Recently in Lent 2011 Category

Come to Me and drink

| | Comments (2)


Introit Psalm 55:2

Have mercy on me, O Lord,
for man hath trodden me underfoot:
all the day long he hath afflicted me,
fighting against me.
V. My enemies have trodden on me all the day long:
for they are many that make war against me.

Today's Introit expresses the prayer of a soul locked in spiritual combat with the powers of darkness. Having entered Passiontide, the final phase of the Great Fast, it is inevitable that the Evil One should assault the catechumens, the penitents, the clergy, and all the faithful of the Church, lest they arrive safely in the serene harbour of the Lord's Passion.

It is not unusual in Sacred Scripture to find the Evil One referred to as "man," particularly in the psalms. The Introit describes his wicked tactics: by afflicting a soul all the day long he seeks to cause a deadly weariness, by fighting against a soul without reprieve he seeks to stir up sentiments of despondency.

The soul under attack has but one recourse: to cry out to the Lord for mercy, and to pray ceaselessly with confidence in the victorious love of Christ Jesus.

(As it is written: For thy sake we are put to death all the day long. We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.) But in all these things we overcome, because of him that hath loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:36-39)

0820Francisco Ribalta san Bernardo.jpg


Sanctify our fasts, we beseech Thee, O Lord,
and in Thy mercy grant us pardon for all our sins.

The Church prays wisely, boldly, and concisely -- such is the genius of the Roman Rite. A fast sanctified by the Holy Ghost becomes an act of worship, an offering pleasing to God. Awareness of our sins should lead not to a loss of confidence in the Divine Mercy, but to a serene and trusting appeal for the pardon of Him "Who forgiveth all thy iniquities: who healeth all thy diseases. Who redeemeth thy life from destruction: who crowneth thee with mercy and compassion." (Psalm 102:3-4)


Epistle: Jonas 3:1-10

The story of Jonas' mission to the city of Ninive, with its images of fasting, sackcloth, and ashes, recalls the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. It is not too late to enter into Lenten repentance, not too late to begin one's Lent with humility and sincerity of heart. The workers of the eleventh hour will not be deprived of their reward at Pascha.

"And God saw their works, that they were turned from their evil way: and the Lord our God had mercy upon His people." (Jonas 3:10).

If one has undertaken works of penitence, these are the sign that the grace of Christ is already present in one's life. Works of penitence do not earn the grace of Christ, they demonstrate its power already at work in the heart. Penance is, therefore, a response to the grace of Christ Jesus and, as such, it glorifies the mercy of the Father and illustrates the secret operations of the Holy Ghost.


Gospel: John 7:32-39

Today's Holy Gospel shows us Our Lord Jesus Christ in Jerusalem on the last and great day of the festivity of Tabernacles. On this day, according to the Temple ritual, the priest in service would go to the pool of Siloe bearing a vessel of gold. Having drawn water from the pool of Siloe, he would return to the Temple amidst great solemnity, and there, having mixed the water with wine, he would pour it over the corner of the altar of holocausts. This ceremony recalled the water gushing from the rock during the Exodus and, in a prophetic manner, was a sign of the abundance of graces that would spring from the advent of the Messiah.

In the water mixed with wine splashed over the corner of the altar, Jesus sees an image of the blood and water that will flow from His own side opened by the soldier's lance. He cries out, inviting anyone who thirsts to approach His Heart, the wellspring of living water. One who approaches the Sacred Side of Jesus to drink from its inexhaustible stream becomes a living temple indwelt by the Three Divine Persons. The life of the indwelling Trinity is a fountain in the innermost depths of the soul. The water that springs therefrom irrigates the will, causes the fruits of the Holy Ghost to flourish, illumines the intelligence, and pacifies the senses.


All through history, Our Lord has summoned souls to drink from His Sacred Side. Alongside the written commentaries on the Gospels left us by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, there are iconographic commentaries. These are, in every way, as valuable as those bound between the covers of books. Among the various iconographic motifs in the West that illustrate today's Gospel, we find that of the amplexus, or the mystic embrace of the Crucified Jesus. In such paintings, one sees Our Lord detaching His arm from the cross in order to place it around His loved one. He guides the head of the loved one to His Sacred Side until, with lips placed against the open wound, the soul drinks deeply of the living water that refreshes, purifies, and inebriates with love.

