Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pause for Prayer: WEDNESDAY 4/16

Wednesday of Holy Week is sometimes called Spy Wednesday because the gospel for this day's Mass relates how Judas (the "spy") conspired to betray Christ and hand him over to the authorities for thirty pieces of silver.

This is a longer-than-usual daily prayer post: it includes a scripture, a brief reflection, a haunting song (not to be missed!) and a regular Pause for Prayer.  It's Holy Week - take the few extra minutes this post asks of you and offer that time as prayer to God...
Scripture: Judas the spy, the betrayer...
One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over...

When it was evening, Jesus reclined at table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, “Surely it is not I, Lord?” He said in reply, “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.”  Matthew 26:14


How has betrayal played out in your life?  Have you ever been betrayed?  Is there someone you've betrayed? Have you been accused of betrayal? What wound, what scars has betrayal left in your life, in the lives of those around you?
Benedictine priest Aidan Kavanagh used to speak of Holy Thursday and the Last Supper as "the night in which Jesus was betrayed by the worst in us all..."   That offers us all a good perspective on Judas' betrayal of Jesus.  It's easy to accuse Judas of betraying Christ - but not so easy to accuse ourselves.

On the night Christ was betrayed, Judas stood in for all of us who have betrayed God's love and our neighbor's love.

Innocent and without sin, Jesus then carried on his shoulders and suffered in his wounds the burden of our betrayal...
   Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us! 


Here's a very contemporary setting of the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) by Rufus Wainwright. The opening sounds drill into our hearts and the depths of our betrayals. But that's also where God's mercy meets us: right in our sinfulness, where we most need his healing love and the gift of his peace. This song might help us image Judas plotting against Jesus and help us look more honestly at our own betrayals. But the wrenching music doesn't leave us in Judas' despair or our own remorse - it moves us beyond to the consolation of the One who takes our sins away, and finally, the piece resolves in great peace: dona nobis pacem...

Agnus Dei by Rufus Wainwright on Grooveshark

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: miserere nobis.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world:
    have mercy on us.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: miserere nobis.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world:
   have mercy on us.  
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: dona nobis pacem.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world:
    grant us peace.

Pause for Prayer...

With the light of your truth, Lord, open my heart
   and help me be honest in seeing how I've betrayed you...
how I've betrayed your love...
how I've taken you and your mercy for granted...
how I've presumed upon your forgiveness...
how I've betrayed you in thought, word and deed,
   out of loyalty to the crowd, the custom, the fad...

With the light of your truth, Lord, open my heart
   and help me be honest in seeing
how I've betrayed the people around me, family and friends...
how I've betrayed others at work, at school, and in my community...
how I've betrayed the poor and hungry with my greed and gluttony...
how I've betrayed the truth with my lies and cheating...  
how I've betrayed others with gossip and half-truths...

With the light of your truth, Lord, open my heart
   and help me be honest in seeing how I've betrayed myself...
how I've been dishonest with and about the person 
   you made me to be...
how I've betrayed my given word, my promises, my vows...
how I've betrayed the best in me by choosing the cheap and tawdry...
how I've betrayed your image within me,
   the divine image in which you created me... 

With the light of your truth, Lord, open my heart
   and help me be honest in seeing how, with Judas, 
I betray you and hand you over
   for money, for prestige, in fear, out of pride,
      in selfishness and presumption,
        in my vain efforts to win the praise of others...

Help me forgive those who have betrayed me, Lord:
   forgive me my betrayals
   as I forgive those who have betrayed me...

Help me stand in the light of your truth, Lord, 
   acknowledging my sins, my unfaithfulness
         and my need for your mercy and pardon...


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Monday, April 14, 2014

Pause for Prayer: TUESDAY 4/15

This week is all about your mercy, Lord:
   about how much we need it,
   how our hearts long for your pardon,
   for the peace you make with all of us,
      time and time again...

This week is all about your love, Lord:
   about how much we need it,
   how we take it so for granted,
   how your kindness mends and heals us,
      time and time again...  

This week is all about new life, Lord:
   about how much we need it,
   how we thirst for new beginnings
   and for you to rise in each of us,
      time and time again...

Help us walk this week with you, Lord:
   to your mercy, love and life,
   to Easter's hope and joy,
   to the promise of the peace you offer,
      time and time again...


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Happy Passover!

I pray a happy Passover for our Jewish brothers and sisters!

In the United States, Passover begins today at sundown and will end at sundown on  Tuesday, April 22.

