Fr. Daniel Gifford
The Hand of Blessing Is Nailed
Last week, we featured the 8th Station, which featured a powerful glimpse of the Lord’s strong hand outstretched in blessing over the people, even while He was enduring great suffering. This week, as we move to the 11th Station (front cover), we see a stark image
of that same strong hand nailed to the cross. Though reaching out in a generous and selfless expression of His Merciful Love, we spurned His Goodness. Let us instead reach out to take His hand and allow Him to lift us from whatever mire we have fallen into discouragement, hopelessness, frustration, loneliness, sinfulness, whatever it may be. Whatever suffering we find ourselves in, He will lead us out of it. But here is the catch: we first must let Him enter into it. This weekend, we read about Our Lord calling Lazarus forth from the tomb. But this is a foreshadowing of the fact that He would enter the tomb. Although He would only be in that tomb for three days, which may not seem like a long time, the fact that He has been buried points to the fact of the totality of His suffering and His self-gift. He has died. He did not come down from the cross… until it had drained all the life out of Him. He was nailed, fixed in place. He wasn’t going to move. The nailing of His hand does indeed reveal the cruelty of our persistence in sin. But it also reveals the strength of His Love. He wasn’t going anywhere. He wasn’t going to give up. He would give everything. He was all in, totally committed to laying down His life for your salvation and mine. Are we all in? Are we totally committed? This is a sobering question. We have been given a unique opportunity to demonstrate and live out our commitment, to be all in. While none of us prefer this new temporary way of life, which is often being called “social distancing,” we recognize that we are in it for the long haul. We began this past week by learning that the suspension of public liturgies (which we remember, does not mean that Mass is not being offered, but simply that it cannot be offered publicly at this time) will extend through Easter Sunday. Even if we saw that coming - and I am certain that some of us did, while others never dreamed it was possible - that realization can weigh very heavily upon our hearts indeed. Easter is NOT canceled. Jesus IS Risen. Nothing can change that. It is indeed tragic that we cannot celebrate together in the manner to which we are accustomed. But we remember that there are a wide variety of situations that can render priests unable to reach all the faithful with the sacraments, even on Easter Sunday. And there are parts of the world even today where this is not uncommon. What do they do? How do they survive? They have faith. The answer is simple, even if it is not easy. The reality is that the power of the Holy Mass is indeed so strong - it is the earthly participation in the Sacrifice of Christ on the cross, in His Resurrection, and in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb in Heaven - that the graces flowing from the altar reach far beyond just those who are physically present. This is why it is not just a pithy way of “throwing a bone” to the faithful when we recommend that we weekly, if not daily, pray an Act of Spiritual Communion. In this prayer, we have the opportunity to begin to discover a “best kept secret” of our faith, which we should continue, even when we are able to return to our churches in person. Let us take advantage of this time to unite our hearts spiritually to the Lord’s sacrifice, in order to share more deeply in His Resurrection! The first step actually comes before the Spiritual Communion. It is the Spiritual Offering. Remember that the Eucharistic Prayer is a sacrifice. In fact, it is THE sacrifice. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross. It is the perfect offering of Christ to the Father for our salvation. At every Mass, whether we are physically present, uniting our prayers in faith from a long distance, or even watching through modern means of communication, we must unite our offerings, our sacrifices, to this perfect sacrifice, before we even dream of receiving Him in Holy Communion. I encourage everyone to make an act of spiritual offering each day, offering all our sufferings and sacrifices in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. That way, the offerings of your will and mine can be offered with Christ to the Father! As we enter this final week before Holy Week, let us consider this Act of Spiritual Offering and strive to offer this prayer every day. WORDS OF ST. JOHN PAUL II, READ IN HOLY HOUR THIS WEEK: "The Redeemer of the world! In him has been revealed in a new and more wonderful way the fundamental truth concerning creation to which the Book of Genesis gives witness when it repeats several times: "God saw that it was good". The good has its source in Wisdom and Love. In Jesus Christ the visible world which God created for man-the world that, when sin entered, "was subjected to futility" recovers again its original link with the divine source of Wisdom and Love. Indeed, "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son". As this link was broken in the man Adam, so in the Man Christ it was reforged. Are we of the twentieth century not convinced of the over poweringly eloquent words of the Apostle of the Gentiles concerning the "creation (that) has been groaning in travail together until now" and "waits with eager longing for the revelation of the sons of God", the creation that "was subjected to futility"? Does not the previously unknown immense progress-which has taken place especially in the course of this century-in the field of man's dominion over the world itself reveal-to a previously unknown degree-that manifold subjection "to futility"? It is enough to recall certain phenomena, such as the threat of pollution of the natural environment in areas of rapid industrialization, or the armed conflicts continually breaking out over and over again, or the prospectives of self-destruction through the use of atomic, hydrogen, neutron and similar weapons, or the lack of respect for the life of the unborn. The world of the new age, the world of space flights, the world of the previously unattained conquests of science and technology-is it not also the world "groaning in travail" that "waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God"? In its penetrating analysis of "the modern world", the Second Vatican Council reached that most important point of the visible world that is man, by penetrating like Christ the depth of human consciousness and by making contact with the inward mystery of man, which in Biblical and non-Biblical language is expressed by the word "heart". Christ, the Redeemer of the world, is the one who penetrated in a unique unrepeatable way into the mystery of man and entered his "heart". Rightly therefore does the Second Vatican Council teach: "The truth is that only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a type of him who was to come (Rom 5:14), Christ the Lord. Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling". And the Council continues: "He who is the 'image of the invisible God' (Col 1:15), is himself the perfect man who has restored in the children of Adam that likeness to God which had been disfigured ever since the first sin. Human nature, by the very fact that it was assumed, not absorbed, in him, has been raised in us also to a dignity beyond compare. For, by his Incarnation, he, the son of God, in a certain way united himself with each man. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin", he, the Redeemer of man."
In Christ through Mary,
St. Louis, pray for us!
Blessed Mary, Queen Mother of the King of Kings, pray for us! A