Every year in early spring, we enter into a special time of the liturgical year known as Lent. In other words, from Ash Wednesday to the day before Holy Thursday; we will be invited to devote ourselves to seek the Lord in prayer (especially by reading Scriptures), service (especially through almsgiving), and sacrifice (especially fasting).
The office of Mission and Ministry has endeavored to mark this Holy Season with various activities. Previously, I invited high-level administration, faculty and staff, and students to help us link our Catholic identity and the celebration of this Holy Season with our own identity as the University of the Incarnate Word. And they responded with personal reflections on various Scripture readings that constitute a veritable treasure of reflections on how the Word transforms our world, both here at UIW and beyond. Indeed, they merit our examining them once again.
The participating administrators, faculty, and students invited us to learn how their specific religious traditions understand and promote peace and reconciliation. Through the use of short, written reflections promoting inclusion, they engaged us in ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, and refined and deepened our understanding and commitment to our Catholic tradition to further peace and reconciliation.
It is my sincere hope and prayer that all our Lenten observances allow our entire university community to grow in knowledge and in wisdom with regard to our Catholic identity and the ways in which we can make the Word change our entire world.
For more information, please do not hesitate to contact us:
Sr. Walter Maher, CCVI
Office of Mission and Ministry
Ash Wednesday — Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 Matthew 6:1
By Dr. Darlene Carbajal
- “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.”
- 2: “When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your almsgiving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
- 16: “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”
The Lenten season is a time to deepen our relationship with Christ. Although often associated with the widespread practice of giving something up, this contradicts the teaching of Christ and can minimize the focus to inwardly reflect on our daily relationship with God. Today’s Gospel reminds us that Lent is an invitation to re-center on love and acceptance, thus “learning Christ”. Rather than be self-concerned with individual trials, the Gospel encourages us to come to God with an open heart, and to understand His concern for us.
As we enter this season of Lent as members of the University of the Incarnate Word, we are encouraged to connect our hearts and minds to an inclusive education that is centered on compassion and mutual understanding. During this season of Lent, we establish the importance of acceptance and gratitude that transfers into the classroom. Let us pray to understand the teachings of Christ and allow Him to accompany us in life. Let us form habits that transcend our hearts and minds to a way of life that seeks to improve the lives of other people.
Teach me, my Lord to be sweet and gentle.
In all the events of life—in the disappointments, in the thoughtlessness of others, in the insecurity of those I trusted, in the unfaithfulness of those on whom I relied
Let me put myself aside, to think of the happiness of others, to hide my little pains and heartaches, so that I may be the only one to suffer from them.
Teach me to profit by the suffering that comes across my path.
Let me so use it that it may mellow me, not harden nor embitter me; that it may make me patient, not irritable, that it may make me broad in my forgiveness, not narrow, haughty and overbearing.
May no one be less good for having come within my influence. No one less pure, less true, less kind, less noble for having been a fellow-traveler in our journey toward ETERNAL LIFE.
As I go my rounds from one distraction to another, let me whisper from time to time, a word of love to Thee. May my life be lived in the supernatural, full of power for good, and strong in its purpose of sanctity.
Download a printable copy of Dr. Carbajal's essay on "Learning Christ." (PDF).
Metanoia, Changing Who We Are – How do We Begin?
“Man shall not live by bread alone….” This is a phrase that we hear every time the Gospel story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert is read, but it meant something different to me with this rehearing of it. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, Jesus was hungry. It would be difficult to imagine thinking about anything other than food at that time. Yet when he was tempted with turning the rocks into bread, he was able to refocus and realize that this immediate answer to his body’s hunger was not the right thing to do.
In reading the passage this time it reminded me that as Christ’s hunger must have been an overwhelming consideration for him, we sometimes get fixated on things in our life that we cannot look beyond. However, to move forward we must put those things into perspective as Jesus did.
There is a need to step back from the day-to-day things that can consume all our attention and adjust our view of that around us. What we perceive as the best way in the short term may not be the way we should proceed. A phrase attributed to many sources says, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you treat every problem as a nail.” When we are too close to something it is possible to not be able to tell where it fits into the whole.
Lent is a time of year that reminds us to do just that — to step back and reorient ourselves. To take in our surroundings and determine exactly where we are and if we are headed in the right direction.
There is no better place to gain that perspective than on a university campus. The university has a rich and diverse atmosphere. We have students, faculty, and staff that come from many backgrounds for many reasons to create a vibrant place to live. By interacting with each other and learning from all those different perspectives we gain a larger picture of where we are in the world and how we should move forward. Taking the time to contemplate those perspectives helps us grow.