For a quick overview of Passover, take a look here.

Over at  To Bend Light, Alden Solovy offers us some beautiful Passover prayers which I heartily commend to your attention and your own prayer and I take this opportunity to wish Alden and his family and friends a happy and healthy Passover. 

Catholic Christians keep their celebration of Passover in the Paschal Triduum which begins at sundown this Thursday, April 17, with the celebration of the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper and ends at sundown on Easter Sunday, April 20.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Monday Morning Offering: 4/14

Image: George Mendoza

Good morning, good God! 

And so it has begun, Lord:
the week we call Holy...

I've read how theologians debate 
whether time itself, or any unit of time, 
can actually be or become holy -
but I'll leave that to the scholars, Lord,
and simply wonder here
about my being holy
or growing in holiness in the week ahead... 

(Why are we afraid of the word - holy?
We all want to be strong, healthy, wise, just,
honest, fair, loving, prayerful, faithful,
kind, forgiving and compassionate - 
why do we shy away from wanting to be holy?
Could it be we just don't understand holiness?) 

I know that I can be holy, Lord,
and I certainly know I can be holier 
than I am right now… 

Just how holy do I want to be, Lord?

I want to be holy enough
to stand before you
without shame or embarrassment…

I want to be holy enough
to know that I've helped the poor
- and generously so…

I want to be holy enough
to know that my intentions and desires,
my dreams and schemes,
are just, pure and honest...

I want to be holy enough
to love you with a heart cleansed
of selfishness and pride…

I want to be holy enough
to recognize my lack of holiness
and to ask the help of your grace
whenever and wherever I need it...

Just four days left* in Lent, Lord: 
four more chances to be holy 
in this season of praying, fasting
and serving the needs of others...

I have four days to be more faithful to prayer,
morning or night or in between, 
or whenever you and I can sit down 
and just have a chat, one-on-one, 
just the two of us, Lord... 

I have four days to deny myself 
some taste or sip, some pleasure or toy 
and discover the hunger self-denial leaves in me,
that empty space in which to wonder 
how I might better fill and feed the void... 

I have four days to care for the poor, 
to give to the poor, to be with the poor, 
to work for the poor,
to discover how rich I am and learn to share
with those who have real needs...

There are four days for one such as I 
(who has more than I need) 
to be grateful for my abundance 
and think on how I might share it...

Four days left in Lent, Lord, 
and then three days of prayer so holy 
they are but one-day-in-three: 
the Triduum...

Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter… 

Three days inviting me
to enter into the mystery of all mysteries, 
the paschal mystery of Jesus... 

Three days to remember with the whole Church 
how Jesus suffered, died, was buried and rose 
that we might have life and have it to the full... 

Three days that will not come 'round again 
until a year from now, 
three days that promise me more 
than I could ever hope to promise in return... 

So, I ask you this week, Lord,
to make me at least a little more holy
than I have been...

I offer you this week
and ask you to come to me in prayer, 
to fill my loneliness with your presence, 
to draw me out of my self-contentment 
to serve the needs of any
who wait for my assistance... 

I offer you this holy week 
and pray you keep me faithful to all it offers: 
the promise of a life, a depth, a gift of peace 
greater than all my hurts and fears... 

I offer you this week, Lord:
make me holy, day by day...

And open my heart to all 
whose paths cross mine in these holy days: 
together, help us come into your presence 
and be made one in your peace...


*Lent ends at sundown on Thursday of Holy Week. With the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper, the Triduum begins. The Triduum ends with Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday night.


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Palm Sunday at Holy Family Parish

Dupont Media World

As we've done for a number of years on Palm Sunday, at two of our Masses this weekend we proclaimed the gospel of the Passion in this way: two lectors shared the narration; the group parts were voiced by a readers' chorus of 16 high school students (some of whom voiced Peter, Pilate, witnesses, etc.); and I took the part of Jesus. 

Dupont Media World

In the photo above you see the readers just after "Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit."  Rehearsing for this with the young people was a unique catechetical opportunity and their ministry this morning rendered a great service to so many in our parish.  I've already heard from many parishioners how much it meant for them to hear this gospel through the presence and voices of the young Catholics among us.

Dupont Media World


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Homily for Palm Sunday 2014

Image source

Homily for Palm Sunday
(Scriptures for today's Mass)
(After the proclamation of the lengthy gospel of the Passion, the Church suggests a brief homily.  My Palm Sunday homily is usually a variation on today's: brief, scripture based, offering "food for prayer" for the week ahead...)
Although it's at the very heart of our faith,
the story of the suffering and death of Jesus
is recounted in its entirety only twice a year,
and then in the same week,
on Palm Sunday and Good Friday.

