31 March 2012

Parish Announcements for Sunday, April 1st 2012

Palm Sunday

  • Morning Mass on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday will be at 10am as usual. Tuesday Mass is offered for the sick of the parish.
  • The Mass of the Chrism will take place in Galway Cathedral on Holy Thursday, April 5th 2012 at 11am. The priests of the diocese will gather around Bishop Martin Drennan to concelebrate the Mass. It is a chance to support and pray for the priests. The Holy Oils for use in the sacraments throughout the diocese  during the year ahead will be blessed at this Mass.
  • Easter Triduum times in Sacred Heart Church:
         Holy Thursday: Mass of the Lord's Supper - 8pm
                                 Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at Altar of Repose after until 11pm

         Good Friday: Celebration of the Lord's Passion - 3pm
                             Stations of the Cross - 8pm

         Holy Saturday: The Easter Vigil - 8pm

         Easter Sunday: Masses at 9.30am, 11.00am and 12.15pm
                                 No evening Mass on Easter Sunday

  • Confession times during the Triduum:
           Holy Thursday: 9pm - 10pm
           Good Friday: 4pm - 5pm
           Holy Saturday: 6pm - 7pm
  • There will be a preparation meeting for the Holy Week ceremonies next Wednesday evening, April 4th 2012 at 8pm in the Church meeting room. All who have been involved in previous years and anybody else, young or old, who would like to be involved, please come to this meeting.
  • The Easter offering envelopes for the priests of the parish are available at the doors of the Church.
  • Please pray for those who have died recently:
           - Martin Joe Whelan, Coogan Park and Tulach Ard
           - Maureen Fahy, Corrib Park
           - Cyril Quinn, late of College Road, who died in New York
           - Sean (John) Higgins, Corrib Park. (See funeral arrangements in post below.)

Funeral of Seán (John) Higgins, RIP, Corrib Park

Reposing at O'Flaherty's Funeral Parlour, Munster Avenue, this Sunday, April 1st 2012 from 5pm with removal to Sacred Heart Church at 7.30pm. Funeral Mass on Monday at 11am. Burial after in Rahoon Cemetery.

Eternal rest, grant to him, oh Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

30 March 2012

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York explains Holy Week

Palm Sunday: World Youth Day

The World Youth Day cross in St Peter's Square on Palm Sunday

World Youth Day actually occurs annually. When it's not a year of one of the big WYD celebrations in a world location outside Rome, World Youth Day is held in a more low-key way on Palm Sunday and the focal point is the Mass in St Peter's Square, celebrated by the Pope. These annual World Youth Days are counted in the numbering of the WYDs and that's how last Summer's WYD in Madrid was the XXVI World Youth Day.
So we pray for all young people this Palm Sunday, that they may rejoice in the Lord always.
To read the Message of Pope Benedict XVI for the XXVII World Youth day, Palm Sunday, 1st April 2012, click here.

29 March 2012

Irish Bishops' Pastoral Letter for Lent 2012

The Pastoral Letter of the Irish Catholic Bishop's Conference for Lent 2012 is about repentance. The reflections spring from a reading of the temptations of Jesus in the desert in St Matthew's Gospel (4:1-10). This letter is a very worthwhile read. It situates penance in the context of our need for continual conversion and the situation of our own time.
To read the letter, click here.

Funeral of Maureen Fahy, RIP, Corrib Park

Removal from O'Flaherty's Funeral Parlour, Munster Avenue, on Friday, March 30th 2012 at 6.30pm to Sacred Heart Church. Funeral Mass on Saturday at 11.00am.

May perpetual light shine upon her.

The Eucharistic Congress: Have a look at what's happening.

28 March 2012

Pope's visit to Cuba comes to an end

Pope Benedict XVI was very warmly received in Cuba, and he was able to call for religious freedom, while acknowledging progress being made.
Here is a report on the final Mass:

Thanks to all who came along to Catholicism Series screenings during Lent

Fr Robert Barron during filming of the Catholicism Series
Our Lenten screenings of the Catholicism Project with Fr Robert Barron came to an end this evening with the episode on Prayer. Thanks to all who came along during these weeks, and to those who helped in practical ways on the evenings too.
Congratulations to Fr Barron and all who were involved in the production of this series. It provides excellent catechesis in a very attractive form.

27 March 2012

Our Final Catholicism Series Screening this Wednesday: Prayer

Sacred Heart Church, Wednesday March 28th 2012 @8.15pm

Here is another preview of this week's episode:

Prayer is the raising of the heart and the mind to God. In this episode, entitled 'The Fire of His Love: Prayer and the life of the Spirit', Fr Robert Barron discusses the spiritual life. He concentrates on three great masters of the spiritual life, Thomas Merton, Saint John of the Cross, and Saint Teresa of Avila. He takes us to visit the places associated with them and so we find ourselves in Kentucky, USA, Segovia, Spain and Avila, Spain, as well as Paris, Lourdes, and Rome.
This is the last of our screenings. You are warmly welcome even if you did not get to any of our previous screenings, as each episode can be viewed without depending on the others.

Funeral of Martin Joseph (Joe) Whelan, RIP, Tulach Árd

Reposing at O'Flaherty's Funeral Parlour, Munster Avenue, this Tuesday, March 27th 2012 from 6.45pm with removal at 7.30pm to Sacred Heart Church. Funeral Mass on Wednesday at 11.00am. Burial after in Rahoon Cemetery.

May the Divine Assistance remain always with us and may the souls of the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

A Spring morning outside Sacred Heart Church

Pope Benedict XVI now in Cuba

After a very successful visit to Mexico, Pope Benedict has now moved on to Cuba. For a taste of this visit, see this video report:

Money Management, Budgeting and Cooking Course

Vernice Murray of the Westside Resource Centre recommends this course for anybody interested in making money go further in the current economic climate. She says that the advice on cooking should be particularly helpful and is an attractive dimension of this course.

