Sunday Coffee Morning online

We are now able to attend Mass in person, however, we are not yet able to
hold our coffee mornings in person.

The space is open for those who want to socialise and get to know other members of the St Theresa’s community. Every Sunday we hold a quick fun quiz and a bit of a chat from the comfort of your own home.

When? Sundays at 11.10 am

Where? Zoom

Everyone is welcome!

John the Baptist

by David Morson

Jesus said, “Among those born of women, there is no greater than John”. This is an amazing statement about John showing his importance to Jesus. John was Jesus’ cousin and was the last of the great Prophets preparing the people for the coming of the Saviour and urging repentance for wrong doing.

John’s parents were Zechariah and Elizabeth. They lived at Ain Karim, a small village near to Jerusalem where there is now a beautiful Catholic Church in honour of John. They were both elderly and had not been blessed with any children. Zechariah was one of the Abia Priests who were allowed to enter the Holy of Holies, the most sacred part of the Temple twice a year.

On one of these occasions, the Angel Gabriel visited Zechariah and told him that Elizabeth was pregnant with a son who they were to call John, meaning “The Chosen Of God””. Because Zechariah questioned this message, he was struck dumb until he accepted the Angel’s words.

When the Angel came to ask Mary to be the Mother of God, he told her that her cousin Elizabeth was also to have a baby. Mary decided to visit Elizabeth and when Mary drew near to the house, Elizabeth came out to meet her and said that when she greeted Mary, she felt her baby leap for joy in her womb. Thus showing he would prepare the way for Jesus.

When Elizabeth gave birth, relatives and friends gathered to see what the baby would be called. They expected him to be named Zechariah after his father, but Zechariah called for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John ” as the Angel had instructed and immediately he was able to speak again.

We next hear of John in the Fifteenth Year of the Emperor Tiberius, approximately 28AD, when he starts baptising people in the River Jordan as a sign of repentance. Some of us in the Parish visited the place at Bethabara, Bethany Beyond the Jordan on the east side of the River in a Pilgrimage in 1994!

John Preached “metanoia” a total turning away from sin and starting a new life in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. His Baptism was a sign of cleansing. John lived in the wilderness, dressed in a camel hair coat and ate locusts and some believed that he was the Prophet Elijah come back to earth. Others thought he was the Messiah himself. But John denied all of these, stating that “he was not worthy to undo the strap of the sandal of the one who was to come”. He said that he baptised with water, but the One who was to come would baptise with Fire and the Holy Spirit giving the very life of God.

When Jesus came to John to be Baptised, John said that he should be baptised by Jesus, but Jesus insisted and as He came up out of the water a voice from Heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased!! and the Holy Spirit in the form of a Dove hovered over Jesus’ Head. This was the first manifestation of the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

John then pointed to Jesus as the one Disciples should follow saying, “He must increase, I must decrease. John’s work of preparing the way for Jesus was now complete.

But John was arrested by King Herod Antipas, the son of King Herod who had tried to kill the Baby Jesus in Bethlehem. John had constantly preached against Herod Antipas that he was wrong to marry Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife when she was still married to Philip and Herod was also still married. Herod was unwilling to execute John and kept him in Prison. John sent his disciples to Jesus to. confirm that John’s work was over. Jesus replied that the lame walk. the blind see and the Good News is preached to the Poor. John was then content.

In order to get rid of John The Baptist, Herodias used her daughter Salome to dance for the King on his birthday and make Herod promise her anything in return. Once Salome had danced, she asked for the head of John the Baptist on a plate. Herod was shattered by this request, but had given the promise to grant her anything she asked for in public and so could not go back on it. So John was beheaded. but died knowing he had achieved his mission in preparing the way for Jesus and that was the reward he valued.

Feast of Corpus Christi

by Deacon Des

Today, we celebrate the solemn feast of Corpus Christi. This Solemnity is three feasts in one: the feast of the Eucharistic sacrifice, the feast of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and the feast of the Real Presence of Jesus in this Sacrament. Although we celebrate the institution of the Holy Eucharist on Holy Thursday, the Church wants to emphasise its importance by a special feast, formerly called “Corpus Christi.” It was Pope Urban IV who first extended the feast to the universal Church. This is one of the few feasts left in which we observe a pre-Gospel procession and a sung “Sequence.”

