- Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
- Today in Catholic History
- Quote or Joke of the Day
- Today’s Gospel Reading
- Reflection on Today’s Gospel
- New Translation of the Mass
- A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
- Franciscan Formation Reflection
- Reflection on part of the SFO Rule
Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:
I purposely did not hold back on what truly happened to Jesus from a physiological (physical) and psychological viewpoint. In doing so, hopefully you may gain a greater insight into what our Lord Jesus Christ did FOR US!
Please let me know your thoughts after reading this recognizably long reflection.
Here is an easy way to make crosses from the palms you will receive at Mass today. Go to this website for easy step-by step directions, with illustrations:
Today in Catholic History:
† 617 – Death of Donnán of Eigg, Celtic Christian martyr, patron saint of Eigg
† 858 – Death of Benedict III, Italian Pope (855-58)
† 1272 – Death of Zita/Cita, Italian maid/saint, at about 59 years of age
† 1492 – Spain and Christopher Columbus (a third order Franciscan) sign a contract for him to sail to Asia to get
† 1573 – Birth of Maximilian I, duke/ruler of Bayern (Catholic League)
† 1865 – Birth of Ursula Julia Ledochowska, Polish-Austrian Catholic saint (d. 1939)
† 1969 – Sirhan Sirhan is convicted of assassinating Robert F. Kennedy (a Roman Catholic).
† 1970 – Death of Sergei U S Aleksi,patriarch of Russian-Orthodox church, at age 92
† Feasts/Memorials: Pope Anicetus (died 166); Saint Stephen Harding (d. 1134), Simeon Barsabae and companions
(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
“Today in Catholic History”
Quote or Joke of the Day:
Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ crucifixion, and His body being placed in the tomb.
(NAB Matthew 27:11-54 –short form) 11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and he questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” 12And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he made no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they are testifying against you?” 14 But he did not answer him one word, so that the governor was greatly amazed. 15 Now on the occasion of the feast the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd one
prisoner whom they wished. 16 And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called (Jesus) Barabbas. 17 So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them, “Which one do you want me to release to you, (Jesus) Barabbas, or Jesus called Messiah?” 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had handed him over. 19 While he was still seated on the bench, his wife sent him a message, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man. I suffered much in a dream today because of him.” 20 The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas but to destroy Jesus. 21 The governor said to them in reply, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” They answered, “Barabbas!” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus called Messiah?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 But he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” They only shouted the louder, “Let him be crucified!” 24 When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. Look to it yourselves.” 25 And the whole people said in reply, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” 26 Then he released Barabbas to them, but after he had Jesus scourged, he handed him over to be crucified. 27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium and gathered the whole cohort around him. 28 They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him. 29 Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucify him. 32 As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon; this man they pressed into service to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of the Skull), 34 they gave Jesus wine to drink mixed with gall. But when he had tasted it, he refused to drink. 35 After they had crucified him, they divided his garments by casting lots; 36 then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37 And they placed over his head the written charge against him: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews. 38 Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and the other on his left. 39 Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, if you are the Son of God, (and) come down from the cross!” 41 Likewise the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him and said, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. So he is the king of Israel! Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he wants him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” 44 The revolutionaries who were crucified with him also kept abusing him in the same way. 45 From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46 And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “This one is calling for Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge; he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a
reed, gave it to him to drink. 49 But the rest said, “Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.” 50 But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit. 51 And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split, 52 tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53 And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54 The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”
Today is the beginning of Holy Week, the days during which we journey with Jesus on His “way of the cross” in anticipation of His Resurrection on the morning we know as Easter. Today’s liturgy begins with a procession with palms to remind us of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem.
Palm, or Passion, Sunday begins the most sacred week of the Catholic Church year – – Holy Week. During these days, we prepare ourselves for Easter by prayerful reflection upon the events of Jesus’ Passion and death. To help you prepare, why don’t you place a crucifix next to your television, on the kitchen table, or by the front door for this week. Use it as reminder of the redemption and salvation Jesus Christ won for us through His death and Resurrection. Use the crucifix also as a reminder and focal point for special prayers during Holy Week.
The events of Jesus’ Passion are proclaimed in their entirety in today’s Liturgy of the Word (at Mass). These events will be proclaimed again, in the gospel reading, when we celebrate the liturgies of the Triduum – – Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion, and the Easter Vigil (There is no Mass on Holy Saturday).
In communities that celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation (RCIA) with catechumens (Our parish has three catechumens this year), these liturgies of the Triduum take on special importance because they invite the catechumens and the community to enter together into the central mysteries of our faith. These special days are indeed profound and holy ones in the Catholic Church. In Cycle A of the Liturgical reading rotation, we read of the Passion of Jesus as found in the Gospel of Matthew on Palm Sunday, often called Passion Sunday. On Good Friday, we will read the Passion of Jesus from the Gospel of John instead of Matthew. The story of Jesus’ Passion and death in Matthew’s Gospel focuses particularly on the obedience of Jesus to the will of His Father: God, instead of the actual event particulars.
