Fr. Jan Michael Joncas (who some remember as the composer of On Eagle’s Wings) is Artist-in-Residence and Research Fellow in Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas.  As part of St. Thomas’s Lenten Reflection Series, Fr. Joncas  shared today a hymn text he wrote as a meditation on Jesus’ death.  It is a great text for reflection on this this Good Friday.  

The crowds who cried, “Hosanna,”
now clamor, “Crucify!”
Where once you rode in triumph
you stumble out to die.
O suffering Messiah,
O Lord of love and loss,
reveal to us the myst’ry
of your redeeming cross.

This instrument of torture,
this altar on a hill,
this artifact of evil
confounded by God’s will
provides the godforsaken
the sign of God’s embrace:
your outstretched arms, Christ Jesus,
a miracle of grace.

God’s equal, yet you never
clung to a form divine
but in our human likeness
lived out God’s great design.
Thus emptied, stripped, and humbled,
obedient unto death,
a slave upon a scaffold,
you drew your final breath.

For this you are exalted
and marked with great acclaim,
receiving highest honors:
the name above all names.
So at your name, Christ Jesus,
now ev’ry knee will bend,
with ev’ry tongue proclaiming
your Lordship without end.

Blessings as we continue our celebration of the Easter Triduum.

After his Last Supper with his friends, Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane, where he prays to his father.  Fully human, Jesus asks whether this cup may pass him by.  Luke’s Gospel says that “he was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.”

Despite his agony, despite the fears and uncertainty he must have felt in his humanness, Jesus’ comes to yes: Your will, not mine, be done.

Here are two different accounts of Jesus’ prayer.  They are very different from each other, yet each offers much for reflection as we stay awake with Jesus this evening – or at least try to.

Here is Danielle Rose’s interpretation of Jesus’ prayer, from her CD-set Rosary:

And here is Gethesemane from Jesus Christ Superstar:

Blessings on this Holy Thursday!

Yesterday was the final session of the Lent Reflection Series I offered this year at the University of St. Thomas School of Law.  Our first session addressed on the traditional Lenten observances of fasting, almsgiving and prayer.  In the second session our subject was sin: our need to acknowledge both our own personal sins and our participation in social sin, and to recognize our need for God’s help and open ourself to God’s love and grace.  The third session invited participants to walk with Jesus in his passion.

Our subject during this final week was Accepting the Cross as the Consequence of Discipleship.  Drawing on the writings of both Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Brother David Steindl-Rast, I talked about the reality that (to use Bonhoeffer’s phrasing) we must be disciples “under the cross” as well as some of our challenges in taking up our crosses.  (After my talk, we had a great discussion of this challenge of discipleship, but that part is not recorded.)

You can access a recording of my talk here or stream it from the icon below. (The podcast runs for 22:47.) A copy of the the handout I distributed to participants, which I talk about near the end of my talk is here.

Judas and Peter

Today’s Gospel from John is of Jesus and his friends at the Last Supper.  In today’s segment, Jesus predicts both Judas’ betrayal of him and Peter’s denial of him.

As I read the passage, I was reminded of a reflection offered on Palm Sunday as part of the UST Lent Reflection Series by Robert Kennedy, Professor and Chair of UST’s Catholic Studies Department.  He observed that the “principal actors” in the story of Jesus’ passion “all act out of very human motives, or perhaps one ought to say human weaknesses. These weaknesses are envy, fear and distrust.”

Speaking of Judas and Peter, Professor Kennedy wrote

Judas certainly did not trust, did not have faith in, Jesus. Regardless of what he had witnessed, he doubted the faithfulness and power of God and took things into his own hands. And Peter, who had more reason than anyone to have faith, was overcome by fear and adamant in his distrust.

How characteristic these weaknesses are, not only of these men, but of all of us. How many of us would act differently if we had been in their places? Envy, fear and distrust are such common drivers of human failing. But the story of Jesus’ Passion and death is, among other things, the story of his humility, his courage and his ultimate confidence in the wisdom and power of God. The real remedy for these weaknesses and not a bad lesson for us.

You can read the entirety of Professor Kennedy’s reflection here.

I spent this past weekend at Villa Maria Retreat House in Frontenac, leading a weekend Ignatian retreat for members of the St. Catherine’s University community.  It was a wonderful and grace-filled weekend.

As I told the retreatants at the outset of the weekend, there is never a good/convenient time to do retreat. We have busy lives and what Ignatius would call the enemy spirit does everything possible to dissuade people from heeding Jesus’ invitation to “come away and rest awhile.”  The enemy spirit encourages you to think about all the things you need to or could be doing if you weren’t on a weekend retreat. Your job…the kids…the house…your extended family…your pets. Other ways you could productively use your time.  More so this particular weekend: It was, after all, Palm Sunday weekend, the week before Easter. How could anyone possibly, says the enemy spirit, take a long weekend to do retreat at this time of year!

