14 April, Thursday — Holy Thursday

Maundy Thursday — Chrism Mass

Faith Anew

Isa 61:1-3,6,8-9
Apo 1:5-8
Lk 4:16-21

The Spirit of The Lord has been given to me

I have often wondered how I would react if Christ returned in my lifetime. Would I recognize him? Or would I let my conservatism get the better of me? We look with judgment on those who failed to see Jesus the first time round; but would we have perceived otherwise? I don’t know. We can be a little too ingrained in our ways.

My husband is a cradle Catholic who fell away from the faith. He is now tentatively finding his way back to church, one mass at a time. Mass is both new and familiar to him; some things have changed, some things have stayed the same. I want him to have a good experience each time he is in God’s house. I want to show him that the Catholic faith is loving, compassionate and accepting. That it is not the harsh, overbearing faith he grew up with. Very often though, I find I am on the defensive, standing up for God and the Church against his questions and ‘pointy’ comments. His observations are not groundless. If Christ returned, might he ask the same questions of the faith he founded? Some examples of ‘pointy’ remarks I’ve had to field – “Why is there so much focus on fundraising during mass? 5 mins for the homily, 15 mins for the fundraiser?”, “Why do only some masses ‘count’, it’s not like God keeps office hours?”, “Why are people so ‘clique-ish’ at church, like they’re part of a cool kids crowd and I’m not?” , “Why doesn’t the church make the Bible easier to understand, why can’t it be in simple English?”

All that aside, I think my husband’s faith is more authentic than mine. He is often moved to tears at mass. He notices the old man with the walker two pews in front, and observes how great his faith must be, to be showing up for communion despite his pain. My husband bothers to count, and marvels at the number of people who show up at daily mass on a Saturday morning, ‘just to see God’. He is aware of a homily’s message, whether it has touched him or not. I don’t see or hear any of this. I’ve become numb in so many ways, as if worship is a box I have to tick. So have a lot of us, I think.

This Holy Week, when Christ is closest to us, let us take the opportunity to seek the authenticity that the first Christians experienced, when Jesus walked in their midst. Perhaps we can try to worship with new eyes, and seek for ourselves a more authentic way of practicing our Catholic faith. We have much to learn still, especially from those who seek God with ‘childlike faith’, who are unafraid to ask the honest questions. I know I have much to learn from my ‘renewed again’ Catholic husband.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer : I pray for the wisdom and the awareness to be a better, more humble steward of the faith.

Thanksgiving : I give thanks to God, for allowing my husband and I to share a faith journey together. I give thanks to God that He has been willing to be the cornerstone of our married life.

Maundy Thursday — Evening Mass

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Ex 12:1-8,11-14
1 Cor 11:23-26
Jn 13:1-15

“Do you understand” he said, what I have done to you? I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you. 

In the book of Kings, we are given the narrative of Jeroboam, the first king of Israel’s Northern Kingdom. He tried to bring about religious and political reforms during his day. However, in Jeroboam’s case, it was his fear of losing his own life should the people of his kingdom turn back towards Jerusalem and revolt against him, rather than true worship of God that rooted his actions. Hence, he made two golden calves, set up temples, appointed priests who were not of the sons of Levi and would have allegiance to him instead.

Fast forward to the narrative of Jesus’ miracle of the multiplication of loaves, where he fed the multitudes from the offering of 5 loaves and 2 fishes. In this episode, Jesus took the humblest of what his starving and poor people had to offer and out of these, performed one of His greatest miracles. He showed the awesome power of not just God’s divine power but of the power of his divine love for His people. On the surface, the offering was poor, unworthy, inadequate and unworthy. But the offerings came from minds that were hungry for the word of God, hearts that were hungry for the love of God and spirits that were hungry for the grace of God. And it was from these, rather than from material matter, that God received of the bounty of His people and in exchange, the people received from the bounty of God. Ad infinitum. God multiplied not loaves and fishes, He multiplied the infinity of His mercy, His love and His grace. Worship that brings life to not just ourselves but to all. Worship that makes the impossible, possible.

Fast forward again to the scene of the Last Supper – once again, the humble elements of everyday wine and bread are present. Plain, simple, ordinary, uninspiring, unworthy. And once again, it is from such humble offerings, came another unimaginable miracle of transformation – bread and wine into blood and body. And not just any blood and body – but that of God. In this the first Eucharistic meal, we receive not just blood and flesh – we receive the blood and flesh of God himself. And in them, we receive the penultimate fruition of the eternal plan of God, the salvation of His people. On this Maundy Thursday night, we are given the ultimate multiplication of loaves, the transformation of bread and wine into the eternal and living presence of Jesus himself — every day and in every celebration of the Eucharist. Forever until the end of time. Till Jesus comes again to us…one day.

Be not like Jeroboam, whose attempts at worship were nothing more than a delusion and a farce. What God desires instead is the beauty and glory of worship from the authentic, sincere and humble love of His people for Him. It is from such true worship that He then transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary, that such true worship is not just what we have received from Him, but what we then need to give in turn to others, and that such true worship comes not from the unworthiness of what we bring before God, but the gloriousness of what God brings to us.

So, for those who thought that God would be pleased from worship that comes from all that is gold and pomp and pageantry, think again. For such worship is the worship of street corner ostentations and fancy phylacteries. All huff and puff. Heed the warning of the Kings, that such conduct in reality, made the House of Jeroboam a sinful House, and caused its ruin and extinction from the face of the earth. In the words of Macbeth, for such are those that “struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo) 

Prayer: Father, help us. Forgive us for all the times we worship ourselves rather than worship you, even at Mass. When we bring before your holy altar, not the sacrifice of a sincere, humble, repentant and grateful heart of our pride, our arrogance, our hypocrisy and our insincerity. For at such times, it is not you that we worship; it is ourselves.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for your grace that redeems us, your mercy that saves us and your love that restores us and leads us back to You.

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