Each year we listen to the Passion of Jesus. We heard about the sadness Jesus felt, his worries about imminent death, his fear of being arrested, being whipped. His apostles felt the fear of being caught like their Master, Jesus. We hear the words but we have never had personal experience of living the fear of contracting a deadly virus, or of death at our doorpost. The Covid 19 makes everyone feel that fear that paralyses us all. Individuals are fearful of contracting the virus; government fear the virus is out of control; medical people fear that our hospital system is incapable of handling the crisis. Business fears economic recession. Employees fear being retrenched. There is no exception, fear is real and is a constant threat to everyone, not just at a local level or for a single country, but for the entire world. Epidemic then pandemic, but people of faith pray in hope. People without faith have only their faith in others. They hope scientists soon find the vaccine. To control fear, governments make rules; to conquer fear, Jesus called us to turn to him. Jesus once told his apostles 'fear not' for I am with you till the end of the world. Mt 28,20. For those who love and have faith in Jesus, their fear is short lived. The apostles loved Jesus and their fear lasted less than a week; they felt great Joy when they met him again. His opponents enjoyed their victory less than a week, and then they lived in fear and worry for days, probably till the end of their earthly journey.
In time of hardship and difficulty, we turn to Jesus in hope and that is the heart of our Easter celebration because his resurrection brings hope to all who have faith in Him. Jesus told the women: 'Do not be afraid, go and tell my brothers that they must leave for Galilee, they will see me there' Mat. 24,10. We need to move away, move out of fear to meet Jesus.
Happy Easter to all.
For many, Easter is the time to give thanks to God for showing God's love for the world, and for saving the world. For some, Easter is the time to relax, to party, and to enjoy holidays. Easter this year 2020 is different because of the fear of Covid 19 spreading. Government at all levels call people to stay home, movements are off limits at local level, and we are asked be kind to one another. The message is loud and clear and most people obey the orders- stay indoors-. The same message 'be kind, be generous and have hope in the Lord' is what the Church annually calls us to do. People often ignore this call because they don't feel they have need of it. This year is different. Covid 19' spreads fears and the fear is real and so close no one can ignore it. Staying inside or restricting movements is not only keeping you safe from contracting the deadly virus, but also shows your kindness and generosity to others. Be kind, be generous and unselfish is what we celebrate at Easter. The fear of the virus revealed what is inside our hearts.
Thirty silver pieces
'Judas his betrayer was filled with remorse and took the thirty silver pieces back to the chief priests and elders....' The chief priest took the money and bought the potter's field to be a graveyard for the poor. Mat 27,3-10
Betrayal is an evil act against one whom you once loved dearly. It is the abuse of love and trust. Jesus was condemned by the act of betrayal, but it is not what I would like to share here. What I would like to share is the power of God, who in his mysterious way, is able to turn upside down Judas' evil act to be an act of generosity for others. Witnessing the arrest of Jesus and seeing how evil it was, Judas felt sorry. He returned, went back to the chief priest and returned the money. That money turned out not to be wasted but it was invested to the burial ground for those who had nowhere to 'RIP'. Before his death Jesus showed his generosity to others by giving them an empty tomb, the cost of his life. Again, God in his power changed the weapon of death to be the symbol of life- His cross-. The cross was capital punishment, the greatest fear of all forms of punishment. Jesus turned upside down its meaning, making it to be the symbol of life, the ultimate hope for those who love and have faith in Him.
Never too late to say sorry
This is the experience of the repentant thief. On the cross, seeing that he was unable to escape death, but feeling death was approaching; he turned to Jesus uttered these words, words that came from his repentant heart : Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Jesus in his kindness, responded with love, confirming to him. You will be with me in paradise. Lk 23,43. The repentant thief received what he asked for- God's kingdom- because he repented at the last minute. It tells us that it would never be too late to say sorry.
