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Tuesday of Holy Week

April 7, 2009

Blessed Tuesday!

Father, may we receive Your forgiveness and mercy
as we celebrate the Passion and Death of the Lord,
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Opening Prayer for today’s Mass)

Isaiah 49:1-6 (God has prepared His servant for a mission to the whole world)
Psalm 71:1-6, 17 “I will sing of your salvation”
+John 13: 21-33, 36-38 (Jesus predicts Judas’ betrayal & Peter’s denial)

“My children, I am not to be with you much longer.”

“Lord, where do You mean to go?”

“I am going where you cannot follow Me now; later on you shall come after Me.”

“Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for You!” (John 13:33, 36-37).

Peter’s onto something. In order to follow Jesus where He goes this week, we will have to lay down our lives with Him. Of ourselves, however, we cannot do this. Even as St. Peter was only able to answer, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” through the Father’s revelation (see Matthew 16:16-17), neither would he be able to face persecution and arrest without the power of the Holy Spirit. Since Jesus had not yet died, had not yet returned to Heaven to send the Holy Spirit, that power wasn’t yet available. Peter’s attempts to follow only led to temptations beyond his strength. “I do not know the man!” (Matthew 26:72).

“Later on you shall come after Me” (John 13:36). We tend to forget that this is what Easter is all about. The fifty days of Easter are preparation for Pentecost as much as Lent is preparation for Easter. Easter is our time to learn from our Risen Lord how to joyfully “come after” Him through persecution and death! Pentecost provides the power. After the descent of the Holy Spirit, St. Peter did “come after” Jesus through persecution and arrest (see Acts 4:3, 5:18, 12:3-4, etc.), full of joy that he had been found worthy of ill-treatment for the sake of the Name (see Acts 5:41). It was through the Spirit’s power that he ended his life upside-down on a crucifix just outside of Rome.

Suffering isn’t optional in the Christian life. It’s not an “oops” on God’s part that we “white knuckle” until He gets things back under control. It’s the joyful path we tread behind our thorn-crowned King, through the power of His Holy Spirit. It’s the price Jesus pays through His Body, the Church, to fulfill Isaiah’s prophesy: “It is too little for you to be My servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob…I will make you a light to the Gentiles, that My salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6). It was persecution that dispersed the disciples to take the light of Christ throughout Judea and Samaria (see Acts 8:1). When the Jews of Antioch countered St. Paul’s words with violent abuse, he turned to the Gentiles (see Acts 13:14, 45-46).

Generation after generation, we owe our faith to persecution that’s been filled with joy through the power of the Holy Spirit, given through Baptism and Confirmation. Generation after generation, we too are called to suffer ill-treatment for the sake of the Name.

May we draw on the power of the Holy Spirit to follow our crucified King wherever He goes.

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