Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Acceptable Expiation

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

When a person dies, those left behind sometimes see ghostly apparitions of the one who passed away. Sometimes this is true and sometimes, such apparitions are mere figments of the imagination. Such apparitions may be deemed as proof of the immortality of the human soul. Even after the body has died, the soul continues to live. Due to this common human experience, the disciples who saw Jesus were startled and terrified because they thought that they were seeing a ghost. But here, there was something greater than just an ordinary ghostly apparition for what stood before them was not just the soul of Jesus. The risen Jesus stands before them – both body and soul. The resurrection is not about simply the immortality of the soul. It is about the body rising from the dead. “Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have,” Jesus says to them. His hands and feet continue to bear the imprint of the nails. These wounds are a proof to the apostles that the one they see is the same body which died on the Cross. It is Jesus himself in the flesh who stands before them. To prove further that he was not a ghostly apparition, the Lord ate baked fish in front of them.

The body that rose from the dead is the one that was crucified and died as an expiation for our sins: “Jesus Christ, the righteous one…is the expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.” The reason why “repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name” is because the expiation offered by Jesus was accepted by the Father. As we said last Sunday, now all is at peace because the Father has reconciled the world to himself by the death and the resurrection of his Son. “God himself becomes the locus of reconciliation, and in the person of his Son takes the suffering upon himself. God himself grants his infinite purity to the world. God himself ‘drinks the cup’ of every horror to the dregs and thereby restores justice through the greatness of his love which, through suffering, transforms the darkness.” (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, vol. 2, 232.) The Resurrection is the affirmation that the atonement that Jesus offered was accepted by the Father.

“After his resurrection, Christ sent his apostles ‘so that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations.’ The apostles and their successors carry out this ‘ministry of reconciliation’, not only by announcing to men God’s forgiveness merited for us by Christ, and calling them to conversion and faith; but also by communicating to them the forgiveness of sins in Baptism, and reconciling them with God and with the Church through the power of the keys, received from Christ: the Church has received the keys of the Kingdom of heaven so that, in her, sins may be forgiven through Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit’s action. In this Church, the soul dead through sin comes back to life in order to live with Christ, whose grace has saved us” (CCC, 981)

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

On Singing the Actual Text of the Mass

I gave my first liturgical formation in my new parish last Friday and among the many things discussed was the necessity to sing the actual text of the Mass. I noted that there are many composition of the ordinary of the Mass that have taken so much liberty that the words have been adjusted to fit the melody. The melody is the servant of the text and not the other way around. Looking at the Gregorian Chants, we should take note that there was respect for the actual text of the Mass. The music adjusted to the text. I gave 2 examples of contemporary compositions of the Agnus Dei that violated this rule.

At 2 Masses today, the 2 compositions which I pointed out were if I did not give any liturgical lecture two days ago. I said to the congregation: Will you like it if the priest changed the words of the Missal or changed the words of the Readings to suit his taste? We are servants of the liturgy and not its owners. It is not for us to subject liturgical texts to our own whims (and call it artistic license). We must respect the liturgy. If we want our worship to be acceptable, it must be characterized by obedience. We must be obedient to the Church who tells us how our worship is to be done. But how do we know what our mother, the Church, wants? It is simple: look at the liturgical books. The Church has codified her prayers in the liturgical books. This means that if the Roman Missal says: "Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace," then, the Church intends us to sing these words as such and in no other way. Our obedience to the will of the Church should mirror the obedience of the Lord Jesus to the Father which is the content of every liturgical act.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Gates of Forgiveness

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

Last Sunday, we saw how God the Father manifested his love for Jesus by resurrecting Him from the dead. All the gospel spoke of was an empty tomb and burial linens cast aside which were supposed to be evidences that Jesus is not among the dead for he is living. Today, the Gospel speaks of Jesus appearing to his disciples – yes, to his disciples who, on the night he was betrayed, abandoned him. They abandoned him out of fear. In fact, they were still afraid as they kept themselves behind closed doors. They were afraid of the Jews. And yet, despite the closed doors, Jesus stood before them. He did not come with a reproach: “Why did you abandon me? Where were you when I needed you?” He came with a greeting: “Peace be with you!” It was truly a fitting greeting for now, all is at peace. By his death and his resurrection, the Father has reconciled the world to himself and now, there was one thing left to do: to send the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins. Thus, he breathes on his apostles and says to them: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whatsoever sins you forgive, they are forgiven them; whatsoever sins you do not forgive, they are not forgiven.”