24 March 2012

Catholicism Series this coming Wednesday: Prayer

This coming Wednesday, March 28th 2012, at 8.15pm we will have our final Lenten screening of the Catholicism Series with Fr Robert Barron at Sacred Heart Church. The topic of this episode with be Prayer. Here is a clip from the episode:


In this episode, Father Barron explores Catholic spirituality, which is centered on prayer. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Prayer is the lifting up of the mind and the heart to God.” On pilgrimage to the places where the great saints and spiritual masters lived, Father Barron explores the different types of prayer: contemplation; adoration; petition; and intercession. In telling the stories of Catholics like Thomas Merton, St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, Fr. Barron demonstrates how the human person can be transformed through prayer that manifests a deep, spiritual commitment centered in Christ.

Rapturous welcome for Pope Benedict in Mexico

The people of Mexico have been giving Pope Benedict XVI a very warm welcome in their country. For a taste of the visit so far, see this clip of the Pope's arrival in Mexico.

Parish Announcements for Sunday, March 25th 2012

5th Sunday of Lent
Bishop Martin Drennan's theme in preparation for the Eucharistic Congress for this Sunday is 'the power of the Eucharist to renew our joy and out hope.'
  • As announced, the special collection for Trocaire will be taken up along with the offertory collection at all the Masses of this Sunday. This collection is to allow those not using a Trocaire box at home to make a Lenten contribution to Trocaire.
  • Next Sunday, April 1st 2012, is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week.
  • This coming Wednesday, March 28th, at 8.15pm we will have our final screening of the Catholicism series with Fr Robert Barron here at Sacred Heart Church. The topic will be Prayer. All welcome. See post above.
  • The Easter Offering Envelopes which provide for the priests of the parish are available at the Church doors. They can be returned to the Church during the Sundays of April or May.
  • The clocks go forward by one hour tonight (Sat-Sun, March 24th-25th 2012). See post below.
  • We pray for the soul of the late Peter Cullen, Inishannagh Park, whose funeral took place in St Mary's Church, The Claddagh, during the week.

Clocks change tonight: 'Spring forward'

Clocks go forward by one hour tonight, Saturday-Sunday, March 24th-25th 2012. 'Spring forward, fall back,' as the saying goes to help us remember which direction to change the clock at the two changing points of the year.

Meanwhile, Spring is in the air around the parish:

Spring time at Rockfield Park

Jesus' Life as told through Twitter

Here's a nice video going around the internet at the moment:

23 March 2012

Pope Benedict now in Irish Air-space

Pope Benedict XVI is on his way to Mexico and his journey involves passing over Ireland. It is customary for him to send a telegram of greeting to the Head of State of each country over which he passes, and so here is the telegram he has sent to President Michael D. Higgins:


Mass intentions for the week ahead 25th March 2012

Saturday 24th March
Vigil Mass   6.30 pm  Dudley Molloy and 2. John and Kathleen Walsh and Alice Dunphy
                                  Pray also for Fr. Billy Pilkington and Jack Nestor

Sunday 25th March
9.30 am  John and Sarah Sullivan and deceased members of the family
11am      Phil and Elizabeth Higgins and deceased members of the Higgins family
               and Willie and Elizabeth Trill and deceased members of Trill family.
12.15 pm  Kevin Hunt
6.30 pm    Stephen Conway and deceased members of Conway and Murphy family

Monday 26th March 
10am  Joan and Dolly McInerney and deceased members of the family
Tuesday 27th March
10am  For all the Sick and 2. Edward Haverty Moore
Wednesday 28th March
10am  Anne Doherty
Thursday 29th March
10am  1. Bridie Whelan and 2. Colman Sweeney
Friday 30th March
10am  Keith McCaldin

Saturday 31st March
Vigil Mass     6.30 pm     Sr. Catherine Burke

Sunday 1st April
9.30 am         Intention free
11am       1.  Winifred and Philip O'Gorman
                2.  Thomas and Ellen Forde and Valeria Healy
12.15 pm       Delia Donohue and 2.  Liam Keane
6.30 pm         Stuart Murphy

22 March 2012

Pope Benedict XVI to visit Mexico and Cuba

Pope Benedict XVI will arrive in Mexico this Friday, March 23rd 2012, visiting there until Monday when he will move on to Cuba, where he will stay until next Wednesday. For details of EWTN's coverage of the visit, click here.

21 March 2012

Saints Screening was a Moving Occasion

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta with Blessed Pope John Paul II

Our screening of Fr Robert Barron's Catholicism Series episode on the Saints was the most touching. Some were in tears as Fr Barron told the life stories of St Katharine Drexel, St Thérèse of Lisieux, St Edith Stein and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

Next Wednesday, March 28th 2012, at 8.15pm, we will have our final screening, and the topic will be Prayer.

Vocations to Priesthood in the Galway Diocese

Of course anybody with queries about a priestly or religious vocation is welcome to chat with Fr Malachy or Fr Hugh about it, and hopefully we can help point you in the right direction.

Console Speaker at Pastoral Centre

Galway Diocesan Pastoral Centre, Newtownsmith: Series of Monthly talks continues on Tuesday 3rd April at 7:30p.m with special guest speaker Ms. Marie Whyte (Counsellor with Console - Suicide Bereavement Support Group). Marie will share some thoughts and reflections on the whole area of bereavement following a suicide. This opportunity will provide those who have been bereaved with a space to come together, learn, share and gain support.

20 March 2012

This Wednesday: Catholicism Series - The Saints

You are invited to our screening of The Catholicism Series with Fr Robert Barron here at Sacred Heart Church this Wednesday, March 21st 2012 at 8.15pm.

Here is a different preview of this week's episode:

What is a Saint? How can we become Saints? Fr Robert Barron explores Sainthood. He visits the places associated with the lives of three Saints and one Blessed in order to tell their stories:

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Saint Katharine Drexel

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

St Thérèse of Lisieux

Trócaire Message for 5th Sunday of Lent

“I shall make an everlasting covenant with them, never to cease in my efforts for their welfare...” Jeremiah 32:40. 

This fifth Sunday in Lent we are urged to make a covenant with the people of Bar Kawach in northern Uganda as they rebuild their lives with Trocaire’s support. We offer this community, and many others in the world’s poorest countries, our solidarity. Even though we may never meet them let us be assured that the seed of hope we plant will change lives for the better. For more information on the Lenten campaign visit www.trocaire.org/lent or call 1850 408 408.

Summary of Apostolic Visitation Findings Published

Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottowa, one of the Visitators, climbed Croagh Patrick with Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam at the time of the Visitation in March 2011.