Reflection on the Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent
Dr. Timothy Wingert
Dean, Rosenberg School of Optometry
Download a printable copy of Dr. Wingert's thoughts on change (PDF).
The story of the Transfiguration in Matthew’s Gospel presents Jesus enveloped in a radiant light. Moses and the prophet Elijah appear at his sides and the voice of God coming from within the bright cloud commands all to "listen to him." The apostles with Jesus were naturally terrified by the miracle they were witnessing – a scene that would likely have brought anyone to their knees. Although this scene is striking in many different ways and levels, God's voice and Jesus' message after the event is over offer two important messages, messages we find elsewhere in the Gospels.
The first message comes from the Father's voice and is addressed to the disciples and to us: “Listen to him!” This command finds echo in the Blessed Mother’s urging to the servants at the wedding of Cana. "Do whatever he tells you," she said, and a first miracle occurred. Jesus turned water into wine and in doing so, he prefigured the Eucharist and blessed all marriages, inviting us all to enjoy the feast of life and of His love. It is interesting to me that the Father's command during the Transfiguration is so similar to the message Jesus’ Mother gave to the servants, namely, to listen to Jesus and to do what he tells us to do.
The second message comes from the first words uttered to the disciples by Jesus following the Transfiguration event. “Do not be afraid” is a phrase Jesus often repeats throughout the Gospels--and is an echo that resounds throughout the Bible. This phrase reminds us, time and again, that we are to love and serve with courage, trusting in the Lord. How many times in our lives are we afraid? Our list of fears could be long: failure, public speaking, flying, people’s opinions, profound losses, disease, and death itself—to mention just a few. Yet it is clear that Jesus wants us to live our lives without worry, concern, fear or anxiety; he asks us to live our lives to their fullest, with certainty, confidence, and joy. Yes, Christ offers us His peace, and his gentle command that we “be not afraid” resonates at our cores.
This Lent, as I reflect on my role as President, I realize I am to do the same. I am to trust in Jesus, do what he has told me to do, and follow His gentle command, as well as those of God the Father and our Blessed Mother. I am reminded whenever I do that, things tend to go well. I also realize that we, members of the University of the Incarnate Word, should live our personal and professional lives knowing that God loves us and trusting He will see us through. So, my invitation to all of us this Lent is “listen to him” and “do not be afraid.” If we do this, things will go according to God’s magnificent plan for each of us, and we will be able to work and live in peace.
Praised be the Incarnate Word!
Dr. Thomas M. Evans, President
Download a printable copy of Dr. Evan's contemplation on the Transfiguration (PDF).
Is He the Messiah? Am I the person at the well?
This is the question asked by the Samaritan woman after leaving her jar beside the well and running back to the village. Like me, she was an ordinary person. She was going about her day and accomplishing necessary tasks (like drawing water from the well). Unaware that she was in the presence of the only begotten Son, she spoke to Him as one living in the natural world, inquiring, “How will you draw this living water without rope or bucket?” Yet, He persisted in pursuing her supernaturally, offering “My water brings eternal life.”
In awe of Him, she ran back to the village and urged others to see a man who could tell her all she had done. Transfixed on His ability to know her past, she might easily have missed what He offered for her future. Bewildered and perhaps overwhelmed, she runs away to her village and beckons that others come and see this man. She even ponders, “Could he possibly be the Messiah?” And because of her many Samaritans from the village came out to see, listen, and, ultimately, believe in Jesus.
John’s account of Jesus and the Samaritan woman is beautiful and gripping. It is beautiful for many reasons. Jesus reveals Himself to be the Messiah. He proves to be radically inclusive, making way to salvation for all who believe. And as we read, many Samaritans came to know and believe Jesus because of the woman at the well. We know that she and her village were moved by Him. His presence in their village was alive and real. They discovered a food they previously knew nothing about.
It is also a beautifully gripping story because her question raises another question. Could I possibly be the woman at the well? As I reflect on this story of an imperfect human who was focused on meeting her day-to-day needs, I am convinced that, of course, I am her. Or, at least, I recognize that her sins are no greater than mine and that my existence is no greater than hers. We are both imperfect humans in need of living water.
I have the benefit of growing up with her story. I have imagined what if it had been me at the well and how I might hope to have responded had I met the Messiah that day. For those growing up with scripture, it can be a bit like watching a movie you’ve seen plenty of times before. At times, I almost plead with the characters, as if it might redirect the outcome. I beg the woman at the well to stay with Him a bit longer. I find myself encouraging her, “Yes, you are right! IT IS THE MESSIAH! Kiss HIS feet! Do not leave His presence! His living water gives eternal life and to live in His presence on this earth is the only hope of an abundant life. Forget your past, focus less on ordinary tasks and more on what is eternal, and follow HIM wherever HE leads.”