He sends the Holy Spirit primarily to bring about the forgiveness of sins. “It was when he gave the Holy Spirit to his apostles that the risen Christ conferred on them his own power to forgive sins.” (CCC, 976) This forgiveness of sins is obtained first of all through baptism which is “the first and chief sacrament of forgiveness of sins because it unites us with Christ, who died for our sins, so that ‘we too might walk in newness of life.’” (CCC, 977) This is why when we look at the image of the Divine Mercy, we see rays of light coming forth from his wounded heart: a ray colored red and another pale: “The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls.” (Diary 299) The Water which makes souls righteous is the Baptismal Water. The Roman Catechism says: “When we make our first profession of faith while receiving holy Baptism that cleansed us, the forgiveness we received then was so full and complete that there remained to us absolutely nothing left to efface, neither original sin nor offenses committed by our own will, nor was there left any penalty to suffer in order to expiate them…” (Roman Catechism 1, 11, 3; CCC, 978)

The devil, however, does not let up in his attempt to snare us into his trap. In the weakness of our nature, we still combat the movements of concupiscence that never cease leading us into evil. That is why the merciful Savior gives us a second means to rise in the event that we fall into sin: the Sacrament of Penance. The Roman Catechism says: “If the Church has the power to forgive sins, then Baptism cannot be her only means of using the keys of the Kingdom of heaven received from Jesus Christ. The Church must be able to forgive all penitents their offenses, even if they should sin until the last moment of their lives” (Roman Catechism 1, 11, 4; CCC, 979). The Lord Jesus said to St. Faustina: “Tell souls where they are to look for solace; that is, in the Tribunal of Mercy (Sacrament of Penance). There the greatest miracles take place and are incessantly repeated. To avail oneself of this miracle, it is not necessary to go on a great pilgrimage or to carry out some external ceremony; it suffices to come with faith to the feet of My representative and to reveal to him one’s misery, and the miracle of the Divine Mercy will be fully demonstrated. Were a soul like a decaying corpse so that from a human standpoint, there would be no hope of restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full. Oh, how miserable are those who do not take advantage of the miracle of God’s mercy! You will call out in vain, but it will be too late.” (Diary, 1448)

Indeed, “there is no offense, however serious, that the Church cannot forgive. ‘There is no one, however wicked or guilty, who may not confidently hope for forgiveness, provided his repentance be honest.’ Christ who died for all men desires that in his Church the gates of forgiveness should always be open to anyone who turns away from sin.” (CCC, 982)

Jesus, I trust in you!

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sa Gabi ng Muling Pagkabuhay


Natatandaan ninyo marahil ang salaysay ng pagpapakasakit ng Panginoon mula kay San Marcos. Ito ang binasa sa atin noong nakaraang Linggo ng Palaspas. Sa kuwento tungkol sa pagdakip kay Hesus sa hardin, sa gitna ng kaguluhan ay may lumitaw na isang katakatakang tao. Ang sabi ni San Marcos: “Sinundan si Hesus ng isang binatang walang damit sa katawan maliban sa balabal niyang kayong lino. Sinunggaban siya ng mga tao, ngunit iniwan niya ang kanyang balabal at tumakas na walang kadamit-damit.” Maraming ispekulasyon kung sino ang nasabing binata. May nagsasabing ito raw ay ang manunulat ng ebanghelyo na si San Marcos ngunit hindi ito sinasang-ayunan ng iba pang mga dalubhasa sa Banal na Kasulatan. Sino ba ang binatang ito at ano ang ginagawa niya sa hardin? Bakit wala siyang saplot sa katawan? Dalawang detalye ang mahalagang tingnan: ang hardin at ang kawalan ng saplot. Hindi ba pinaalala nito ang hardin ng Eden – ang paraiso na kung saan matapos kainin nina Adan and Eba ang bungang ipinagbabawal ay natuklasan nilang wala silang saplot sa katawan? Ang binatang walang saplot sa katawan ay kumakatawan sa mga anak ni Adan at Eba na matapos pakinggan ang salita ni Hesus ay nagnanais na sumunod sa kanya. Tulad ng kanilang ninuno na sina Adan at Eba na iniwan ng kasalanan na hubad sa biyayang nagpapabanal, ang lahat ng tao ay isinilang na hubad sa kaluwalhatian ng Diyos. “All men have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God,” sinabi ni San Pablo sa isa sa kanyang mga sulat. Ito ang kasukdulal ng karalitaan: ang mahubaran ng saplot ay isang malaking kahihiyan. Ito’y palatandaan ng kawalan ng dangal bilang tao.