I have elected to write my reflection on the shorter form of the Gospel reading for this reflection. Even at dealing with “only” 44 verses instead of two chapters, please be prepared to sit and drink some coffee or another favorite beverage, and enjoy God’s word. You may even wish to break this reflection up over a couple of days.
Not specifically covered in my reflection will be the happenings of Jesus sending His disciples to prepare for Passover, and His indication (in the Garden) that the events to come are the will of God the Father “He said, ‘Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, The teacher says, My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.‘” (Matthew 26:18).
In Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, He prays three times to God the Father to take away His “cup of suffering”. Yet, each time, He concludes by affirming His obedience to the Father’s will (Matthew 26:39-44).
“He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.’ When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, ‘So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again, ‘My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!’ Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open. He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again.” (Matthew 26:39-44)
Another theme of Matthew’s Gospel is to show Jesus as the fulfillment of Holy Scripture. Throughout the Passion narrative, Matthew cites, hints, refers to, and alludes to Old Testament Scripture in order to show the events of Jesus’ Passion and death are in line with all that was prophesied of the “Messiah”. Matthew is stressing the fact that if the events of Jesus’ Passion story were foretold and fulfulled, then God must be in control. In addition, Matthew is particularly concerned that his readers do not miss the fact that Jesus IS the “Suffering Servant” of the Old Testament.
Jesus acts in obedience to God the Father – – even in death – – so OUR sins may be forgiven. Matthew makes this clear in the story of the Lord’s Supper. As Jesus blesses the cup, he says:
“. . . for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)
The evangelist places the responsibility for Jesus’ death on the “Sanhedrin”, the “chief priests and elders” (Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes) who were responsible for the Temple. However, the enmity, hostility, and malice that these Jewish “leaders”, along with the Jewish “mob”, displayed toward Jesus should not be interpreted in a way that blames the Jewish nation (or people as a whole) for Jesus’ death.
Throughout Matthew’s Gospel, the Passion narrative reflects the tension that probably existed between Matthew’s early Christian Catholic community and their Jewish contemporaries. At the Second Vatican Council, the Council Fathers made clear that all sinners share responsibility for the suffering and death of Jesus and that it’s wrong to place blame for Jesus’ Passion on the Jewish contemporaries of Jesus, or on the Jewish people today.
My reflection starts with Jesus before the governor who is questioning Him:
“Are you the king of the Jews?” (Matthew 27:11)
“King of the Jews” was a title used [of Jesus] only by the Gentiles. Matthew used this title only several times, and always as coming from a Gentile:
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” (Matthew 2:2);
“Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they placed over his head the written charge against him: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” (Matthew
I believe Matthew is equating this title with the more accepted Jewish title of “Messiah”. In the following verses, Matthew changed “king of the Jews” found in Mark’s Gospel (Mk 15:9, 12) to “(Jesus) called Messiah”:
“’Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.’ Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.” (Matthew 2:2, 4);
“So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them, ‘Which one do you want me to release to you, (Jesus) Barabbas, or Jesus called Messiah?’ Pilate said to them, ‘Then what shall I do with Jesus called Messiah?’ They all said, ‘Let him be crucified!’” (Matthew 27:17, 22)
The normal political nuance, association, and implication of either title (King or Messiah) would be of concern to the Roman governor who did not want dissention and uprising among the Jewish population, or for anyone to be claimed as a “king” from a group of people ruled over by the Romans.
Jesus’ answer, “You say so” (verse 11) is unique to only Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus’ response is not a total “yes” to the governor’s question. It is, at best, a half-affirmative response. The emphasis on Pilate’s question is placed on the pronoun “You”. The answer implies Jesus’ statement would not have been made if the question had not been asked. I believe, Jesus does not answer the question completely, because His kingship is something Pontius Pilate could not understand it to be, even if He did answer the question in a total and full affirmative response: YES I AM.
Jesus, a man of great faith, preaching, and charisma, could verbally destroy the accusations against Him with little effort. Yet He chooses to remain quiet; to allow God’s plan of salvation to take place, even when ordered to speak:
“The high priest rose and addressed him, ‘Have you no answer? What are these men testifying against you?’” But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, ‘I order you to tell us under oath before the living God whether you are the Messiah, the Son of God.’” (Matthew 26:62-63).
“Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers; he was silent and opened not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7).
The governor’s being “greatly amazed” is an allusion to another verse of Isaiah:
“Even as many were amazed at him— so marred was his look beyond that of man, and his appearance beyond that of mortals– so shall he startle many nations, because of him kings shall stand speechless; For those who have not been told shall see, those who have not heard shall ponder it.” (Isaiah 52:14-15).
The choice that Pontius Pilate offers the crowd, Barabbas or Jesus, is believed to be a standard practice agreed upon between the Roman government and Jewish nation; a custom of releasing one prisoner, chosen by the crowd, at the time of Passover. Matthew denotes that this release is done at the time of “the feast”:
“Now on the occasion of the feast the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd one prisoner whom they wished.” (Matthew 27:15).
