed to happen and that is, the stone had to be “moved away from the tomb”. As disciples, if we want to feel and experience the new life offered to us at Easter, each of us must have the “rolled away stone” experience.
The cross is at the centre of our Good Friday celebrations. Though it portrays pain and suffering, it also brings to focus some images of Christ. As we “venerate the cross” let the healing power of the cross of Christ become alive in us. For it is only then that we are able to fully share in Jesus’ greatest act of love – His self-giving for the well-being of humankind.
Many of us think that in order to trust, we need to fully understand but the evening before the Passover, Jesus teaches an important lesson not just to His disciples but also to all who call him ‘Master and Lord’ that the path of discipleship involves trusting Jesus now and understanding Him later – not something that many of us are comfortable to do because it involves making ourselves vulnerable.
"Jesus was not compelled to do it [accept the cross]. He willingly lowered himself in his birth, in his ministry, in his death. No one took his life from him. He freely laid down his own life (Jn 10:18). Others did not have the chance to humble him; he humbled himself.” This truly sets us on the journey to Golgotha with Jesus because He embraced this way of the cross for each of us.
Our myopic view sometimes leads us to think that true happiness is only found in worldly pleasure and selfish pursuits. On the contrary, the Gospel today points to the fact that we are made for God, and only God can fill the desires of our hearts. As St. Alphonsus Liguori says: “Nothing can satisfy one whom God does not satisfy.”
God’s purpose in creating and redeeming the world in Christ was to love the world and embrace sinful humanity, and not to condemn it. This is the purposeful incarnation that God intended from the beginning of time - God coming to live amongst us and sanctifying the world with His presence.
Being “God’s Temple” simply means that by our baptism, we have all been called to "live in a manner worthy of the call you have received" (Ephesians 4:1). It is no longer a “cultic faith” as witnessed in the Temple during the time of Jesus or merely “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5, 16:26), but rather reliving the life of Christ in our own person in the here and now.
Change or conversion can be daunting and fearful because it involves a change of will and change of direction - an intentional turning away from sin and a turning to God through Christ. The very purpose that the Church calls us to conversion in this holy season is to bring us back into the right relationship with God.
Our Lenten journey that is accompanied by sacrifices and self-denial must lead us to act with humility, kindness, forgiveness, love, and the faith and courage to do the right thing. Following Jesus more intently during Lent is to make that radical change for God.
With or without ash, today marks the beginning of an important season in the Church’s calendar - the first day of the season of Lent, the forty days set aside to prepare to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus.