During Holy Week we can focus a lot of our attention on Passion Sunday, Holy Thursday and Good Friday so that by the time we reach Easter Sunday our celebration of the resurrection is not as joyful, or its meaning as clear, as it should be to us. Ultimately, the resurrection of Christ is the basis of our Christian faith.
Our gospel begins today with Mary Magdalen’s empty tomb-resurrection experience. She finds the enormous stone rolled back and quickly goes to tell Simon Peter about her discovery. They immediately go and find that Jesus’ body has disappeared. We are told ‘they saw, and they believed’. They finally understood what the teachings of scripture had meant.
Sometimes life can create or send experiences our way that might be like living within a tomb like space. That may be the tomb of despair, discouragement, doubt or perhaps bereavement. Moving out of this dark and inhospitable place may not be as easy as it seems to others, our family and friends for example. It may be some time before we are free and able to move outside into the light once more. But we should never despair and give up hope that, as some point, we will be able and free to move on.
As Christians we are called to live a joyful life to the full, so we experience the risen Lord in all the events of our lives. The joyful and the sad ones alike.
We pray that the joy of the Easter Day may penetrate our minds and hearts to make us a resurrection people visible to others each day.
Today we celebrate Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday. It’s on Palm Sunday that we begin our journey through Holy week and welcome Jesus into our lives asking him to allow us to share in his suffering, death and resurrection.
Before his triumphant resurrection Jesus will have to endure great suffering and death. While he is in the Garden of Gethsemane he prays to the Father asking him to take this chalice of suffering and death from him. He is mocked and spat upon and a convicted murderer is set free. Peter denies that he knows him and the apostles forsake him. He must surely have felt a great sense of abandonment by those he loved. It is his mother Mary who stands alone at the foot of the cross faithful to the end.
I was listening to radio during the week. The interviewee recalled how they had to live with daily pain from an unprovoked physical attack they received some years ago. The perpetrator got off lightly but they are left coping with the emotional and physical scars. But that started me thinking. Their condition was not life threatening. What about someone who is living with cancer or having treatment? Someone coping with the pain of bereavement? Surely this person could gain some comfort from that fact?
But all suffering is relative. We all have to bear ‘crosses’ from time to time in life. What may be a cross to one of us may be a slight inconvenience to another. In this solemn week ahead we are asked to journey along the road with Mary and the few who remained faithful to him. We are invited to carry our own sufferings and hurts along the road too remembering the words of scripture ‘Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest’.
Today we hear how the Scribes and Pharisees bring to Jesus a woman who was caught committing adultery. It’s worth noting that there is no mention of the man who must surely have been caught too. We can only assume that he was allowed to walk freely away. They claim that the law of Moses allowed them to stone the woman to death. Their main interest is hearing what Jesus has to say in the hope they can catch him out in some way and find him guilty.
In the middle of their persistent questioning Jesus looks up and challenges the one who has not sinned to cast the first stone at this unfortunate lady whose sin was now public knowledge. Soon its very obvious that none of them is sinless and free to throw a stone at the woman or indeed criticise her brokenness any more.
We can all be like the scribes and Pharisees from time to time. Often the sins of others, our parents, children, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, partners, colleagues, neighbours etc. are known to us and we can criticise or constantly remind them of their faults and failings. However, we also need to remind ourselves that we are never in a position to criticise or throw stones at them.
The words of Jesus are striking when he says to the woman “has no one condemned you” …”no one sir” is her reply and he adds “neither do I condemn you…go and sin no more”. Jesus restores her to peace and friendship with God.
In this season of Lent, we all have the opportunity to draw closer to the Lord and be healed or relieved of the burden of our own sin and brokenness.
Today we have the familiar story of the two sons and the forgiving father. One of the sons decided to get what he could from his father so that he could go off and enjoy life now. The kind and loving father who does not want to stand in the way of his son’s happiness or interfere in his life gives him the money and so he heads off. All seems to go well for the man who is surrounded by his new found friends who help him to squander all his money very quickly and it is soon gone. He is now penniless and taking care of pigs who have more to eat than he does. He eventually comes to his senses and decides to go back to his father and ask his forgiveness.
When he arrives home the father sees him and welcomes him with open arms and is overjoyed that the son he thought he had lost forever has now returned. He decides to hold a banquet in his honour much to the dismay of the son who stayed loyal and continued to help his father with the work on their land. The father is quick to point out to this faithful son that he loves him just as much and is grateful for all his hard work and loyalty.
There are be lots of similarities between this story and our own lives. God our loving father invites each one of us to recognise our sinfulness and return to ask his forgiveness so that he can embrace us with the same joy that the father did in today’s gospel story. This gospel tells us what coming home to God is really like.