A press conference was held in Maynooth today, at which a summary of the findings of the Apostolic Visitation of the four Irish Archdioceses, the religious, and the seminaries, was presented by Archbishop Charles Brown, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, and Sr Marianne O'Connor, the Director General of CORI.
You can read this summary by clicking on this link.
We pray that this will be an important step along the road to renewal of the Church in Ireland and that we can all be generous in embracing the recommendations contained in the report.

17 March 2012

Catholicism Series on Wednesday: The Saints

Clip from this week's episode:

Sacred Heart Church, Wednesday March 21st @ 8.15pm


The story of the Church is told in the examples of those men and women who dedicated their lives to knowing and serving Jesus Christ. The Catholic Faith is made visible in real human lives.
Father Barron gives consideration to some of the Church’s greatest heroes, and demonstrates how their extraordinary examples display both the passion and creative potential of the Catholic Church. Highlighting Saint Katharine Drexel, Saint Therese of Lisieux, Saint Edith Stein, and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Father Barron tells the story of the Church as a vast company of witness who are called by Christ to be a Communion of Saints.

Galway Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes 2012

Date:    July 1st - 6th
Led by: Bishop Martin Drennan
Full Fare: €697
Special arrangements and accommodation will be provided for those with special needs near the Grotto at a special rate of €585.
For more information about this facility, contact Fr. Martin Moran, Killannin, Rosscahill, Co. Galway.  Tel. 091-550106
Booking and enquiries to the Pilgrimage Travel Agent: Fahy Travel Ltd, 3 Bridge Street, Galway.  Tel 091-594744/594747.

Parish Announcements for Sunday, March 18th 2012

4th Sunday of Lent

  • Morning Prayer from the Divine Office is recited at 9.50am before the weekday morning Masses, Monday to Friday during Lent. Come along to pray the Psalms in union with the Church throughout the world.
  • This coming Wednesday, March 21st 2012, at 8.15pm, at Sacred Heart Church, we will have our next screening of the Catholicism Series with Fr Robert Barron. This weeks episode will be on the Saints. All welcome. See post above for details and clip.
  • The Lenten collection for Trocaire, for those not using the Trocaire boxes, will be taken up at all Masses next Sunday, March 25th 2012.
  • The boxes of weekly offertory collection envelopes are available in the sacristy for anybody who would like to make the weekly offertory contributions in this way.
  • We pray for Declan Folan, who has died in London, formerly of Davis Road, brother of Mickey Folan, Davis Road. Declan's funeral will take place in London this coming week.

16 March 2012

Happy St Patrick's Day to all Sacred Heart Parishioners and Friends

Sheena Darcy of the Eucharistic Congress preparation team presents shamrock
to Pope Benedict XVI at the General Audience in St Peter's Square on Wednesday

Mass Times at Sacred Heart Church for St Patrick's Day 2012:
Vigil Mass: Friday evening, 6.30pm
Saturday: 9.30am, 11.00am and 12.15pm

6.30pm Mass Saturday evening is the Vigil for Sunday. Masses on Sunday same as normal schedule.

Mass intentions for the week ahead 18th March 2012

Saturday 17th March   St Patrick's Day
                      9.30 am   Intention free
                    11am         Michael 'Mick' Caulfield
                    12.15pm    Michael Dinnen  (Months Mind Mass)
Vigil Mass      6.30 pm   Intention free

Sunday 18th March
9.30 am  Brigid Fitzgerald and Fitzgerald and Hosty families deceased
11am      Maureen Forde
12.15 pm  1.  Thomas Cooney and deceased members of the family and 2. Mary Malee
3.30 pm - 6.30 pm  Indian Community Mass
6.30 pm    Colie Naughton (Months Mind Mass)

Monday 19th March  10am  1. Michael and Bridget Anderson and deceased members
                                            2. Andrew and Mary Keady
Tuesday 20th March   10am  For all the sick and deceased members of Toolan family
Wednesday 21st March   10am  Harry, Pat and Ena Lydon
Thursday 22nd March     10am  Mary and Kevin Doyle
Friday 23rd March          10am Sean Kilraine birthday remembrance

Saturday 24th March
Vigil Mass       6.30 pm Dudley Molloy and 2.  John, Kathleen Walsh and Alice Dunphy.

Sunday 25th March
9.30 am    John and Sarah Sullivan and deceased members of family
11am        Phil and Elizabeth Higgins and deceased members of Higgins family and
                Willie and Elizabeth Trill and deceased members of Trill family.
12.15 pm  Kevin Hunt
6.30 pm    Stephen Conway and deceased members of the Conway and Murphy family.

14 March 2012

St Patrick's Day 2012 Mass Times at Sacred Heart Church

Stained glass window of Saint Patrick in Sacred Heart Church

Vigil Mass: Friday evening at 6.30pm
Masses on Saturday for the Feast: 9.30am, 11.00am & 12.15pm.

6.30pm Mass on Saturday will be the Vigil Mass for Sunday. Usual schedule for Masses on Sunday, March 18th.

Here is a video clip in which Fr Billy Swan tells us about St Patrick and his life and mission:

Roadworks progressing

Photograph taken outside Sacred Heart Church

Reminder: Closing Date for Applications to attend Eucharistic Congress final Mass is March 16th

Pope Benedict XVI rang the Eucharistic Congress Bell
before the General Audience in St Peter's Square, Rome, on Wednesday

This Friday, March 16th 2012 is the closing date for the application for tickets for attendance at the final Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress in Croke Park, Dublin, on Sunday, June 17th 2012. Anybody who got a form from Sacred Heart Church should make sure it is sent in by Friday. Those who still wish to make an application between now and Friday can still get a form from the Church here.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin and organisers of the Eucharistic Congress
showed the bell to the Pope on Wednesday

This evening, Wednesday - Catholicism Series screening

Don't forget that this evening, Wednesday, March 14th 2012 at 8.15pm, we will have our next Lenten screening of the Catholicism Series with Fr Robert Barron, here at Sacred Heart Church. This week's topic is the Church. For details, see the post below.