The custom of releasing a prisoner is also mentioned in Mark 15:6 and John 18:39, but not in Luke. Your bible may have the following Lucan verse:
“He was obliged to release one prisoner for them at the festival.” (Luke 23:17)
However, it is not part of the original text of Luke and is not found in many early and important Greek manuscripts.
Outside of the Gospels, there is no direct evidence or confirmation of this practice of releasing a prisoner. Per NAB footnotes, scholars are divided in their judgment of the historical reliability of the claim that there was such a practice.
There was another Jesus at this event: “[Jesus] Barabbas”?! Jesus was a common Jewish name then, and still is now within the Mexican culture. The Hebrew name Joshua (Greek Iesous) is a first century translation for the name Jesus, meaning “Yahweh helps”, and was interpreted as “Yahweh saves.”
“[Jesus] Barabbas” is found in only a few texts, although its absence in most all other writings can be explained as an omission of the word “Jesus” for reasons of reverence to the name, the person, and the God who is instantly imaged in saying the name.
Two little trivia’s of fact: The name [Jesus] is bracketed in today’s reading because of its uncertain textual proof in relation to Barabbas. The Aramaic name “Barabbas” means “son of the father”. How ironic was Pilate’s choice which was offered: Barabbas (son of the father) and Jesus (Son of God), the “true” son of the Father. I wonder; was the distinction and meaning in the names known to Matthew’s first century Christian Catholics?
Have you ever wondered why “envy” was such a deadly and reviled sin in the Catholic Church? Here is a great example as to why. Out of envy, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes sought out evidence and conspirators against Jesus, solely due to His status within the Jewish community. They found and paid Judas Iscariot to hand Him over:
“Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went off to the chief priests to hand him over to them.” (Mark 14:10).
Verse 16 through 18 of today’s reading is also a prime example of the tendency, found in all the Gospels, to present Pontius Pilate in a somewhat favorable light. It also emphasized the hostility of the Jewish authorities which eventually poured out to the people caught up in a type of “mob mentality”.
Jesus had friends in high places, even in the governor’s mansion. Jesus’ innocence was declared by a Gentile woman: the governor’s wife. She told her husband what was related to her “in a dream”. If you remember from Matthew’s infancy narrative, dreams were a means of divine communication:
“Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.’” (Matthew 1:20);
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way. When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him. When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there. Because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee.” (Matthew 2:12, 13, 19, 22).
Even the governor, Pontius Pilate, believed that Jesus would have been the most appropriate prisoner to be released. Jesus, by far, would also have been the safest for Him in a political way as well. Barabbas was a well-known instigator of public actions against the Roman Government; something Pontius Pilate did not want to happen. It is also an event (unrest and riot) Pilate did not want higher ups in Rome to get “wind” of, as it would be dangerous for him personally and politically.
With a “crowd mentality” well established and riled-up, the Temple leaders persuaded the crowd to start yelling “Let him be crucified”! The crowds, incited by the chief priests and elders demanded that Jesus Christ be executed by crucifixion, – – the most horrible form of capital punishment, – – and reserved only for the fewest of dangerous criminals.
Marks parallel verse from his Gospel is in the active case, making Pontius Pilate more implicated in the decision to crucify Jesus’:
“Crucify him” (Mark 15:3).
Matthew changed His verse to the passive case in order to emphasize the responsibility of the crowds in the decision:
“They all said, ‘Let him be crucified!’” (Matthew 27:22)
Again, only found in Matthew’s Gospel the following verse appears:
“… [Pilate] took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.” (Matthew 27:24)
This verse reminds me of the following from Deuteronomy:
“If the corpse of a slain man is found lying in the open on the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you to occupy, and it is not known who killed him, your elders and judges shall go out and measure the distances to the cities that are in the neighborhood of the corpse. When it is established which city is nearest the corpse, the elders of that city shall take a heifer that has never been put to work as a draft animal under a yoke, and bringing it down to a wadi with an ever flowing stream at a place that has not been plowed or sown, they shall cut the heifer’s throat there in the wadi. The priests, the descendants of Levi, shall also be present, for the LORD, your God, has chosen them to minister to him and to give blessings in his name, and every case of dispute or violence must be settled by their decision. Then all the elders of that city nearest the corpse shall wash their hands over the heifer whose throat was cut in the wadi, and shall declare, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, and our eyes did not see the deed. Absolve, O LORD, your people Israel, whom you have ransomed, and let not the guilt of shedding innocent blood remain in the midst of your people Israel.’ Thus they shall be absolved from the guilt of bloodshed.” (Deuteronomy 21:1-8).
Hand washing was prescribed in the case of a murder when the killer was unknown. The “elders” of the city nearest to where the corpse (the dead body) wash their hands, declaring, “Our hands did not shed this blood.”
Pontius Pilate goes further in saying, “look to it yourselves”.
“I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.’ They said, ‘What is that to us? Look to it
yourself.’” (Matthew 27:4).
