Bishop Richard's Holy Week podcast reflections

March 29, 2021

Bishop Richard's is recording a daily Holy Week reflection podcast.

Monday 29th

Yesterday we accompanied the Lord into Jerusalem.  Today we return with Him to the south-eastern side of the Mount of Olives, to the village of Bethany.  Bethany is, for Him, a place of rest and relative ease, for there He is in the company of friends, enjoying their hospitality.

On this occasion, however, the hospitality takes on a new meaning, for Mary anoints His feet with the most expensive oil she could buy.  This is an act of profligate generosity – questioned by some – and is, in some ways, a prophetic act. Jesus speaks of his death and burial that are yet to come. Mary’s profligate generosity points also to the Jesus complete emptying of Himself on the cross. As the ointment is poured, bringing comfort and showing respect for the Lord, so Jesus’ blood, shed for us, brings comfort and healing beyond our weak understanding – nothing less than the salvation of the whole world.

It is through his death and burial that Jesus fulfils the mission of the Suffering Servant, for his death is the New Covenant in His blood: the blood shed on the cross that frees us from the captivity of sin and enables us to live in the light that is Christ Himself.

Spend time in Bethany today. Take a moment to rest with the Lord. Reflect on Mary’s generosity – and on the total gift of Jesus for us. Pray that our response to Jesus’ love will be as generous as that of Mary of Bethany. It is the call to be the very best we can be, to give everything possible out of love of Him who died for us.

You can watch the podcast here.

Tuesday 30th

St. John proclaims Christ ‘the light’ on many occasions in his Gospel.  This is there in the Prologue: “The Word was the true light that was coming into the world.”  Jesus speaks of Himself as the light, when he foretells His own death:

“The light will be with you only a little longer now.  Walk while you have the light, or the dark will overtake you; he who walks in the dark does not know where he is going.  While you still have the light, believe in the light and you will become sons of light.”

In today’s Gospel, we read those dread words: “Night had fallen.”  Judas leaves the Upper Room.  He goes to betray his Lord.  This is the hour of darkness – a darkness that grows more intense as the Lord’s death approaches, marked by the time when “there was darkness over the whole land,” followed by the darkness of the tomb of Christ’s burial.  

This is a day to ask oneself: “Do I prefer darkness to light?” Is there some corner of my life from which I have kept the light of Christ?  Where are those moments in my life when I have made the decision to leave the Lord’s company?  When have I betrayed Him?  

Facing these questions with real honesty is difficult – a journey we might rather not take.  Yet facing these painful realities of our lives means that our hearts can be open once more to the light who is Christ.

Returning to the prologue in John’s Gospel, we read that the Word who is the true light is “a light that shines in the dark, a light that darkness could not overpower.”  No betrayal of the Lord on our part, nor the worst moments of human misery – not even the betrayal of Judas, one of the twelve, can overcome the light who is Christ.  

May this Holy Week be the occasion when, as never before, we open the doors and windows of mind and heart to allow the light to flood in to every corner of our being – that the Lord may truly dwell in us, transforming our lives and enabling us to be his true disciples.

You can watch the podcast here.

Wednesday 31st

Judas goes to the chief priests and is paid the 30 pieces of silver. The course of his action is fixed. The betrayal is planned. At our human level, we might ask ourselves: Why would anyone want to betray Jesus? What took hold in Judas that he would do this thing? Was he disappointed that Jesus was not leading a rebellion against the Roman occupiers? Surely, Jesus’ preaching and ministry would have meant more to Judas than this? He was one of the twelve, was he not?

At another level, Judas is instrumental in bringing about the death of the Saviour – the death that is our life.  There is paradox here – yet the love of God overcomes all things, even this act of betrayal.

This Gospel invites us to look again at ourselves as we prepare to celebrate the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ.  How often have I betrayed the Lord in my life?  This would be a good question to consider today.  

Judas shares in the Last Supper – Do I not share in this same supper?  The Lord gives me his very self in the celebration of the Eucharist, yet – in my own small way – how many betrayals are there on my part?  How often, in the course of my life have I uttered – or thought – the words “Not I, Rabbi, surely?”

While such reflections are important for us, we know that we place our hope in the One who was betrayed, who suffered and died – and who calls us to new life.  The Psalm of today’s Mass – Psalm 68 – takes us on the journey from shame and disgrace, isolation and suffering to the praise of God. “God seeking hearts will revive, for the Lord listens to the needy.”  So it is with us.  It is necessary for us to recognize our faults, the betrayals – but the Lord listens, calls us to Him that we might be forgiven and know His new life.  