Here is another clip from this week's episode:

13 March 2012

Trócaire Message for Next Week

“...Honour your mother, and never abandon her all the days of your life. Do all that she wants, and give her no reason for sorrow.” Tobit 4:3. This fourth Sunday in Lent we think of mothers all over the world who endure daily hardship so their children might have the chance of a better life. We think particularly of Betty, the mother of the little boy on the Trocaire Box, who has suffered so much but has still managed to raise her family and provide hope for their future. For more information on the Lenten campaign visit www.trocaire.org/lent or call 1850 408 408.

10 March 2012

Catholicism Series on Wednesday: The Church

Watch the preview of this week's episode:

This coming Wednesday, March 14th 2012, here at Sacred Heart Church, we will have our weekly Lenten screening of the Catholicism Series with Fr Robert Barron. This week's episode will be on the Church, entitled 'The Mystical Union of Christ and the Church: A Body both Suffering and Glorious'.

Fr Robert faces the issue of sin by Church members and the scandals that have caused so much suffering. He explains how the Church is a sacrament of Christ. We'll see the life story of Pope John Paul II and we'll find out what it means to say that the Church is one, holy, Catholic and apostolic. Fr Robert also explains the ideas of infallibility, apostolic succession, development of doctrine and the relationship between the Church and the Eucharist.

Again we'll tour around the world and get to visit Rome, Paris, Krakow and Manila.
Those who have attended our screenings so far have been very pleased with these videos. You don't have to have seen the others to come to this one. Each can be viewed on its own.

After this Wednesday, we'll have two episodes remaining:

Wednesday, March 21st - The Saints
Wednesday, March 28th - Prayer

Parish Announcements for Sunday, March 11th 2012

3rd Sunday of Lent

• Next Saturday, March 17th 2012 is St. Patrick’s Day, a Holy Day of Obligation in Ireland. Vigil Mass on Friday evening at 6.30pm. Masses on Saturday at 9.30am, 11.00am and 12.15pm.
The 6.30pm Mass on Saturday will be the usual Vigil Mass for Sunday.

• We will have another screening of the Catholicism Series here at Sacred Heart Church this coming Wednesday, March 14th at 8.15pm. This week’s topic is the Church. The videos so far have been very well received by those in attendance. All welcome to come along to experience this Lenten faith input for our parish.

• Tom Murphy’s annual Table Quiz in aid of his brother Fr Seán Murphy’s work with the Salesian missions and poverty relief in Africa will take place in the Westwood Hotel on Tuesday next, March 13th 2012 at 8.30pm. Tables of 4: €40 with concessions for students: €5 each. For more information, contact Tom at 091-522125.

• Boxes with the new parish weekly envelopes for Corrach Buí, Ros Geal, Gort Gréine, Laurel Park or anybody from outside the parish who would like to make their offertory contribution in this way, are now available in the sacristy.

• Application forms for attendance at the final Mass of the Eucharistic Congress on Sunday, June 17th in Croke Park are available in the sacristy. N.B. The closing date for sending the forms into the diocesan office is this coming Friday, March 16th 2012.

Trócaire boxes are available at the Church doors. The boxes can be returned to the Church at the end of Lent.

• The special collection supporting the chaplaincy services to Irish emigrants abroad will take place at the Masses on St Patrick’s Day.

• We pray for those who have died:

- Nora Connell, Liam Mellows Terrace, Bohermore, mother of Willie Connell, Cruachán Park. Her funeral Mass takes place in St Patrick’s Church this Sunday, March 11th at 10.30am. Burial after in the New Cemetery, Bohermore.

- Declan Folan, London and formerly of Davis Road, brother of Mickey Folan, Davis Road and Mary McGrath, Circular Road. Funeral will take place in London.

9 March 2012

Notices Received

Westside Kickboxing Club
Denis Brosnan of the Westside Kickboxing Club has asked us to make known that bogus collectors have used the name of the club claiming to collect for the club. They are not authorised to do so and there is no collection for the club under way at this time. Anybody approached is advised to contact Salthill Garda Station.

Esker Retreat House/Youth Village.
Palm Sunday Retreat in Esker, arrive 9am, depart 5.30pm. A quiet day apart, preparing for Holy Week and Easter. Three-course dinner included. Suggested offering €30.
Easter Triduum Retreat in Esker: from Holy Thursday evening to Easter Sunday morning, in a quiet, prayerful setting. Phone Esker 091 844007/091 844549 for details and booking. Cost €160 covers accommodation, meals, and retreat.
Galway Cathedral Prayer for Emigrants
On Thursday 15th March at 7:30p.m a special liturgy will take place in Galway Cathedral to mark, remember and pray for all our loved ones who have had to leave the land of their birth.

Mass intentions for the week ahead 11th March 2012

Saturday 10th March
Vigil Mass     6.30 pm  Bridget and Peter Coyne

Sunday 11th March
9.30 am     Kate O'Brien and O'Brien and Corley families deceased
                 2.  Bertie Brody.
11am        Mary Kelly (Months Mind Mass)
12.15 pm  Nonie and Michael O'Flaherty
                 2. Dorothy Ridgard (Months Mind Mass)
6.30 pm    Intention free

Monday 12th March 10am  Margaret and Patrick, Jimmy and Paddy Cummins.
Tuesday 13th March 10am  For all the Sick
Wednesday 14th March 10am  Michael Heneghan (who died recently) and
                                                    2. Ivan Canavan
Thursday 15th March   10am  Bob Harrington
Friday 16th March        10am Mary Wims and deceased members of family
Vigil Mass                     6.30pm  Michael John and Margaret Walsh, Edward and Ellen Reynolds

Saturday 17th March  St Patrick's Day
                      9.30 am   Intention free
                   11am         Michael 'Mick' Caulfield
                   12.15pm    Michael Dinnen (Months Mind Mass)
Vigil Mass    6.30 pm    Intention free

Sunday 18th March
9.30 am      Brigid Fitzgerald and Fitzgerald and Hosty families deceased
11am          Maureen Forde
12.15 pm   1. Thomas Conney and deceased members of the family
                  2.  Mary Malee

3.30pm  -  6.00 pm    Indian Community Mass

6.30 pm    Colie Naughton (Months Mind Mass)

8 March 2012

Stations of the Cross

Since we are in the season of Lent, here are the Stations of the Cross with the meditations composed by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger for the Via Crucis at the Colosseum in Rome on Good Friday, 2005. The meditations are accompanied by the set of stations in our own Sacred Heart Church here, by Ray Carroll.