Though we hear this story infrequently,
its characters, words and images are vivid in our imagination.

Particular words and phrases
have embedded themselves in our memory and in our hearts,
evoking repentance and prayer...

Don't these words echo in a place deep in your soul? 

Words like:

“One of you will betray me..."

“Surely, it is not I, Lord?”

"This very night before the cock crows
you will deny three times 

that you know me..."

"Father, if it is possible,

let this cup pass from me;
yet, not as I will but as you will…
“Stay here and keep watch with me for an hour...

“The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak…”

"I do not know the man..."

Peter went out and wept bitterly...
They stripped him,
put a crown of thorns on his head
and spat upon him…

"Crucify him! Crucify him!"

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

He cried out in a loud voice

and gave up his spirit…

“Truly, this was the Son of God…”

Any of these phrases and the images they call forth
would be good food for prayer in the days ahead...

We enter the Week we call holy
when Christians around the world pause to remember and celebarte
the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.

May the story of his suffering and death
refresh our faith in his loved poured out for us...

May the words of Jesus' passion,
embedded in our hearts,
bring us his mercy
and lead us to the peace of Easter...


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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Pause for Prayer: PALM SUNDAY 4/13

Hosanna to the Son of David;
blessed is he who comes

in the name of the Lord,

the King of Israel.

Hosanna in the highest!

Though our worship today will lead to the gospel of the suffering and death of Christ echoing in our hearts, it will begin with blessing and waving palm brances and singing Hosanna!

Even here, on the first day of Holy Week, there's room for joy in Lent...

Here are two very different presentations of the Hosannas sung as Jesus entered Jerusalem.  The first (above) is from Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) and the second (below) is an Orlando Gibbons 16th century composition, sung by Chanticleer.

Whichever suits you, pause in praise with the music and rejoice - as we enter the Week we call Holy...


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Friday, April 11, 2014

Pause for Prayer: SATURDAY 4/12

Suppose the Lord were waiting in the next room:
   waiting to spend some time with you,
      waiting to listen to you

         waiting to speak with you...

Well, he's not in the next room:
   he's much closer than that...

He's already in your heart:
   you don't even have to move
      to spend time with him, to speak to him,
        to listen for what he might say to you...

Lord, slow me down, close my eyes
    and open my heart to your presence...
You're here, by my side, waiting to spend time with me,
    waiting to listen to me,
       waiting to speak your peace in my heart...

Lord, be with me
    and hear my prayer:
       right here, right now...


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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Pause for Prayer: FRIDAY 4/11

Who won't need some joy today? 

I know I will...

So, give me a heads-up, Lord,
when sometime today I might bring joy
to others on my path...

Draw me out of myself
and open my heart
to joy that others offer me today...

And most of all, Lord, open my soul
to the joy of your peace
around and within me, today and every day...



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Word for the Weekend: PALM SUNDAY

Image by RuthAlice

Palm Sunday is the first day of Holy Week and is one of only two days on the church calendar when we proclaim and hear the complete story of the passion and death of Jesus. 

You can find the scriptures for Palm Sunday and background material on them here . Got kids? Material to help children prepare to hear the Word on Palm Sunday can be found here. 

The entrance rite for Palm Sunday offers several options and so it's possible that the Mass you attend may begin with a proclamation of the gospel of Christ's entry into Jerusalem. This will take place at Masses including a special Palm Sunday procession. 

Yes, the proclamation of the gospel this weekend is much longer than usual and you might hear some grumbling about that. But this is a story Christians need to hear: it tells the depths of Jesus' love for each of us and for all of us...

Without the story of Christ's suffering and death there is no story of Easter joy and peace... 

Spend some time with all of the readings, especially the gospel. You might find it helpful as your read it to imagine yourself as one or several of the characters and ponder: 
     what if I had been one of the apostles? 
     what if I had been one of the priests or scribes? 
     what if I had been Pilate? or Judas? or Peter? 
          or one of the bystanders in the courtyard with Peter?
     what if I had been the centurion at the foot of the Cross? 
     what if I had been one of the women at the foot of the Cross?
     what if I had been Jesus? 
At one time or another in our lives, we are all of these... 
     who am I, who are you in this Week we call Holy?  


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