31 March 2024

Homily - 31 March 2024 - Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord

Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection

Mass During the Day

Dear brothers and sisters,


There is a curious absence in the Gospel chosen for this Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection. Did you notice it? “In today’s Gospel Jesus is not even seen, but He leaves signs, so that those who desire Him, those who seek Him, may finally meet him anew.”[1] How carefully do you look for the signs he has left for you? How ardently do you desire him? How diligently do you search for him?


In this intriguing detail of the absence of Jesus, we have an implicit reminder of what Christianity is all about: “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”[2] This cannot be forgotten; knowing Jesus, and being with him, is of fundamental importance.


Saint Mary Magdalene knew this very well. She went to the tomb “while it was still dark” (John 20:1) because, as Saint Augustine tells us, she went to the tomb because “she was unquestionably more ardent in her love than these other women who had ministered to the Lord.”[3] She knew Jesus in life and did not forget him in death. For this reason, she is “the first witness and herald of the Risen One” (cf. John 20:1, 11-18).[4]


Detail, The Three Marys at the Empty Tomb, BL Cotton MS Tiberius C VI, f.13v


This was especially fitting, for “just as a woman had announced the words of death to the first man, so also a woman was the first to announce to the Apostles the words of life.”[5] It was also fitting that the words of life be announced in a garden because the words of death had previously been announced in a garden. The Magdalene’s love for Jesus was greatly rewarded; she knew him well and would not be kept apart from him, not even by death. What was the cause of her ardent love for Jesus?


Saint Luke mentions – as if in passing – that during the days of Jesus’ public ministry, “accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out” (Luke 8:1-2). Jesus had cast these demons out from her, and she followed him in love as a result. In his great love, the Lord has done similar things for each one of us. He offers his mercy to each of us, again and again. By his Death and Resurrection, he invites us to be with him, now and for eternity, to share in his divine life and to be friends of God.


Why do we not love Jesus as ardently as Saint Mary Magdalene? Why do we not seek Jesus no matter the cost or risk? If we look to her example and listen to her, Mary teaches us that


a disciple of Christ is one who, in the experience of human weakness, has had the humility to ask for his help, has been healed by him and has set out following closely after him, becoming a witness of the power of his merciful love that is stronger than sin and death.[6]


In like manner, Mary’s love for the Lord Jesus was stronger than her fear of death; while the Apostles remained cowering in the Upper Room, Mary went to the tomb, knowing the danger (cf. I John 4:18; John 20:19).


Casting her fear aside, she looked for the signs she thought Jesus left behind, namely his dead body; she desired him and looked for him and met him again, but not how she expected to find him, as we will hear in the Gospel tomorrow (cf. John 20:14). She did not find his dead body, but instead found him in the garden and in the Church, which is why she went to tell Saint Peter (cf. John 20:2). Here, then, is an important lesson for us: when the Lord seems absent or missing, we can find him in the Church; in the Sacraments, especially in confession and the Eucharist; and in the Sacred Scriptures.

When the Lord Jesus seems absent or missing from us, we should imitate Saint Mary Magdalene, not just on Easter but every day of our lives. Our love for him must be so ardent that nothing keeps us from him, that nothing keeps us from growing in his friendship, that nothing keeps us from remaining always close to him.

Everything, absolutely everything, that keeps us from encountering Jesus in his Church must be cast aside and left behind.

So when you die and you meet God and God asks you why he should let you into heaven, please do not speak of how well or how poorly you understood and obeyed some abstract principles, important as they are. What saves you is a person, not a principle. Your answer should not begin with the word “I” but with the word “Jesus.” As they say even about your life in this world, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.[7]

Let us, then, not be afraid to search for his signs, to desire him ardently, and to seek him above all else, so we might meet him anew when he comes again in his glory, sharing in his Resurrection from the dead (cf. Colossians 3:4). Amen.

[1] Pierbattista Cardinal Pizzaballa, O.F.M., Homily, 30 March 2024.

[2] Pope Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, 1.

[3] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Harmony of the Gospels, 3.24.69.

[4] Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Address, 14 February 2007.

[5] Saint Thomas Aquinas, Super Ioannem, ed. Cai, 2519.

