Grace to you!
We come to the last week of our Lenten Journey. It is called Holy Week, because it’s the holiest week in our Christian tradition.
Today, Palm Sunday, we celebrate the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. We remember when people trooped in large numbers, holding palms in their hands, welcoming Jesus to the city of Jerusalem, singing; “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10; see also Matthew 21:9; Luke 19:37-39).
This was the last public event of Jesus before his arrest. It was also the only time the Lord Jesus did not stop people from publicly confessing his glory. It speaks to us about many other things, four of which I will highlight in today’s reflection.
First, it shows how fleeting is earthly glory. No sooner had the crowd praised Jesus, than they turned against him. Probable Reason—their minds were fixed on materialistic, temporal benefits. So, when Jesus showed his kingdom was not of this world, they no longer accepted him or sang his praises. The glory of this world is like a passing shadow. Those who want to journey with the Lord must realize the kind of glory he brings. Try as we may, we cannot immortalize our name on earthly things. A day will come. A time will arise when the true value will be determined. Namely, the glory that endures forever. Such glory is not earth-bound. It is eternal, it is heavenly.
Second, in our spiritual life, we learn the lesson of the glory-triad, that is, life’s movement from glory to the cross and back to glory. The movement from temporal glory minus temporal cross is the movement deprived of lasting joy and glory. We shouldn’t be afraid of the discomforts and pains of the cross. Try as we may, we cannot run away from the cross. If we embrace the cross, make it our friend, we discover and receive the blessings flowing from it. There is life, spiritual strength, from the crossed woods.
Third, we learn from Christ the value of obedience. The prophecy of Isaiah 50:4-7 describes how the Messiah listens and heeds the plan of God. Philippians 2:6-11 situates Christ’s disposition in humble obedience—a tough value for our contemporary world. Nonetheless, it’s in obedience to God’s Will that true victory of the human will is assured. “Speak Lord, your servant is listening” is always the best witness of the obedience of faith. Obedience to the will of God always, and I mean always, comes with enduring glory.
Fourth, tied to obedience is freedom, the choice for God’s Will. Our will sometimes can be strong. In fact, it’s a good quality to be firm in our decisions. It is strength of character. Strength of character is an example of strong willpower. We often admire people with strong willpower because they bring out the best in human ingenuity. They’re bold. They’re daring. Many times, they’re people of integrity.
Our will would lead to glory if it syncs with God’s Will for us. This is not a rejection of freedom. Not by any means. Instead, we see in our will the true purity to pierce the best choices and see things in the purity of divinity. When the human will is open to the Will of God, it makes choices that flow from its very source. Such choices are pure and full of blessings.
The choices we make reflect the values we hold dear. Our choices for clothes, homes, cars, colours, etc., reflect our personality. We gravitate towards those choices that resonate with us. In the will is something which speaks in the gentlest way—calling us back to God’s Will. Do we listen? Do we choose it? Do we allow it to grow into maturity of choices? We learn from Jesus how to choose the Will of God even when it entails the cross.
Nobody forced Jesus to death. He himself told us, “Nobody can take my life. I lay it down on my own accord” (John 10:18). The choice to offer all, including our life to God, is the purest of the choices to be made, for the will is in its purest form if it can freely offer itself to the reign of God. Granted it is tough, and entails sacrifices to yield our will to something other than what is convenient. The highest and purest of it all is to surrender our will to God’s Will. However, glory lies in making this choice.
As we begin the Holy Week today, let our main project be how to freely surrender our will to the Will of God so that what pleases God will be what pleases us too. By so doing, we become intentional and full participants in the Paschal Mystery (that is the mystery of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ).
Pray with me: Lord, give me the grace to align my will and its desires with your will for me. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
[Palm Sunday; Is 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Mk 14:1-15:47]
Grace to you!
If you’ve ever witnessed the depressing reality of pain and other dark experiences of life, Lent could be for you a surprising ray of hope, of courage and strength.
Two realities are tied in Lent—the cross and the glory. It is not only the cross. It is the cross of glory. Surprised that in the fourth week of Lent, the mid of the Lenten journey, we celebrate a day of Joy called Laetare Sunday.