Jesus is condemned to death

From the Gospel according to Matthew 27:22-23,26
Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

The Judge of the world, who will come again to judge us all, stands there, dishonoured and defenceless before the earthly judge. Pilate is not utterly evil. He knows that the condemned man is innocent, and he looks for a way to free him. But his heart is divided. And in the end he lets his own position, his own self-interest, prevail over what is right. Nor are the men who are shouting and demanding the death of Jesus utterly evil. Many of them, on the day of Pentecost, will feel “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37), when Peter will say to them: “Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God... you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law” (Acts 2:22ff.). But at that moment they are caught up in the crowd. They are shouting because everyone else is shouting, and they are shouting the same thing that everyone else is shouting. And in this way, justice is trampled underfoot by weakness, cowardice and fear of the diktat of the ruling mindset. The quiet voice of conscience is drowned out by the cries of the crowd. Evil draws its power from indecision and concern for what other people think.

Lord, you were condemned to death because fear of what other people may think suppressed the voice of conscience. So too, throughout history, the innocent have always been maltreated, condemned and killed. How many times have we ourselves preferred success to the truth, our reputation to justice? Strengthen the quiet voice of our conscience, your own voice, in our lives. Look at me as you looked at Peter after his denial. Let your gaze penetrate our hearts and indicate the direction our lives must take. On the day of Pentecost you stirred the hearts of those who, on Good Friday, clamoured for your death, and you brought them to conversion. In this way you gave hope to all. Grant us, ever anew, the grace of conversion.

Jesus takes up his Cross

From the Gospel according to Matthew 27:27-31
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

Jesus, condemned as an imposter king, is mocked, but this very mockery lays bare a painful truth. How often are the symbols of power, borne by the great ones of this world, an affront to truth, to justice and to the dignity of man! How many times are their pomps and their lofty words nothing but grandiose lies, a parody of their solemn obligation to serve the common good! It is because Jesus is mocked and wears the crown of suffering that he appears as the true King. His scepter is justice (cf. Psalm 45:7). The price of justice in this world is suffering: Jesus, the true King, does not reign through violence, but through a love which suffers for us and with us. He takes up the Cross, our cross, the burden of being human, the burden of the world. And so he goes before us and points out to us the way which leads to true life.

Lord, you willingly subjected yourself to mockery and scorn. Help us not to ally ourselves with those who look down on the weak and suffering. Help us to acknowledge your face in the lowly and the outcast. May we never lose heart when faced with the contempt of this world, which ridicules our obedience to your will. You carried your own Cross and you ask us to follow you on this path (cf. Matthew 10:38). Help us to take up the Cross, and not to shun it. May we never complain or become discouraged by life's trials. Help us to follow the path of love and, in submitting to its demands, to find true joy.

Jesus falls for the first time

From the Book of the Prophet Isaiah 53:4-6
Surely he has born our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Man has fallen, and he continues to fall: often he becomes a caricature of himself, no longer the image of God, but a mockery of the Creator. Is not the man who, on the way from Jerusalem to Jericho, fell among robbers who stripped him and left him half-dead and bleeding beside the road, the image of humanity par excellence? Jesus' fall beneath the Cross is not just the fall of the man Jesus, exhausted from his scourging. There is a more profound meaning in this fall, as Paul tells us in the Letter to the Philippians: "though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men... He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a Cross" (Philippians 2:6-8). In Jesus' fall beneath the weight of the Cross, the meaning of his whole life is seen: his voluntary abasement, which lifts us up from the depths of our pride. The nature of our pride is also revealed: it is that arrogance which makes us want to be liberated from God and left alone to ourselves, the arrogance which makes us think that we do not need his eternal love, but can be the masters of our own lives. In this rebellion against truth, in this attempt to be our own god, creator and judge, we fall headlong and plunge into self-destruction. The humility of Jesus is the surmounting of our pride; by his abasement he lifts us up. Let us allow him to lift us up. Let us strip away our sense of self-sufficiency, our false illusions of independence, and learn from him, the One who humbled himself, to discover our true greatness by bending low before God and before our downtrodden brothers and sisters.

Lord Jesus, the weight of the cross made you fall to the ground. The weight of our sin, the weight of our pride, brought you down. But your fall is not a tragedy, or mere human weakness. You came to us when, in our pride, we were laid low. The arrogance that makes us think that we ourselves can create human beings has turned man into a kind of merchandise, to be bought and sold, or stored to provide parts for experimentation. In doing this, we hope to conquer death by our own efforts, yet in reality we are profoundly debasing human dignity. Lord help us; we have fallen. Help us to abandon our destructive pride and, by learning from your humility, to rise again.

Jesus meets his Mother

From the Gospel according to Luke 2:34-35,51
Simon blessed them and said to Mary his mother: "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed." And his mother kept all these things in her heart.

On Jesus' Way of the Cross, we also find Mary, his Mother. During his public life she had to step aside, to make place for the birth of Jesus' new family, the family of his disciples. She also had to hear the words: "Who is my mother and who are my brothers? ... Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is brother, and sister and mother" (Matthew 12:48-50). Now we see her as the Mother of Jesus, not only physically, but also in her heart. Even before she conceived him bodily, through her obedience she conceived him in her heart. It was said to Mary: "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son. He will be great and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David" (Luke 1:31ff.). And she would hear from the mouth of the elderly Simeon: "A sword will pierce through your own soul" (Luke 2:35). She would then recall the words of the prophets, words like these: "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he was like a lamb that is led to slaughter" (Isaiah 54:7). Now it all takes place. In her heart she had kept the words of the angel, spoken to her in the beginning: "Do not be afraid, Mary" (Luke 1:30). The disciples fled, yet she did not flee. She stayed there, with a Mother's courage, a Mother's fidelity, a Mother's goodness, and a faith which did not waver in the hour of darkness: "Blessed is she who believed" (Luke 1:45). "Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?" (Luke 18:8). Yes, in this moment Jesus knows: he will find faith. In this hour, this is his great consolation.

Holy Mary, Mother of the Lord, you remained faithful when the disciples fled. Just as you believed the angels’ incredible message -- that you would become the Mother of the Most High, so too you believed at the hour of his greatest abasement. In this way, at the hour of the Cross, at the hour of the world's darkest night, you became the Mother of all believers, the Mother of the Church. We beg you: teach us to believe, and grant that our faith may bear fruit in courageous service and be the sign of a love ever ready to share suffering and to offer assistance.

