Holy Triduum Year C – Sunday, April 17, 2022
JOURNEY OF ORDINARY TO EXTRAORDINARY
Today we begin Holy Triduum which brings us to the solemn celebrations of the Holy Week. These three days are holiest days for us all Christians to remember what Jesus did, and how it was done? Holy Triduum is a journey of Ordinary to Extraordinary because God is looking for not only an ordinary person but also a walking person who can trust in him and take this journey with him. From the very beginning, God had a relationship with Adam and Eve that found them “walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8). God created man for the enjoyment of a walking relationship that involved companionship, dialogue, intimacy, joint decision-making, mutual delight, and shared dominion. God longs to walk with us, which is why his arms of grace have been pulling us into a closer walk with him. He made ordinary mud into extraordinary by giving his image and breath “and he became living being”. This journey of ordinary to extraordinary never ended there but it continued in the history of our salvation when God chose people to be his own. This came to its completion in the Lord Jesus when he became man, like us but in sin. Isn’t it an amazing mystery to see how God gave his image to humans and here God becomes human?
Each Holy Thursday the Church recounts the evening when Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his closest disciples. At that meal Jesus inaugurated the Passover of the New Covenant, when the supreme sacrifice would be offered for the salvation of the human race, by Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. Also of highest importance for us who follow Christ, the Lord instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper, giving His Body and Blood, under the form of bread and wine, to His disciples. At every Eucharist members of the Church are invited to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord,” (Psalm 33(34):8), as the psalmist expresses it, by reception of the Blessed Sacrament. In addition to the Eucharist, Christ instituted the ministerial priesthood at the Last Supper, whereby the Sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood would be perpetuated, that is, celebrated, until the end of the ages. Those who are called to the priesthood, set before God’s people the Paschal meal, whereby the Body and Blood of the Redeemer are made present and given as spiritual nourishment for the journey through life.
At the Last Supper Christ also gave the “new commandment,” (mandatum in Latin) of love. The words of Jesus in this regard we know very well: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (Jn 13:34). This is not a suggestion or a theory, but a command. Prior to Christ’s mandatum, love was based more on an expected reward in return, or upon the fulfillment of an imposed norm. Now, love is to be based upon Christ, who loved to the point of giving His own life by a love that is to be the measure of every disciple’s love, and what should characterize a Christian and Catholic understanding of love.
At the same Last Supper, with the gesture of a humble servant expressing love, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, and directs all who follow Him to do likewise. This action of Jesus is more than a simple gesture, though. It is in fact an anticipation of the total humiliation and self-emptying that Christ went through, to save the human race. The One, who is God, bowed down before our human littleness, before everyone, and offers a sign for all of us to imitate. Our humble Lord invites us every day to follow His example to build up a better and different world, rooted in God’s sovereignty over all, and taking the form of service and love of God and one another by the way we live. At every Eucharist, and especially on Holy Thursday, where Divine love and forgiveness are emphasized, we “proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes” (1 Cor 11). In the Old Testament, at the time of Passover, God’s people sprinkled the blood of a lamb on each home, recounting the Exodus, that is, freedom from slavery in Egypt. Now, in the New Covenant, the Lamb without blemish, Jesus Christ, is sacrificed, and the Blood of the Lamb is sprinkled on the souls of believers, offering to all freedom from sin and death.
Today we are all called to move toward a new life in Christ, a full life of Divine love. Another psalmist beautifully expresses what takes place at the Eucharistic sacrifice we offer here and now: “How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me? The cup of salvation I will take up and I will call upon the name of the Lord” (Psalm 115(116): 13). Without limit, always, to the end”. Jesus’ love for us knows no limits: always more and more. He never tires of loving anyone. He loves us all, to the point of giving his life for us. Yes, giving his life for us; yes, giving his life for all of us, giving his life for each one of us. And every one of us can say: “He gave his life for me”. Everyone: He gave His life for you, for you, for you, for you, for me, for him… for each person, by first and last name. His love is like that: personal. Jesus’ love never disappoints, because He never tires of loving, just as He never tires of forgiving, never tires of embracing us. This is the first thing that I wanted to say to you: Jesus loved us, every one of us, to the end.
And then, He does something that the disciples don’t understand washing the feet. It was not done by the master of the house but by the slaves. That was the task of a slave. And like a slave, Jesus washes our feet, the feet of his disciples, and that is why He says: “What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand”. Jesus’ love is so great that He became a slave to serve us, to heal us, to cleanse us. He washes us entirely, He purifies us, He lets us feel his love yet again. There is a very beautiful phrase in the Bible, the prophet Isaiah says: “Can a mother forget her child? Even if a mother could forget her child, I will never forget you”. God’s love for us is like this. How are we serving the Lord and his people?
We need to have the attitude of Ruth: “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die—there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!” (Ruth 1:16-17).
May this Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which begins what we call the “Sacred Triduum,” be an opportunity to renew belief in the Real Presence of the Christ in the Eucharist and willing participation in this Sacrament at Mass. May it also be a pledge of our humble service toward one another, freely and joyfully given. We are to recognize Christ present in others and should willingly “bow and bend low” to serve them in the love of Christ.