In the reforms of Vatican II, Corpus Christi was joined with the feast of the Precious Blood (July 1) to become the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord. Today we celebrate Christ’s gift to us of the Eucharist, the Source and Summit of our life together as the Church. The Council of Trent (1545 to 1563), declared that we must honour Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Faith of Catholics in the Most Holy Eucharist [that others] might be attracted to the Eucharistic Lord and believe in the Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, present in this great Sacrament. “The Catholic Church teaches that in the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of the God-man are really, truly, substantially, and abidingly present together with His Soul and Divinity by reason of the Transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. This takes place in the unbloody sacrifice of the Mass.”

Why do we celebrate the Eucharist some 2,000 years later? We do this because Jesus told us to do so: “Do this in memory of me.” St. Augustine in the 5th century AD said it best when he said: “It is your Mystery, the Mystery of your life that has been placed on the altar.” This Holy Memorial is known by various names:
1) “The Eucharist” because Jesus offered himself to God the Father as an act of thanksgiving; 2) “The Lord’s Supper” – or “The Breaking of the Bread”- because we celebrate it as a meal; 3) “Holy Communion” because, we become one with Christ by receiving him; and 4) “Holy Mass” (holy sending), because it gives us a mission: “Go in peace glorifying God by your life.”

Today we should also remember our children preparing to make their First Holy Communion, with the wonderful account of the remarkable experience of Blessed Imelda Lambertini. She lived in Bologna, Italy, in the 1300s. She had wanted to be a nun from the time she was a little girl, and she joined that Dominican convent at the age of nine, to better prepare herself for the day when she would take the habit. Her greatest desire was to receive Holy Communion, but in those days, you had to be at least twelve years old to do so. Imelda begged for an exception to the rule, but the chaplain refused. She kept praying for special permission. Her prayers were miraculously answered on the Feast of the Ascension in 1333. After Mass, she stayed in her place in the chapel, where one of the nuns was putting away the sacred vessels. Suddenly, the nun heard a noise and turned towards Imelda. Hovering in mid-air in front of Imelda as she knelt in prayer was a sacred host, the Blessed Eucharist, shining with a bright and forceful light. The frightened nun ran to find the chaplain. By the time the chaplain arrived, the rest of the nuns and other onlookers had crowded, awe-struck, into the chapel. When the priest saw the shining, hovering host, he put on his vestments, went over to the girl, took the miraculous host in his hands, and gave her Holy Communion.

Some minutes later, after the crowd had dispersed, the mother superior came over to Imelda to call her for breakfast. She found the girl still kneeling, with a smile on her face. But Imelda was dead. She had died of love, in ecstasy after receiving Christ in the Eucharist. He had longed to be with her even more than she had longed to be with him. Blessed Imelda’s body is incorrupt, and you can still see it today in the Church where she is interred, in Bologna. She is the patron saint of First Holy Communicants.

Easter Sunday Reflection

by David Morson

In I Corinthians, St Paul writes,” If Christ is not Risen then Our Faith is in vain”.
Easter Sunday is a Day of Great Joy because Jesus overcomes the powers of darkness to restore all humanity to new life in God. In the Orthodox Church people process in to the unlit Church and one Candle is lit to the cry, “Christ is Risen”. Then slowly and steadily the light passes from one person’s candle to the next, until the Church is ablaze with radiant light. This lovely ceremony symbolises the way that Jesus comes out of the darkness of the Tomb as a Light to the World and how one by one His risen presence is transferred through us in the lit candles, one after another. So, we too are brought out into the radiant life of God when sin and death have been conquered giving us a joyous new beginning. Moreover, hope, that even though we die,we will rise again.

The narrative of what happened on this wonderful day will be read at Mass, so I will not try to record that here, except to share one lovely aspect of the story that I find very human and a little amusing. In St John’s Gospel, after Mary encounters the empty tomb, she finds Peter and “the disciple Jesus loved” (coded language for St John himself, the youngest disciple) and tells them what she has seen. We are then told by St John in his Gospel, that the two disciples” run” to the tomb, ” but the other disciple” (John) outran Peter. However he waits for Peter “who was behind him,” to catch up before going in. If anyone thinks this story is made up, why would St John go in into such minute and vaguely humorous detail to describe what happened on that wondrous morning. What a lovely human touch!

Can I wish everybody a peaceful and joyous Easter. God bless you all.


Holy Saturday Reflection

by David Morson

Holy Saturday is sometimes seen as a break or interlude between the seemingly despondent events of Good Friday and the rejoicing in the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. But, our Apostle’s Creed states that Jesus “descended in to Hell” during this period.

This has become known as the “Harrowing Of Hell” It is a difficult concept, but it relates to the mystery of all those good souls who lived and died before Jesus’s Sacrifice and how they now became free to share in the Salvation brought about by His Death.