The Cyrenian helps Jesus carry the Cross

From the Gospel according to Matthew 27:32; 16:24
As they went out, they came upon a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; this man they compelled to carry his cross. Jesus told his disciples: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

Simon of Cyrene is on his way home, returning from work, when he comes upon the sad procession of those condemned -- for him, perhaps, it was a common sight. The soldiers force this rugged man from the country to carry the Cross on his own shoulders. How annoying he must have thought it to be suddenly caught up in the fate of those condemned men! He does what he must do, but reluctantly. Significantly, the Evangelist Mark does not only name him, but also his children, who were evidently known as Christians and as members of that community (cf. Mark 15:21). From this chance encounter, faith was born. The Cyrenian, walking beside Jesus and sharing the burden of the Cross, came to see that it was a grace to be able to accompany him to his crucifixion and to help him. The mystery of Jesus, silent and suffering, touched his heart. Jesus, whose divine love alone can redeem all humanity, wants us to share his Cross so that we can complete what is still lacking in his suffering (cf. Colossians 1:24). Whenever we show kindness to the suffering, the persecuted and defenseless, and share in their sufferings, we help to carry that same Cross of Jesus. In this way we obtain salvation, and help contribute to the salvation of the world.

Lord, you opened the eyes and heart of Simon of Cyrene, and you gave him, by his share in your Cross, the grace of faith. Help us to aid our neighbors in need, even when this interferes with our own plans and desires. Help us to realize that it is a grace to be able to share the cross of others and, in this way, know that we are walking with you along the way. Help us to appreciate with joy that, when we share in your suffering and the sufferings of this world, we become servants of salvation and are able to help build up your Body, the Church.

Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

From the Book of the Prophet Isaiah 53:2-3
He had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

From the Book of Psalms 27:8-9
You have said, "Seek my face." My heart says to you, "Your face, Lord, do I seek." Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Cast me not off, forsake me not, O God of my salvation.

"Your face, Lord, do I seek. Hide not your face from me" (Psalm 27:8-9). Veronica -- Bernice, in the Greek tradition -- embodies the universal yearning of the devout men and women of the Old Testament, the yearning of all believers to see the face of God. On Jesus' Way of the Cross, though, she at first did nothing more than perform an act of womanly kindness: she held out a facecloth to Jesus. She did not let herself be deterred by the brutality of the soldiers or the fear which gripped the disciples. She is the image of that good woman, who, amid turmoil and dismay, shows the courage born of goodness and does not allow her heart to be bewildered. "Blessed are the pure in heart," the Lord had said in his Sermon on the Mount, "for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). At first, Veronica saw only a buffeted and pain-filled face. Yet her act of love impressed the true image of Jesus on her heart: on his human face, bloodied and bruised, she saw the face of God and his goodness, which accompanies us even in our deepest sorrows. Only with the heart can we see Jesus. Only love purifies us and gives us the ability to see. Only love enables us to recognize the God who is love itself.

Lord, grant us restless hearts, hearts which seek your face. Keep us from the blindness of heart which sees only the surface of things. Give us the simplicity and purity which allow us to recognize your presence in the world. When we are not able to accomplish great things, grant us the courage which is born of humility and goodness. Impress your face on our hearts. May we encounter you along the way and show your image to the world.

Jesus falls for the second time

From the Book of Lamentations 3:1-2,9,16
I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light. He has blocked my way with hewn stones, he has made my paths crooked. He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes.

The tradition that Jesus fell three times beneath the weight of the Cross evokes the fall of Adam -- the state of fallen humanity -- and the mystery of Jesus' own sharing in our fall. Throughout history the fall of man constantly takes on new forms. In his First Letter, Saint John speaks of a threefold fall: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life. He thus interprets the fall of man and humanity against the backdrop of the vices of his own time, with all its excesses and perversions. But we can also think, in more recent times, of how a Christianity which has grown weary of faith has abandoned the Lord: the great ideologies, and the banal existence of those who no longer believing in anything, who simply drift through life, have built a new and worse paganism, which in its attempt to do away with God once and for all, have ended up doing away with man. And so man lies fallen in the dust. The Lord bears this burden and falls, over and over again, in order to meet us. He gazes on us, he touches our hearts; he falls in order to raise us up.

Lord Jesus Christ, you have borne all our burdens and you continue to carry us. Our weight has made you fall. Lift us up, for by ourselves we cannot rise from the dust. Free us from the bonds of lust. In place of a heart of stone, give us a heart of flesh, a heart capable of seeing. Lay low the power of ideologies, so that all may see that they are a web of lies. Do not let the wall of materialism become insurmountable. Make us aware of your presence. Keep us sober and vigilant, capable of resisting the forces of evil. Help us to recognize the spiritual and material needs of others, and to give them the help they need. Lift us up, so that we may lift others up. Give us hope at every moment of darkness, so that we may bring your hope to the world.

Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem who weep for him

From the Gospel according to Luke 23:28-31
Jesus turning to them said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!' Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'fall on us;' and to the hills, 'Cover us.' For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?"

Hearing Jesus reproach the women of Jerusalem who follow him and weep for him ought to make us reflect. How should we understand his words? Are they not directed at a piety which is purely sentimental, one which fails to lead to conversion and living faith? It is no use to lament the sufferings of this world if our life goes on as usual. And so the Lord warns us of the danger in which we find ourselves. He shows us both the seriousness of sin and the seriousness of judgment. Can it be that, despite all our expressions of consternation in the face of evil and innocent suffering, we are all too prepared to trivialize the mystery of evil? Have we accepted only the gentleness and love of God and Jesus, and quietly set aside the word of judgment? "How can God be so concerned with our weaknesses?" we say. "We are only human!" Yet as we contemplate the sufferings of the Son, we see more clearly the seriousness of sin, and how it needs to be fully atoned if it is to be overcome. Before the image of the suffering Lord, evil can no longer be trivialized. To us too, he says: "Do not weep for me, weep for yourselves ... if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?"