But just then, as I hear myself pleading with her, I discover that I am looking down into the well, seeing my own reflection, and delivering the message to myself: Jesus is the Messiah. He gives living water. Follow Him wherever He leads.
Dr. Trey Guinn
Download a printable copy of Dr. Guinn's thoughts on Jesus meeting the woman at the well (PDF).
Following Jesus in Good and Bad Times
By Caroline Goulet
A Reflection on John 9:1-41 - The Blind Man
As a healthcare professional, when asked to pick a gospel to reflect on during Lent, I was drawn to the Healing of the Blind Man story (Jn 9:1-41). This gospel not only refers to a miracle but is a true reflection of the healing work of the mind, heart and hands in action as well as of empowerment, trust and self-realization. Jesus, The Incarnate Word, deliberately made a concoction of spittle and mud (mind) to apply (hands) on the eyes of a man born blind and looked upon as a sinner for his disability (heart) and instructed him to go wash in the “Pool of Siloam” (empowerment). The blind man washed his eyes (trust) and then could see (self-realization).
We know that Jesus could have simply proclaimed the man healed as he had previously done, but, in this story, He did not. He restored the blind man’s sight while demonstrating the healing forces of the mind, heart, and hands at work in synchrony. Highlighted as well are the power of trust and self-realization; the blind man may have chosen not to follow his instructions to go wash but he went, and he regained the ability to see. After having his sight restored, even though his story was challenged by the Pharisees, the man chose to believe that He was the Son of God and to worship him.
“For judgement I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind. If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”
In this time of global healthcare crisis and financial uncertainty, it is easy to get lost in the frenzy all around us or be blinded by fear and not see the LIGHT at the end of the tunnel. We have to trust that God’s will is carried out through the multitudes of healthcare professionals around the world working tirelessly to care for patients affected by the virus, using their mind, heart, and hands to provide the best care possible and save lives. Scientists are working around the clock to develop a cure and a vaccine.
Companies around the globe are developing more test kits, respirators, protective gear. Faculty members are getting ready to teach online, adapting course content, modifying assessment, creating videos to ensure that students will remain on course with their studies. Whole communities have been asked to limit their external activities and stay home to protect themselves and those most vulnerable. And these are only a few examples of those carrying out God’s will every day. “Lord, I believe” said the man when Jesus asked him “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
"I can see, and that is why I can be happy, in what you call the dark, but which to me is golden. I can see a God-made world, not a manmade world.”
I say “Lord, I believe” to help me get through each day, and “Lord, I believe” in gratitude at night. Jesus, you are the LIGHT that I long for and I will continue to follow You in good times and bad.
Praised be The Incarnate Word.
Download a printable copy of Dr. Goulet's contemplation of Jesus in these troubled times (PDF).
Jesus Taught Us Compassion
Lazarus’s Resurrection, John 11:1-45
In reading the story of Lazarus I am reminded of the premature death of my brother, Albert, to cancer two years ago. I, too, like Martha and Mary, Lazarus’s sisters, wanted Jesus to save him and in the most essential way my brother Albert was saved. Before he died, he acknowledged that the Lord was his Savior and God. In verse 25-26 Jesus tells Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life: whoever believes in me, though he should die, will come to life; and whoever is alive and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Jesus is asking each one of us as the faithful to believe in His resurrection. As a member of the University of the Incarnate Word community I try to demonstrate through my interactions with students, staff, faculty, and families how I encounter the glory of God. We are God’s disciples and the most important manifestations of His glory are how we treat one another. Jesus cried with Martha and Mary to teach us to console each other in times of loss and sorrow.
I pray during this Lenten season that we as the Incarnate Word community embrace the examples of Jesus. We show this not only by caring for one another but accompanying each other in our times of difficulty to create a more compassionate University environment.
Dr. Barbara Aranda-Naranjo
Palm Sunday: Hope in Times of Suffering
Palm Sunday ushers in the many rituals and customs of Holy Week that call to mind the events of the last week of Jesus’ life that fulfilled his ministry. Each Sunday of Lent has revealed different images of Jesus. We have seen him tempted in the desert, transfigured on a lofty mountain, reconciling divided peoples at a well, healing the blind at a sacred pool, and, finally, weeping before raising a friend from death.