On Good Friday the wood of an ordinary tree takes an extraordinary status upon which our Lord died on for our salvation. That ordinary wood reminds us that He has died! And He was put to death, He did not die a natural death. He was put to death because of lies and jealousies and fear. Yet Jesus chooses to accept death so that we can live. The first reading today, from the Prophet Isaiah, tells us that “he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses.” This Prophet is able to see how God can work through our human brokenness. We are challenged to live as Christ and to give our lives for the good of others. The second reading is from the Letter to the Hebrews and tells us that “he learned obedience from what he suffered.” Again, we are invited to accept suffering in our lives and learn obedience to God.
The Passion Narrative, always from the Gospel of Saint John on Good Friday, gives us the account of the last days of Jesus before His death. What is important is that we see that Jesus freely chooses to die and chooses to die for us. Another important factor is that Jesus really does die, and that Jesus does not just pretend to die or give the illusion that He dies. It is only because Jesus has truly died for us that the Resurrection will come as an incredible surprise and an incredible witness to the power of God at work in the Lord Jesus.
Pope Francis has a beautiful reflection for Good Friday, “ Lord Jesus, help us to see in your Cross all the crosses of the world: The cross of those who hunger for bread and for love; The cross of those who are alone or abandoned even by their own children and family members; The cross of those who thirst for justice and peace; The cross of those who do not have the comfort of the faith; The cross of the elderly who are bowed down under the weight of years and loneliness; The cross of migrants who find doors closed because of fear, and hearts sealed by political calculations; The cross of the little ones, wounded in their innocence and purity; The cross of humanity that wanders in the darkness of uncertainty and in the darkness of the culture of the fleeting moment; The cross of families broken by betrayal, by the seductions of the evil one or by murderous lightness and by selfishness; The cross of consecrated persons who tirelessly seek to bring your light into the world and feel rejected, mocked and humiliated; The cross of consecrated persons who, along the way, have forgotten their first love; The cross of your children who, believing in you and trying to live according to your word, find themselves marginalized and discarded even by their families and their peers; The cross of our weaknesses, our hypocrisies, our betrayals, our sins and our many broken promises; The cross of your Church which, faithful to your Gospel, struggles to carry your love even among the baptized themselves; The cross of the Church, your bride, who feels continually attacked from within and from without; The cross of our common home that withers seriously before our selfish eyes that are blinded by greed and power. Lord Jesus, rekindle in us the hope of the resurrection and of your definitive victory against all evil and all death. Amen!”
Saint John Chrysostom says “If we wish to understand the power of Christ’s blood, we should go back to the ancient account of its prefiguration in Egypt. Sacrifice a lamb without blemish, commanded Moses, and sprinkle its blood on your doors. If we were to ask him what he meant, and how the blood of an irrational beast could possibly save men endowed with reason, his answer would be that the saving power lies not in the blood itself, but in the fact that it is a sign of the Lord’s blood. In those days, when the destroying angel saw the blood on the doors he did not dare to enter, so how much less will the devil approach now when he sees, not that figurative blood on the doors, but the true blood on the lips of believers, the doors of the temple of Christ.
The Author of the Letter to Hebrews sums up the sacrifice of Jesus in this way “When Christ came as high priest of the good things which have come to be, he entered once for all into the sanctuary, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation. He entered, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, and achieved eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself up unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God!
This is why he is mediator of a new covenant: since his death has taken place for deliverance from transgressions committed under the first covenant, those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance. Where there is a testament, it is necessary that the death of the testator be confirmed. For a testament comes into force only in the case of death; it has no force while the testator is alive. Hence, not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood.
Today we contemplate only the death of the Lord. The world is broken apart. Light goes out. There is nothing left. We only wait because we still believe in God.
The third most important day in the Holy Triduum is Easter Sunday, the day our Lord conquered death and rose from the dead. This is the journey of our ordinary human life to extraordinary life in heaven where we will be enjoying the company of the saints. This is also a day of extraordinary victory over death (Please read 1Corinthians 15) when our Lord conquered death so that we may rise in him to eternal life. This victory can only be understood by people who know how to serve and sacrifice for others. He is truly risen from the dead, Alleluia, Alleluia. According to St. Augustine “it was impossible for the Author of life to stay under the earth for long” The Christians all over the world have been preparing themselves with prayer, penance, and work of charity to celebrate the greatest feast of all times, that’s Easter. No one expected that it was going to happen, that a man who was once crucified was going to rise. St. Paul rightly says in his first letter to Corinthians “Death has been swallowed up in victory. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”.
Every Sunday afternoon, after the morning service at their church, the Pastor and his 11-year-old son would go out into their town and hand out Gospel tracts. This particular Sunday afternoon, as it came time for the Pastor and his son to go to the streets with their tracts, it was very cold outside as well as pouring down rain. The boy bundled up in his warmest and driest clothes and said, “Okay Dad, I’m ready.”