[6] Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Address, 23 July 2006.

[7] Peter Kreeft, Food for the Soul: Reflections on the Mass Readings, Cycle B (Elk Grove Village, Illinois: Word on Fire, 2023), 283.

29 March 2024

Homily - 29 March 2024 - Good Friday of the Lord's Passion

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion

Dear brothers and sisters,

We would rather not remain at the foot of the Cross, gazing up at the tortured body of the Son of God. No, we would prefer to bypass over the sorrowful suffering of Good Friday – as well as the strange and silent stillness of Holy Saturday – and skip straight to the glorious triumph of Easter Sunday. However, in her wisdom, Mother Church knows it is good for us to pause, at least for a day, at the Cross.

It might seem strange to think of Jesus going through his Passion and Death doing so as a resolute and heroic warrior, but that is precisely how the Anglo-Saxons considered that pivotal moment in the history of the cosmos.

In what is one of the oldest works of Old English writing, the unknown author of The Dream of the Rood relates a vision of the Cross in which hears of the Crucifixion of our Lord from the perspective of that sacred wood. After being fixed to the earth, the rood, the rod, the cross, said:

…Then I saw the Lord of mankind
hasten with great courage, because he wanted to climb upon me.
There I did not dare, against the Lord's word,
to bend or break when I saw the earth's surface
tremble. I could have
felled all those enemies, but I stood fast.
The young hero stripped himself - he was God Almighty,
strong and stout-minded. He mounted the high gallows,
courageous in the sight of many, when he intended to save mankind.
I trembled when that man embraced me; yet I dared not bow

     to the ground,
fall to the surface of the earth, but I had to stand fast.
As a rood was I reared. I lifted the mighty King,
the Lord of the heavens; I did not dare to bend.

They drove me through with dark nails. On me those sores are seen,
open wounds of wickedness. I dared not harm any of them.
They mocked us, both together. I was entirely bedewed with blood
poured out from that man's side, after he sent forth his spirit.[1]

Notice the words the tree uses in reference to what Jesus did; none are passive verbs, but active: Jesus stripped himself, mounted, intended, embraced, and sent forth. These are the actions of one in full control of all that happens, just as Jesus is depicted by Saint John.

What makes these actions heroic and not foolish? His heroism is found in his intention, “because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked” (Isaiah 53:12). He was not forced or coerced onto the Cross against his will; no, like a valiant warrior he went freely and willingly to overcome sin and death, all because of his great love for us.

The tree concludes its understanding of the Lord’s Passion, saying:

I experienced on that hill
many cruel events, I saw the God of hosts
severely stretched out. Darkness had
covered with clouds the Ruler’s body,
the shining brightness. A shadow passed
dark under the heavens. All creation wept,
lamented the king’s fall. Christ was on the cross.[2]

Yes, Christ Jesus was indeed on that Cross and, dying upon it, he conquered. 

Detail, The Crucifixion, BL Egerton 1193, The Melisende Psalter, f.8r

As we adore the wood of that Cross and him who, by his death, vanquished the ancient enemy, let us mourn the death of our Hero. Let us remain steadfast at the foot of the Cross. Let us weep with all creation, for truly “it is the heroism of obedience and love not of pride and willfulness that is the most heroic and most moving.”[3] Amen.

[1] Eleanor Parker, trans. In “Wuldres treow,” A Clerk of Oxford, 7 April 2012, https://aclerkofoxford.blogspot.com/2012/04/wuldres-treow.html.

[2] Ibid.

[3] J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son,” Essays and Studies 6 (1953), ___.

28 March 2024

Homily - 28 March 2024 - Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper

Homily for the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper

Dear brothers and sisters,

J.R.R. Tolkien once said, “It is the heroism of obedience and love not of pride and willfulness that is the most heroic and most moving.”[1] As we celebrate this evening the institution of the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of Love, we encounter the most heroic act of obedience and love that could possibly be imagined.

We know “love cannot be imagined without sacrifice, and one cannot imagine love flourishing without friendship to nourish it.”[2] Love, sacrifice, and friendship, then, form the themes for our meditation as we consider what Jesus has done for us.