My God, my God, why have you deserted me? Lk 27,46
Jesus used the negative statement to confirm a positive reality that is - God is his Father. In his agony he felt God was far away. For Jesus, the feeling of being abandoned is the affirmation. It is the confirmation that God was out there, but Jesus felt God was not nearby. This is Jesus' human experience in his agony on the cross. In times of being challenged, we feel that God had abandoned us. We can identify our personal experience with the feelings Jesus felt on the cross. In our great fear, heavy burden, and utmost agony we keep praying and yet God seems silent. We may even doubt the existence of God. May of Magdala in her sadness, mourning for the death of Jesus, didn't recognize Jesus when she saw and heard him. She thought he was a gardener. Her eyes were opened when Jesus called her name (Jn 20,11-18). Jesus in his utmost suffering cried out to confirm God is real, and yet the pain took control of the situation, blurred his vision about God's love. In his heart he felt God was out there somewhere.
For me 2020 is the year of washing hands. It is the year of washing hands for a number of reasons. First, it is because of the Covid 19 that everyone regularly washes hands to avoid the virus. Second, the advice to regularly wash one's hands comes from the medical experts, and more serioulys it comes from the mouths of all world political leaders. They ask us to wash hands regularly and it takes time to wash them. Each time, we need to wash not just for five or ten seconds, but it takes twenty seconds to wash hands properly. Hand washing is not something new. Parents taught their children to wash their hands after being to the toilet. Washing hands has its history from the Jews; the law of purity required a person to wash hands after returning from a public place. A person must wash his/ her hands as far as up to the elbow. The first politician leader who washed his hands publicly was Pilate. He washed his hands to save him from the guilt of Jesus' blood. Today we wash our hands not just for cleanliness, but for freeing us from the fear of contracting Covid 19. Hands play a significant role in our daily Eucharistic celebration. The Passion narrative of Jesus mentioned hands from different groups of people, and for different purposes; namely the hands to save, to show mercy and love. There are hands to build up and hands to destroy. There are hands to support and hands to condemn. There are hands to give and hands to receive. At the Last Supper Jesus held the bread, and then the cup, in his venerable hands to give thanks to God, and handed them to his apostles. Jesus' hands were to save, to show mercy and love. The apostles opened their hands to receive the bread and wine from Jesus. Their hands were to receive God's generosity and love. At every Eucharistic celebration, before the consecration of bread and wine, a priest washes his hands as the symbol of inner purity to celebrate the Sacred celebration. Later on, at the sign of peace hands are the hands of friendship and unity. At communion time, the hands of the Extraordinary Communion Minsters distribute the Body and Blood of Christ to the congregation, and they open their hands to receive the Body of Christ. These hands are the hands of faith sharing in communion, and God's love for others. Hands played an extraordinary role in Jesus' Passion narrative; apart from the hands of Jesus and the apostles. Soldiers used hands to arrest, and to show power when they tied Jesus' hands and led him away. Pointing fingers at Jesus came from the condemning hands. Hands used to judge, to condemn and even assert lies. The hands of the chief priest, who in his anger, banged on the table saying we need witnesses no more because we ourselves had heard him confirming he is the king. Hands showed their anger, frustrated and intimidated from the crowds, who raised hands above their heads shouting 'crucify him, crucify him'. Hands of the majority often went with a loud voice, shouting. They were manipulated by their leaders. Soldiers' hands were associated with inflicting pain and destroying life. Their hands showed no mercy when they whipped Jesus. There were helping hands of Simon who carried the cross for Jesus. Hands of women reached out to show their love for Jesus, but in their hopelessness the women only shed tears to show their grief, and solidarity with him. Hands of soldiers casting lots to get Jesus' garments were the hands of those hungry for material wealth. Hands of a soldier pierced Jesus' side. Hands of Mary who held Jesus' cold body. Hands of the secret apostles who came to remove Jesus' body from the cross and bury it in an empty tomb. The hands of women anointed Jesus' wounds. Mysterious hands chiselled the tomb and the mysterious hands moved the stone from the tomb.
God's hands are present to receive a human soul: 'into your hands I commend my spirit' said Jesus. Like Pilate, we wash our hands to save ourselves, to avoid trouble. Jesus washed not hands, but he washed the feet of his apostles- the sign of his unlimited generosity. His hands stretched out on the cross to save the multitude.
His broken hands shown to Thomas, was proof of his resurrection, 'Put your hands into the hole that they had made, doubt no more but believe' Jesus said to Thomas.
