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Reflections for Holy Thursday and Good Friday

With Jesus, we live the three sacred days of this Holy Week –
a week of acclamation and betrayal, of promises broken and hopes restored,
a week of blessing and breaking bread and bodies,
a week of words and silence, of tears and cries,
a week of companionship and loneliness, of giving up and handing over,
a week of grieving what seems lost forever, and waiting for what seems beyond imagining.

The shadow of the Cross of Christ looms over these days, as it looms over our lives, our world. The sad story of the just ones who suffer at the hands of the unjust continues to unfold, in ever more brutal detail.

But the shadow does not turn into endless night.
It does not — it cannot — quench the power of life.
Death becomes merely an intermediate stop in the great cosmic story of God’s abundant, outpouring, creative love, love without end.

All time belongs to him, and all the ages.
To him be glory and power through every age and forever!

This we know. This we await. This we believe.

What words, phrases, and images in the reflections for the Triduum catch your attention and draw you in?  Pray with them.

What words, phrases, and images challenge you?   Pray with them.

Open your heart to receive the gifts that God has waiting for you this Holy Week, 2017.


Holy Thursday: Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14; Psalm 116; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13: 1-15

Break no words.Look at him. On this night of remembrance, sacred to his people, Jesus longs to share a meal with his friends whom he loves “to the end.”

Look at him. The Chosen One who “had come from God and was returning to God” knows who he is and what is about to happen. God’s Servant wants to imprint a lasting image on the hearts and minds of his followers, then and down through the ages. So he stoops low; he empties himself, humbly doing what a house servant would do. He washes and dries their dirty feet.

Look at him. Jesus takes the unleavened bread, prays a blessing, breaks it into pieces, and places them into the hands of his companions. In a few hours he will take his life into his hands, offer it to be broken, nailed and hung, on an instrument of torture. He who came to heal and free and restore and reconcile will die the death of a criminal.

Look at him. What Jesus does – what is done to him – only makes sense in light of this meal, this taking, blessing, breaking and sharing, even to the point of giving one’s life.  Even then, love – God’s great love – will have the last word.

“If I, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.

I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

Pray with the words of Dan Schutte’s hymn, “Glory in the Cross:” 

…Let us make our journey to the cross of Christ, who surrendered glory and grace,
To become a servant of the great and small, that all people may know God’s face.
Though his birth was divine, he knelt as a slave, to wash common dust from our feet.
Let us ever glory in the cross of Christ and the triumph of God’s great love.

Let us tell the story of the cross of Christ as we share this heavenly feast.
We become one body in the blood of Christ, from the great to the very least.
When we eat of this bread and drink of this cup, we honor the death of the Lord.
Let us ever glory in the cross of Christ and the triumph of God’s great love.

© “Glory in the Cross,” 2000, Dan Schutte. Published by OCP. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission under License #612087, LicenSingOnline.


Man of SorrowsGood Friday – Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 31; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42

Look at him. Jesus walks, stumbles, falls, on the cobblestoned road to his senseless and unjust death. He walks, carrying the cross of all the disillusioned ones whose dreams have been dashed and whose hopes have been shattered. Perhaps, as we revisit our own way of the cross, we find ourselves among them.

Look at him. We see his raw, fresh wounds bleed. We feel our own old wounds re-open. We weep for ourselves, for our children, for what could have been but wasn’t.

Look at him. He bears generations of human infirmities. We weep for him, and for all the senseless tragedies of life: innocent people slaughtered in houses of worship, children killed by gun violence, forests devastated, townspeople buried by mudslides or washed away by floods, walls and fences that seek to keep out those who are different from ourselves.

Look at him. We remember times when we glimpsed light and love and possibility, when we were stirred by the compelling words and actions of the man from Galilee. Times when we were moved to give ourselves completely, to go all in, to believe as Jesus did, that God’s dream for the world could come true.

And then we shake our heads and turn away from the three crosses on the hill, as if to say, “See? This is how life really is. No dream lasts forever.”

But wise ones (like Cynthia Bourgeault) tell us not to be afraid when things seem to be going in a completely wrong direction. We — like Jesus — have to undergo these painful, difficult passages when our whole world turns upside down.  Often this is the only way we learn and grow. Often these apparent dead-ends are the very things that awaken us to new clarity, deeper wisdom, fuller life.

At the end of the Friday we call Good, three dead bodies were taken down from their crosses. The broken body of the prophet from Nazareth was in the middle.

Looking at that body, a Roman centurion — an outsider — received the grace of clarity about what was really going on. He proclaimed it for all the ages: “Truly this was the Son of God.”

–Sr. Regina Bechtle

Sr-Regina-B

Sr. Regina, a retreat leader, speaker, writer and spiritual director, serves as Charism Resource Director for the Sisters of Charity of New York.

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