Sunday, April 14, 2024

Bishop Senior Invites Faithful to Ponder Their Place in the Triduum Stories and Be Transformed by the Eucharist

Celebrating his first Paschal Triduum as the Bishop of Harrisburg, Bishop Timothy Senior called upon the faithful to journey into the stories of Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection and become fully transformed by the Eucharist.

Leading those who gathered at St. Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg for liturgies on Holy Thursday through Easter Sunday, the bishop often posed the question, “Where do you see yourself?” in the Gospels and “How are you transformed by the Eucharist?”

The Easter Triduum includes the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, the commemoration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday and the celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord on Easter Sunday. It is the summit of the liturgical year.

“It is important that we ponder, especially during these days of the Triduum, the gift of God that is beyond imagining” in the Precious Body and Blood of His Son, the bishop said on Holy Thursday. “Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, He gives Himself to us again. How could we ever treasure that and appreciate it enough?”

“Jesus doesn’t ask for repayment. He asks, though, that we receive Him so intimately and so personally that we’re transformed by the Eucharist.”

The Servant Giving of Himself

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper celebrates the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist and the institution of the Priesthood by Jesus Christ. It is also during this Mass that the Bishop washes the feet of 12 parishioners in commemoration of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. The Mass concludes with the Blessed Sacrament being placed in a special repository in the Cathedral and the faithful keeping watch in prayer, which recalls the disciples staying with our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane.

While the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples is rightly seen as an example of servant-leadership, it is also an example of Jesus offering Himself to us, Bishop Senior said in his homily on Holy Thursday.

“Jesus washed the feet of his betrayer, Judas. He gave Himself even to Judas in that way. I often wonder what it felt like when Jesus was being so vulnerable, the lamb led to the slaughter, offering Himself to Judas even in his sinfulness and his pride,” he said.

“And then He comes to Peter, who would deny Him,” the bishop continued. “Peter’s resistance, on one level, is, ‘You are the rabbi, the teacher, the Lord. You’re not going to wash my feet.’… But Jesus says, ‘I have to get into your life in this way to give myself to you so that you would be redeemed, so that you can have everlasting life.’”

“As we reflect on this incredible gift, there are two things to ponder. The first is, can we truly let Jesus into our lives on that deeper level?” Bishop Senior said. “We’re not the same when we let the Lord in on a deeper level in our lives. Can we let Him wash our feet and so give us Himself to transform us?”

“And then, what does that transformation look like? How are we called to let the Eucharist transform us a bit more this Easter? Could we even wash the feet of Judas? Who is that person – if not literally, but figuratively or spiritually – that I need to reach out to in love? Let the Precious Blood which saves us transform us into the likeness of the Lamb Himself, to let us be transformed to be the servant to give of ourselves in imitation of Jesus.”

The Passion is Our Story

The solemn liturgy on Good Friday includes the reading of the Passion of Christ and ends with the congregation venerating a large crucifix as they commemorate the crucifixion and death of the Lord.

In his homily on Good Friday, Bishop Senior reflected on several particular scenes in the Passion that reflect the human experience of suffering. The first is when Pilate brings a tortured Jesus to the people.

“Jesus, in this moment, reveals human suffering in a powerful way. He is one of those from whom people hide their faces. They cannot bear to look at it,” Bishop Senior said. “Isn’t that true of the human experience as well? We don’t want to hear about suffering. We certainly don’t want to experience it, and we don’t want to face it. We’ll do everything we can to avoid it. But again, there’s no escaping that reality in the human experience.”

A second scene the bishop reflected on is Jesus’ dialogue with His Mother and his disciple at the foot of the Cross.

“Imagine Mary’s perspective in that scene, that incredible pain of a mother watching her son suffer so much. Perhaps in human experience and human relationships, watching someone that we love suffer is so often more painful than suffering ourselves. We’d do anything we possibly could to take it away,” the bishop said. “Jesus, even in his moment of desperation close to his death, is concerned about His mother’s welfare and He trusts the beloved disciple to take care of her. In a very beautiful way, that disciple represents all of us, that we take Mary in our hearts as our Mother.”

“The Passion of Jesus cannot simply be something that we look back upon or gaze upon like a beautiful work of art or a historical occurrence that we read about. As Christians, it has to become our story,” Bishop Senior said. “We have to find ourselves in there, to see ourselves along the journey of discipleship. Where does the Passion speak to you this year? Where do you see yourself in the story?”

“The Passion of Jesus is challenging us today, to see what we need to change, where we need to grow, where we need to surrender a bit more. We do so for the love of One who understands our struggle, who knows our weaknesses, who has been tested and is able to sympathize with us in our struggles,” the bishop said.

‘Go to Galilee’

A cold and rainy Holy Saturday gave way to a warm and bright Easter Sunday morning in the Diocese for a fitting celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord and His conquer of sin and death.

The Easter celebration began with the Vigil Mass, where a blazing fire pierced the night sky and candles illuminated the Cathedral’s sanctuary as a reminder that there is no darkness or death that Christ cannot conquer. During the Vigil Mass at the Cathedral, the bishop welcomed new members into the Church through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist.

“Jesus Christ risen from the dead is the transformational moment in the history of all creation,” Bishop Senior said in his homily on Holy Saturday.

“I truly believe that God’s desire for each one of us is to reconnect with the incredible gift in the joy of the Resurrection that we have in Jesus risen from the dead,” he said.

“Let that speak to our hearts where we need it the most. Whatever is going on in our own personal story, whatever is unfolding, the Resurrection that transformed the history of the world and of all creation can transform us again,” Bishop Senior said. “What is going on in your life as Easter has come, where you really need to hear that Resurrection news?”

“Doesn’t the world need the hope that the Resurrection brings?” he asked. “There is so much to be sad about, so much to be afraid of, so much enmity, anger, violence. We can find hope in the transcendent reality of God’s enduring love and His tenderness that was revealed for all time in the Resurrection of Jesus.”

Recounting on Easter Sunday the story of the women who went to Jesus’ tomb and were instructed to tell the apostles to go to Galilee, Bishop Senior remarked that we, too, must go to Galilee to experience Resurrection joy.

“What is Galilee for you? Where do you see Jesus? What touches your heart? What brings healing, solace, consolation and encouragement?” the bishop asked the congregation.

“First and foremost, it is the Word of God, the beauty of our faith unfolding in the gift of the sacraments. Going to Mass is an experience of going to Galilee and encountering the Risen Lord in an extraordinary way,” he remarked. “We encounter healing in the sacraments.”

But Galilee takes other forms as well, the bishop said. “God touches us very personally with the Resurrection joy of Galilee so through the people we love, whether they are with us or have gone before us. It can also be the beauty of the gradual emerging of spring…in the beauty of music…or in something that touches our hearts and renews our faith because we know that God is with us,” he said.

“We all have our reason and our needs to reclaim Resurrection joy. Jesus truly has risen from the dead; he has conquered whatever darkness we may encounter. His enduring love is greater than whatever can take away our joy,” Bishop Senior said. “What is Galilee for you? Where do you see Him? Let us be sure to go there.”

(Good Friday photos by Rachel Bryson; Holy Thursday and Easter Vigil photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)

By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness

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