Lord, to the weeping women you spoke of repentance and the Day of Judgment, when all of us will stand before your face: before you, the Judge of the world. You call us to leave behind the trivialization of evil, which salves our consciences and allows us to carry on as before. You show us the seriousness of our responsibility, the danger of our being found guilty and without excuse on the Day of Judgment. Grant that we may not simply walk at your side, with nothing to offer other than compassionate words. Convert us and give us new life. Grant that in the end we will not be dry wood, but living branches in you, the true vine, bearing fruit for eternal life (cf. John 15:1-10).

Jesus falls for the third time

From the Book of Lamentations 3:27-32
It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when he has laid it on him; let him put his mouth in the dust -- there may yet be hope; let him give his cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults. For the Lord will not cast off for ever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

What can the third fall of Jesus under the Cross say to us? We have considered the fall of man in general, and the falling of many Christians away from Christ and into a godless secularism. Should we not also think of how much Christ suffers in his own Church? How often is the holy sacrament of his Presence abused, how often must he enter empty and evil hearts! How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that he is there! How often is his Word twisted and misused! What little faith is present behind so many theories, so many empty words! How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him! How much pride, how much self-complacency! What little respect we pay to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where he waits for us, ready to raise us up whenever we fall! All this is present in his Passion. His betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his Body and Blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison -- Lord, save us (cf. Matthew 8: 25).

Lord, your Church often seems like a boat about to sink, a boat taking in water on every side. In your field we see more weeds than wheat. The soiled garments and face of your Church throw us into confusion. Yet it is we ourselves who have soiled them! It is we who betray you time and time again, after all our lofty words and grand gestures. Have mercy on your Church; within her too, Adam continues to fall. When we fall, we drag you down to earth, and Satan laughs, for he hopes that you will not be able to rise from that fall; he hopes that being dragged down in the fall of your Church, you will remain prostrate and overpowered. But you will rise again. You stood up, you arose and you can also raise us up. Save and sanctify your Church. Save and sanctify us all.

Jesus is stripped of his garments

From the Gospel according to Matthew 27:33-36
And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull), they offered him wine to drink, mingled with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots; then they sat down and kept watch over him there.

Jesus is stripped of his garments. Clothing gives a man his social position; it gives him his place in society, it makes him someone. His public stripping means that Jesus is no longer anything at all, he is simply an outcast, despised by all alike. The moment of the stripping reminds us of the expulsion from Paradise: God's splendor has fallen away from man, who now stands naked and exposed, unclad and ashamed. And so Jesus once more takes on the condition of fallen man. Stripped of his garments, he reminds us that we have all lost the "first garment" that is God's splendor. At the foot of the Cross, the soldiers draw lots to divide his paltry possessions, his clothes. The Evangelists describe the scene with words drawn from Psalm 22:19; by doing so they tell us the same thing that Jesus would tell his disciples on the road to Emmaus: that everything takes place "according to the Scriptures." Nothing is mere coincidence; everything that happens is contained in the Word of God and sustained by his divine plan. The Lord passes through all the stages and steps of man's fall from grace, yet each of these steps, for all its bitterness, becomes a step toward our redemption: this is how he carries home the lost sheep. Let us not forget that John says that lots were drawn for Jesus' tunic, "woven without seam from top to bottom" (John 19:23). We may consider this as a reference to the High Priest's robe, which was "woven from a single thread," without stitching (Fl. Josephus, a III, 161). For he, the Crucified One, is the true High Priest.

Lord Jesus, you were stripped of your garments, exposed to shame, cast out of society. You took upon yourself the shame of Adam, and you healed it. You also take upon yourself the sufferings and the needs of the poor, the outcasts of our world. And in this very way you fulfill the words of the prophets. This is how you bring meaning into apparent meaninglessness. This is how you make us realize that your Father holds you, us, and the whole world in his hands. Give us a profound respect for man at every stage of his existence, and in all the situations in which we encounter him. Clothe us in the light of your grace.

Jesus is nailed to the Cross

From the Gospel according to Matthew 27:37-42
And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, "This is Jesus the King of the Jews." Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right hand and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, "You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the Cross." So also the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him, saying, "He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the Cross and we will believe in him."

Jesus is nailed to the Cross. The shroud of Turin gives us an idea of the unbelievable cruelty of this procedure. Jesus does not drink the numbing gall offered to him: he deliberately takes upon himself all the pain of the Crucifixion. His whole body is racked; the words of the Psalm have come to pass: "But I am a worm and no man, scorned by men, rejected by the people" (Psalm 22:7). "As one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised ... surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows" (Isaiah 53:3f.). Let us halt before this image of pain, before the suffering Son of God. Let us look upon him at times of presumptuousness and pleasure, in order to learn to respect limits and to see the superficiality of all merely material goods. Let us look upon him at times of trial and tribulation, and realize that it is then that we are closest to God. Let us try to see his face in the people we might look down upon. As we stand before the condemned Lord, who did not use his power to come down from the Cross, but endured its suffering to the end, another thought comes to mind. Ignatius of Antioch, a prisoner in chains for his faith in the Lord, praised the Christians of Smyrna for their invincible faith: he says that they were, so to speak, nailed with flesh and blood to the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ (1:1). Let us nail ourselves to him, resisting the temptation to stand apart, or to join others in mocking him.

Lord Jesus Christ, you let yourself be nailed to the Cross, accepting the terrible cruelty of this suffering, the destruction of your body and your dignity. You allowed yourself to be nailed fast; you did not try to escape or to lessen your suffering. May we never flee from what we are called to do. Help us to remain faithful to you. Help us to unmask the false freedom which would distance us from you. Help us to accept your "binding" freedom, and, "bound" fast to you, to discover true freedom.

Jesus dies on the Cross

From the Gospel according to John 19:19-20
Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the Cross; it read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek.

From the Gospel according to Matthew 27:45-50,54
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" That is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And some of the bystanders hearing it said, "This man is calling Elijah." And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him." And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit." When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe, and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!"