The crowd, “the whole people”, the entire people (Greek “laos”) of Israel say:
“His blood be upon us and upon our children.” (Matthew 27:25)
In this verse (Mt 27:25), Matthew is referring to the Old Testament prophesy from Jeremiah:
“But mark well: if you put me to death, it is innocent blood you bring on yourselves, on this city and its citizens. For in truth it was the LORD who sent me to you, to speak all these things for you to hear.” (Jeremiah 26:15).
The responsibility for Jesus’ death was accepted by the Jewish leadership and nation, God’s special possession, God’s own people, and they thereby lose that singular high privilege:
“Therefore, if you hearken to my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my special possession, dearer to me than all other people, though all the earth is mine.” (Exodus 19:5);
“On that day I will respond, says the LORD; I will respond to the heavens, and they shall respond to the earth” (Hosea 2:23);
“Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:43).
The “people that will produce its fruit” are the “believing” Israelites and Gentiles, the church of Jesus.
When Mark’s Gospel was written in the late first century, there still was a controversy between Matthew’s Catholic (universal) church and the Pharisees Judaism about which “faith” group was the “true” people of God. For me, this is overtly and obviously reflected in Matthew’s writings.
As the Second Vatican Council had pointed out, guilt for Jesus’ death is not attributable to all the Jews of Jesus’ time, or to any Jews of later times.
“True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ; still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures. All should see to it, then, that in catechetical work or in the preaching of the word of God they do not teach anything that does not conform to the truth of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ.” (Pope Paul VI, Second Vatican Council, Nostra Aetate, 10/28/1965)
Crucifixion is a horrible and humiliating way to die. To start with, Pontius Pilate “had Jesus scourged”! Scourging is an act which usually prefaced the crucifixion itself. Scourging is the first act of public humiliation and pain for the condemned prisoner. Matthew does not go into detail about Jesus’ actual scourging, yet we can all imagine the violence, humiliation, and misery that Jesus went thought, so far, – – for US!! He was tied to a tree or pillar in public view, stripped of His clothes, forced to be naked, without any protection or humility before all on-lookers and revelers of that Jewish/Gentile society. He was struck up to 39 times (Roman law forbade more) with devices like wooden and leather rods, and the
infamous “Cat of nine tails”, a mace type of whip made of multiple leather strands. At the end of these strands of leather was a bent piece of metal.
With each strike of this tool of “pain and destruction”, the metal pieces would imbed into the skin and muscle of Jesus Christ, only to then be yanked out of His body, taking chunks of flesh and muscle with each pull. No part of His body was spared: head, torso, arms, legs, buttocks, face, and genitalia were all affected! I imagine that Jesus literally looked like raw hamburger after His scourging – – His beating!
After the scourging, Jesus was taken into the inner depths of “the praetorium”: the residence of the Roman governor. In reality, Pontius Pilate’s usual place of residence was at “Caesarea Maritima” on the Mediterranean coast. As the local “governor”, he went to Jerusalem during the great Jewish feasts, as the Roman representative. Whenever there was an influx of Jewish pilgrims in Jerusalem, there was always an inherent increase in the danger of nationalistic riots from the Jewish populace and other instigators.
More trivia: It is disputed among scholars whether the praetorium in Jerusalem was, in reality, the old palace of Herod located in the west of the city proper, or the fortress of Antonia northwest of the temple area.
A humiliating act, though not a public humiliation this time, was the forceful tearing away of Jesus’ clothes, His stripping. Jesus was forced to first stand among His tormentors naked again – – with NO protection again; then to have a “Scarlet military cloak” thrown about Him, most certainly with great force in the process. Jesus was truly “manhandled” by these strong and innately violent men.
The color of the “military cloak” is reported for a purpose. Royal purple was significant in this era:
“They clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him.” (Mark 15:17);
“And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, and clothed him in a purple cloak.” (John 19:2).
Purple cloth was expensive and hard to acquire. The color purple (not the movie) was reserved for nobility in the society.
Being spit on is gross! Picture being “Spat upon” by 600 nearly unruly men intent on wanting to defame and destroy you. He had already been subjected to similar humiliation and pain by the Sanhedrin:
“Then they spat in his face and struck him, while some slapped him.” (Matthew 26:67)
This spitting and striking Jesus is the manifestation found in the prophesy of Isaiah:
“I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.” (Isaiah 50:6).
The “crown out of thorns” was probably made of long thorns that grew in the bushes of the area. The “crown” was fashioned so that the thorns stood upright as to resemble a “radiant” crown (a crown with points along the top, or a diadem [wreath] with spikes worn by Hellenistic kings).
