Lord, you tell us to pray, ask and seek in your name with humble, watchful, persevering, and confident hearts. I come to you this day and ask for your inspiration as I seek to do your Divine Will, and to make you known and loved in my home and community. Amen.
In today’s Gospel we read of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with expensive oils and Judas questioning the practice noting that the oils could be sold and the money given to the poor. While this portion of the reading tends to be the primary focus, I want to take a closer look at the last portion of the reading. Jesus comes to Bethany to see Lazarus. Since Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, many people came to believe in Jesus as the Messiah through the testimony of Lazarus and those who witnessed the great miracle. The Gospel today tells us that the chief priests were plotting to kill Lazarus to because many Jews were “turning away and following Jesus because of him”. This part of today’s reading highlights a reality of following Jesus that we don’t often like to think or talk about – you may be persecuted by others for your faith in Jesus Christ.
Yesterday, on Palm Sunday – also called Passion Sunday – two Coptic Churches were bombed in Egypt killing dozens of Christians who came to worship and begin Holy Week. Our Church history is littered with Saints who were martyred for their faith, but typically we read about their struggles during a time long past and we distance and desensitize ourselves from the reality that this could happen to us. We fool ourselves into thinking that we live in a more advanced, accepting and tolerant society, and where the great sacrifices of Saints past are inspiring, we won’t have to worry about persecution like that today. When events like the bombings yesterday happen and we look on the bodies of innocent people who were murdered simply because they were Christians, we have to face the reality that those same plots to murder Lazarus simply because he was a follower of Jesus have continued throughout history and continue to happen today.
Jesus told his followers repeatedly that following him would cost them everything. Until Jesus was arrested, his Disciples had been told the path of discipleship would be a difficult one, but times were good and no one had gotten hurt yet, so it was easy for them to say to themselves that “everything will be fine”. When Jesus told Peter that Peter would deny him three times, Peter became angry and insisted that he would never deny Jesus. Yet when the time came that associating with Jesus became imminently perilous, Peter did as Jesus warned him and denied that he even knew who Jesus was – and this was the man whom Jesus left as the Cornerstone of his Church! Jesus calls us to seek truth, and that means that we will hold beliefs which are in direct conflict with the priorities of society because society seeks pleasure and comfort and Jesus seeks surrender and servitude. Some of our beliefs make us a target, and we see exactly what that looks like when we look at the picture taken by a proud mom yesterday of her young boy excited to serve Passion Sunday Mass in his parish in Egypt, only to see the same boy being carried out on a stretcher moments later as he was killed for nothing more than being a Christian.
We cannot forget that others may plot against us – even to the point of trying to murder us for our beliefs. St. Joseph understood what it was to be targeted – he fled to Egypt to escape King Herod’s attempts to murder Jesus. St. Joseph understood a world that was hostile to Jesus, and he bravely and selflessly sacrificed to protect Jesus. When St. Joseph protected Jesus, he directly served to defend Truth, and so he affected making Jesus known and loved. We are called to the same task of making Jesus known and loved, but we are also warned that this will come at a cost – for some that cost will be to be homeless, poor, alienated and outcast like St. Joseph; for some that will mean being scrutinized, publicly humiliated and discriminated against; for some that will mean martyrdom. Let us pray for all those effected by the bombings, but let us also pray for the strength to be as the young man who was killed serving the Passion Mass that when our time comes we can similarly be found boldly serving to make Jesus known and loved.
St. Joseph, help me be like you. Help me to be obedient to the teachings of the Church and faithful to God’s commands. Help me to patiently endure my cross each day. Let me be a model of holiness and a pillar of virtue. I solemnly promise to embrace God’s will and I accept the challenge to work tirelessly for my family’s salvation. Be my guide and companion on this journey. St. Joseph, Terror of Demons, pray for us.
I would also like to invite everyone to participate in a Novena together for all those martyred for their faith yesterday on Passion Sunday.
Please pray the following prayer each day for Nine Days:
O New Martyrs, slain at worship as we enter into our holiest days, you now number among the ancient holy ones. Before the throne of the Almighty, we beg you to keep us particularly in your prayers. Once again we are focused on the mysterious geography where humanity first came into being, and then into contact with the Reality of the One God — the lands where all will someday finally be revealed.
Today, we ponder why it is that our attention is continually turned to this region in gasping sorrow, all due to a malevolent force as old as Eden. We know that Christ Jesus is the Victor over death, and the Victor over evil, but we acknowledge that the victories come only by way of His Cross. O New Martyrs, you and the people of your region share in that Cross and we, in spirit, share it with you. In the presence of the Perfect Wisdom — the Holy, Mighty One who imparts all that is True, teach us to pray the words that will bring peace, if peace is possible, or to pray the words of pure worship, contrition and trust, if it is not.
Pray that we may learn how to become the peace we seek.
Pray that we may put aside all that is irrelevant to the moment and, looking forever to the East, prepare our spirits for the engagements into which we may be called, whether we live amid these places of ancient roads and portals, or in the most modern of dwellings.
Mary, the God-bearer, pray for us,
Saint John the Forerunner, pray for us,
All Holy Men and Women, pray for us.
- Lenten Reflection Day 40 – Holy Thursday - April 14, 2017
- Lenten Reflection Day 39 – St. Joseph, Lover of Poverty Part II - April 12, 2017
- Lenten Reflection Day 38 – St. Joseph, Protector of Holy Church - April 11, 2017
- Lenten Reflection Day 37 – St. Joseph Most Brave - April 10, 2017
- Lenten Reflection Day 36 – St. Joseph, The Man Who Went All In - April 8, 2017
- Lenten Reflection Day 35 – St. Joseph, Man of Action - April 7, 2017
- Lenten Reflection Day 32 – St. Joseph the Guardian - April 5, 2017
- Lenten Reflection Day 31 – St. Joseph, Most Graced - April 3, 2017
- Lenten Reflection Day 30 – St. Joseph, Most Selfless - March 31, 2017
- Lenten Reflection Day 29 – St. Joseph, Model of Artisans - March 29, 2017