Among the saints depicted in this fashion are Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Lutgarde, Saint Gertrude the Great, and Saint Paul of the Cross. What these saints experienced mystically is available to us sacramentally so often as we approach the adorable Mysteries of Our Lord's Body and Blood.

Communion Antiphon

The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory. (Psalm 23:10)

Today's Communion Antiphon, although remarkably brief, is clothed with a rich melodic vesture in the Third Mode. The melody extends the text and, in some way, caresses it, making it easier to assimilate. The text itself hearkens back to the Sanctus of the Mass: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth. The Lord of Hosts (Dominus virtutum) of the Communion Antiphon is the Lord God of Heavenly Hosts (Dominus Deus Sabaoth) of the Sanctus. He whose coming is announced in the Benedictus qui venit -- Blessed is He who cometh in the Name of the Lord -- is the very One who comes to each communicant in the Sacrament of His Sacred Body and Precious Blood.

I can only imagine the impression made on communicants when the repetition of this antiphon accompanied the Communion Procession. Him whom you are about to receive, Him whom you have just received, is the Lord of Hosts, the King of Glory, and you have become His temple, His tabernacle, His throne.

Father, I Give Thee Thanks

| | Comments (3)


Homily preached this morning
at Holy Family Cathedral, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Over the past three Sundays,
brothers and sisters,
we have listened attentively to the Gospel of Saint John.
Saint John's is the divine and mystic Gospel:
its every page shines
with the brightness of the Face of Christ,
revealing the glory of the Father.
Its every page burns
the fire of the Heart of Jesus
revealing the Father's merciful love.

Saint John's Gospel is alive
with the prayer of Jesus to the Father.
One cannot listen to the Gospel of Saint John,
or read it, or meditate it in one's heart
without being lifted, almost imperceptibly,
into the prayer of Jesus to the Father:
a prayer that rises on the wings of an unshakable confidence
in the Father's readiness to hear us at every moment.

So few of us pray as the Father would have us pray
because we cling to our own prayers
-- narrow, myopic, half-hearted,
constrained by our fears,
and weighed down by our inability to trust.
Jesus, however, would have us pray as He prays.
Even more than that,
He would have us open our hearts
to His own prayer to the Father;
the bold and trusting prayer of the Son,
the sacrificial and all-powerful prayer
of the Eternal High Priest.

Jesus would infuse His own prayer into our souls
and, by the action of the Holy Ghost,
so draw us into His own relationship with the Father
that He will pray in us,
and we in Him,
and the Father, seeing us in prayer
hearing our words,
attentive to our groanings,
and counting our tears
as so many pearls for the treasury of the Kingdom,
will see on our faces the Face of the Son,
the Eternal High Priest,
and hear in our every heartbeat
the echo of His.

There is much in today's Gospel
that solicits my attention
and almost begs to be preached.
There is, for instance,
the message sent to Jesus by Martha and Mary,
the model of all intercessory prayer:
"Lord, behold him whom Thou lovest is sick."
How like the prayer of the Mother of God at Cana
is this prayer of two women, friends of Jesus,
fully confident in His response even before He gives it.
"They have no wine." (Jn 2:3)
"Lord, behold him whom Thou lovest is sick."
There is no need to say more.
A prayer of intercession patterned after this prayer
cannot fail to touch the Heart of Jesus.

I could also linger over the message that Martha
whispers into Mary's ear:
"The Master is here, and calleth for thee." (Jn 11:28)
This is the very message that everything in our churches
whispers to the believing heart:
the doors of the Church says it,
the Holy Water at the entrance of the Church says it,
the flicker of the sanctuary lamp says it,
the centrality of the tabernacle says it.
"The Master is here, and calleth for thee." (Jn 11:28)
How can you or I remain indifferent to such an appeal?

I could preach about the tears of Jesus:
the tears of the God-Man,
the tears that reveal the Divine Sensitivity of the Human Heart of God,
the tears that show us the Divine capacity for human friendship,
the tears that, falling upon our stony, hardened hearts,
soften them, change them, and wash them clean.

There is much more in today's Gospel
that begs to be preached, repeated, prayed
and held in our hearts.
Every line, in fact, is a vein of purest gold
waiting to be mined for the treasury of Mother Church.

All of this being said,
today I am drawn irresistibly to verses 41 and 42
of this eleventh chapter of Saint John\.
"And Jesus, lifting up His eyes said:
'Father, I give Thee thanks that Thou hast heard me.
And I know that Thou hearest me always;
but because of the people who stand about have I said it,
that they may believe that Thou hast sent me." (Jn 11:41-42).

Jesus lifts up His eyes.
By lifting His eyes towards heaven,
Jesus teaches us that prayer is nothing else
than the lifting of the heart and mind to God.
The direction of His eyes
reveal the movement of His Heart.
Everything in the Son is turned towards His Father.
There is not a moment in His earthly life
when He, the Word who was in the beginning,
is not God facing God.

Instructed by His example,
the Church directs that in the most sacred part of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,
in that "Holy of Holies" that is the Canon of the Mass,
the priest, in imitation of Jesus,
lift his eyes towards the Father.
Here, the priest functions as the Head of the whole
worshipping body,
the congregation kneeling behind him.

When the eyes of the priest are raised heavenward,
the hearts of the faithful are also drawn upward,
for the eyes of the head
determine the orientation of the whole body.

There is no detail in the liturgy of the Church
that is of no consequence.
The lifting of the eyes heavenward
sets in motion the whole Church,
that is, the multitude of those who
"being of but one mind and one soul" (Ac 4:4)
lay aside all earthly cares
and forsake all that weighs upon their hearts
to enter with the Son, the High Priest,
into the sanctuary of heaven.

'Father, I give Thee thanks that Thou hast heard me."
Here is Saint John's echo of that admirable thanksgiving of the Son in the Gospels of Saint Matthew and Saint Luke:
"In that same hour, He rejoiced in the Holy Ghost,
and said: I confess to Thee, O Father,
Lord of heaven and earth,
because Thou hast hidden these things
from the wise and prudent,
and hast revealed them to little ones.
Yea, Father,
for so it hath seemed good in Thy sight." (Lk 10:21)

The prayer of the Son to the Father
is an outpouring of thanksgiving:
every utterance of the Son says to the Father:
I praise Thee,
I bless Thee,
I adore Thee,
I glorify Thee,
I give Thee thanks for Thy great glory.
Is this not the hymn of His Bride the Church
that will set all our cathedral bells ringing
in the night of Holy Pascha?
And where did the Church learn her language of thanksgiving
if not in the school of the Heart of Jesus,
her High Priest and her Spouse?

There is never a moment when the prayer of the Son
does not capture
the full and infinitely loving attention of His Father.
What was from all eternity
-- the ineffable conversation of the Father with the Son,
and the Son with the Father --
is actualized for us here and now
in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
The Mass, being the Son in dialogue with the Father,
being, even more, the Son handing Himself over to death
the Son immolated,
the Son sacrificed, albeit in an unbloody manner,
for our sakes
and for the Father's glory,
authorizes every boldness in prayer.

There is nothing that the Mass cannot obtain.
Saint John Fisher said that
"He who goes about
to take the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass from the Church,
plots no less a calamity
than if he tried to snatch the sun from the universe."
Were the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
to cease on this earth of our ours,
we would be plunged into a darkness
as terrible as if the sun, the moon, and the stars
were extinguished in the firmament.
And why?
Because the Mass is the Eternal Father
captivated by the prayer of the Son:
Christ's prayer in us
and our prayer in Him.

"Because of the people who stand about have I said it,
that they may believe that Thou hast sent me."
Our Lord prays aloud
not because the Father needs to hear His human voice,
but because He would have us hear Him pray.
Hearing Him pray with such boldness,
with such filial confidence,
with such priestly majesty,
how can we not believe
that He who prays
is the Resurrection and the Life?

The Son's prayer to the Father
is uninterrupted,
ceaseless from before the beginning of time
and into the infinite unfolding of eternity.
This is the prayer that He articulates
for our sakes
in front of the tomb of Lazarus,
so that we, confronted by the stench of our sins,
bound in bands of our vices,
shrouded in our self-absorption,
and faced with the inexorable reality of death,
may be consoled and liberated by His prayer
and make His prayer our own
in this, the valley of the shadow of death,

Brothers and sisters,
this first week of Passiontide
as the Catholic tradition calls it,
and the following week called Great and Holy
will be for you and for me
a progressive entrance
into the prayer of Christ to the Father.

Christ will pray in us
and we in Him
at every stage of His bitter Passion,
in the seven last words from the Cross,
in the stillness of Holy Saturday,
and then in the glory of the resurrection
when the Son, waking from the sleep of death,
will open His eyes to see the Father bent over the tomb
as a father bends over the cradle of his first-born.

Open your hearts then
to the prayer of Christ.
Receive it, distilled by the liturgy of His Bride the Church,
and having received it
let it become in you ceaseless and uninterrupted
the pulse of your life in God,
your heartbeat, your life's breath.

It is time to go the altar.
The Master is here and calleth for us.
Let us go to meet Him:
our Victim and our Priest.

Mercies New Every Morning

| | Comments (1)

SS Maria Egiziaca e Margherita.jpeg

Saturday of the Third Week of Lent

John 8:1-11

Excessive Mercy

Today's Gospel almost did not make it into the canon of the Scriptures; it was a cause of consternation to certain Christians of the early Church. The gentle compassion of Jesus seemed excessive to them. His merciful attitude towards the woman caught in adultery seemed too liberal, too easy. In several early manuscripts, the passage was simply deleted from the text. But the mercy of the Lord Jesus is indeed excessive! "His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning" (Lam 3:22-23).

The painting is from Capodimonte, Naples. Saint Mary of Egypt is on the left, and Saint Margaret of Cortona is on the right.

A Night Spent in Prayer

Our Lord has spent the night in prayer on the Mount of Olives (Jn 8:53). At daybreak, He descends from the Mount of Olives to the Temple precincts. The people come to Him, ordinary people, sinners of all sorts. In contrast to those who come to Jesus in order to hear his word, we see the scribes and Pharisees -- the professionals of religion, the rigorists -- who seek to entrap him. Their ears are open to catch Him in some theological inaccuracy or in some political faux-pas, but their hearts are closed to His excessive mercy.

The Sinner and the Saviour

They bring to Jesus a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. In spite of their deceptive and twisted motives, in bringing the woman to our Lord, the scribes and pharisees do a good thing. A sinner is brought to the Saviour, a lamb to the Shepherd, one bruised and ailing to the Physician. Out of the evil designs of the scribes and Pharisees, our Lord will bring a great good.

A Captive of Divine Mercy

There are diverse ways of being brought to Christ. The woman caught in adultery is the captive of the scribes and Pharisees; she will become the captive of Divine Mercy. Accustomed to being used by men, she will be used by them in their experiment with Jesus. She is the bait with which they will attempt to catch Jesus, and she is a well-chosen bait, because the mercy of Jesus is irresistibly attracted to the misery of sinners. She is humiliated. She is fearful. She is ashamed. She is forced to come into the presence of Jesus; she is pushed into His presence.

The Presence of Jesus

At times something very similar may happen in our own lives. We are dragged into the presence of Jesus as a result of circumstances that humiliate and terrify us: disappointment, betrayal, illness, failure, the loss of a loved one, or the jealousy, the rigorism, or the lust for power of another.

At other times, it is Jesus himself who seeks us out. He comes to us, like the shepherd in the wilderness. He comes in search of the lost sheep. "And when He has found it, He lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing" (Lk 15:4-5).

Saint Mary of Egypt

At still other moments in our lives, the decision to seek out the Lord Jesus Christ is our own. Wounded by the Word of God, pierced through by repentance, the Holy Spirit sets our feet on the path of return to Christ, that through Christ we may return to the loving embrace of the Father. This is the case of Saint Mary of Egypt, the notorious prostitute of Alexandria, celebrated in the Eastern Churches as the supreme model of Lenten repentance and of resurrection. So impressed was Abbot de Rancé by Saint Mary of Egypt, that he had her feastday inscribed in the calendar of La Grande Trappe.