Sa umaga ng muling pagkabuhay, muling lumitaw ang binata. Siya ang natagpuan ng mga babae sa libingan: “Pagpasok nila sa libingan, nakita nilang nakaupo sa gawing kanan ang isang binatang nararamtan ng mahaba at puting damit.” Kung dati’y wala siyang saplot, ngayon, nararamtan siya ng puting damit. Kung dati’y takot siyang tumakas sa kadiliman, ngayon, siya pa ang nagsasabi sa mga babae, “Huwag kayong matakot.” Noon, siya ay nasa hardin. Ngayon, siya ay nasa loob ng libingan. Ano ang nagdulot sa kanya ng malaking pagbabagong ito? Ang lugar kung saan siya natagpuan ng mga babae ang magsasabi sa atin kung ano ang nangyari sa kanya. Ang libingan ni Hesus kung saan siya natagpuan ay nagtuturo sa atin tungkol sa sakramento ng Binyag na kung saan nakikibahagi tayo sa paglilibing ni Kristo upang makibahagi tayo sa kanyang muling pagkabuhay: “We died and were buried with Christ in baptism” (Rom 6:4; Col 2:12) At sa gabing ito ng muling pagkabuhay, katulad ng nasabing binata, natatagpuan tayo sa loob ng libingan ni Hesus. At nararapat lamang na tayo ay naririto. Sa pamamagitan ng sakramento ng Binyag, namatay na tayo at nailibing kasama ni Kristo. Ang misteryo ng kamatayan at muling pagkabuhay ni Hesus ay hindi mga pangyayaring pinagmasdan lamang natin ngunit hindi natin kinasangkutan. Mayroon tayong pakikibahagi sa misteryong ito. Ang kamatayan at muling pagkabuhay ni Hesus ay nangyari sa atin noong tayo ay bininyagan. At ang binyag ay hindi lamang isang ritwal na sumasagisag ng mga pagbabagong dapat nangyari. Ang binyag ay isang tunay na kamatayan, isang tunay na paglilibing, isang tunay na muling pagkabuhay. Ang namatay ay ang ating lumang pagkatao. At ang buhay Kristiyano ay isang patuloy na karanasan ng kamatayan sa sarili. Ang sinumang nagnanais na sumunod kay Hesus ay kailangang mamatay sa sarili, itatwa ang sarili, pasanin ang krus at sumunod sa kanya. Ang nagmamahal sa kanyang buhay ay lalong mawawalan nito. Subalit ang mawalan ng buhay dahil sa mabuting balita ay lalong magkakamit nito. Isang Pasko ng Pagkabuhay ang muling sumapit sa atin. Subalit ang tanong: namatay na ba ako sa aking sarili? Itong nakaraang Biyernes Santo, nakita ko na marami ang may debosyon sa patay na Hesus. Ngunit nalulungkot lamang ako na ang debosyong ito ay hanggang debosyon lamang at hindi isinasabuhay sapagkat ang sariling kagustuhan pa rin ang lagi nating pinaiiral. Ang sariling kalooban lang natin ang lagi nating sinusundan. Ang sariling tinig lamang natin ang gustong pakinggan. Kung makapagsasalita lamang sana ang imahen ng bangkay ni Hesus, malamang sasabihin niya sa atin na ang tunay na pagdedebosyon sa kanya ay ipinapakita ng pagiging handa na mamatay sa sarili, pagtatwa sa sariling kalooban. Ang kamatayan sa sarili lamang ang daan patungo sa muling pagkabuhay. Ang mga nakibahaging tunay sa kamatayan ni Hesus ang siyang makakaranas ng tunay na pagbangon sa bagong buhay.