Laetare means rejoice. It is taken from the first line of the introit (an opening psalm/antiphon for Fourth Sunday of Lent Eucharistic celebration) which says, “Laetare Jerusalem…”—"Rejoice Jerusalem…” (Is 66:10-11). We rejoice because we know that locked in the spectacle of the cross is the radiance of glory.
The beautiful conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus in the Gospel of John, chapter three, gives us an example of this truth. Jesus said to Nicodemus: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn 3:14-15).
Further the Lord says, “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (Jn 3: 17-18).
In these two words from the Word of God, Christ, are great lessons. It is the Christ sent from heaven who is lifted up for our victory. Some theologians would see in the “one sent” Divine Revelation, of glory, from above, (what some call a descending Christology). Some theologians will also see in the one lifted up at the crucifixion, so that we can relate to the pains and suffering of the messiah and find salvation, the revelation of glory from below (what some call an ascending Christology).
Whether from above or from below, in Christ is our victory. He comes so we can be lifted to glory. He is lifted on the Cross so that our wounds are healed. “By his wounds we are healed” (Is 53:5).
Nicodemus, a teacher of the Law and a member of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin, comes to Jesus, the Word of God, for answers to his quest for salvation. He acknowledges that there is something unique about Jesus, because, as he says: “no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him” (Jn 3:2).
Nicodemus is indeed an honest man. He realizes that his education alone is insufficient to grasp the true meaning of life and salvation. Whatever human skills we’ve acquired are not close to true victory, salvation. He was honestly searching for answers to his deep concerns regarding salvation. His name, Nicodemus, though of Greek root, which means “the victory people” or “the people’s victory” strikes me as a I go through the profound words the Lord speaks to him.
There is something in names. Sometimes, they are parallels to events or contexts and reveal so much.
If one were to see in the name of Nicodemus something to reflect on, it could read like this: The Lord shows the way of victory and grants victory to anyone who desires it. Victory is being born again, immersion into Christ, through baptism. It’s being configured into the identity of the Trinity.
The Son of Man (Christ) is the fulfilment of the symbol of Moses lifting up the serpent in the Old Testament, so that anyone beaten by the venom of evil could look up to the one who is crucified, Christ, and be saved.
The one, the Son, who is lifted up for our salvation, is the one God sent from heaven to us, not to condemn the world but “that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:17).
All these because of the love of God: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16).
Here we have it: Victory is being born in God. It’s looking up in faith to the one on the Cross. Life in the one crucified is victory. Faith is access to this life.
Praying that during this fourth week of Lent, we look up to the Crucified Christ in faith; knowing that the one on the wood of the cross, is our glory. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Fourth Week of Lent B: 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23; Ephesians 2:6-10; John 3:14-21]
Grace to you!
Reaching spiritual heights entails making tough choices. Getting to the height of any human endeavor for that matter doesn’t come by on the sofa of easy picks. Otherwise, hard work wouldn’t have any value and loafers would have a field day.
The best creativities are accomplished through perspiration, not inspiration. Inspiration opens our eyes to see. Perspiration, hard work, which is another way of saying sacrificing something, makes us reach the goal of what we’ve been inspired to see.
Sometimes in our faith life, we are divided between what we love the most and what God expects from us. Many times, our faith is challenged. Our ultimate loyalty is tested.
God made a promise to Abraham (Gen 12). He was inspired to see and hear. One of the promises, the most consoling as it may seem in the eyes of Abraham, was the birth of his son Isaac. Isaac was the son of divine promise.
But Abraham had to get to work through rigors of sacrificial choices before the ultimate promise, the perfection of his faith, would come to pass. Abraham was ready for the sacrifice it takes. He, willingly, was ready to offer back to God what God had given. He didn’t hold back anything. He was ready to give it away; not to waste, but to whom all glory belongs (Gen 22).
In this, Abraham became perfected in the graciousness of God the Father who gave His Son, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to be the sacrificial lamb of our redemption. Abraham was sharing a quality which belongs to God. He has become a special friend of God. Hence, his faith is perfected.