Intervention of the Mother of God

You know her story. She was a glamorous harlot, a spectacularly public sinner, practising her profession in the great city of Alexandria. Hearing of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the feast of the Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross, she boarded ship with the pilgrims, seducing them at sea, indulging in shameless debauchery, partying long and hard all the way to Jerusalem.

In Jerusalem, an invisible force keeps her from entering the church in which the Holy Cross was being shown to the people. From above the church door, the Mother of God gazes upon her from her holy icon, filling her with confidence in God's mercy. From on high, Mary hears a voice saying, "If you cross the Jordan you will find glorious rest." "Hearing this voice," she says, "and having faith that it was for me, I cried to the Mother of God, 'O Lady, O Lady, do not forsake me.'" Mary crossed the Jordan, went into the desert where she lived in constant prayer and repentance, "clinging to God who saves all who turn to Him from faintheartedness and storms."

The Joy of Repentance

Years later, Mary was discovered by Father Zosimas, a monk of Palestine who had gone into the desert for the forty-day fast, according to the custom of his monastery. Her story has been told again and again, giving hope to all who are weak, to all who struggle, to all who seek to cross over -- out of sin -- into the pure joy of the Holy and Life-Giving Cross. The life of Saint Mary of Egypt is, in its own way, a homily on today's Gospel.

Sacramental Details

Let us return that Gospel: in it the details of Jesus' behaviour are of the greatest importance. They are sacramental details; they reveal the thoughts of Jesus' Heart. First, Jesus refuses to look at the woman caught in adultery. He deliberately remains bent down, crouched close to the ground, tracing letters in the dust. Jesus has no need of seeing the woman’s face in order to probe the depths of her soul.

With the Despised

By bending down, close to the ground, Jesus identifies Himself with her and with all who are downtrodden and despised. The words of the psalmist come to mind: "My soul lies in the dust; by your word revive me" (Ps 118:25). Jesus refuses to look at the woman, lest he add in any way to the crushing weight of her shame and guilt. Without fixing his gaze upon her, He is with her in her humiliation and anguish.

God Arose to Judge

When Jesus addresses himself to the scribes and Pharisees, however, the Gospel account makes a point of noting that He stood up. "And as they continued to ask him, he stood up" (Jn 8:7). Jesus stands to pronounce judgment. He stands to speak with authority. He stands to defend the sinner against the accusations of the self-righteous. The psalm says: "Thou, Thou alone strikest terror. Who shall stand when Thy anger is roused? Thou didst utter Thy sentence from the heavens; the earth in terror was still when God arose to judge, to save the humble of the earth" (Ps 75:8 10).

Indictment of the Accusers

Looking at the woman's accusers, Jesus says to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her" (Jn 8:7). These words are the echo of his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount: "Why do you see the speck in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye when there is a log in your own eye?" (Mt 7:3-4).

Great Misery and Great Mercy

Having spoken to the accusers, Jesus again bends down and continues to trace letters in the sand. He has nothing further to say to them. One by one, they go away, leaving Jesus alone with the woman. Saint Augustine says that, "great misery is left in the presence of great mercy." The Gospel makes a point of noting that now Jesus is bent down while the woman is standing. A resurrection has taken place! By lowering himself, Jesus "raises up those who are bowed down" (Ps 145:8). According to the Gospel, the woman has said nothing to Jesus up to this point. Nonetheless, the cry of her heart reached the Heart of Jesus. His mercy was moved by her misery.

O Wonderful Condescension

Then he looks up to speak to her. Jesus here is kneeling; the woman is standing. The humility of the Divine Mercy kneeling before sinners, pleading to be accepted! He who gives mercy and forgives sin makes Himself lower than the one who stands in need of mercy and forgiveness. O wonderful condescension! "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned thee? No one, sir, she replied. Neither do I condemn thee, said Jesus, go, and do not sin again" (Jn 8:10-11). This is the Communion Antiphon of today's Mass. Is there any harshness in the words of Jesus, any condemnation? Is there anything cutting, humiliating or belittling? There is nothing but gentleness --gentleness, and an excessive mercy.