This understanding of sacrifice runs through each of the readings proclaimed for us. Together with the Psalmist, we have just prayed to God, saying, “To you I will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving” (Psalm 116:17). In the first reading, we heard of the sacrifice of the Passover lamb, by which the Hebrews were saved from that terrifying tenth plague (cf. Exodus 12:7). The blood of the lamb saved them from death.

When he reflected on the ancient sacrifices, Saint Augustine observed that “those sacrifices signified the things which we do for the purpose of drawing near to God, and inducing our neighbor to do the same.”[3] What is it that we do to draw near to God? It is precisely the sacrifice of thanksgiving we offer to the Father; it is what we heard in the second reading, namely the command of the Lord Jesus to “do this in remembrance of me” (I Corinthians 11:24, 25). In loving obedience, the Son God offers himself to the Father; we offer that same sacrifice to the Father, even as we seek to offer our lives in union with the sacrifice of Jesus. 

Detail, The Last Supper, The Winchester Psalter, BL Cotton MS Nero C VI, f20r

In the Eucharistic celebration the Lord Jesus extends his self-offering even to us. At that Last Supper with his Apostles, the Messiah anticipated his own sacrifice to the Father when he changed bread and wine into his Body and Blood.

We have gathered in faithful obedience to what Christ Jesus instructed Saint Paul to do, and what the Apostle in turn instructs us to do (cf. I Corinthians 11:23).

The Eucharist and the Mass is the most sacred tradition in the world because what it ‘hands down’ (the literal meaning of tradition’) is nothing less than God incarnate, our only hope of salvation and eternal life and joy.[4]

We have gathered tonight to do what the Lord commanded us to do, so that the sacred power of his Paschal Blood might save us from sin and death. Indeed, “The Eucharist does not just memorialize Christ’s death and resurrection, although it does that. It breaks the barriers of time and space and makes each communicant a participant in those events; the Eucharist anchors time in eternity.”[5] Consequently, our sacrifice of thanksgiving is the very same sacrifice of love Jesus offers to the Father.

Jesus sacrificed himself for us because he loved us, because he loves us still (cf. John 13:1; 14:21; 15:9). Moreover, he offered his loving sacrifice for us because he has called us friends (cf. John 15:15). It is too often forgotten that “friendship is another school of sacrifice.”[6] We see this exemplified when the Lord Jesus humbled himself to wash the feet of the Twelve (cf. John 13:4-5). It is from this school of friendship that we must learn to make of ourselves a loving sacrifice to the Father and to one another.

The frequent reception of Holy Communion is the best way to take the interconnection between love, sacrifice, and friendship into both mind and heart. The Eucharist teaches a husband how to offer himself continually to his wife in his role as provider and protector. It teaches a wife how to offer herself continually to her husband in her role as nourisher and supporter. It teaches a priest how to offer himself continually to his parishioners in his role as shepherd. It teaches each member of a family how to offer themselves to each other in the daily relationship of family life. It teaches an employee how to offer himself in the task at hand. It teaches a student to offer herself in the assignment to be completed. It teaches us all how to imitate Jesus in every aspect and at every moment of our lives.

We bring our moments of self-sacrificial love to the altar to join them to the self-sacrificial love of the Son of God. It is he, the teacher and master, who calls us friends and inspires us with his heroic and obedient love of the Father (cf. John 13:13, 6:38; Philippians 2:8). We receive his sacrifice into ourselves so that we might do as he done, to love him and to love one another, and to do so “to the end” (cf. John 13:15; John 13:1).

The Eucharist teaches us how to imitate Christ Jesus and live self-sacrificial lives, the only way to true Christian heroism and sanctity. Just as Jesus offered the Eucharist on the altar of the Cross, so must our self-sacrificial love be offered “on the altar of our heart” so that it might be kindled by what Saint Augustine called the ignis amoris eius, the fire of his love.[7] If we remain in friendship with the Lord by doing what he has commanded and imitating the Sacrament of Love, if we offer our hearts as a sacrifice to be set aflame by the fire of his love, we will be “remolded in the image of permanent loveliness” (cf. John 15:14).[8] Amen.