In the Passion narratives, these stories are recapitulated. In the Passion, Jesus is confronted by the fear of death, stripped of dignity in a shameful form of capital punishment, rejected by a divided and blind society, abandoned by his friends, and sealed away in the darkness of a tomb. Like the crosses we see in university classrooms, the events of Holy Week and Easter are Jesus’ final message; an exclamation point that concludes and defines the gospel story.
In reading the Passion’s unfolding we see and understand Jesus as the Incarnate Word. As St. Paul declares in the second reading, Jesus is “in the form of God” (Phil. 2:6), the image or icon of God (as Paul and his followers say elsewhere: 2 Cor. 4:4, Col. 1:15). Yet for our sakes, Jesus emptied himself and became a servant (Phil. 2:7-8), stooping down to enter into solidarity with the poor and the weak of the world (2 Cor. 8:9). Jesus’ life of service to the point of death embodies and reveals the self-giving nature of the invisible God. Christ’s life and death provide a model for believers to meditate upon and follow. Jesus’ entire life was an act of self-offering, not to appease an angry God or an unjust economic system, but to renew the way people relate to each other and the world itself.
Similar to other gospel writers, Matthew’s Passion narrative offers unique details that intersect with our lives, challenges us to examine ourselves, and calls us to hope in times of despair. In Matthew, Pilate washes his hands, cowardly refusing to take any responsibility for the actions directly under his power. Matthew frequently alludes to scriptural fulfillments, perhaps reassuring the reader that the divine plan prevails even in chaos.
The signs that accompany Jesus’ suffering and death—darkness over the earth, the temple’s torn veil, and an earthquake—evoke the images of the mourning and destruction of nature and holy places. Yet at Jesus’ death, tombs are opened, and the dead are raised; there is a glimmer of life and hope. The signs at his death foreshadow the apocalyptic unveiling of hope and truth on Easter Sunday.
Mary Magdalene is also a sign of hope during Jesus’ death. She was among the few apostles to accompany Jesus through the end and after his burial she sits quietly by the tomb. Many in the world today join her in sitting by the tomb. Though the official liturgies of Holy Week and the Easter Triduum may not occur in public this year, they will be celebrated at home with popular religious traditions. And the stories of the passion are reenacted in daily life. Parents, loved ones, and medical professionals heed the call to follow the example of Jesus in the work of justice and healing, sometimes at the risk of their own lives.
Like Mary Magdalene, many will accompany others through death and burial.
We know that on the third day, Mary Magdalene will see the stone rolled away and the risen Jesus at the empty tomb. The biblical symbol of three days often represents a period of preparation for a journey or important event. It is a finite period of time, yet it may feel like an unbearable wait. Contemplating and acting upon events of the last week of Jesus’ life grounds the founding mission of the university. The suffering of the Word Incarnate reveals the suffering of the world, and the resurrection is a foreshadowing of the restoration and renewal of all creation (Rom. 8:19-25).
Dr. Horacio Vela
Download a printable copy of Dr. Vela's thoughts about Jesus' Passion and Palm Sunday (PDF).
Responding to God’s Wondrous Love
When I read about the passion of Christ, I experience an overwhelming sense of discomfort, unworthiness, and sorrow. I am reminded that Jesus experienced human pain, suffering, desolation, brokenness, and loss throughout his lifetime on earth. At the end, he was despised, humiliated, and rejected, even by some he had trusted. Although others were present at his crucifixion, I wonder about the depth of isolation that he experienced on the cross.
When I read about the arrest, betrayal, and crucifixion of Christ, I remember a hymn that we sang on Good Friday in a church that I attended in California:
When Jesus wept, the falling tear In mercy flowed beyond all bound. When Jesus groaned, a trembling fear Seized all the guilty world around. (William Billings, 1770)
I am part of the guilty world, and I am uneasy. As a flawed human being, I waste time on things that aren't truly important. I worry, I judge, and I am critical of myself and others. I am decidedly unworthy of the gift of salvation for which Christ paid the ultimate price.
However, as others despised, rejected, and tortured him, Jesus was steadfast in the purpose for which he came into this world. When I read his words, "My kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36)," I am reminded that the kingdom of God is the truth. Despite my unworthiness, the kingdom of God is for me. God's kingdom is for everyone that I encounter throughout life's journey, whether our relationships are joyful, troubled, or difficult. The story of Christ's betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion leads me to ask questions about how we live and work together at our university.
- How do we live out the passion story as we engage with one another on the UIW campus?
- How do we fulfill our responsibility to foster academic excellence and serve the community within the finite realities of time, resources, patience, and human ability?
- How do we achieve optimal balance between high expectations and a sense of understanding, mercy, and grace?
