Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

21 March AD 2010—Passion Sunday

Grounded in Eternity


אהיה אשר אהיה


[Ordinary of the Mass]
[Mass Text - Latin]
[Mass Text - English]
[Lenten Observance]

    Please note that Friday is the Commemoration of the Seven Sorrows of Mary.  The Church has us recall her sorrows just before Holy Week, so that we can recall her role as Co-redemptrix with our Lord, Mediatrix of all grace.  Please make the effort to attend the Stations of the Cross and the Mass of our Lady

    The scripture readings at today's Mass were chosen by the Church to demonstrate that Her practices here in time and on Earth—the practices appointed by Her Founder, Jesus Christ—are grounded in the realities of Heaven and eternity.

    The first reading is taken from Saint Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews—a letter well worth reading for anyone who would like to understand the theology of the priesthood.  The letter describes many of the sacrificial practices of the Old Testament, and thus serves as a quick refresher for those who would know recall the sacrifices made under the Law of Moses—it compares and contrasts those practices with the actions of Christ and the sacrificial practices carried out under His New Law.

    In today's reading, Saint Paul writes of the “Tabernacle,” the “Holy of Holies,” that veiled area within another veil where the Jewish High Priest entered but once a year to offer the blood of sacrifice.  This was a tabernacle made by human hands.[1]  In the early years, while wandering in the desert, Holy of Holies was set up within a tent, erected in a sort of stockade fence that could be disassembled and carried wherever Moses and the people went for those forty years.  God was truly there as He guided them through the desert, but the arrangements were purely temporary—yards of homespun linen cloth, and wooden poles and pegs and slats.[2]  The sacrificial victims were equally mundane—chiefly goats and cattle, and a few pigeons or doves for the sacrifices of the poor; wheat flour and cakes.[3]  Eventually, many years later, at Jerusalem, the stockade would be replaced with a building made with cedar wood and cut stones, still very much the work of human hands.[4]  The animal slaughter would continue, a virtual river of blood, yet wholly inadequate to take away the sins of Adam and his descendents.

    In contrast with this ministry of the Temple, Paul tells us that Christ entered as High Priest—not into a finite structure of wood and stone and linen—but into the very Tabernacle of Heaven itself, the worship space before the very throne of God the Father Himself.  And He entered in “not with the blood of goats and bulls and with the sprinkled ashes of a heifer,” but with His own blood—the blood which He shed for the redemption of mankind on the Cross.  The blood He offered was His own—the blood of God and man, for He is truly both, from the time of the overshadowing of the Virgin Mary by the Holy Ghost, until forever in eternity.

    Of similar importance was an adaptation of another practice of the Old Testament.  During the Passover time, all those who could do so would gather in Jerusalem.  Each group of pilgrims would bring a spotless lamb to the Temple to be sacrificed.  They would take the lamb to wherever they were staying and roast it on a fire, and eat it with unleavened bread, and parsley, and bitter herbs, and a few cups of wine.  The narrative read at dinner suggested that:

    This night is different from all other nights [because] once we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord, in His goodness and mercy, brought us forth from that land with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.  [This story] is not ancient, but eternal.... It proclaims man's burning desire to preserve liberty and justice for all.[5]

    On the night before He suffered, our Lord and His Apostles met in the Upper Room where they had prepared the Passover.  They renewed the ancient rite, but before they went out to sing the traditional Hallel Psalms [112 (113)-117 118)], our Lord took the unleavened bread and a cup of the wine, and gave them to His disciples, making them by His words His true flesh and blood, which He had promised to them just the year before—“the living bread which came down from heaven”—without which they “would not have life in [them].”[6] On the night before He suffered, the true Lamb of God gave them not only His body and blood, “which would be poured out for you and for many in forgiveness of sins,” but also the power to do likewise: “do this in memory of Me.”[7]

    Again, something that had been the work of human hands and grounded in an historical event our Lord made heavenly and eternal—“what has been given to us in time shall be our healing in eternity.”[8]  Man, who is normally bound to time and place, can now stand not only at the foot of the Cross, but also before the very throne of God.

    If the Passover of the Jewish people celebrated freedom from bondage in Egypt, and proclaimed liberty and justice, the Cross and Its correlate, the Mass, actually bring freedom from sin—sin, which is the root of all bondage, captivity and injustice.  For worse than any bondage or injustice—worse even than death itself—is the death of the soul to sin—a death that has been conquered by the blood of Christ and His Resurrection.

    Finally, in the Gospel we again see the fulfillment of earthly things in eternity.  At the time of Christ, Abraham would have been roughly two-thousand years old.  To speak of Abraham was to speak of almost absolute antiquity.  To speak of Abraham and the prophets, who were long dead, was an appeal to absolute authority.  Yet in the Gospel, our Lord spoke of Abraham as though he was a “new kid on the block”!  The response was immediate:  “You are not yet fifty years old, yet you have seen Abraham???”  They were probably shocked at our Lord's response, “before Abraham came to be, I Am” [9]

    Now understand that our Lord saying “before Abraham came to be, I Am” was not a case of bad grammar—it was not a mixture of past and present tense—it was a claim to divinity!  The Jews fully understood that one of the fundamental aspects of God was His “necessary being”—God was not created, He always existed—for if He had not necessarily and always existed, the creation that depends totally upon Him could never have been created.  “I Am” named the one necessary being who, for those of us who think in terms of created time, always was and always will be.

    The Jews took up stones to cast at Jesus, precisely because He had appropriated the name of God for Himself.  “I Am Who Am” was not simply an attribute, but the actual name by which God had revealed Himself to Moses in the Old Testament.  In the Book of Exodus, when God sent Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses asked how he would identify God to them.  And God's answer was “I Am Who Am”—tell them “He Who Is has sent me to you.”[10]  In words unmistakable to the Jews, Jesus was proclaiming Himself to be the Son of God.  It was now up to them to accept or reject Him.  The picking up of stones to cast at Him was a bad start.  We will learn much more as we see the events of the Gospels play out during the next two weeks.

    It has been my custom not to preach on Palm Sunday; which will fall next week.  We will read about our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, His Last Supper, His Crucifixion and His death.  What I ask is that you pay particular attention to the connection between the Supper and the Cross.  “Take and eat, this is My body which shall be given up for you,” He said, and within a few hours His body was given up to those who sought His life.  “This is My blood of the new covenant which shall be shed for many in remission of sins,” He said, and in a few more hours His blood was shed as He was nailed to the Cross and as His side was pierced with a lance.

    We are dealing here with reality—the reality of Jesus Christ’s Sacrifice and the Bread that we must eat if we are to have eternal life.  I ask you to spend as much time as you can in re-living these events with us during the coming weeks.



[1]  Epistle:  Hebrews ix: 11-15,

[2]  Leviticus i - viii, thru

[3]  Exodus xxvi,

[4]  3 Kings 5 & 6,

[5]  Haggadah, the four questions.  (A modern text, not necessarily identical with that used at the time of Christ.)

[6]  John vi toward the end,

[7]  Mathew 26,;  Mark xiv,,  Luke xxii,

[8]  Purification prayer after Holy Communion, Quod ore súmpsimus.

[9]  Gospel: John viii: 46-59,

[10]  Exodus iii: 14,


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