You can watch the podcast here.

Holy Thursday

Over the last 40 days of Lent, we have been preparing to mark and celebrate the great events of our salvation: the Passion, death and resurrection of the Lord.  These are the greatest days in our Christian year – for they are the greatest days in the whole of human history. Even though our liturgical celebrations will be a little different this year, let us enter into these days by giving a little more time to prayer and by joining our brothers and sisters, either in church or through livestream. As we join in prayer together, let us remember very specially those who are unable to gather at all, for whatever reason, especially those whose lives are ravaged by war, hunger and persecution.

This evening, we are with the Lord in the Upper Room. It is also true to say, of course, that the Lord is with us in our ‘upper rooms’ – the churches where the Mass of the Lord’s Supper is celebrated; the rooms of our own houses; the rooms that are our own hearts.  Just as he gave Himself to the twelve in the first Eucharist, so He gives Himself to us. This ‘gift beyond price’ is with us always and even if we are unable to be present at the Liturgy this evening, our desire to be there will bring many gifts and blessings.

The Gospel this evening is that of the washing of the feet of the disciples. The Mandatum – the command – that Jesus shows in his own actions is for us. To be at the service of all around us, to hold nothing back in the witness to the Lord’s love that is the sacred task that is given to every one of us. We can rejoice at the many instances of service that we have given and received during this time of pandemic.  We must pray that our zeal for the service of the Lord, present in our brothers and sisters, will remain active and joy-filled.

The period of watching after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper takes us to Gethsemane.  Spend a little time in watching this night, if possible. Watching will be live-streamed from the Cathedral until midnight, so I invite you, wherever you may be, to join me for a time in prayer with the Lord as He surrenders Himself to the will of the Father – surrenders Himself to death for you, for me, for the whole of humanity.

You can watch the podcast here.

Good Friday

Many of us will remember the times when Good Friday was marked by a sense of quiet for everyone. Shops were closed, people travelled less.  Times have changed and in such times the witness of the Church becomes more important.  

We can witness through a spirit of quietness this day, time spent in prayer and reflection on the Passion.  Our homes as well as our churches can be places of recollection, even if only for a time.  Reading the Passion account at home as well as taking part in the Solemn Liturgy will assist us in calling to mind all the Lord does for us.  

The Solemn Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion brings us, in a way that is moving and reflective, into the events of this day.  The death of the Word made Flesh is the divine response to every sin ever committed – we cannot escape the fact that the faults and failings we might consider insignificant are part of this too; “Ours were the sufferings he bore, ours the sorrows he carried.”  Indeed, might one not say: “Mine were the suffering he bore, mine the sorrows he carried.”  Let us allow the enormity of the Lord’s Passion and death to find a place in mind and heart.  

You can watch the podcast here.

Holy Saturday

Silence marks this day. Jesus has died. His body has been taken down from the cross and, through the goodness of Joseph of Arimathea, is buried in a new tomb.  Silence. Waiting. The Apostles have scattered. They are grieving the loss of the Master, the Lord. All is desolation. Silence.  

Openness to silence is an important, necessary part of prayer and, indeed, of our lives.  Silence enables us to hear, to listen. Silence opens mind and heart. Silence enables us to wait, to be still, to watch.  It is important to be open to this spirit of silence on this day, to reflect on the reality of the Christ who is dead for us.  

We know, of course, that this is not the end. Jesus will rise from the silence of the tomb, breaking the bonds of death and bringing us new life – silence today will help us to wait, to watch, to be ready joy of Easter and listen to the message of the Risen One.  

You can watch the podcast here.

Easter Sunday

Alleluia! The Lord is risen indeed! The light of the Easter Candle shatters the darkness of the world. The whole Church rejoices in the wonder of Easter night, the wonder of the Resurrection.  

The whole history of the world looks to this moment and, in these times of pandemic in our world, our openness to new life – and our mission to spread this Good News is as important as it has ever been.  Once again, this year, Easter joy is tempered by the sadness of loss. My prayers are very specially with those of you experiencing bereavement, isolation, the deep sadness of these present times. Into these experiences, the light of the resurrection brings healing and newness of life.  

May the risen Lord bring to each and every one of us the particular graces and blessings that He wishes to share with us – and may we know the joy that this day brings, a joy that finds its place in the very depths of our hearts. The Lord is risen indeed!

You can watch the podcast here.