Purification of the Memory

There is no need for us to live with the ghosts of the past, with the memory of past sins and troubles weighing heavily upon our hearts and preventing us from moving forward. If we have been brought to Jesus Christ by the circumstances of life; if, by God's grace, we have come to Jesus Christ; if Jesus Christ Himself has sought us out, placed us upon His shoulders and carried us home, then "there is no need to recall the past, no need to think about what was done before" (Is 43:18). The excessive mercy of the Lord has swallowed up all our sins, leaving no trace of what was, and filling the present with the sound of his praise. "The people I have formed for myself will sing my praises" (Is 43:21.

Praise and Adoration

Praise is the characteristic mark of one who has tasted the sweetness of the Lord and known his excessive mercy. Adoration is fruit of every encounter with the Holy Face of Christ. The Church is an assembly of sinners who have read the excessive mercy of the Heart of Christ on His Holy Face and, as a result, cannot stop singing, and cannot cease from adoring! "Forget the past, then, and strain ahead for what is still to come" (Phil 3:13), the great and glorious Pasch of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Love's Great Labour

| | Comments (4)


Third Sunday of Lent
Cathedral of the Holy Family, Tulsa, Oklahoma
27 March 2011

Saint John makes a point of saying in today's Gospel
that, "Jesus, wearied as He was with His journey,
sat down beside the well.
It was about the sixth hour" (Jn 4:6).

Long ago, in the thirteenth century,
a Franciscan friar with a gift for poetry as well as for prayer,
Thomas of Celano, by name,
took this one sentence of the Gospel,
listened to it over and over again,
and repeated it to himself.

He saw Jesus, the Good Shepherd,
resting after His wearisome journey
in the scorching heat of noonday Palestine
while awaiting the return of the Samaritan woman
whom He wished to save.

Saint John's words passed
from the mouth of the friar to his ears;
from his ears into his mind;
and from his mind into his heart.
And there, by light of the Holy Ghost,
he discovered its deeper meaning.
In his heart, the word became prayer,
a prayer that found expression in his poetry.

Sharpening his quill
and dipping it into his inkwell,
he traced a few lines on parchment,
lines that, having found a home
in the sequence of the Mass for the Dead,
would become familiar to Catholics the world over.

Quarens me, sedisti lassus:
Redemisti Crucem passus:
Tantus labor non sit cassus. (Dies Irae)

"Weary sat'st Thou seeking me.
Diedst redeeming on the Tree;
Not in vain such toil can be." (Trans. Elizabeth Charles)

"Jesus, wearied as He was with His journey. . . ." (Jn 4:6).
The image is profoundly moving:
the weariness of a wayfaring Jesus:
Christ, the Image of the Father, journeying in search of man.

Not for nothing is this particular image given us today
on the Third Sunday of Lent.
We are close to the midpoint of our own Lenten journey
We are, all of us, susceptible to a certain weariness.
The Church gives us this particular Gospel
of the weary, wayfaring Christ
to show us that the journey of Christ through Samaria
reveals the Father's journey towards us
in in the journey of the Son to Mount Calvary
by the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrows,

The Son's midday halt at Jacob's well
prefigures His midday halt
of three hours on the Cross
and the cry from His parched lips
revealing the Father's burning desire:
"I thirst." (Jn 19:28)

Consider, then, these mysteries, brothers and sisters,
and understand that the Father's journey towards us
precedes, from all eternity.
even our first hesitant step towards Him.

If you think
that Lent is about your journey towards the Father,
think again:
is it not rather about the Father journeying towards you?
"For God sent not His Son into the world to judge the world,
but that the world might be saved by Him." (Jn 3:16).

The Father seeks us before we begin to seek Him.
The Father yearns for us before we begin to yearn for Him.
The Father thirsts for us before we begin to thirst for Him.

Jesus comes to us in today's Gospel
as one weary of journeying.
His journey is driven by love.
His journey is towards me and towards you.
Every step of His signifies the advance of His Father's love.

