RED Mass vestments today! If nothing else this indicates a major change of mood – a different TUNE, MELODY and combination of NOTES! All these allusions should remind us of the unfinished symphony each one of us should have begun composing on Ash Wednesday. If nothing else, at the very least we might have completed the OVERTURE, and this could express some words of Saint Paul – “may the Lord turn your hearts towards the love of God and the fortitude of Christ” [2 Thessalonians 3:5]

The background to our personal reflection will be enriched if we return to those red Mass vestments. Red is the liturgical colour used to celebrate the feasts and memorials of martyrs – those who have given their lives for the faith. However, red is also used for celebrations of the Holy Spirit. There is a connection between the two.

First of all, each one of us is called and challenged to GIVE our lives (and our living) ‘for the faith’ – FOR CHRIST! The two cannot be separated. What is faith without Jesus Christ? The Spirit is the powerhouse in all of this. Few of us are challenged to shed our blood for it – but we are called to live our discipleship with fidelity, with fortitude. Saint Paul also reminds us that fidelity / fortitude is one of the gifts (the harvest) of the Spirit {see Galatians 5: 22}. A few verses later the apostle teaches us that “if the Spirit is the source of our life, let the Spirit also direct our course.”

We need to commence Holy Week by genuinely seeking that the Spirit will direct our course all the way through. This does not happen by accident – a mere presence at Mass on Palm Sunday – even if we participate wholeheartedly – does not, automatically result in opening ourselves (desiring) to the Spirit DIRECTING our course all through the week. We need the Spirit’s gift of fortitude (fidelity) in order to last the course. Now we come to the importance of TODAY’S GOSPEL NARRATIVE OF THE PASSION [Mark 14: 1. 15: :47].

It would be a good idea if during this week we prayerfully read a few verses of this extract each day. Notice how within a few verses from the start we are faced (and challenged) by that first celebration of Eucharist. Somehow or other – but never remotely or in the background – the Eucharist must be at the very heart of our participation in Holy Week. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is REMEMBERED, not recalled, during the celebration of Eucharist. If we remember something properly, WE are bringing it TO LIFE again. This is in contrast to merely recalling something, which is simply a mental acknowledgement that ‘yes, it did happen’. The Lord calls for much more during Holy Week. Do not recall but remember what we said last week about heart speaking to heart.! As we share in the proclamation of Mark’s version of Jesus’ Passion do not miss the story of Saint Peter’s threefold denial of his Lord. In those verses we are told that in the end Peter “remembered how Jesus had said to him … and he broke down and wept.” It was because Peter REMEMBERED, brought it to life again, that he was moved to break down and weep. Nothing out of the ordinary would have occurred if he had simply recalled.

Go back a few lines and note that it was emphasised that Peter remembered HOW Jesus had spoken to him. It was not so much that Jesus had said certain words but, rather, the manner in which they were spoken. Surely this indicates that the Lord had spoken to Peter not unkindly, harshly, with resigned disappointment or in judgmental tones – but with love and in gentle warning. Peter had to bring this latter fact to life for and in himself. Holy Week offers us so much – including the opportunity to bring basic facts of our faith to life, for and in ourselves, Again, words from our Gospel reading must speak to us. “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come … rise, let us be going.”

One final thought from today’s Gospel proclamation. Mark records (as do both Matthew and Luke) that at the moment of Jesus’ death “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” The TEMPLE in itself had lost its significance. Access to God is now only through Jesus Christ who became, and must remain, the central and focal point of Christianity. He is the mediator – not a building or anything that went on therein.

Like the change in the colour of vestments there needs to be a change in us – “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come … rise, let us be going.”

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