The Church’s great Ceremony of the Easter Vigil which takes place in the evening of Holy Saturday, also focuses on such new beginnings.

In the Service, there is a time when new Members of the Church are Baptised or Confirmed, initiating a new beginning for both them and us.

Finally, Holy Saturday is a time when we reflect upon the unwavering ministry of Jesus’ women followers. It was them who remained with Jesus at the foot of the Cross when all the male disciples fled and hid. Their faithful presence is recorded in all Four Gospels. Their love for the Lord was not broken by His Death. They saw the tomb where His Body was laid and watched the stone being put into place. They were the one’s who lamented and mourned. They formed the first small community who maintained Hope in the Lord’s Sacrifice. They were the ones who discovered the Empty Tomb when they came early on Sunday Morning to anoint the Body….and it was one of their number, Mary Magdalene, who was the first person to whom the Risen Lord appeared.

Good Friday Reflection

by David Morson

It is believed that the English Term ” Good Friday” describing the most dramatic day in the events of Holy Week may have come from the German of the Anglo Saxon Church, “Gottes Freitag” or ” God’s Friday.” Although the results of what happened that Day transformed our world, from our human perspective, it is difficult when hearing or reading the narratives about what happened to Jesus, to describe it as “Good”. Because of our love for Jesus, it makes it difficult for us to to consider His suffering. But, what must be remembered, is that it was His Great Love for us which enabled Him to bear it. Jesus’ Passion cannot be divorced from the “Passion of His Life” which was to instigate the “Kingdom of God”, bringing about a world of love, justice and peace. The dominant powers of Temple Authorities and Roman Rule did not accept this because it challenged the powers they had created for themselves.

Both St Mark and St Luke record that Caiaphas and the Chief Priests and their followers brought Jesus to Pilate, “early in the morning” ..”at daybreak”. After Judas had led them to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and the rushed illegal Trial Before the Sanhedrin, The Chief Priests were anxious to remove Jesus, before the Crowds who followed Him, started to gather and before the Sabbath. Here it must be remembered that the Jewish Day started at sunset on the evening before.

St Mark provides us with a timetable of the Day. Jesus was crucified about 9am. By noon the earth had turned dark and at 3pm ,”Jesus gave up His Spirit and died.”So, the trial before Pilate must have been very early in the Day.

Each of the four Gospels have slightly different features of Jesus’ Trial Before Pilate, although the common theme in all four, was Pilate’s reluctance to sentence Jesus to Death. In Matthew, it is Pilate’s wife who warns him, ” not to have anything to do with that innocent Man”. It is in Luke’s Gospel that once Pilate realises that Jesus is from Galilee, he transfers Jesus to Herod Antipas the Tetrarch or Ruler of Galilee, in the hope that he will deal with the case. In St John’s Gospel, Pilate has Jesus scourged and mocked in an attempt to gain the pity of the crowd to release Him in favour of Barabbas, whilst Matthew and Mark have the scourging and mocking as the prelude to crucifixion. Luke does not mention the mocking.

All of these tactics by Pilate failed, as did his attempt to exchange Jesus for Barabbas. Jesus was presented as a “King,” a “threat to Rome” by the Chief Priests. They made it personal. If Pilate did not act, then,”he was no friend of Caesar.” Given his past history of being reprimanded by Rome, Pilate capitulated and ordered Jesus to be crucified. He had one last victory however, by writing the notice, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” to be fixed to the cross, thus, turning the claims of the Chief Priests against them.

Jesus’ journey from Pilate’s residence to Calvary is at least a kilometre if not more, and as those who have been blessed to follow Jesus’ footsteps on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, it is largely up hill. Crucifixions happened outside the City Gates as a public warning to those who dared contravene Roman Law and Authority.This extreme punishment was reserved for slaves and agitators against Roman rule.

In many paintings of the Crucifixion there is a skull at the foot of the cross as Calvary, in Hebrew “Golgotha”, translates as “place of the skull”.Traditionally in Art, the skull represents Adam and the death and condemnation He brought to the human race, whilst, in contrast, Jesus’ Death brought life and salvation.. A further tradition states that the wood of the cross came from the same tree in the Garden of Eden. Obviously this is only conjecture but based in a continuous view of our redemption.

Besides the immense physical suffering, Jesus faced psychological trauma.

He was challenged by the Chief Priests, in similar vein to the Devil’s Temptations at the start of His Ministry, ” If You are the Son Of God, come down from the Cross and we will believe in you”. But Jesus’ Mission was not to convince by miracles or spectacular events but by Love.