Maligayang Pasko ng Pagkabuhay sa inyong lahat!

Ave Maria purissima.

The Father's Love for Jesus

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

“On the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning.” She came early that morning in order to fulfill an act of devotion to the Lord by anointing his body which was hurriedly buried that Friday afternoon as the Sabbath, when no work was allowed, was about to begin. She had to wait for Sabbath to be over in order to continue the unfinished work of preparing the Lord’s body for burial. “Anointing is an attempt to hold death at bay, to preserve the body from decomposition. And yet, it was a vain effort: anointing can only maintain a person in death; it cannot restore him to life.” (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth part 2, 229.) On the morning of the first day, the Magdalene saw that her concern for the dead body of Jesus and its preservation was all too human a concern. Seeing the empty tomb and thinking that someone has taken the body of the Lord away, she ran to tell the apostles of it. Peter saw the empty tomb and the burial linen neatly folded. John saw the same thing – he saw and he believed!

What did John see? He saw the love of God for Jesus his Son. Last Sunday, we heard the Lord’s anguished cry from the Cross: My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? But did God really abandon his Son? The empty tomb tells us: No! God did not abandon Jesus. While the women and those who love Jesus can only anoint his dead body in order to hold death at bay and preserve his body from decomposition, “God had preserved (Jesus) from decomposition in a definitive way, possible only to God, and has thereby preserved him from the power of death.” (Ibid.) “On the third day, he rose from the dead.” It had to be on the third day and not a day more for such would begin the decomposition of the flesh. “Only with corruption was death regarded as definitive. Once the body had decomposed, once it had broken down to its elements - marking man’s dissolution and return to the dust, - then death has conquered. From that time one, man no longer exists as man – only a shadow may remain in the underworld” In Christ’s resurrection, the words of Psalm 16:8-10 finds fulfillment: “…my flesh dwells in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life.” If Jesus loved the Father so as to obediently accept death, the Father loved Jesus so as not to let him see corruption. God did not abandon his Son to the netherworld. God did not allow death to fully claim victory over his beloved Son in whom he is well pleased!

And in manifesting his love for Jesus through the resurrection, the Father reveals his love for us as well - for the resurrection of Jesus is the principle of our future resurrection. In Jesus, we are truly loved by the Father. He, who loved Jesus so as to raise him from the dead, also loves us in his Son for, through him and in him, he shall also resurrect us from the dead. He will also not abandon us to the netherworld. He will show us the path of life…only if we believe in his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ whom he had sent so that may not perish but have everlasting life.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Pag-ibig hanggang Wakas

Purihin sina Hesus, Maria, at Jose!

“Alam ni Hesus na dumating na ang oras ng kanyang paglisan sa sanlibutang ito upang bumalik sa Ama. Mahal niya ang kanyang mga tagasunod na nasa sanlibutan, at ngayo’y ipakikita niya kung hanggang saan ang kanyang pag-ibig sa kanila.”

Sa pamamagitan ng Huling Hapunan, dumating na ang “oras” ni Hesus, ang pinakalayunin ng kanyang pagparito sa lupa. Ang kahulugan ng “oras” na ito ay inilarawan ni San Juan sa pamamagitan ng 2 konsepto: ito ang oras ng kanyang “paglisan” at ito ang oras ng pag-ibig hanggang wakas. Aalis na si Hesus at babalik na sa Amang nagsugo sa kanya. Gagawin niya ang kanyang pagtawid mula sa mundong ito patungo sa kanyang Ama. At sa pagtawid niyang ito, ipapakita niya sa atin ang hangganan ng kanyang pag-ibig para sa atin.

