MARCH 23, 2005, WEDNESDAY OF HOLY WEEK: Is 50:4-9; Mt 26:14-15

MY APPOINTED TIME DRAWS NEAR. I AM TO CELEBRATE THE PASSOVER WITH MY DISCIPLES IN YOUR HOUSE. Where did the Lord Jesus find the confidence he displayed in the face of persecution, torture and death? How did he find the strength and courage to undergo such an ordeal so actively and with entire dedication? The text from Isaiah that we heard in the first reading answers the first question: ĎThe Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame. He is near who upholds my right.í Confidence in the Father was the constant source of Jesusí firmness of character, so free and independent in his dealings with men and women; creative in interpreting law and applying it to the needs of the people it was made to serve. He knew that such behavior exposed him to criticism and made enemies, but he confidently went his own way. St John grasped this dimension of our Lordís personality with all desirable clarity and so he was concerned to recordís Jesusí own words giving expression to this profound relationship of trust: "It is my Father who glorifies me; you call him your God but you do not know Him, whereas I do know Him", Jesus answered his hostile critics. (Jn 8:54) Not only does he know the Father, he is so much at one with Him that he is able confidently to affirm that Ďif you knew me you would know the Father". Later he proclaimed the further mysterious truth that he and the Father are one (17:22). This firm, clear conviction, then, is the basis of Jesusí confidence and courage. He goes forth to meet the hour of his suffering and death convinced that in doing so he gives glory to the Father by fulfilling His will and carrying out His plan, and that he will have divine support.

How did he find the strength and courage to meet his ordeal so actively and with entire dedication? The second question has very nearly the same answer. His consciousness not only that he is united with the Father but that the bond of union is love. A love that binds them together in a manner that at once establishes and maintains their unity of mind and heart and affirms their distinct persons in all respect and esteem. That divine love includes a love of the persons made in the image and the likeness of the Father. Knowing the Father so intimately as he did Jesus understood that in our present state we human creatures are incapable of reflecting Godís likeness and so must be excluded from his presence as matters stood at the time. Only the pure of heart can behold the face of God and sustain his holy presence by the grace of the Spirit. Such cleansing could be effected by him alone as the only one of our race totally acceptable to the all-holy Father.

Jesus, as man, came to appreciate this state of affairs by his meditation and his prayer. Furthermore, he came to understand love in a new way through grasping both the holiness of the Father and His desire that all should come to know and serve Him so as to enter into his kingdom. It was this new kind of love, the self-giving love full of reverence and sensitive to the holiness of the Father that alone can satisfy the human heart that impelled Jesus to go to meet his passion and to yield himself to the Father in death. In living out his passion and death through love the Lord gave a fresh dimension to human life. All relations among persons are to reflect some degree of this transcendent love, marked by the respect of reverence and concern for the true good of the other, even to the point of self-sacrifice.

This is the meaning of the Holy Week that we are celebrating these days, and at this mass . May we so enter into this mystery of divine-human love as to make it operative in our own lives and a witness to others of the truth and salvation brought by the Lord. In this way we have a part in the Paschal mystery and, by the grace of the Spirit, share in assuring the ongoing fruitfulness of the suffering and death of Christ our Savior for the world of our own time and for all ages to come.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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