Because it was The Sabbath, the Jews demanded the bodies be taken down.

The legs of the two thieves crucified with Jesus were broken so they could not push themselves upwards to breathe and would suffocate, but when they came to Jesus, He was already dead, so the Centurion opened His side with a spear to ensure that was the case.

A wealthy man, Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and asked for the Body of Jesus and had it laid in a Tomb. The Chief Priests went to Pilate saying, this Imposter claimed that He would rise again in Three Days and demanded that a guard be put outside of the tomb to prevent Jesus’ disciples stealing it and claiming He has Risen.

Finally, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, must not be excluded from this Story. When Jesus

Maundy Thursday Reflection

by David Morson

The word “Maundy” derives from the Latin for “Mandate”. This is usually associated with foreign affairs or military diplomacy. For example, after World War I Britain was given Mandates for Palestine, Trans Jordan and Iraq and France for Lebanon and Syria. The idea was that an experienced country, should guide and promote an inexperienced country to independence and fulfilment and then withdraw when they are ready to stand alone. So, in order to explore how this translates to our story of Salvation, I am going to focus today on St John’s account of the message of Maundy Thursday.

Before starting, can I refer back to the first Reflections, namely, The Pascal Mystery and the Last Supper, the Two Gardens and St Paul’s theology of Jesus as The “2nd Adam”, Maximillian Kolbe and Self Sacrifice and finally, the Reflection on Caiaphas and the illegality of the Trial of Jesus, as it won’t be possible to cover it all today. Could I also suggest that you Google, ” Jesus Of Nazareth ;The Last Supper “and watch the moving rendition of the institution of the Eucharist The extract takes 5 minutes 58 seconds.

Back to the idea of Maundy or Mandate, St John’s Gospel is very different from the first three Gospels. Although like them it is factual, St John theorises the events He records in a way the other three don’t.

So on Maundy Thursday, St John has Jesus giving a very long discourse or teaching prior to the Supper itself, which is not found in the other Gospels and it is here that He relates the concept of the Mandate which is ” Maundy” Thursday.

Everything Jesus does and says on that night is about love and sharing. There is an inclusive Act of Love when Jesus Washes the Disciples feet. There is an inclusive Act of Love in Sharing a Meal with His friends, as He had done before with tax collectors and sinners and in the Feeding of The 5,000. There is an inclusive Act of Love in Saying “Take This and Eat and Drink “All of You”, and there is an overriding inclusive Act of Love in the Words , “This is My Body and This is My Blood which will be given up for you and for the forgiveness of sins”.

So, disciples of Jesus’ are Mandated by Him to do the “Same”. “You are my disciples if you obey my commandments… Love one another as I have loved you”. ..Just as I am in the Father and The Father is In Me, so I am in You… I am the Vine and You are The Branches … I call you servants no longer but friends who know their Master’s Bidding….. Love One Another as I have loved you…”No greater love has any Man than He who lays down His Life for His Friends”.

Jesus’ in His Sacrifice gives us all the Mandate to start anew by living a life of love and sharing. If we share in the life of Jesus as His disciples, we also share in the life of the Father and as such, have eternal life.

Spy Wednesday (Holy Wednesday) Reflection

by David Morson

After the verbal conflict between Jesus and the Temple Authorities yesterday, the Chief Priests were determined to arrest Jesus and have Him put to death.

They could not do this in the open because of the large crowds listening to Jesus’ words and who according to Mark were,” spellbound by His Teaching”. They were also aware that Pilate, the Roman Governor, who was in Jerusalem for the Passover would expect Caiaphas as High Priest to keep the festivities peaceful.

Their actions then, were both motivated by anger at Jesus’s criticism and jealousy, but also fear of some sort of disturbance or popular unrest instigated by Jesus’s popularity which would lead to retribution by the Romans. Caiaphas was aware of the popular clamour for a Messiah to overthrow Roman rule. The Passover meant massive crowds were present in Jerusalem and the situation was potentially volatile. That is why he said, “It is better for one Man to die for the sake of the nation”, Their problem in arresting Jesus was answered when Judas came to them and offered to betray Jesus to them. Thus the name, “Spy Wednesday”.

There is no real evidence for why Judas would want to do this.