The soldiers’ purpose at this time was one of mockery and humiliation, and not necessarily that of torture (per se, from their warped minds). They wanted to bully Him and to treat him in a harassing way; a way we would consider to be the epitome of hazing. Also, for this reason, “a reed” (thick stick) was placed in His hands a mock scepter, the symbol of a ruler. Matthew is the only Evangelist to write about a reed being placed in Jesus’ hand. Now, imagine the pain of wearing a crown of thorns. Imagine
600 strong soldiers, in turn, taking reeds and striking His head and the associated thorns resting upon His head. These thorns pierced His skin – – penetrated His skin, muscle, and bone – – with an intensity unknown to most of us. Those thorns were not just ON TOP of His head. Thorns on the forehead region were violently pushed into the skin of His forehead, AND into His eyebrows, nose, EYES, and even His cheeks and teeth. The thorns on the side of his head penetrated His ears, and possibly went through the very thin bones of the skull located just in front of the ears and into His BRAIN. The thorns on the back of His head most likely could not go through the skull in that region (too thick), but I am sure they burrowed and scraped along the bone surface with each hit of His head. Also these same thorns could have easily been pushed down into the neck and shoulder regions.
Sadly, this act, along with the previous scourging, was only leading up to the actual death sentence – – Crucifixion. It is hard for me to even picture something that could be more terrifying and painful.
After His Scourging, Jesus was forced to put the torn rags of His clothing back on, and then too carry a heavy piece of wood (similar to a present day rail-road tie) along the rough city streets of Jerusalem.
The “human” Jesus was far too weak to accomplish the task of carrying the instrument of His physical death – – the Holy Cross. The soldiers forced into service “a Cyrenian named Simon” to carry Jesus’ cross. By Roman law, Roman garrisons in Palestine had the right to requisition the property and services of the native population without mutual consent for any reason.
Where did this man named Simon come from, and why was he chosen to pick up Jesus’ mission? From a map and atlas, I found the area of Cyrenian on the north coast of Africa, with Cyrene as its capital city. It also was a Roman Province. The area had a large population of Greek-speaking Jews. Simon may have been actually living in Palestine at this time, or may have simply come to Jerusalem as a Passover pilgrim. Scholars believe however that Simon was known among the early Christian Catholics.
Dying by crucifixion is a brutal death. Jesus Christ was again stripped naked, and laid out on the cross placed on the ground. Nails similar to thin railroad spikes were driven through the bones near the wrists and ankles, using a sledge hammer. If they missed the nail, striking the hand, arm, foot or leg – – oh well!! The arms were stretched out, using multiple men and ropes, till they literally popped out of their sockets (dislocating them).
The specific placement of the nails was not only chosen for being the best place to hold a person’s weight without ripping out (the nail is surrounded by many small bones and associated tissues), it also was an area where many nerves grouped together (a nerve plexus). Going through the nerves in this area would cause a severe shocking-type of cramping pain throughout the entire extremity, extending into the shoulder and pelvis regions. This pain and cramping would last intensely and continuously, until the prisoner (Jesus) died. Have you ever had a several muscle cramp in your calf; one so severe that it made you stand up to “work it out”? Imagine this same type of pain and cramping throughout the entirety of all four extremities, AND all at once, AND continuing for the three hours Jesus was alive on the cross.
Now, Jesus (attached to the cross) has hoisted into the air where gravity took effect. Jesus’ own weight would cause His torso to stretch out with the arms and chest extended fully. If have to explain some physiology in breathing. We breathe (inhale and exhale) by the use of two muscle groups: muscles in the chest wall, and the diaphragm muscle that separates the chest and abdominal cavities. The chest wall can no longer expand and contract (go in and out) any longer, so only the diaphragm is working
somewhat. Thus, Jesus is literally suffocating – – very slowly.
There are other physiological things going on in the body of the scourged and crucified body, for which I will not get into detail in this reflection. I believe I have given you the idea of how much abuse, torment, humiliation, and pain Jesus went through for US!
While hanging on the cross, Jesus was offered “wine to drink mixed with gall.” Mark, in a parallel verse has the wine mixed with a narcotic drug:
“They gave him wine drugged with myrrh, but he did not take it.” (Mark 15:23).
I wonder if Matthew is attempting to make a vague reference to Psalm 69:
“Instead they put gall in my food; for my thirst they gave me vinegar.” (Psalm 69:22).
Psalm 69 belongs to the class of psalms called the “individual laments”, in which a persecuted “just or righteous” man prays for deliverance during great pain and suffering. The theme of the suffering “Just One” is frequently applied to the sufferings of Jesus in the passion narratives.
By Roman tradition, the clothing of an executed criminal went to his executioners, the soldiers that are physically killing our Lord Jesus Christ. The description of the procedure in Jesus’ case, and found in all the Gospels, is plainly inspired by Psalm 22:
“They divide my garments among them; for my clothing they cast lots.” (Psalm 22:18).
However, only John quotes Psalm 22:18 verbatim:
“So they said to one another, ‘Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be,’ in order that the passage of scripture might be fulfilled (that says): ‘They divided my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots.’ This is what the soldiers did.” (John 19:24).
The offense of a person condemned to death by crucifixion was written on a tablet that was displayed on his cross. In Jesus’ case, the charge against Him was that he had claimed to be the “King of the Jews”. It was written in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic.