His Pastor Dad asked, “Ready for what?
“Dad, it’s time we gather our tracts together and go out.”
Dad responds, “Son, it’s very cold outside, and it’s pouring down rain.”
The boy gives his Dad a surprised look, asking, “But Dad, aren’t people still going to Hell, even though it’s raining?”
Dad answers, “Son, I am not going out in this weather.”
Despondently the boy asks, “Dad, can I go? Please?”
His father hesitated for a moment but said, “You can go. Here are the tracts; be careful, son.”
And with that, he was off and out into the rain. This 11-year-old boy walked the streets of the town, going door-to-door and handing everybody he met in the street a Gospel tract. After hours of walking in the rain, he was soaking bone-chilled wet and down to his very last tract. He stopped on a corner and looked for someone to hand a tract to, but the streets were totally deserted.
Then, he turned toward the first home he saw and started up the sidewalk to the front door and rang the doorbell. He rang the bell, but nobody answered. He rang it again and again, but still no one answered. He waited, but still no answer. Finally, this 11-year-old trooper turned to leave, but something stopped him. Again, he turned to the door and rang the bell and knocked loudly on the door with his fist. He waited, something holding him there on the front porch. He rang again, and this time the door slowly opened. Standing in the doorway was a very sad looking elderly lady.
She softly asked, “What can I do for you, son?”
With radiant eyes and a smile that lit up her world, this little boy said, “Ma’am, I’m sorry if I disturbed you, but I just want to tell you that JESUS REALLY DOES LOVE YOU! I came to give you my very last Gospel tract which will tell you all about Jesus and His great love.” With that, he handed her his last tract and turned to leave.
She called to him as he departed, “Thank you, son! And God bless you!”
The following Sunday morning in church, Pastor Dad was in the pulpit and as the service began, he asked, “Does anybody have a testimony or want to say anything?”
Slowly, in the back row of the church, an elderly lady stood to her feet. As she began to speak, a look of glorious radiance came from her face. “None of you in this church know me. I’ve never been here before. Before last Sunday, I was not a Christian. My husband passed on some time ago, leaving me totally alone in this world. Last Sunday, being a particularly cold and rainy day, it was even more so in my heart as I came to the end of the line where I no longer had any hope or will to live.
“So, I took a rope and a chair and ascended the stairway into the attic of my home. I fastened the rope securely to a rafter in the roof then stood on the chair and fastened the other end of the rope around my neck. Standing on that chair, so lonely and broken hearted, I was about to leap off. When suddenly, the loud ringing of my doorbell downstairs startled me. I thought, ‘I’ll wait a minute, and whoever it is will go away.’ I waited and waited, but the ringing doorbell seemed to get more insistent and then the person ringing also started knocking loudly. I thought to myself again, ‘Who on earth could this be?! Nobody ever rings my bell or comes to see me!’ I loosened the rope from my neck and started for the front door. All the while, the bell rang louder and louder. When I opened the door and looked, I could hardly believe my eyes! There on my front porch was the most radiant and angelic little boy I had ever seen in my life! His smile! Oh, I could never describe it to you! And the words that came from his mouth caused my heart, that had long been dead, to leap to life as he exclaimed with a cherub-like voice, ‘Ma’am, I just came to tell you that JESUS REALLY DOES LOVE YOU.’ Then he gave me this Gospel tract that I now hold in my hand. As the little angel disappeared back out into the cold and rain, I closed my door and read slowly every word of this Gospel tract. Then, I went up to my attic to get my rope and chair. I wouldn’t be needing them anymore.
“You see, I am now a happy child of the King, and since the address of your church was on the back of this Gospel tract, I have come here to personally say, ‘Thank you to God’s little angel who came just in the nick of time and by so doing, spared my soul from an eternity in Hell.'”
There were now no dry eyes in the church. As shouts of praise and honor to the King resounded off the very rafters of the building, Pastor Dad descended from the pulpit to the front pew where the little angel was seated. He took him in his arms and sobbed uncontrollably.
Probably no church has had a more glorious moment and probably this Universe has never seen a Papa that was more filled with love and honor for his son, except for one: This Father, God, also allowed His Son, Jesus, to go out into a cold and dark world. He received His Son back with joy unspeakable, and as all of Heaven shouted praises and honor to the King, the Father sat His beloved Son on a throne far above all principality and power and every name that is named.
There may be someone, reading this, who is also going through a dark, cold and lonely time in your soul. You may be a Christian, for we are not without problems, or you may not yet know the King. Whatever the case, and whatever the problem or situation you find yourself in, and no matter how dark it may seem, know that, “JESUS REALLY DOES LOVE YOU!”
The Feast of Easter is a feast of proclamation of his resurrection and victory over death. That salvation for us is won by Lord by his own blood. Are we ready to proclaim that “Truly he is Risen, Alleluia, Alleluia?
Wish you all a very Blessed and Happy Easter.
Other Sermons In This Series
October 21, 2022
March 24, 2022
April 22, 2022