As I struggle with the questions above, it helps me to remember that I am responsible to do the best job that I can do - for our students and for our community. It is not my responsibility to fix everything or to judge. My contributions, as well as the gifts of others, ultimately come from God.
Despite my unease and discomfort, I am reminded of another hymn:
What wondrous love is this, That caused the Lord of bliss, To bear the dreadful curse, For my soul, for my soul, To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.
(Lyrics attributed to Alexander Means)
God's wondrous love is for me - and for all people. Although God's wondrous love surpasses our human understanding, we are freed through Christ to accept it.
By Dr. Julie W. Nadeau
Download a printable copy of Dr. Nadeau's thoughts on God's Wondrous Love (PDF).
Showing Humility and Service
A Reflection on John 13:1-15, Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet
Praise be the Incarnate Word! “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you (John 13:15).” Our Father was clear on His expectations of how we should conduct ourselves as Christians.
This reading tells the story of Jesus washing his disciplines’ feet during the last supper. The meal was already in progress and knowing that He was to return to God, Jesus taught through action in this act of humility and service. This act teaches us how to love, how to worship, and how to have respectful encounters.
I have seen the countless ways our University of the Incarnate Word community lives the mission through acts of kindness. Many individuals take the charism of the sisters into their communities to bring healing, hope, and light to the darkness. I am humbled that at a moment of uncertainty, rapid change, and social distancing, our community continues to lead by example and symbolically washing the feet of others.
This health crisis has posed many challenges yet has also presented many opportunities. The opportunity to rethink how we engage in service and in acts of humility, and how we continue to build and share our faith in an ever-evolving climate. It has shed light on the act of intentionality. Being mindful of how we use and share resources, intentional about how we maintain the value of human connection, and grateful for those that risk their own health to save others.
Towards the end, Jesus stated, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” As His sacrifice was looming, Jesus showed His disciples what it meant to be Christian. In these difficult times, we must continue to wash the feet of others and show the world what it means for the Word to become flesh.
By Dr. Trinidad Macias
Download Dr. Macias' "A Reflection on John 13:1-15..." (PDF).
Easter Vigil Reflection
There is a strange feeling in the air today. The darkness of uncertainty still envelops the earth. Tenebrous stress continues to take hold of our minds. The calamitous fear of sickness either in our self or in a loved one torments our hearts. Despair threatens to invade our souls due to the looming presence of death. Yet, it is Easter.
There is silence and stillness and solitude. Social distancing by now feels as if we were in forced hibernation right at the onset of Spring - and with us the whole of creation. Has God been asleep during this time of trial? God was asleep for a while, for sure. God fell asleep in the flesh but is now risen from the dead. It is Easter.
The suffering Jesus. The dead Christ. Our Risen Lord has come back with a message:
To those who have died of this terrible illness, He embraces. While asleep, He met them and rejoiced in the end of their suffering and pain. Holding up His cross, He summoned them, “Awake! Come into my light! Rise from the dead, for I am your life. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I in you; together we form one person and cannot be separated.”
To those still ill, He consoles. He reminds them that He still bears the marks of suffering in his flesh; that He too cried out in pain, shed many tears, and abandoned Himself to His Father’s will so that His suffering, His cross, would become redemption; that is, salvation for all. So He invites the sick and suffering to unite their crosses to His cross so that the mystery of redemption may also be their triumph.
To the rest of us, He commands to continue working to restore health, to restore balance, to get out of our self-preoccupation and to take care of the poorest and neediest of the world:
“Lead the way!” our Risen Lord asks. “Do not be afraid to selflessly keep working to provide for those who are hungry and thirsty.” “Lead the way!” He beckons us. “The stranger, naked, and imprisoned await your righteous acts.” “Lead the way!” He emphatically demands. “The ill of the world needs you more than ever. Stand up! Be strong! Preach the Good News with your acts.”
That is the message of our Risen Lord to us, to those who have been living in silence and stillness and solitude. His Resurrection impregnates our silence with meaning, our stillness with the seeds of righteous deeds, and our solitude with longing for loving relationships. It is Easter. He is Risen from the dead and with Him, we too will rise.
By Rev. Leo Almazán
Download a copy of Rev. Almazán's Easter Vigil message (PDF).
Out of Darkness, Light
"On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb" (John 20:1-9).
Imagine the scene: Mary of Magdala racing to the tomb. We don’t know why she went: Was it to grieve, pay her respects, remember...? And all of a sudden, shock, horror! Who rolled the stone away? Now what? So she runs back and goes to find Peter and John, all the while wondering what the empty tomb means.