St Mark tells us that he went to the Priests following the incident where a woman anoints Jesus at Bethany with spikenard, a very expensive ointment, used in funerary arrangements. Some present, and we are not told who, complained that this was a waste and could have been sold for a year’s wages. So, was it anger or jealousy which made Judas go the Priests? St Mark tells us the Priests were pleased and promised to give Judas money, but no mention of the amount. It is in St Matthew’s account of the incident that 30 pieces of silver are mentioned. This was to show the fulfilment of another prophesy of Zechariah which pointedly refers to God’s replacing the unworthy shepherds of the people with Someone who is worthy.

St Luke states that Judas significantly agreed to look out for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowds were present. St John doesn’t mention Judas’ act of betrayal until the Last Supper, but both Luke and John explain his actions by the,” the devil entering his heart”. Other theories postulate that Judas might have been trying to advance Jesus’ Messianic claim by manipulating circumstances, but there is no evidence for this. So, the scene is now set for the climax of Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. But Judas’ motivation in this tense drama, is still a mystery.

It is interesting that St Mark always refers to Judas as ,”one of the Twelve” when he mentions his name, as if to emphasise that Judas was in fact one of the apostles. Discipleship is a big theme of St Mark’s Gospel and whilst not excusing Judas, St Mark is critical of all the Apostles’ lack of awareness of Jesus’ Mission, as He had warned them about His forthcoming Passion and Death on three separate occasions. Then, they would have realised that the woman with the ointment was preparing Him for His Death.

Peter, the Leader of the group denied Jesus three times, and the others could not stay awake with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and abandoned Him when He was arrested. So, Mark sees Judas’s actions as part of a general lack of understanding of Jesus’ Mission which only became apparent to them after His Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Temple Tuesday (Holy Tuesday) Reflection

by David Morson
St Mark’s Gospel is the shortest of the Four Gospels and usually reads like an exhaustive itinerary of Jesus going here and there, teaching, healing, meeting people. But, during Holy Week, Mark goes into great detail on what happened on Tuesday, now known as “Temple Tuesday”.
Jesus returns to the Temple in Jerusalem where he had driven out the money changers the day before. His enemies were waiting for Him and were ready with a series of trick questions which they hoped would discredit Him with the crowds or lead Him to say something which they could use against Him.
They consisted of Pharisees meaning “separate ones” who believed they kept the Law of Moses more strictly than others. The Sadducees, an aristocratic group, descendants of Zadok the Priest. The did not want to upset Rome whom they relied upon for their privileged position and wealth. The Herodians were the followers of Herod Antipas who was in the City for the Passover and who also depended on Rome for his position. The Scribes were those who were experts in the Law and faithfully copied the Scriptures
By devoting so many verses to this day, Mark is aware that this is the dramatic  climax of the conflict between Jesus and His opponents, leading to their decision to have Jesus killed. He records in some detail the “cat and mouse” questions and answers.
First of all, Jesus is asked by whose Authority does He act. He puts the question back to them by asking was the Baptism of John the Baptist from God from heaven or earth. If they answered from heaven then why was he killed? If from earth, the people would be offended as John was revered as a Prophet.  As they could not say, then Jesus would not give them an answer.
They the ask whether it is lawful to Pay Taxes to Caesar. If He said no, then He could be accused of treason. If He said Yes He would lose popularity as the people hated paying taxes to Rome. He asks them to show Him a coin with Caesar’s head on it and says therefore,”Give back to Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is Gods’.
In between these two questions, Jesus tells a very pointed Parable about the Owner of a Vineyard (each representing God and Israel respectively). When the harvest came the owner (God) sent His servants (the Prophets) to bring in the fruits of the produce, but they are killed by the Tenants (those with Authority)  and so He sent His Son and Heir, believing at least they will listen to Him. But they killed Him too. So the Owner had no option but to offer the Vineyard to others.
This was a blatant declaration by Jesus that He knew what they were planning to do to Him. Other questions about the resurrection of the body, disbelieved by Sadducees and what was the Greatest commandment which Jesus reduced to “Love God and Your Neighbour”, all failed to trap or incriminate Jesus.
Jesus then warns the people about the Scribes and Pharisees who are full of their own importance, walking around with long flowing robes and taking the most important seats in the synagogue. He contrasts them with the Poor widow who had little ,but  who gave all she had to God.
His enemies would have arrested Jesus there and then but they were afraid of the crowds who flocked around Him to hear His words, so they decided they must arrest Him in secret and looked out for an opportunity to do so.