Crucified on either side of Jesus were two “revolutionaries”. These two individuals were criminals, just as Jesus was found to be a criminal. Interesting for me, is that John’s Gospel uses the same word (revolutionary) in the original Greek for Barabbas.
“They cried out again, ‘Not this one but Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas was a revolutionary” (John 18:40).
Matthew does not get into much detail about the two thieves who are experiencing the same horrible death as Jesus. We know from tradition that one verbally abuses and taunts Jesus, and the other (St. Dismas) eventually repents for his sins, and asks Jesus for forgiveness (a true confession and remorse of his sins). One will die in body and spirit, and the other “good thief” will die in body, yet live forever in paradise.
Why did the people that passed by Jesus “revile him, shaking their heads”? The answer can be found in Psalm 22:
“All who see me mock me; they curl their lips and jeer; they shake their heads at me.” (Psalm 22:8).
They certainly did mock Him in their yelling out to Him, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days… come down from the cross!” just as the Sanhedrin had done earlier in the Passion narrative:
“They found none, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward who stated, “This man said, ‘I can destroy the temple of God and within three days rebuild it.'” (Matthew 26:60-61).
The words these people mocking Jesus, “If you are the Son of God” are the same words as those of Satan during the temptation of Jesus at the very beginning of His public Ministry:
“The tempter approached and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread. … If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.’ For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you and with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'” (Matthew
Jesus started His public life, and is now ending His public life with the same question being asked of Him.
The Pharisees and Scribes mocked Jesus by sarcastically calling Him “the King of Israel!” In these words, the members of the Sanhedrin call themselves and their people not “the Jews” (as individuals) but instead “Israel” (as a nation). (I guess the irony and joke is on them!)
Members of the Sanhedrin continued to mock and tease Jesus. Distinctive to Matthew’s writing style is the verse:
“He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he wants him.” (Matthew 27:26)
Psalm 22 is again being referred to by Matthew:
“You relied on the LORD–let him deliver you; if he loves you, let him rescue you.” (Psalm 22:9).
Matthew having the Temple leaders saying, “He said, ‘I am the Son of God’” is most likely a hint to the Book of Wisdom wherein the theme of the suffering “Just One” appears:
“Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, Reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD. To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us, Because his life is not like other men’s, and different are his ways. He judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He calls blest the destiny of the just and boasts that God is his Father. Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.” (Wisdom 2:12-20).
A little known prophet of the Old Testament is Amos (No relationship to Andy). Amos prophesied that on the day of the Lord “the sun will set at midday“:
“On that day, says the Lord GOD, I will make the sun set at midday and cover the earth with darkness in broad daylight.” (Amos 8:9).
Why would Jesus Christ cry out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” He is actually crying out the words of Psalm 22 (again Psalm 22):
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish?” (Psalm 22:2).
In Mark’s Gospel, the verse (Psalm 22:2) is cited entirely in Aramaic. Matthew, however, partially retains some of the original Aramaic, but changes the invocation of God is changed to the Hebrew word “Eli”. Matthew may have done this so his readers could more easily relate to the following verse about Jesus’ calling for Elijah in today’s reading:
“Some of the bystanders who heard it said, ‘This one is calling for Elijah.’” (Matthew 27:29).
The expectation of the return of “Elijah” from heaven in order to prepare Israel for the final manifestation of God’s kingdom was widespread among the Jewish people. Elijah was the greatest prophet of the Old Testament, taken up into heaven in a most unusual way:
“As they walked on conversing, a flaming chariot and flaming horses came between them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.” (2 Kings 2:11).
Do you think Elijah was abducted by a UFO? (he, he) Seriously, the Jewish people believed Elijah would come to the help of those in distress. For this reason, I believe that is why they said, “This one is calling for Elijah.”
“Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.” (Mark 15:37).
Matthew’s use of different words, “Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit” articulates both Jesus’ control over His destiny and His obedience in giving up of His human life to God; in doing God’s will.
“The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Mark 15:38);
“Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle.” (Luke 23:45);
Interesting to me, is the fact that the Evangelist Luke puts the tearing of the veil immediately before the death of Jesus.
There were two veils in the Mosaic tabernacle, the outer one at the entrance of the “Holy Place” and the inner one before the “Holy of Holies”:
“You shall have a veil woven of violet, purple and scarlet yarn, and of fine linen twined, with cherubim embroidered on it. It is to be hung on four gold-plated columns of acacia wood, which shall have hooks of gold and shall rest on four silver pedestals. Hang the veil from clasps. The ark of the commandments you shall bring inside, behind this veil which divides the holy place from the holy of holies. Set the propitiatory on the ark of the commandments in the holy of holies. ‘Outside the veil you shall place the table and the lamp stand, the latter on the south side of the Dwelling, opposite the table, which is to be put on the north side. For the entrance of the tent make a variegated curtain of violet, purple and scarlet yarn and of fine linen twined.’” (Exodus 26:31-36).