Paano niya ipinakita ito? Bumangon si Hesus, isinantabi niya ang kanyang damit, at nagbigkis ng tuwalya sa kanyang baywang at sinimulan niyang hugasan ang mga paa ng kanyang mga alagad. Pinaglingkuran ni Hesus ang kanyang mga alagad. Nagmistula siyang alipin. Hinubad niya ang kanyang karangalan bilang Diyos. Hindi tulad ni Adan na nagtangkang agawin para sa kanyang sarili ang karangalan ng Diyos, kumilos nang pasalungat si Hesus. Bumaba siya mula sa kanyang pagkaDiyos at siya ay naging tao. Kinuha niya ang anyo ng isang alipin at naging masunurin hanggang sa kamatayan sa Krus. Isinantabi niya ang karilagan ng kanyang pagkaDiyos; nagpakababa siya na para bang lumuhod siya sa bawat isa sa atin upang hugasan ang mga marurumi nating mga paa at gawin niya tayong karapat dapat na umupo sa hapag ng Panginoon. Sa aklat ng mga Pahayag ay nasusulat na hinugasan ng mga matuwid ang kanilang mga damit na pinaputi ng dugo ng Kordero (Rev. 7:14). Ibig sabihin lamang nito na ang pag-ibig ni Hesus hanggang kamatayan ang siyang naglilinis sa atin. Ang pag-ibig ni Hesus hanggang wakas ang humuhugas sa atin. Sa pamamagitan ng paghuhugas niya sa paa ng kanyang mga alagad, ipinakita ni Hesus na handa siyang bumaba at magpakaalipin upang hanguin tayo sa mapanlinlang nating pagmamataas at gawin niya tayong tunay na malinis at karapat dapat para sa Diyos.

“Naparito ako hindi upang paglingkuran kundi upang maglingkod, at ibigay ang aking buhay bilang pantubos sa marami.” Saan ka pa makakakita ng Diyos na ganito? Ang mga huwad na diyos ay laging sabik sa mga iaalay sa kanila ng kanilang mga mananampalataya. Subalit si Hesus ang nag-aalay ng kanyang sarili para sa ating kaligtasan. Hindi siya ang hinahandugan. Siya ang naghahandog. Hindi siya ang pinaglilingkuran. Siya ang naglilingkod. Hindi tayo ang nagbubuwis sa kanya. Siya pa nga ang nagbayad ng buwis - ibinuwis ng buhay para sa atin. Ganyan tayo iniibig ng Diyos. Sino ang makaiibig sa iyo nang higit rito? Sino ang maglilingkod sa iyo nang tulad nito? Sino ang handang mamatay para sa iyo? Sino ang handang umibig sa iyo nang walang pag-iimbot? Tandaan mo na kung tayo man ay malinis, ito ay sapagkat ibinuwis ni Hesus ang kanyang buhay. Inibig niya tayo hanggang wakas.

Ave Maria Purissima!

The Anointing of Christ

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; because he has anointed me.

At the end of the Lenten Season, we gather today for the consecration of the oils used for the sacraments of the Church. At the same time, as we approach the “night he was betrayed,” priests gather around their bishop to remember their own anointing when they were ordained. It had to be this day when Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Orders that both the anointing of Christ and of his priests be celebrated in this Chrism Mass. The opening prayer today speaks of Jesus as the one anointed with the Holy Spirit by the Father and also of ourselves as “made sharers in his consecration.”

What does it mean to be consecrated? In his 2nd volume of Jesus of Nazareth, the Holy Father says, “Consecration means that God is exercising a total claim over this man, ‘setting him apart’ for himself, yet at the same time, sending him out for the nations.” (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, part 2, p. 87) The Father consecrated Jesus. Thus, Jesus belongs entirely to the Father. And that is what makes Jesus “entirely for all.” Being for the Father, Jesus offers himself as a sacrifice “for the life of the world” (John 6:51). “Jesus is the priest sent into the world by the Father; he himself is the sacrifice that is made present in the Eucharist of all times.” (Jesus of Nazareth, part 2, p. 88)

You and I, being disciples of the Lord, are drawn into Jesus’ consecration. We too “are included in this reappropriation into God’s sphere and the ensuing mission for the world.” (Jesus of Nazareth, part 2, p. 89) In making us sharers in Christ’s consecration, the Father exercises a total claim over our persons as well. We belong entirely to the Father. And Jesus consecrated us in truth – “not just ritually, but truly, in (our) whole being.” (Ibid.) The priesthood we share with Jesus is more than just a ritual function. It is more than a 9 to 5 job or a profession. This priesthood is who we are – the truth in the ontological level. We are priests even outside the confines of the parish or even of the diocese. We are priests even outside our ritual functions. We are consecrated in the very core of our beings. Ordination produced an ontological change in who we are. It configured us with Christ the High Priest. The Spirit who anointed Jesus is the same Spirit who anoints us. The Spirit who sent Jesus to bring glad tidings to the poor is the same Spirit who sends us in an identical mission. The Spirit who made Jesus the “bearer of the oil of gladness” makes us the same: “You yourselves shall be named priests of the Lord, ministers of our God shall you be called.”