What does it mean for us? Is it a symbol for our darkness or emptiness that may need to be embraced, if we are to understand the true meaning and significance of life? Undoubtedly, the empty tomb surprises and shocks us, just like it did Mary, because there we see emptiness and death, unaware of its potential to bring new life and light into our own life.
Notice the Gospel writer’s use of the word “dark,” which generally speaking means "spiritual blindness" in Scripture's lore. Later on in the passage, the writer makes sure to tell us that neither Mary nor the disciples understood, so their world could not have been any darker.
But then, suddenly, the “disciple whom Jesus loved” saw and believed! He grasped the truth without completely understanding it. He made a complete turnaround. No longer was he paralyzed by fear because he understood that, through the Risen Jesus, with Him and in Him, a completely new way of living had been ushered into the world, a resurrected way of being, even in the midst of darkness.
This Gospel passage invites us into the same conversion as the one Mary of Magdala, the disciple whom Jesus loved, Peter, and the other disciples underwent. We are invited to roll away the stones of fear, of anxiety, of doubt from our hearts; to peer with faith into the darkness and uncertainty of the present pandemic and to recognize that, while we may not be able immediately to see it, out of this darkness light will arise. In other words, we are being invited to, perhaps counter-intuitively, run towards the tomb and to be prepared for the surprise of all surprises: that life has triumphed, that come what may, the Risen Lord will vanish pain and suffering, illness and even death.
This Easter, the Crucified One walks with us through the darkness of this pandemic. This Easter, the Risen Lord, the Son of God holds our hand and brings us into the light, a light that never fades. A light eternal.
In the words of St. Jean Marie Vianney:
Today one grave is open, and from it has risen a Sun which will never set, a Sun which creates new life. This new Sun is the Crucified One, the Son of God.
From: Sr. Walter Maher, CCVI
Download a copy of Sr. Walter Maher's thoughts on Easter (PDF).
Easter Faith, Paschal Joy
"On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb"(John 20:1-9).
After a period of reflection and grace, I realized this Gospel periscope is a call to deep faith leading to conversion. I named it Easter Faith. Further prayer led me to six (6) steps. Let me briefly share them with you.
- Desire: This stage of faith moves from self to others. It yearns to spread the Gospel message and the mission of the Church. Easter Faith compelled Mary to the tomb.
- Journey: It can be a long road of joy, pain, success and failure. The early Church was built on Easter Faith.
- Search: Our Easter Faith does not grow solo. It seeks the Church through public and private prayer, study, sharing and ministry. We notice Mary did not go into the tomb but ran for the Apostles.
- Discover: We now find the risen Christ in the events, activities and persons in our lives as the Apostles found Him in Galilee.
- Embrace: We will embrace Him in those persons who cross our paths and enter or have been part of our lives.
- Rejoice: We will recognize God’s will and say alleluia regardless of pain, disappointment and sorrow. This is paschal joy.
By Mary E. Blake, Alumna
Download a copy of Mary Blake's reflections on Easter Week (PDF).
The second Sunday of Easter
Here we are, the second Sunday of Easter, in the midst of our confusion, doubt, and agitation created by an invisible enemy that sweeps and creeps into every crevice of our lives. Our response, advised and directed by our community leaders, is to withdraw physically, socially distancing from our office mates, our students, our classmates, our extended family, our communities.
That six-foot expanse is an unbearable chasm. How we long for the bridge, the connection, the touch and embrace. That mask serving as a prevention of transmission became the precursor for our Lenten season of preparation, a symbol of this extra ordinary moment of solitude and separation.
We followed Christ through the most meaningful commemoration of our personal faith, a time for soulful reflection, with our masks and six feet of separation.
As we roll that immense boulder and stand at the tomb, we experience a sorrowful intensity of this void in our lives, hearts and minds. We grieve for what used to be and we wonder how much longer this will last.
But just as Mary Magdala and her companions raced to inform the disciples, we know the truth, and we are grateful for the vision and confirmation that Christ is risen. Just as He appeared to Mary and greeted His disciples, we are blessed to see Him in our partners as they remotely conduct operations, efficiently adjusting, directing and guiding our students, faculty and staff.
We see Him, too, helping us maneuver through this new normal, stocking our shelves, serving our drive-thru, removing our garbage, dropping deliveries at our doorway.
We are blessed that He is with us proving His love in our worst and most dire moments in healthcare and economy. We are blessed that He has been with us all this time guiding our charity and outreach. Everything has changed, nothing will ever be the same.
We thank you, Jesus, for this gift of Easter Joy, the gifts of peace and mercy. As we turn to you, Holy Spirit, we thank you for this merciful embrace of our acceptance and surrender. You have brought us together, dear God, because you are the same, now and forever.