Only the high priest could pass through the latter and ONLY on the Day of Atonement as described in Leviticus:
“After the death of Aaron’s two sons, who died when they approached the LORD’S presence, the LORD spoke to Moses and said to him, ‘Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he pleases into the sanctuary, inside the veil, in front of the propitiatory on the ark; otherwise, when I reveal myself in a cloud above the propitiatory, he will die. Only in this way may Aaron enter the sanctuary. He shall bring a young bullock for a sin offering and a ram for a holocaust. He shall wear the sacred linen tunic, with the linen drawers next his flesh, gird himself with the linen sash and put on the linen miter. But since these vestments are sacred, he shall not put them on until he has first bathed his body in water. From the Israelite community he shall receive two male goats for a sin offering and one ram for a holocaust. Aaron shall bring in the bullock, his sin offering to atone for himself and for his household. Taking the two male goats and setting them before the LORD at the entrance of the meeting tent, he shall cast lots to determine which one is for the LORD and which for Azazel. The goat that is determined by lot for the LORD, Aaron shall bring in and offer up as a sin offering. But the goat determined by lot for Azazel he shall set alive before the LORD, so that with it he may make atonement by sending it off to Azazel in the desert. Thus shall Aaron offer up the bullock, his sin offering, to atone for himself and for his family. When he has slaughtered it, he shall take a censer full of glowing embers from the altar before the LORD, as well as a double handful of finely ground fragrant incense, and bringing them inside the veil, there before the LORD he shall put incense on the fire, so that a cloud of incense may cover the propitiatory over the commandments; else he will die. Taking some of the bullock’s blood, he shall sprinkle it with his finger on the fore part of the propitiatory and likewise sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times in front of the propitiatory. Then he shall slaughter the people’s sin-offering goat, and bringing its blood inside the veil, he shall do with it as he did with the bullock’s blood, sprinkling it on the propitiatory and before it. Thus he shall make atonement for the sanctuary because of all the sinful defilements and faults of the Israelites. He shall do the same for the meeting tent, which is set up among them in the midst of their uncleanness. No one else may be in the meeting tent from the time he enters the sanctuary to make atonement until he departs. When he has made atonement for himself and his household, as well as for the whole Israelite community, he shall come out to the altar before the LORD and make atonement for it also. Taking some of the bullock’s and the goat’s blood, he shall put it on the horns around the altar.’” (Leviticus 16:1-18).
The veil that is torn in two as described in the Passion narratives was probably the inner one, if not both. What significance can be found in the veil separating the Holy of Holies? To me, the meaning of the veils tearing, thus exposing the “Holy of Holies”, is a symbol that with Jesus’ death all people have now access to the presence of God at all times. God is no longer segregated from people or from society. Or, can another representation be made that with Jesus’ – – the Son of God’s – – death on the Holy cross, the tearing of the veil in the Temple allows all to see the “holiest” part standing exposed, making it profane and no longer needed in God’s kingdom, and foretelling that it will soon to be destroyed (in the year 70 AD)?
Matthew included many things to the Passion narrative that the other Evangelists did not. This includes the following:
“The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared too many.” (Matthew 27:31)
The earthquake, the splitting of the rocks, and especially the resurrection of the dead saints indicate the coming of the final age of man. In the Old Testament the coming of God is frequently portrayed with the imagery of an earthquake:
“The earth quaked, the heavens shook, before God, the One of Sinai, before God, the God of Israel.” (see Psalm 68:9);
“The thunder of your chariot wheels resounded; your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked.” (see Psalm 77:19).
Earlier in Matthew’s (the 24th chapter), Jesus speaks of the earthquakes that will accompany the “labor pains” signifying the beginning of the conclusion of the old world:
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes from place to place. All these are the beginning of the labor pains.” (Matthew 24:7-8).
For the expectation of the resurrection of the dead at the coming of the new and final age, we should look at a favorite of Jesus’ Old Testament books, Daniel:
“At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people; it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time. At that time your people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace. But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.” (Daniel 12:1-3).
The “end” of the old age has not come about:
“Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).
However, the new age has broken in with the death and resurrection of Jesus. Since the kingdom of the Son of Man has been described as “the world” and Jesus’ sovereignty precedes His final “coming” in glory:
“The field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.” (Matthew 13:38, 41).
The “coming” is not the “parousia” (The second coming of Jesus Christ), but rather, the manifestation of Jesus’ rule “after His Resurrection.” Matthew uses the words, “After His Resurrection”, because he wishes to assert the primacy of Jesus’ resurrection.
There was an obvious and dramatic change in many of the witnesses to Jesus’ death. Even non-believers instantly changed in heart, mind, and soul.
At this uniquely reverential and special time, when most of Jesus’ followers including His Apostles and Jewish brethren has abandoned Him, a Catholic profession (or, a statement at least) of faith is made by the same Pagan, Gentile, Roman Soldiers that physically mocked, jeered, beat, and put Jesus to death.
The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, ‘Truly, this was the Son of God!’” (Matthew 27:54)
Not only the “Centurion” immediately believed this “Act of Faith”, as in Mark’s Gospel, but the other soldiers who were keeping watch over Jesus believed in His divinity as well.