The sound of His steps is that described in Genesis:
the sound of "the Lord God walking in the garden" (Gen 3:8).
His voice is that of the Lord God who called to the man
and said to him, 'Adam, where art thou?'" (Gen 3:9)

His journey is that of the shepherd who,
"hath a hundred sheep: and if shall lose one of them,
leaveth the ninety-nine in the desert,
and go after that which is lost, until he find it." (Lk 15:3)

To his description of the weary, wayfaring Jesus,
seated by the well,
Saint John adds a significant detail.
He tells us that, "It was about the sixth hour" (Jn 4:6).
The full resonance of this little phrase remains hidden from us
until we turn the pages of Saint John's Gospel
to the crucifixion of Jesus in chapter 19.

There we read, "Now it was the Friday of the Passover
about the sixth hour." (Jn 19:14)
The sixth hour sees Jesus "lifted up from the earth
to draw all things to himself" (Jn 12:32).

After a three hour agony,
the crucified Jesus reveals the thirst of man for God,
and His Father's thirst for man.
"Jesus, knowing that all was now accomplished,
that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, 'I thirst.'" (Jn 19:28)

Our medieval poet
was right to associate the sixth hour weariness and thirst
of Jesus resting at the well
with the sixth hour suffering and thirst of Jesus
hanging on the Cross.
"Faint and weary, thou hast sought me,
By the Cross hast dearly bought me."
He had read his gospel well.

The power of God is concealed
in the weakness, weariness and thirst of Jesus.
Christ, seated at Jacob's well,
Christ, nailed to the Cross,
is at once strong and weary.
Christ is strong because He is God.
We will acclaim Him at the adoration of the Cross on Good Friday
as the Sanctus fortis, the "Holy Strong One."
He is strong because He is Love,
and Love, we read in the Song of Songs,
"is stronger than death . . . .
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
a most vehement flame" (Ct 8:6).

At the same time, Christ is weak,
"despised and the most abject of men,
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with infirmity." (Is 53:3).
By His power, He created us;
in His weakness, He came in search of us,
becoming weary as He journeyed.

What is the journey that so wearied the Son of God?
Saint Augustine says that the journey is that of the Incarnation:
the long descent of the Word from heaven to earth,
from the bosom of the Father to the virginal womb of Mary;
and all the roads He traveled "in the form of servant" (Phil 2:7)
until, at length, having rested for a moment at Jacob's well,
He came to the Cross.

"Not for nothing is Jesus wearied;"
says Augustine,
"not for nothing does the power of God suffer fatigue.
Not for nothing does He who refreshes the weary endure weariness.
Not for nothing is He wearied,
whose absence makes us weary,
and whose presence gives us strength."
(Homilies on the Gospel of John 15, 6-7).

The last line of the strophe from the Dies Irae,
our medieval poet's sequence,
is a poignant plea: Tantus labor non sit cassus.
"Let not so much labour be in vain."
It is Christ's labour for us undertaken in obedience to the Father:
the labour of His journey into the depths of human weakness,
the labour of His Passion and Cross.
Let nothing of so great a labour be lost!

Ultimately, today's Gospel takes us
from the contemplation of the weary, wayfaring Christ
to the revelation of the Father's thirst
for "adorers in spirit and in truth. (Jn 4:23).
This is the astonishing revelation made by Jesus
to the Samaritan woman at the well:
not our thirst for God,
but the Father's thirst for us,
the Father's yearning that we should adore Him
in spirit and in truth.
For this have we received the spirit of adoption of sons,
"whereby we cry: Abba, Father." (Rom 8:15)

It was, in some way, the thirst of the Father
for adoration in spirit and in truth
that compelled Our Lord Jesus Christ
to invent the Most Holy Eucharist
on the night before He died.

What is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, after all,
if not the thirst of God
made food and drink to quench our thirst for Him
that we might quench His thirst for us?

At the altar, upon the altar
the weariness of a wayfaring God
and the weariness of every wayfaring human heart come to rest.
The altar is the meeting place of two immense thirsts:
the thirst of God for man
and the thirst of man for God.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is Love's great labour.
Let nothing of it be lost.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

Donations for Silverstream Priory

April 2011: Monthly Archives