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Ransomed . . . For Many

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The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” ~ Matthew 20:28

The “Suffering Servant Prophecies” take center stage on the Wednesday of Holy Week, with the prophet Isaiah (50:4-9) and Psalm 69 serving as our lead-in to today’s Gospel, Matthew’s account of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus (Matthew 26:14-25). Yesterday we heard John’s account of this tragic double-cross (John 13:21-33, 36-38) and I point this out to re-assure all of you who are following along by way of the Daily Mass Readings that you are not falling victim to “Pandemic Life” as my 11 year old niece refers to it, wherein I, perhaps like many of you, find myself repeatedly wondering “is it today or yesterday?”

“The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame,” proclaims the great prophet Isaiah (50:7), going on in the waning words of this passage to conclude that “the Lord God is my help, who shall prove me wrong?”

Much like today’s Psalmist, who declares in the midst of his suffering and anguish that “the Lord hears the poor, and his own who are in binds he spurns not,” Isaiah, and Jeremiah, whose lamentations dotted the Lenten Readings Calendar last week (20:10-13 for example) and in fact all the Old Testament Prophets (Ezekiel 37:21-28, which was chosen for our 1st Saturday Celebration Reading four days ago) always fall back on their faith and resolute hope in God. We have reflected upon the ethic of hope on numerous occasions https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/In-Jesus-There-is-Hope. A life devoid of this ethereal virtue is truly tragic.

Today we find ourselves on the cusp of the Easter Triduum, the very reason for our hope. On Thursday Jesus will wash the feet of his disciples while instituting the Sacrament of the Eucharist as well as the Priesthood. We then segue into Good Friday, when we recall the seven last words ~ phrases really ~ of Jesus, revisit his brutal Passion one last time, venerate the cross and spend time in adoration. Holy Saturday marks the Easter Vigil, wherein the unbaptized enter into the fullness and richness of the Church, the very light and life of Christ. It all crescendos on Easter Sunday morning, when the stone is rolled away and our Savior emerges victoriously from the tomb. Jesus Christ is Risen today. Death has been conquered.

“Distract him with noise, glorious noise!” Those were the words ~ more or less ~ of the devious and duplicitous senior demon Screwtape to his green but eager nephew Wormwood in C.S. Lewis’ macabre gem “The Screwtape Letters.” Uncle Screwtape gave the junior tempter this advice in order to assist Wormwood In his efforts to secure the eternal damnation of the soul to whom he was “assigned.”

The Easter Triduum invites us to tune out the noise, a noticeably salient offer in light of the current Coronavirus hysteria. To take a respite from the resounding gong of cable news, some of it useful, much of it not. To take the advice of the great Saint Padre Pio: “pray, hope (there’s that word again) and don’t worry.” To be active participants in what Bishop Barron calls the “Theo-drama.” To renew our desire to reside amongst the many who were and will be ransomed by Jesus, the way, the truth and the light.

Sadly there are many souls who will follow the path of Judas in today’s Gospel and reject Jesus’ call to repent and follow him on the narrow path that leads to salvation, allowing Jesus’ death on the cross to be reduced and relegated to merely another gruesome and bloody moment in history, not the soul-saving, seminal moment it was destined to be. Destined for all yes, but not pursued, sadly enough, by all. Yet we stand here today on the threshold of the Triduum, another chance awaiting us all, the chance to encounter Jesus, or for those who have already invited him into their lives, the opportunity to go deeper. Another chance offered freely to us by a loving, forgiving, understanding and yes, patient God. Don’t miss it.

“Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.“ ~ 2 Corinthians 6:2

We adore you O Christ and we praise you. For by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

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