Bearers of glad tidings to the poor and bearers of the oil of gladness to those who mourn – this is what we are, dear priests of Jesus Christ. This we are because, by who we are and what we do, we bring Jesus to the world and the world to Jesus. It is Jesus who is the joy of every human heart. Jesus is the one “who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his own Blood.” “Jesus Christ (is), the ‘pioneer and perfecter of our faith’ (Heb 12:2): in him, all the anguish and all the longing of the human heart finds fulfilment. The joy of love, the answer to the drama of suffering and pain, the power of forgiveness in the face of an offence received and the victory of life over the emptiness of death: all this finds fulfilment in the mystery of his Incarnation, in his becoming man, in his sharing our human weakness so as to transform it by the power of his resurrection. In him who died and rose again for our salvation” (Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, 13.) It is our task to bring people to Christ: The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.”(Porta Fidei, 2) “It is the love of Christ that fills our hearts and impels us to evangelize. Today as in the past, he sends us through the highways of the world to proclaim his Gospel to all the peoples of the earth (cf. Mt 28:19). Through his love, Jesus Christ attracts to himself the people of every generation: in every age he convokes the Church, entrusting her with the proclamation of the Gospel by a mandate that is ever new. Today too, there is a need for stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelization in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith. In rediscovering his love day by day, the missionary commitment of believers attains force and vigour that can never fade away. Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy. It makes us fruitful, because it expands our hearts in hope and enables us to bear life-giving witness: indeed, it opens the hearts and minds of those who listen to respond to the Lord’s invitation to adhere to his word and become his disciples.” (Porta Fidei, 7)

Therefore, as we renew today our ordination promises, let us keep in mind that we are committing ourselves not only to a task but to the very person of Jesus Christ. He is our first and only love. “Prompted by love of him, (we) willingly and joyfully pledged (our sacred duties towards Christ’s Church) on the day of (our) priestly ordination.” (Renewal of Priestly Promises) Serve the Lord with gladness. Come before him singing for joy! (Psalm 100:2)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Drawn to Him

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

Death is truly a frightening experience because it goes against our desire to survive and live. Even Jesus was not spared of this. As he went to the garden, he said that his soul was sorrowful even unto death. The Lord was not spared of the isolation which death brings to every man. At the garden, he alone agonized while his disciples, unable to resist fatigue, slept. The Lord was abandoned by his disciples, denied by Peter and was surrounded by enemies who mocked him and challenged him to come down from the Cross and save himself. St. Mark said that even the criminals who were crucified with Jesus derided the Lord. But the height of Christ’s isolation was when from the Cross he cried: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Taking upon himself the sins of the world, Jesus endured and suffered the consequence of sin: isolation from God. Jesus died alone – like a grain of wheat that falls to the earth and dies alone.

And yet, in that isolation of death, as he falls to the earth and dies, he begins to bring forth fruit. The first fruit would be that centurion who saw how Jesus breathed his last. What he saw elicited from him an act of faith: “Truly this man was the Son of God!” This centurion encountered Jesus. He stood facing Jesus. He saw how Jesus breathed his last. What he saw was an invitation to him. He responded to this invitation. He acknowledged that Jesus is the Son of God.

The seed that falls to the ground bears much fruit. After the centurion, there were the women who followed Jesus from Galilee: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses and Salome. After them came Joseph of Arimathea who was awaiting the kingdom of God. They came forth as the fruits of that seed that fell to the ground alone. Remember last Sunday’s Gospel? Some Greeks came asking: “We would like to see Jesus.” This coming of the gentiles made Jesus say: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

Indeed, the hour has come. Though he died isolated, he draws all people to himself by being lifted up on the Cross. Like the centurion, the Magdalene, the mother of James and Joses and Salome, Joseph of Arimathea, we are drawn to the Redeemer who from the Cross, calls all people to himself. We now stand facing him. We now see how he breathed his last. Let the centurion’s words be our own: “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the Savior of the world! Come let us worship!

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!