As the Church makes us understand, the story of Abraham and the test to sacrifice Isaac prefigures God the Father sending the Son, Jesus Christ, into the world for our salvation. It was a symbol of what God did for us in Christ. God’s love was evident as He didn’t spare His Son; instead He offered him for us all (Rm 8:32).
You know that saying: “If you love something, give it away.” Give it away so it thrives and reaches to many. Offer something, the time and sacrifices. God gives the best. God gives everything, including Himself, so we can, for instance, consume him at the Eucharist. Look around and see; all that God has given is the best from the fountain of life and blessings.
There is an assurance in the glory to come when we model our lives God’s way. When Jesus took Peter, James and John up to the mountain where he transfigured in their eyes (Mk 9:2-10), he wanted them to have a glimpse of what is to come. The coming glory reassures us that the way of the cross, sacrifices, perspiration and the trails that come because of one’s faith are not in vein. Glory is on the horizon.
In this second week of Lent, we offer something precious to God. We give something dear to us away for some cause, for someone, so the world will be a better place. We offer food and drink so the hungry could be fed. We offer our advice, wisdom and knowledge so the ignorant could be informed and the depressed would be encouraged.
We offer our prayers for those who need it the most. We offer our time and presence for that lonely and cold heart. We offer the warmth of our love so the unloved could feel the love of God. We offer little things, as well as those things so precious to us, simply because we know that it is in giving that we receive.
Praying that we sacrifice and accept the trials that come from the holy choices we make to follow the Lord with the courage and hope of glory. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Second Sunday of Lent B: Gen 22:1-2, 9A, 10-13, 15-18; Rm 8:31B-34; Mk 9:2-10]
I fix my eyes on the Cross, the Cross of my salvation. I follow the melodies of the chant--The Old Rugged Cross, as I kiss the feet of my Savior hanging on the wood of the Cross.
The kiss comes with the freshness of a memory, biblical memory. A memory handed down from the generation of the apostles to us, present-day disciples, in communion with millions of people before us, as well as numerous yet to be born.
I embrace the Cross because my Savior embraced it for me. Without the Savior, it would only mean despair and doom. With my Savior, the Cross is salvation’s route.
The Cross of my Lord stirs in my heart holy sentiments of joy. The unfortunate fall, which became a happy and hope-filled fall, is now grace for all and for me. By Christ has the tide been turned.
The Cross of my Savior is my Cross too. In it I find healing, and by it my hope is restored when I’m weak; when I fall and am broken, down and dejected.
I look at the Cross to see the Holy face of my Lord. As I fix my gaze on the Cross, I see myself inside the loving eyes of my Savior, his retina reflecting purest rays of tender love and mercy.
I see that face which beheld Mary Magdalene; the face, which looked at a woman condemned to die for her sins with unutterable tenderness. I can hear from the groans the oracle of divine justification for me: "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more. You are healed."
I gaze on the Cross. Upon it I see the heart pierced with a lance and the blood and water gushing with the aroma of Grace, mercy and justification. I can see the purity and can perceive the fragrance. Love for love. Grace for grace. Mercy for mercy.
I gaze on the Cross and I see myself as I’m seen and loved by God, completely disrobed of all attachment, and surrendering to the ultimate hands of the Heavenly Father.
I embrace the Cross because with it I realize I am dust. With it I know I am saved. The crown is assured.
I look upon the Crucified One. I see the pains of human frailty. I see the doubts of the world—the pessimism of naysayers, the calumny of unbelief, the mockery of skeptics, and the feebleness of the tepid and weak. All embraced by the Savior so healing, wholeness, the seed of God would be restored in me.
I embrace the Cross because without it Resurrection would have been a farce.
I gaze on the Cross since with it, I know for certain, my Savior is here, and my Redeemer is alive. The paradox of the Cross is joy for me.
I embrace the Cross. I respect it. I kiss it. I ask that the grace of the Good Friday may turn to good all the crosses of my life. Yours too. Amen.
Jesus crucified for the love of me, give me grace to carry the cross for the love of thee, and for the love of my neighbor. Amen
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice Emelu, Ph.D., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth and inspiration. They are designed for a general audience. They may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons.