Friday of Week Five of Lent
LENTEN EVENING REFLECTION ON THE READINGS OF THE DAY
(Friday of Week Five of Lent)
Br. Brillis Mathew
Dear brothers and sisters,
Our lives are a
from the moment of our conception till we meet our Lord in Heaven. We are
, irrespective of whether we are aware of this reality or not. Even during this particular period, when we are “stuck” in our homes, we are moving gently towards our final goal. The Word of God, the Sacraments, and the daily Liturgy of the Church are all helping us to move along this journey so that we may meet our Lord in Heaven. The famous words of St. Augustine beautifully recount the movement of the human heart in its search for ultimate fulfilment:
“Our heart will be restless until we rest in Thee.”
All of us may have experienced this “restlessness” which characterizes our hidden and sincere desire to find Christ, even when we look for Him amongst created things which bear some impressions of His truth, goodness and beauty.
Let me invite your attention to the words of the Opening Prayer of the Mass of today:
O God, who in this season
give your Church the grace
to imitate devoutly the Blessed Virgin Mary
in contemplating the Passion of Christ,
grant, we pray, through her intercession,
that we may cling more firmly each day
to your Only Begotten Son
and come at last to the fullness of his grace.
For our reflection, I would like to focus on the words,
“imitating the Blessed Virgin Mary in contemplating the Passion of Christ”.
In just two days, we will enter into Holy Week, and the days of our Lord’s Passion. How can we contemplate the Passion of Christ, and even more so, in the particular context of the difficult time we are now living, without remembering our Blessed Mother, who was the very first to follow and accompany our Lord Jesus in all His trials? Quite recently, Pope Francis spoke about all the sorrows which our Blessed Mother had to endure during her own earthly journey.
We find the first of the sorrows of our Blessed Mother recounted in the passage which tells us of
the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple
. Simeon, filled with the Holy Spirit, took the Divine Infant in his arms, gave thanks to God and blessed the parents; then turning to Mary, he said
‘Look, he is destined for the fall and for the rise of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is opposed
and a sword will pierce your soul too
so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.’
(Luke 2:34-35) Mary’s tender heart must have undoubtedly shuddered at the words,
“This child is destined to be opposed”
– these are words which no mother would like to hear! But from the very first moments of her Son’s life, Mary was to be painfully acquainted with the hostility Her Son was to endure all through his life. However, all her life, amidst all her own sorrows and trials, Mary suffered silently, joyfully, even enthusiastically; and she followed Jesus with great courage.
In first chapter of Luke, we read that Mary, as a young virgin, was visited by the Angel who announced to her the great plan of God. Some saints have said that Mary, as she grew, desired earnestly to be only
the servant of the mother of the Messiah.
In a certain sense, she had thus, with this desire, already started to follow the Son of God even before she was privileged to carry Him within her womb. After the revelation of the Divine plan at the Annunciation, the very next verse (Luke 1:39) recounts to us that Mary never even for a moment sat on her laurels or thought about herself, but on the other hand journeyed
“as quickly as she could”
to visit her cousin Elizabeth. In this verse, we also encounter a manifestation of
, which expresses itself by being more and more thoughtful about others, and thinking less and less of oneself. Let us lay this in contrast this with our own lives: is it not true that sometimes, in our own lives, we can be so engrossed in ourselves and become so self-centered that most our thoughts revolves only around the words, “I”, “Me” and “Myself”?
Mary’s whole life, on the other hand, shows us a different path: for Mary, what was of prime importance was not her own preferences: for her what was important was to
at all costs; she became the first, true disciple of Her own Son. Mary received many titles, and some of them were conferred on her during her earthly life: she became the “Mother of God” and “Mother of the Church”. However, these titles did not define her life; for her what was important was to follow Jesus till the very end of her earthly pilgrimage.
Probably this Lenten period is an excellent opportunity for us to rediscover this important aspect of starting
to follow Jesus
faithfully like Mary, every day of our lives. The more we reflect on her life of perfect discipleship, the more it becomes clear to us that it is almost impossible for us to follow Jesus without keeping in front of our eyes the example of the Mother of Jesus. Even for Jesus, the support of His Mother which came to Him so powerfully during the Way of the Cross, was essential in enabling Him to fulfil the Father’s Will to the very end. Let us also seek Her powerful support in our own life’s journey in the midst of all our sufferings and trials.
Let us now turn our attention back to the Holy Family. The Gospel of Matthew recounts for us how the parents of Jesus had to take a quick decision to flee to Egypt in order to save their Child’s life:
After they had left, suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother with you, and escape into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, because Herod intends to search for the child and do away with him.’
” (Matthew 2:13-14)
From the Scriptures, we can infer that Joseph and Mary were probably not very well off; neither do we read that God the Father provided them with the blessing of comforts and riches. On the other hand, the poor migrant parents probably must have fled from town to town till they reached the safe haven of Egypt. Let us now try to connect our own lives with that of the life of the Holy Family. Our fathers, our mothers, and sometimes, even we ourselves, all have to go through a good amount of struggles and difficulties – we too have to carry our cross. It can even happen that this cross is “forced” upon us and we have to carry it unwillingly.
As they were leading him away they seized on a man, Simon from Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and made him shoulder the cross and carry it behind Jesus.
We too may be like Simon of Cyrene, who is said to have carried it unwillingly at first, however, soon it became a privilege for him to carry the Cross of the Saviour of the world. I remember the words spoken by the father of one of my close friends who is a priest,
“Son, if you haven’t suffered, you haven’t lived!”
We can immediately distinguish persons who have been through the crucible of suffering – these are the persons who are filled with conviction and live without fear. Let us remember Mother Teresa of Calcutta who left the comfortable environment of her Convent with the Sisters of Loreto with just five rupees in her hand. Later, after many years, when she had to travel to New York to open a convent for her sisters in Manhattan, the then Cardinal of New York was very anxious to give her sisters a monthly maintenance. Mother Teresa looked at him, and with a smile, gently remarked, “
Your Eminence, I don’t think God is going to become bankrupt in New York city.”
Words of great faith! Struggles and difficulties, dear brothers and sisters, are therefore, a necessary part of our lives, helping to forge our identity and consequently impart meaning to our lives.
Let us also turn our attention to the figure of St. Joseph:
So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, left that night for Egypt,
where he stayed until Herod was dead.
” (Matthew 2:15)
St. Joseph is presented to us a silent man of action, who never complained or raised his voice. He never looked for anyone’s sympathy; neither did he, in today’s language, approach any
but rather he courageously moved forward in the path he was asked to follow. During the time of the public ministry of Jesus, it is not by chance that the unassuming Joseph is mentioned as
a nameless carpenter
by the citizens of Nazareth (Matthew 13:55). However, the life of Joseph, falling
like a drop of water in the ocean
, though seemingly lost and unknown amongst the countless numbers that passed by, was a precious pearl in the eyes of God, having been
a life lived fully for Christ
. This, dear brothers and sisters, is the
true spiritual journey
that all of us are called to undertake. We read that Joseph
“left that very night”
for Egypt. This is
the true missionary spirit
, that is on a constant journey, travelling to and fro, without minding inconveniences, for the sake of Christ. Let us therefore, imitating St. Joseph, move forward without complaints when we are asked to do so by the Lord!
The parents of Jesus appear for the final time together in the Gospel when they lost the Child Jesus for three days:
When they failed to find him they went back to Jerusalem looking for him everywhere. It happened that, three days later, they found him in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them, and asking them questions; and all those who heard him were astounded at his intelligence and his replies. They were overcome when they saw him, and his mother said to him, ‘My child, why have you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.’
” (Luke 2:45-48)
The words that Mary spoke to the Child Jesus fully express the great agony of heart she and Joseph underwent:
See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.
” (Luke 2:48)
This same worry is the worry that Mary has while
she still searches for each disciple of Christ when he or she is lost,
a worry that we are often, sadly, unable to realise and understand!
Our Blessed Mother again reappears on the Way of the Cross to strengthen Her Son on his journey to the Cross. How difficult this painful meeting must have been for those two hearts, full of
the purest love!
Her final appearance in the Gospels is at the foot of the Cross, where she stands, accompanying Her Son during His last moments on earth.
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, this is your son.’ Then to the disciple he said, ‘This is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
fter this, Jesus knew that everything had now been completed and, so that the scripture should be completely fulfilled, he said: I am thirsty.
” (John 19:25-28)
Brothers and sisters, as we are now very near to the Holy Week of the Lord’s Passion, let us answer the invitation proposed by the Liturgy of the day to journey closely with our Blessed Mother, who loves each disciple of Christ with a special and tender love. We have seen that she is the loving Mother who never fails to intercede and accompany all of us in our life’s journey. Anticipating and recognizing our needs – be they personal, or those of the times, she approaches her Divine Son with an earnest and faith-filled request for help on our behalf which wins a favourable hearing from Jesus:
And they ran out of wine, since the wine provided for the feast had all been used, and the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’
” (John 2:3)
In spirit, brothers and sisters, especially during the moments of our difficulties, I invite you all to journey to the home of Mary at Nazareth: there we will encounter the Heart of the Blessed Mother, Her Immaculate Heart which so full of love, a Heart that ponders deeply on the Word of God and offers a shelter and welcome place for us all, refreshing us on our journey towards the Lord!
John E. John
on Friday, April 3 at 5:21PM