But the individuals with whom I spent the weekend did not listen to the voice of the evil spirit. They accepted the invitation for time with God.

A fundamental premise of Ignatian Spirituality and of Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises is that God can and will speak to you. The key question is: will you let God do that? Will you give over some of your control over your time and agenda  to let God be God?

Last week I sent in the registration form for my 8-day summer retreat.  (For the first time, I’ll do retreat this summer at the Jesuit Retreat House in Sedalia, Colorado.)  If you haven’t already planned a retreat for 2015, why not think about doing so?  If you can’t do 8-days, do a weekend.  If you can’t do a weekend, how about at least an overnight.  If you can’t do that, perhaps you could at least do a “hermitage day” at a nearby retreat house.

Find some time to accept the invitation to spend some time with God.



At the Procession of Palms that begins the Palm Sunday Mass, we listen to Mark’s account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.

It is noteworthy that, despite the fact that he knows the end is coming, Jesus makes a public entry into Jerusalem.  He doesn’t steal into the city during the night; rather, he comes in publicly and with acclamations of Hosanna! He comes in publicly, showing he was not afraid of the power and malice of his enemies in Jerusalem.  In the words of one commentator, “Though he was now but taking the field, and girding on the harness, yet, being fully assured of a complete victory, he thus triumphs as though he had put it off.”

The image of Jesus entering Jerusalem “fully assured of a complete victory” is one we need to take to heart. We do and we will have tough times and it makes an enormous difference how we approach those times. This passage reminds us that Jesus’ death and resurrection mean that victory has already been won for us. So we can do all we do in confidence and joy. As Jesus rode into Jerusalem fully assured of a complete victory, we can face all we need to face in exactly the same way.

As we go through the events of Holy Week, even as we pray with Jesus’ final hours, let us not lose sight of the fact that victory has already been won for us

As we enter into Holy Week, I thought I would share the piece Fr. Dan Griffith, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes, wrote for this week’s bulletin.  It does a nice job of explaining the significance of Triduum we will celebrate later in the week.  As does he, I encourage all who can to participate fully in the liturgies from Holy Thursday to the Easter Vigil.

Here is what Fr. Dan wrote:

“The three days from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday are regarded by the Catholic Church as the holiest days of the Church year. These days are called the Sacred Triduum, which means the “Great Three Days.” The Triduum is one feast and one continuous liturgy that takes place at the beginning of Holy Thursday and culminates with the Easter Vigil. These days are meant to be experienced together as continuous. Therefore, I invite the parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes to come and experience the profound mysteries that are central to our Catholic faith. If you have never experienced the entire Triduum, I encourage you to come and celebrate the life-giving grace poured forth through the death and resurrection of Christ. For those who have experienced the Triduum, the joy of Easter takes on a new meaning when we have journeyed from the upper room, to the foot of the cross to the empty tomb on Sunday morning.

“Beginning on Holy Thursday we are invited to commemorate the Lord’s Supper where Christ instituted the great gift of his body and blood, the Holy Eucharist. This day is also referred to as “Maundy Thursday” because this is the day when Christ gave his Church two commands. The word command is derived from the Latin, maundatum. On this Holy night, Christ told his apostles and all of us in the Church that if we are to be his disciples we must “do this in memory of me” (celebrate the Holy Eucharist) and we must “love one another as I have loved you” (follow Christ’s example of service and sacrificial love). On Good Friday Christ teaches his followers by showing them the measure of God’s love for humanity. On Good Friday, Christians everywhere journey to the foot of the cross. Paradoxically, we recall this terrible and yet great day when Jesus Christ, sacrificial love incarnate, poured his life out on a cross for our salvation. Is there any greater sign of God’s love for us, His children, than the death of His son on the wood of the cross?

“As Christians, we not only proclaim the death of the Lord, but we also proclaim Christ’s resurrection. Our late and beloved St. John Paul II used to remind Christians that we are a people of resurrection and alleluia is our song. As Christians, we know that death is not the end of our story of salvation. The darkness of Good Friday gives way to the light and glory of Easter. At the Easter Vigil and on Easter Sunday all Christians triumph in the saving reality that Christ is alive. This God-Man who took our flesh and was crucified has been raised from the dead. And as Christians who believe in Christ and follow his path from suffering to new life we are assured that we too will share Christ’s resurrection.

” From the upper room, to Calvary, to the empty tomb, we as Christians are invited to enter into the paschal mystery of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Come and experience the glory and the grace of the “Great Three Days.” Please check your bulletin for the Triduum schedule. All are welcome!”


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