What sort of hands would you like to wash throughouly and what kind of hands you would like yours to be?
I went for a long walk on one afternoon. The sky was beautiful, calm. The blu sky had not a single cloud in it. I enjoyed the soft breeze that fanned on my face and the transquility of the afternoon. I felt a bit tired and then realized that I have gone for a long walk. I need to go back before it was getting dark. On my way back, I saw a dark cloud was forming. From experience that kind of cloud often brought with it gusting winds, and followed by bucketing rain. I started to worry what to do and how I would get home before the rain? If I was caught in the rain, I would get sick caused by the mixture of heat and cold, and being soaked with rain water. Where to hide? Standing under a tree with wind gusting was not an option; running home proved to be out of the question. On top of that there was the fear of low sugar. Fear paralysed my body, I felt no energy left, bones disjointed and leg muscles disobeyed my command. I sat on the road side to relax and felt the coolness and softness of the young grass on my feet. I then lied down to relax, eyes closed. It sounded like reading in a novel without reasonable explanation. I didn't know how to explain it but I felt the strength slowly returned and slept for sometime. Lying on the grass my mind was at rest, all body muscles were in the state of relaxing and tiredness disappeared. Probably relaxing was the time for the body to release any bad energy, detressed, refreshed the blod flow and the body detoxed itself. It would have been energy from the mother earth added to the body. Through the grass earthly energy articulated my body and gave it more strength. I didn't know what happened but I felt well and strength returned. Minutes later, I opened my eyes, and surprised, I saw the picture of magnificent, bright, beautiful, and skilful mixture of colours. The picture was surrounding the crystal clear sky around. It instantly caught my eyes. I followed the picture and it kept changing from time to time. Every minute a new image was being formed, and from that new beautiful image emerged another image, that formed a new one greater in both shape and size. This image swallowed other images, and merged into one larger image. A minute later the enormous image was separated into three or four smallers images with different shapes and sizes. There was no struggled nor violent when images took each others or spitted it out. It was peaceful as a fish ate a see weed or a chicken picked a wheat grain. Changing happened, forming a new image happend and yet it was peaceful and quiet. I saw lighning that lightened the sky and the dark cloud was brightened up. There was another kind of lightning, this one didn't lighten up the sky but only shed thousand light lines on the cloud. It looked like the cloud had its own vein system that came and went like a wink of an eyes. By the time I got out of that trance it was getting dark. It was amazing, fear disappeared. I got my strength back. What a wonderful afternoon! The dark cloud, the Covid 19 dark cloud creates fear to the whole world. We need to look for the bright side of it. Jesus once said: I am the Light for the world (Jn 8,11). His Light certainly will give us hope, and hope in Jesus is certain.
The Passion of Jesus brings to light the viciousness of the battle between good and evil existing in this world. We humans, by our own will and power, have contributed to greater evil in the world. We, in our wisdom, think we have solutions for all problems in our society, but reality shows, that to control the existing evil we often create a new one which is bigger than the last one. It looks like goodness gives way to evil forces. In the case of Jesus; it is very clear that sinners sit on the throne to judge the sinless. Jesus, the sinless, was condemned to death by the sinners; while the notorious- Barabbas- was set free Lk 23,20-25. Every country has a court of appeal. Experts and law makers know that not all judgments are just and right. This is caused by human bias, and decision making is influenced by the current movements of that society. A court of appeal helps to solve these problems but not all appeals are granted. Evil ambition and ego are the powerful forces to suppress voices of one's heart.
Charity, generosity is the heavenly remedy to heal a broken heart. It gives hope for a giver and brings even more hope for a receiver. Mk 15,16-20. It shows light to the heart of a receiver, and this light would help that person to repent. Meeting Jesus' eyes, Peter felt sorry and went away to repent, recalling the goodness Jesus had shown to him.
Death begins from within one's heart. When love for someone has died, to his/her heart, a former loved one already dead. The action that is carried out is only the revelation of the deadly conditions of that person. Before condemning Jesus to death, his opponents had already killed him in their hearts. The capital sentence they gave Jesus was the revelation of their inner hearts.