In Greek and Latin, the two international languages of the time, and in Hebrew, the language of the Chosen People, a sign stood above the Cross of Jesus, indicating who he was: the King of the Jews, the promised Son of David. Pilate, the unjust judge, became a prophet despite himself. The kingship of Jesus was proclaimed before the entire world. Jesus himself had not accepted the title "Messiah," because it would have suggested a mistaken, human idea of power and deliverance. Yet now the title can remain publicly displayed above the Crucified Christ. He is indeed the king of the world. Now he is truly "lifted up." In sinking to the depths he rose to the heights. Now he has radically fulfilled the commandment of love, he has completed the offering of himself, and in this way he is now the revelation of the true God, the God who is love. Now we know who God is. Now we know what true kingship is. Jesus prays Psalm 22, which begins with the words: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Psalm 22:2). He takes to himself the whole suffering people of Israel, all of suffering humanity, the drama of God's darkness, and he makes God present in the very place where he seems definitively vanquished and absent. The Cross of Jesus is a cosmic event. The world is darkened, when the Son of God is given up to death. The earth trembles. And on the Cross, the Church of the Gentiles is born. The Roman centurion understands this, and acknowledges Jesus as the Son of God. From the Cross he triumphs -- ever anew.

Lord Jesus Christ, at the hour of your death the sun was darkened. Ever anew you are being nailed to the Cross. At this present hour of history we are living in God's darkness. Through your great sufferings and the wickedness of men, the face of God, your face, seems obscured, unrecognizable. And yet, on the Cross, you have revealed yourself. Precisely by being the one who suffers and loves, you are exalted. From the Cross on high you have triumphed. Help us to recognize your face at this hour of darkness and tribulation. Help us to believe in you and to follow you in our hour of darkness and need. Show yourself once more to the world at this hour. Reveal to us your salvation.

Jesus is taken down from the Cross and given to his Mother

From the Gospel according to Matthew 27:54-55
When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe, and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!" There were also many women there, looking on from afar, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him.

Jesus is dead. From his heart, pierced by the lance of the Roman soldier, flow blood and water: a mysterious image of the stream of the sacraments, Baptism and the Eucharist, by which the Church is constantly reborn from the opened heart of the Lord. Jesus' legs are not broken, like those of the two men crucified with him. He is thus revealed as the true Paschal lamb, not one of whose bones must be broken (…). And now, at the end of his sufferings, it is clear that, for all the dismay which filled men's hearts, for all the power of hatred and cowardice, he was never alone. There are faithful ones who remain with him. Under the Cross stands Mary, his Mother, the sister of his Mother, Mary, Mary Magdalen and the disciple whom he loved. A wealthy man, Joseph of Arimathea, appears on the scene: a rich man is able to pass through the eye of a needle, for God has given him the grace. He buries Jesus in his own empty tomb, in a garden. At Jesus' burial, the cemetery becomes a garden, the garden from which Adam was cast out when he abandoned the fullness of life, his Creator. The garden tomb symbolizes that the dominion of death is about to end. A member of the Sanhedrin also comes along, Nicodemus, to whom Jesus had proclaimed the mystery of rebirth by water and the Spirit. Even in the Sanhedrin, which decreed his death, there is a believer, someone who knows and recognizes Jesus after his death. In this hour of immense grief, of darkness and despair, the light of hope is mysteriously present. The hidden God continues to be the God of life, ever near. Even in the night of death, the Lord continues to be our Lord and Savior. The Church of Jesus Christ, his new family, begins to take shape.

Lord, you descended into the darkness of death. But your body is placed in good hands and wrapped in a white shroud (Matthew 27:59). Faith has not completely died; the sun has not completely set. How often does it appear that you are asleep? How easy it is for us to step back and say to ourselves: "God is dead." In the hour of darkness, help us to know that you are still there. Do not abandon us when we are tempted to lose heart. Help us not to leave you alone. Give us the fidelity to withstand moments of confusion and a love ready to embrace you in your utter helplessness, like your Mother, who once more holds you to her breast. Help us, the poor and rich, simple and learned, to look beyond all our fears and prejudices, and to offer you our abilities, our hearts and our time, and thus to prepare a garden for the Resurrection.

Jesus is laid in the tomb

From the Gospel according to Matthew 27:59-61
Joseph took the body, and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock; and he rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb, and departed. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the sepulcher.

Jesus, disgraced and mistreated, is honorably buried in a new tomb. Nicodemus brings a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight, which gives off a precious scent. In the Son's self-offering, as at his anointing in Bethany, we see an "excess" which evokes God's generous and superabundant love. God offers himself unstintingly. If God's measure is superabundance, then we for our part should consider nothing too much for God. This is the teaching of Jesus himself, in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:20). But we should also remember the words of Saint Paul, who says that God "through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere. We are the aroma of Christ" (2 Corinthians 2:14ff.). Amid the decay of ideologies, our faith needs once more to be the fragrance which returns us to the path of life. At the very moment of his burial, Jesus' words are fulfilled: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:24). Jesus is the grain of wheat which dies. From that lifeless grain of wheat comes forth the great multiplication of bread which will endure until the end of the world. Jesus is the bread of life which can satisfy superabundantly the hunger of all humanity and provide its deepest nourishment. Through his Cross and Resurrection, the eternal Word of God became flesh and bread for us. The mystery of the Eucharist already shines forth in the burial of Jesus.

Lord Jesus Christ, in your burial you have taken on the death of the grain of wheat. You have become the lifeless grain of wheat which produces abundant fruit for every age and for all eternity. From the tomb shines forth in every generation the promise of the grain of wheat which gives rise to the true manna, the Bread of Life, in which you offer us your very self. The eternal Word, through his Incarnation and death, has become a Word which is close to us: you put yourself into our hands and into our hearts, so that your word can grow within us and bear fruit. Through the death of the grain of wheat you give us yourself, so that we too can dare to lose our life in order to find it, so that we too can trust the promise of the grain of wheat. Help us grow in love and veneration for your Eucharistic mystery -- to make you, the Bread of heaven, the source of our life. Help us to become your "fragrance," and to make known in this world the mysterious traces of your life. Like the grain of wheat which rises from the earth, putting forth its stalk and then its ear, you could not remain enclosed in the tomb: the tomb is empty because he -- the Father -- "did not abandon you to the nether world, nor let your flesh see corruption" (Acts 2:31; Ps 16:10 LXX). No, you did not see corruption. You have risen, and have made a place for our transfigured flesh in the very heart of God. Help us to rejoice in this hope and bring it joyfully to the world. Help us to become witnesses of your Resurrection.