In Summary, there are many vantage points from which to imagine and reflect on Jesus’ Passion. In the characters of Matthew’s Gospel, we can find expressions of ourselves and the many ways in which we respond to Jesus Christ. Sometimes we are like Judas Iscariot, betraying Jesus and then regretting it. Then there are times when we are like Peter by denying Him; or like His Apostles who fall asleep during Jesus’ darkest hour but then act rashly and violently at His arrest. There are times we are like Simon (the Cyrenian), who was pressed into service to help Jesus carry His cross. And finally, we are often like the Temple leaders who feared Jesus, and/or like Pontius Pilate who washed his hands of the whole affair.
After reading, examining, and studying on the Passion, we are left with one final mission for this Lenten Season – – to meditate and reflect on the events in today’s Passion narrative and on the forgiveness that Jesus’ obedience won for us.
“Act of Faith”
“O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins, and that He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because in revealing them you can neither deceive nor be deceived. Amen”
Pax et Bonum
New Translation of the Mass
In November of 2011, with the start of the new Liturgical year and Advent, there will be a few noticeable changes in the Mass. It will still be the same ritual for celebrating the Eucharist. The Mass will still have the same parts, the same patterns, and the same flow as it has had for the past several decades. It is only the translation of the Latin that is changing.
The new translation seeks to correspond much more closely to the exact words and sentence structure of the Latin text. At times, this results in a good and faithful rendering of the original meaning. At other times it produces a rather awkward text in English which is difficult to proclaim and difficult to understand. Most of those problems affect the texts which priests will proclaim rather than the texts that belong to the congregation as a whole. It is to the congregation’s texts that I will address with each blog, in a repetitive basis until the start of Advent.
In the words of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, #11, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of Christian life. Anything we can do to understand our liturgy more deeply will draw us closer to God.
A second option for the “penitential rite” (the “Confiteor” being the first option) has been revised. This second form had been little used in recent years. The second option is presently:
Lord, we have sinned against you:|
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, show us your mercy and love.
And grant us your salvation.
May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins,
and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
It will now read as follows:
says, “Have mercy on us, O Lord.”
The people respond, “For we have sinned against you.”
Then the priest says, “Show us, O Lord, your mercy,”
and the people respond, “And grant us your salvation.”
Material from “Changing How We Pray”, by Rev. Lawrence E. Mick
A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: St. Benedict Joseph Labre (d. 1783)
Benedict Joseph Labre was truly eccentric, one of God’s special little ones. Born in France and the eldest of 18 children, he studied under his uncle, a parish priest. Because of poor health and a lack of suitable academic preparation he was unsuccessful in his attempts to enter the religious life. Then, at 16 years of age, a profound change took place. Benedict lost his desire to study and gave up all thoughts of the priesthood, much to the consternation of his relatives.
He became a pilgrim, traveling from one great shrine to another, living off alms. He wore the rags of a beggar and shared his food with the poor. Filled with the love of God and neighbor, Benedict had special devotion to the Blessed Mother and to the Blessed Sacrament. In Rome, where he lived in the Colosseum for a time, he was called “the poor man of the Forty Hours Devotion” and “the beggar of Rome.” The people accepted his ragged appearance better than he did. His excuse to himself was that “our comfort is not in this world.”
On the last day of his life, April 16, 1783, Benedict Joseph dragged himself to a church in Rome and prayed there for two hours before he collapsed, dying peacefully in a nearby house. Immediately after his death the people proclaimed him a saint.
He was officially proclaimed a saint by Pope Leo XIII at canonization ceremonies in 1883.
In a modern inner city, one local character kneels for hours on the sidewalk and prays. Swathed in his entire wardrobe winter and summer, he greets passersby with a blessing. Where he sleeps no one knows, but he is surely a direct spiritual descendant of Benedict, the ragged man who slept in the ruins of Rome’s Colosseum. These days we ascribe such behavior to mental illness; Benedict’s contemporaries called him holy. Holiness is always a bit mad by earthly standards.
Patron Saint of: Homeless
Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From http://www.americancatholic.org website)
Franciscan Formation Reflection:
What are virtues?
How do you explain what a virtue is, to someone who asks?
How many virtues do you think St. Francis had?
What are the fundamental virtues given to us as starters at Baptism?
How essential are these virtues given as Baptism?
How often do we use the Baptismal virtues, consciously or implicitly?
Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 17 & 18 of 26:
17. In their family they should cultivate the Franciscan spirit of peace, fidelity, and respect for life, striving to make of it a sign of a world already renewed in Christ.
By living the grace of matrimony, husbands and wives in particular should bear witness in the world to the love of Christ for His Church. They should joyfully accompany their children on their human and spiritual journey by providing a simple and open Christian education and being attentive to the vocation of each child.
18. Moreover they should respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which “bear the imprint of the Most High,” and they should strive to move from the temptation of exploiting creation to the Franciscan concept of universal kinship.