WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Cardinal John’s Column – Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil

Cardinal John Dew.

Cardinal John Dew.

WelCom April 2017:

Cardinal John Dew

We know the stories of the coming Easter Triduum very well; they are our most important days of the year. As I reflect on these days I offer a few simples ideas about how we might make the most of these celebrations and enter deeply into the Paschal Mystery.

On Holy Thursday we will witness once again the foot-washing service of Jesus and we will hear His words, ‘I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done for you’ [John13: 15].

Christian stewardship began this night in the upper room. Ordinary humans, like you and I, witnessed the Son of God humble himself to a point they could not have imagined, all with the purpose of serving them. That night the ordinary became extraordinary. Jesus demonstrated for them true love and how to share that love with those outside that room. Jesus served them, and then told them He would feed them with His very self, His own Body and Blood. The events of that evening would lead to His torture, death, resurrection, and then ascension to the Father. But in the gift of His Body and Blood they would be nourished for the task at hand: to witness to the whole world the Good News of Jesus Christ.

On that first Holy Thursday Jesus gave us a true example of stewardship and the path to follow. He showed us how to empty ourselves to the point of becoming the servant of all. To truly be servants to others we need the Eucharist, it makes all things possible for us. As we eat His Body and drink His Blood we become Christ to a world in need of Christ. It would be a truly daunting task for us if He hadn’t shown us how to be Christ.

May the Christ in each of us propel us to our knees so that we may never stop washing each other’s feet.

To prepare for Holy Thursday it may help to find a time and place for at least a few minutes of Eucharistic Adoration; it may also help to ask ourselves the question: ‘What are three ways I am Christ to people on a regular basis?’

Then we come to Good Friday and The Passion.

Jesus warns us in Matthew’s Gospel, ‘lf anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.’ This is an invitation to a way of life, and a plan that leads to holiness, but it’s also a warning. The cross is a sign of victory, but only in light of the Resurrection. The Cross is a symbol of the ultimate sacrifice: the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for a fallen world, and the sacrifice we are called to make to follow him.

The power of this symbol has been diminished in popular culture. It is often used in fashion, simple wall art, and on bumper stickers and tee-shirts, sometimes with Christian clichés, and sometimes not. But the Cross is something so much more. It is a reminder of the pain, suffering, and death of One who loved us so much that He gave His life for us. It is our God on that Cross who cries out in despair, feeling the ultimate depth of human emotion and what seemed like abandonment. And there lies the key for us in trying to live this life of carrying our crosses.

He hung on a Cross and cried out, ‘Why?’ He has walked in all our shoes; on Good Friday and every day we are called to walk in His footsteps. In the Cross, we find solidarity with the human condition. In an empty tomb we find hope.

This Good Friday, take time to really look at a cross or crucifix in your home, look at it, and reflect on what it is saying to you.

Ask yourself the question: ‘When was a recent time when God asked me to sacrifice and I was less than willing?’

Then comes the Easter Vigil and the darkness of death is illuminated.

The light of a single candle can illuminate a whole room. Even the strike of a match chases darkness away and helps us to see. We know though, if we move too quickly while carrying the candle the flame may go out. We see it at our Easter Vigils, people bend their hands around the flame to protect it from the breeze as they walk, but sometimes it still goes out.

At Easter Vigil liturgies around the world, new Paschal and processional candles will light up the night as new Christians are baptised and those of us who are already baptised renew our promises to be intentional disciples of Jesus every day. We renew the promises made years ago. The sun will rise on Easter Sunday morning and we will no longer need candle flames. We will be reminded that every morning is a new beginning and a promise of Christ’s glorious rising. When we participate fully in the Easter Triduum the Light of Christ will burn in each of us combine to brighten the world around us so that all may see, until the Son appears once again, as He did on that first Easter Morning.

To prepare for Easter it may help to spend a few minutes in a completely darkened room and imagine a world without light. It may also help to ask the question: ‘Who are the three people that need the Light of Christ in their lives and how can I help bring that to them?”

Easter Sunday

It does not take long for Lent to pass by. Sometimes the journey seems long and not easy. As we know to get anywhere of value and of importance, there is always a journey to get there. The Resurrection does not have the same impact without the Passion.

Lent will soon be over and then the journey begins again. We are an Easter people and we will be called to live out our baptismal call. The story of Lent is our story, and so is the Easter story our story.

If Jesus did not rise from the dead, there is no need for stewardship. Without a crucified and risen Lord, we still need to help one another, show kindness, and be people of virtue. These actions help to make a civilised society work. But with an empty tomb, we do these basic actions, and so much more, because now we have a hope in something beyond our earthly lives, something that eternally lasts.

A new meaning has been given to our very existence because of the Resurrection. The risen Saviour will walk with us, and we will walk on in hope.

In preparation for Easter take the time to reread the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection, try to be more mindful of the reality of what happened. Ask the question: ‘What difference does it make in my life that Jesus is really alive?’