-Itza Casanova, Provost’s Office
Download a copy of Itza Casanova's thoughts on the second Sunday of Easter (PDF).
Rebirth and Renewal in Light of the Resurrection
By Veronica G. Martinez-Acosta, Professor of Biology
Reflecting on the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Easter, John 20:19-31, describing Jesus’s appearance to the disciples one week after He has risen, I cannot help but put myself physically and emotionally in the sandals of the disciples.
Just as we find ourselves quarantined in our homes, the disciples were locked in a room, hidden, in fear of the enemies of Jesus. For many of us, there is also the emotion that surrounds us in our current situation — the fear of the unknown. We really do not know how long we must wait before we feel “safe” again to venture freely back into the world.
Similarly, the events leading up to the crucifixion of Christ caused the disciples much confusion and uncertainty. Most importantly, those events brought up many questions and longings for truth. How were they to continue the work of their teacher?
Yet Jesus came offering peace. He brought an end to their confusion and an end to the questions of what they were charged to do. He said very clearly and concisely: “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.” With these words and His sending the Holy Spirit, Jesus empowered the disciples to proclaim His word and continue His work.
This passage in the Gospel also speaks to my work — indeed, our work — in the UIW community. Our responsibility is to serve our students and remind them of our shared goals. I can show them that I, too, am uncertain, but with the guidance of our faith, and through the relationships we have established, we can work together to continue learning. Ultimately, we are sharing our knowledge and faith with those who are still fearful.
Pope Francis invited us this past week to reflect on our doubts and on our fears: “Many doubts disappear because we feel the presence of God and the truth of the Gospel in love, which — without our deserving it — lives in us, and we share it with others.”
Pope Francis’s call to reflection on this Sunday’s Gospel evokes our call to serve just like Jesus commissioned His disciples to do in John’s verses. As I respond to that call and emerge from my fears, I profess my strength in Him. With that resolve, I wish peace for all of us and invite you, my colleagues, to look forward to the day we can come together again on campus.
I leave you with a poem that echoes the teaching of this Sunday’s Gospel.
blessing the boats
may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that
By Lucille Clifton (1936-2010 at St. Mary's)
Download a copy of Dr. Martinez-Acosta's contemplation on the Resurrection (PDF).
Reflections for the Spiritual Year
God’s Saving Hand in a Time of Despair
The current state of the world reminded me that at the beginning of the year some faculty members came together to reenact the biblical scene of the disciples and Jesus on the road to Emmaus.
Today, we find ourselves on our own road to Emmaus searching for answers to the threat the entire world presently faces to our social, economic, and physical wellbeing; a threat brought about by the invisible enemy named COVID-19. In Jesus’s time, the disciples were probably feeling like many of us, our friends, and family feel do now — uncertainty about the future, disillusionment and questioning of what our new reality will be.
Yet there are two things I consider: God’s divine providence and sovereignty.
While the disciples were walking along the road to Emmaus, Jesus came alongside them and journeyed with them a good part of the way. On that journey Jesus invited them to reflect on all that led to His crucifixion from the days of Moses (Luke 24: 25-27).
I believe in times like these we must all reflect on the road that brought us to this stage of our journey. Certainly, no one desires these circumstances, but God’s providence is greater than our short-sightedness.
In his book, “Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices,” Thomas Brooks, a 16th-century Puritan, tried to explain a seeming contradiction: “The hand of God may be against a man, when the Love and Heart of God is much set upon a man.” While God may permit bad times to fall upon us, God also extends a saving hand as He did with David, Joseph, and Job as they struggled in a time of despair.
As the disciples approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if He was going farther. But they urged Him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.”
So, he chose to stay with them. In times like these, we should all ask Jesus to “stay with us.” Indeed, I have heard people invoking God far more often during difficult times in times of plenty. While we have all seen our perceived control over our lives whisked away, God is nonetheless revealing Himself to us all. And this is the time to assert His sovereignty in this world.
When Jesus finally revealed Himself to the disciples, they immediately jumped up and went back to Jerusalem, back home to family and friends to spread the good news that what the women had said after visiting the tomb was true (Luke 24:22-24).
Thomas Brooks described God’s sovereignty in this way: “Divine wisdom and love will so order all things here below, that they shall work for the real, spiritual, and eternal good of those who love Him.” I believe this is our only hope in the current situation. We only need look for God in our circumstances and He will reveal the deeper purpose.
When the disciples got back in Jerusalem, Jesus revealed Himself to them again. They were still telling of their encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus when Jesus appeared to them all and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you… and I am going to send you what my Father has promised…” (Luke 24:36-49)
In sum, I will place my trust in that Peace Jesus offered, confident that God keeps His promises “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." (Deuteronomy 31:6)
He will not fail us.