[1] J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son,” Essays and Studies 6 (1953): ___.

[2] Craig Bernthal, Tolkien’s Sacramental Vision: Discerning the Holy in Middle-earth (Kettering, Ohio: Second Spring, 2014), 257.

[3] Saint Augustine of Hippo, City of God, X.5.

[4] Peter Kreeft, Food for the Soul: Reflections on the Mass Readings (Elk Grove Village, Illinois: Word on Fire, 2023), 261.

[5] Bernthal, Tolkien’s Sacramental Vision, 248.

[6] Ibid., 260.

[7] Augustine of Hippo, The City of God, X.3, 6.

[8] Ibid., X.6.

23 March 2024

Homily - 24 March 2024 - Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (B)

Dear brothers and sisters,

As we enter into this holiest of weeks, we hear the great cry of “Hosanna” (Mark 11:9, 10)! Not only do we hear it, but we shout it ourselves. Though the Gloria and the Creed are sometimes omitted from the offering of the Holy Mass, the exclamation of “Hosanna!” is never omitted.

This word itself is not unknown to us; we sing or say it, as we said, every time we participate in the Holy Mass, but today “Hosanna!” takes on a special significance. Yet, what is this word? What does it mean and why we still shout it today?

“Hosanna” is a combination of two Hebrew words: hosa, meaning “save”, and na, meaning “now” or “please.” It began not as a command but a plea, a cry for salvation. It is not the imploring of salvation far off in some distant future, but the imploring of salvation immediately, right now. Today, we join the crowd in their shout of “Hosanna!” Save us, Lord, now!  Save us, Lord, please!

The use of this word is recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John (cf. Matthew 21:9; Mark 11:9-10; and John 12:13). It is found in the Old Testament only in verse 25 of Psalm 118, a hymn of thanksgiving, where our English translation renders it, “Lord, grant salvation! Lord, grant good fortune,” a definite plea for help (Psalm 118:25)! Curiously, though, it very quickly took on a rather different meaning and became a shout of praise, a cry of jubilation and hope. In the very next verse, the Psalmist sang of the pilgrim entering the gates of the Temple, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” a definite cry of gladness (Psalm 118:26).

With the shouting of these two verses by the crowds as Jesus rode into the royal city, 

…we find an expression of the complex emotions of the pilgrims accompanying Jesus and of his disciples: joyful praise of God at the moment of the processional entry, hope that the hour of the Messiah, and at the same time a prayer that the Davidic kingship and hence God’s kingship over Israel would be reestablished.[1]

Because of this change in meaning over the course of time, Saint Augustine called the word “rather a state of mind than having any positive significance; just as in our own tongue we have what are called interjections, as when in our grief we say, ‘Alas!’ Or in our joy, ‘Ha!’ Or in our admiration, O how fine!’”[2] In short, it became an exclamation with multiple meanings, encompassing both a cry for deliverance and an expression of gladness.

We take up these same two verses at every Mass to raise of plea for salvation, for help, and to express the confident hope that our help and salvation has already come and is present among us in Jesus Christ, present in the Eucharist. It is as if every day were Palm Sunday.

Though at first filled with a fervent excitement at Jesus’ arrival, the crowd soon changed their opinion of him when it became clear he came not as a conquering king, but as a humble servant of love. They did not recognize him for whom they longed; they did not know him in whom they already rejoiced.

Just as Christ Jesus entered into the city of Jerusalem, so he wishes to enter into each one of our hearts.

In his hour, Jesus reveals that he is a Messiah who becomes weak because of love.


He does not eliminate frailty and weakness, but makes them the site of the greatest revelation of his love.


For all of us, inconstant and unable to let ourselves be loved in this way, Jesus enters Jerusalem, not turning back, just asking us to look up to see how far goes the love of the King who chose peace.[3]

In this Holy Week, let us welcome the Messiah into our hearts. May we look and see what love looks like. And may we both cry out for salvation and shout for joy, “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Matthew21:9). Amen.

[1] Joseph Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011), 7.

[2] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Tractates on the Gospel of John, 51.2.

[3] Pierbattista Cardinal Pizzaballa, Meditation, 24 March 2024.