This morning we celebrate the great feast of Easter. It is the high-point of the liturgical year. We commemorate the anniversary of the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Of course, this is something we do every week when on Sunday, the first day of the week, we celebrate the Eucharist as a whole community. Jesus rose on the first day of the week and so we keep it as our day of rest.
Tonight we celebrate the central doctrine of our faith –the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We do so by lighting the Easter Fire and by making the Exsultet Proclamation. We listen also to selections from scripture containing the essential elements of salvation history.
Today we come to the most sombre moment in the celebration of the Pascal Mystery because today is the day when we mark the death of Jesus on the hill of Calvary. As on every Good Friday we have just heard read to us the eloquent account from the Gospel of John of the events leading up to and surrounding the death of Jesus.
This evening at mass we commemorate the institution of the Eucharist by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper on the night before he died for us. This is, of its nature, a very solemn occasion but don’t think of solemnity as stuffiness for it is indeed the very opposite. What we celebrate tonight is something truly joyous and enriching, for the Eucharist is the very life-blood of the Church.
We have just had the very long reading from St Luke’s account of the Passion of Christ and on Good Friday we will hear the version to be found in St John’s Gospel. Both are very moving and give us an enormous amount of material for meditation. It would be good to pray and think about Christ’s Passion very often in the coming week.
It may surprise you but the wonderful story of the Woman Caught in Adultery set before us today is not included anywhere in the most ancient manuscripts of the Gospels. It only appears in written form from the fourth century onwards. Despite this the scholars tell us that it is a much older story and was known by Christians from the earliest times
The story of the Prodigal Son is one of the most well-known in the New Testament. It has been rightly called the Queen of all Parables. This Parable is only to be found in the Gospel of Luke and it is most appropriate for us to take a look at it in the middle of Lent. Lent is a time when we seek forgiveness and this wonderful story aptly teaches us about forgiveness and reconciliation.
This is one of those scriptural readings that it is easy to slide over. I don't know about you but if I sit down to read one of the Gospels I find myself dwelling on the interesting passages and hardly bothering about some others; the eye seems to glide over the text and on to something more interesting.
The first reading today is very strange to the modern reader unless we make ourselves familiar with the customs and usages of the ancient world. The extraordinary ceremony related here was no sacrifice but rather a ritual symbolic of a covenant or a solemn promise between two people. What they did was take one or more animals and cut them in half and then laid them out opposite to each other but separate, making a sort of avenue between the two halves just as is recorded here in the Book of Genesis.
The Gospel we are given for our consideration on the First Sunday of Lent is always an account of the Temptation of Jesus in the Desert. This year we are presented with St Luke’s version of this important incident in the life of Christ. Mark’s version of the story is, as we would expect, very brief while the accounts given by Matthew and Luke are more extended and broadly similar but with slight differences in the order of the three temptations.
Father Alex McAllister SDS
Parish Priest of
St Thomas à Becket