Fig Monday (Holy Monday) Reflection

by David Morson
Monday of Holy Week has been designated Fig Monday because Jesus curses the Fig Tree for bearing no fruit. However, in Holy Week, only Matthew and Mark record this incident. John does not mention it at all and Luke records it much earlier in his Gospel 13:6-9, not as an incident which actually happened, like Matthew and Mark, but in parable form. So, it is somewhat of a mystery but most scholars believe real or parable it pointed is a message which relates to those in authority who make a great show of their faith but produce no results. Whatever, this sets the scene for the conflicts between Jesus and the Jewish Authorities in the next two days which were going to lead them to plot His Death.
Significantly, Matthew and Mark place this incident straight after Jesus has driven the money changers out of the Temple, stating that, “His Father’s House was a House of prayer and they had made it a den of thieves”.
There is so much to relate about this incident. The first Temple was built by Solomon 970 -930 BC  to House the Ark of The Covenant, the box containing the 10 Commandments. But, it was destroyed in 586 BC by the Babylonians before taking the Jews into exile.  A new and more splendid Temple was started by Herod the Great which was not finished until 64AD and was again destroyed by the Romans in 70AD only the Western or “Wailing Wall” was left intact.
The structure of the Temple itself was based on an a exclusive religious hierarchy and status, which was totally at odds with the vision of Jesus for God’s human family where all His children were equally loved by the Father. At its centre, was the “Holy of Holies” where the presence of God, was venerated . Only 26 specially chosen Abia priests were allowed to enter its sanctuary, which was veiled off from view. Then came the Court of the Priests  containing the Court of Israel. Animal sacrifices were made in this Court. Next was the Court of Men, then the Court of Women and finally the Court of the Gentiles where traders sold birds and animals for sacrifice as offerings. Anyone with a disease, which was considered a sign of sinfulness those whom Jesus associated with most, were not allowed into the Temple area. It is immensely significant that we are told, that when Jesus died, the curtain of the Temple was ripped apart so signalling an inclusive salvation for all people won by Jesus’ sacrifice.
Because pilgrims wanting to buy birds and animals for sacrifice could not use  gentile Roman coins they had to change them into Temple coins. It was considered common practice disliked by the poor, for such exchanges to financially favour the Temple currency. By overturning the money changer’s tables and driving them out, Jesus was totally challenging the Temple Authorities who wanted to arrest Him. But, He was protected by the crowd and begun to heal the sick before retiring to Bethany.
Lines had clearly been drawn between the teaching of Jesus and the practices of the chief priests in this dramatic start to the week.

Palm Sunday Rflection

by David Morson
There can be little doubt that Jesus intended to convey a message by the way He entered Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday. Because of their continual occupation by foreign powers, the hope among many of Jewish people was for a political Messiah, a military King, who would restore the Golden Age of an Independent Israel, as under the reign of King David’ .Many of the people greeting Jesus hopefully shouted, “Blessed is the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David.” Jesus however shows that He totally rejects this concept of Messiahship by deliberately riding in to Jerusalem on a colt which He had asked two of His disciples to fetch in advance. By this action,  He meant to reflect the Prophecy of Zechariah that, ” a king would be coming to Jerusalem, humble and riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey”. The Prophecy continues that this king, riding on a donkey, will banish war from the land with no more war horses, chariots or bows, commanding peace to the nations, as a King of Peace. This was His Kingship to bring about a vision of a Kingdom of His Father. A Kingdom of gentleness, love, peace and harmony.
Contrast this with the entrance of Pontius Pilate into Jerusalem from his base in Caesarea, probably around the same time, but though through a different  Gate. This was an armed military procession with horses, standards and troops, reflecting the temporal power of an Empire which had subdued people by force and kept order and subjection in the same brutal way. Pilate was there to keep control during the crowded festival period and to represent the Emperor, who to Romans was the “Son Of God”.
This title, “Son of God” was also used in the ceremony to crown a new King of Israel as illustrated in the Psalms. Significantly, although the Gospel writers refer to Jesus  as the Son of God, Jesus did not use that title Himself because of the political connotations it carried with it. However, Jesus was welcomed by the crowds as a King with the waving of palms and  the putting down of cloaks to ease His way, as was the custom when rulers approached a city.
Later in the week, some of the same crowd were to see Jesus presented as a mock King with the crown of thorns mimicking the emperors wreath. But at the conclusion of Mark’s Gospel, the Centurion who had been in charge of Jesus’ crucifixion  was able to say, ” surely this Man was the Son Of God”

Lent reflection: Herod Antipas

by David Morson

Before we begin our journey through Holy Week, day by day, I conclude some background to three other figures in the dramatic story of Jesus’ last week.

Herod Antipas is best known for ordering the beheading of John The Baptist, who had been a critic of Herod’s adultery with Herodias, his brother’s wife.
But other factors are important concerning his interest in Jesus. His father Herod the Great had been paranoid about the coming of a Messiah as we know from the Christmas stories relating to the Three Kings and the prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. His anxiety was increased because he was deeply unpopular with Jewish people because he relied on Roman favour and protection to maintain his Kingship. Neither was he Jewish as he came from the province of Idumea.
When he died, the Romans ended the monarchical system and Herod’s family moved to Rome with the exception of Herod Antipas his younger son who was given rulership of Galilee and Perea in the North of Palestine by the Romans. So, Herod Antipas too owed his tenuous position to Rome and built his residence on the shores of Lake Galilee which he named Tiberius in honour of the new Emperor.
In the Passion narratives, it is only St Luke who mentions that once Pilate realised that Jesus came from Galilee, he tried to shift responsibility for Jesus by sending him to Herod Antipas who was in Jerusalem for the Passover.
We are told that he was intrigued to see Jesus as like his father he was deeply concerned about any new potential King. He requested a miracle, but Jesus remained silent and Herod mocked Him and sent Him back to Pilate.

Judas Iscariot who is known for his betrayal of Jesus was one of the twelve apostles. Tradition has it that he was responsible for finances in whatever form that took. We are not certain what made Judas betray Jesus but are told in Matthew’s Gospel that it followed from the incident when a woman anointed Jesus with some expensive ointment at Bethany at the home of Simon the Leper. We are told Judas went to the Chief Priests and was paid 30 pieces of silver to look out for an opportunity to betray Jesus. It is believed that when Judas left the Last Supper to tell the Jewish Authorities that Jesus would be in the Garden of Gethsemane, the other apostles may have assumed that he was distributing charity, but this is only surmise. Other theories relate to is name “Iscariot” which in Latin translates as “sicarius”. These literally were “dagger carriers” and referred to anti Roman terrorists, possibly Barabbas. Could Judas have wanted Jesus to prove He was the Messiah? No one really knows. However, we do know that Judas did not expect Jesus to be crucified as the result of his betrayal, because he tried to return the 30pieces of silver and hanged himself in remorse for what he had done.

Simon Of Cyrene is known as the man forced to help Jesus carry His cross. The Centurion in charge of the crucifixion was worried that Jesus might die before He reached Calvary. As the officer in charge, he was responsible to see the sentence carried out otherwise he could be subject to the same fate.
So Simon was chosen from the crowd of onlookers at random. Simon came from Cyrene in Libya. There was a synagogue in Jerusalem build by Cyrenian Jews and he was in the City like many other pilgrims with his two sons, Rufus and Alexander. Tradition has it that this experience greatly affected Simon and we are told in the Acts of the Apostles that on Pentecost Day the people of Cyrene were one of the first to believe in the Resurrection.

Lent Reflection: Caiphas

By David Morson

Another major character of Holy Week is the High Priest Joseph Caiaphas.

Although the High Priest was considered to be the spiritual leader of Judaism, he was appointed by the Roman Procurator. Joseph Caiaphas was given his position as High Priest by Pilate’ s predecessor Valerus Gratus. He was the Son in Law of Annas the previous High Priest and generally the appointment of High Priest came from a few elite families. Because of this relationship, the High Priest had to be somewhat conciliatory to the Roman authorities, but as we saw yesterday, the Roman Procurator had the task of keeping the peace whilst not antagonising the Religious Authorities. So, it is likely that Pilate and Caiaphas met regularly to discuss matters relating to their joint concerns.

Caiaphas is remembered for handing Jesus over to Pilate for execution following a mock trial.

The High Council or Sanhedrin consisted of 70 members who judged cases of religious contention. In theory they could pass the death penalty by stoning for extreme cases, but this power had been taken away from them by Rome.

There is no doubt that Trial of Jesus was illegal as it contravened the following rules of the Sanhedrin:
– A prisoner could not be tried at night
– The Trial could not take place in the House Of The High Priest
– All Members of the Sanhedrin should be present
– False witnesses would receive the same punishment as the accused
– Two independent witnesses had to agree their evidence before it could be used
– If the accused was found guilty and warranted the death penalty then there should be a further 24 hour period before any action was taken
– No prisoner should be subject to violent maltreatment

None of these conditions were followed in the Trial of Jesus. Caiaphas was determined that as he said “it is better that One Man should die for the sake of the Nation”. The climax of the proceedings came when Caiaphas asked Jesus if He was “the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. When Jesus replied that He was. Caiaphas ripped his garments as a sign that blasphemy had been committed, But, he knew that Pilate would not pass the death penalty for such a charge, so the next morning he presented Jesus as a political threat to Rome.

Lent Reflection: Pontius Pilate

By David Morson

As we approach Holy Week I intend to try and do a Reflection about each day. But before that, I thought it might be of interest to know some of the background to some of the main characters. So I will start today with Pontius Pilate.

When Herod the Great died, the Romans ended the system of monarchy in Palestine. It was decided that Herod’s son, Herod Antipas should become Tetrach (ruler) of Galilee and that there should be a Roman Governor or Procurator, in command of Judaea where the capital Jerusalem was situated.
The role of the Procurator was primarily military to keep order. It was considered one of the least prestigious and most troublesome appointments in the whole Empire because of religious unrest.

Pilate was the 5th Procurator and served for some ten years between 26 – 36/37 AD. His military headquarters was on the coast at Caesarea, but he came to the Antonia Fortress in Jerusalem to maintain order at potentially volatile times, such as Passover when the city was crowded.
Before his appointment to Judaea we don’t know a great deal about Pilate. His name in Latin “Pilatus” could mean someone who was an accomplished soldier with the “pilum”, meaning spear,or the son of a free man. It is believed that he had been a member of the Praetorian Guard, the Emperor’s own Body Guard.
In the Gospels we are told that the turning point in the Trial of Jesus is when the crowd shouted that anyone who did not act against a potential King was ” no friend of Caesar.”

This is significant because Pilate had already been reported to Rome on three occasions for upsetting the Temple Authorities by his actions of bringing Imperial Standards and Shields into the Temple area as a show of strength and for forcibly taking Temple money to built an aquaduct from the sea to Jerusalem. Whilst, the Authorities in Rome proclaimed their Caesar as the “Son of God”, they tolerated the different religions of their provinces as a way of keeping peace and harmony. So Pilate had been severely warned not to antagonise the Religious Authorities in Jerusalem again. Pilate was eventually called back to Rome after a heavy handed military operation which led to the deaths of a group of Samaritans near Mount Gerizim.
Two final interesting points. In St Matthews account of the Trial of Jesus, Pilate’s wife has a dream and warns him not to have anything to do with Jesus, this just man. Tradition has it that her name was Procla and she was revered in the early Christian communities for trying to save Jesus.
Also, in the Coptic Eastern tradition, Pilate himself is revered, for, without his condemnation of Jesus there would have been no salvation.
More about Pilate’s role on Good Friday.

Lent Reflection: Hieronymus Bosch

By David Morson

I was looking at one of my Art Books today and was struck by a painting by the Flemish Artist Hieronymus Bosch of Christ Carrying His Cross, painted sometime between 1500 – 1535. What is unusual about this painting is that it is a claustrophobic sea of faces only, with no full length figures, depicting the jostling mass crowd surrounding Christ on His way to Calvary. I counted 18 faces occupying the whole canvas. This is a most unusual treatment of this subject by artists and made me wonder why.

14 faces had been distorted by Bosch to convey grotesque ugliness, cruelty and arrogance, expressing their belief that they were in total control of proceedings. Yet, in the middle of these faces, in the centre of the painting, almost submerged by such cruelty and mockery is the calm and tranquil countenance of Christ

Bosch was a keen observer of human nature and the message I think he wanted to convey was that on a human level it was jealousy, cruelty. betrayal and injustice which led to Christ’s condemnation. The disciples abandoned Him, Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him, the High Priest brought false charges against Him, Pilate condemned Him out of cowardice and fear, the soldiers used violence and mockery It seems that Bosch wanted to vividly depict and reflect these unseemly and negative features of our human condition in the faces of the crowd leading Christ to His death.
Unlike Christ, who seems serenely immune to what is going on around Him, one of the thieves is aggressively arguing with his tormentors, whilst the other thief’s face is full of fear at the baying countenances around Him.

Two women in the bottom left corner, one of whom is Veronica, holds the cloth she used to wipe the face of Jesus which left the imprint of His Face on the cloth, images now known as “Veronicas” in the Church.

Here I think lies the key to the painting. All the other heads depicted are profiles, but on the cloth, the face of Christ looks out of the painting directly t to us the spectators. He challenges us to position ourselves in the context of what is happening, to reject actions that degrade our humanity, expressed in the countenances of the majority and to join with Him in a focused, single minded path, patiently treading our way in this Lent journey towards a state of union with His Father which is our goal and destiny.

You can Goole this painting with “Hieronymus Bosch Christ Carrying His Cross” if you would like to see it.