Dr. Ron Washington
H-E-B School of Business and Administration
MIS Department Coordinator
Download a copy of Dr. Washington's reflections about the Road to Emmaus. (PDF).
Hearing the Good Shepherd’s Voice
By Dr. Luella D’Amico, Assistant Professor, English Department
“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John 10:3)
“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will saved.” (John 10:9)
Whether speaking with fellow faculty, students, and staff—or even more my intimately with my own family friends—a prevailing mantra persists in our conversations that speaks in some way to all of our lives in the current moment: “I don’t know.” I don’t know when this will be over. I don’t know when, or how, life will be ‘normal’ again. I don’t know when I’ll get to congratulate and hug my graduating seniors this semester. I don’t know how my classes will look next semester. I don’t know when I’ll be able to attend Mass and take the Eucharist again. I don’t know when my children will get to see their grandparents. I don’t know when the kids will go back to school. I don’t know when we’ll be able to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries together. I don’t know when we’ll be able to mourn together. I don’t know how this pandemic will change me and everyone around me. I don’t know how to react, or, perhaps more importantly, even how I ought to react.
Though our life situations may be different, the “I don’t know” mantra is a connective tissue that binds us all together right now, and I suspect you can recount many similar conversations and concerns you’ve had recently. Perhaps, as you were reading, the anxiety of this moment, and its attendant not knowing can began to overwhelm you, as it too often does me. While this Gospel passage doesn’t provide clear-cut answers to every single “I don’t know,” it does offer a clear path forward and a clear solution to the fear that not knowing can elicit.
This Gospel reading occurs on what is called “Good Shepherd” Sunday. In this passage, Jesus provides the well-known metaphor of himself as a shepherd, telling the Pharisees “anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.” This pandemic has snuck in, “climbed” in our lives and altered them all irrevocably. It has likewise “robbed” us of certainty, of togetherness, perhaps even of joy.
The Christian promise, however, reminds us that these parts of our lives can never be stolen from us. The certainty of Jesus’s sacrifice for us, the togetherness that comes from communion with him and each other as believers, and the joy that comes from his constant love have always remained invariable. Nothing has been stolen. We simply need to remember that Jesus is the one in control and “listen to his voice.” Scripture states, “The gatekeeper opens the gate . . . and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”
That seems simple enough, but what about those other, overwhelming voices—the chorus of “I don’t knows” that can make us feel as if we are without anyone to guide us, that we are alone? Quite simply, Jesus tells us to ignore them. His sheep “will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” In my daily life, I admit that I am often distracted by “strangers.” I am distracted by the media, which is conflicted and fearful. I am distracted by my own thoughts, which can be the same. I am distracted by Satan, “that thief [who] comes only to steal and destroy.” I am distracted by the “I don’t know” of this pandemic because I sometimes I forget that I do.
There’s a song by contemporary Christian singer and songwriter Natalie Grant that I’ve listened to often recently in which the singer asks Jesus, “When did I forget that you were King of the world?” While the pandemic may sometimes cause us as humans to forget the shepherding that Jesus can give us through any trial, his strength and power doesn’t alter. As members of his flock, it is up to us to reflect and recognize when we are being led astray. The pandemic may have us all social distancing from each other, but it should not, and does not, have the power to distance us from God. It is our role as sheep to listen to the only voice that matters. It is our role to listen, especially when it is most difficult, to His voice.
At the end of this passage, Jesus states “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” Jesus assures us that life with him as our shepherd is never half-lived. If we trust in his ability to guide us, then we will always remember it is not up to us know the logistics of anything. Rather, it is up to us to “live” through it, knowing that he took care of our futures long before the current crisis. After all, while the “Pharisees did not understand what Jesus was telling [them],” we as his sheep do. Our charge is simply to hear him and remember that he will “lead” us “out of” this pasture and into another one resplendent with all the hope, joy, and love the Easter season promises.
Download a copy of Dr. D'Amico's thoughts on the Good Shepard and His message to us. (PDF).
“Jesus: Way to the Father”
Easter Reflection on John 14:1-12 by Michael Mercer
Thomas, that doubting disciple, once asked Jesus, “How can we know the way?”
“I am the way, the truth, and the life,” Jesus replied. “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
Jesus not only answered how to approach His Father. He is the Answer. Want to see God? See Me First!
Easter reminds us what we must do to see God. We must see His Son as He is if we want to see His Father. That’s how we get back to that original fellowship of God and man. The holy connection was severed when man fell in the Garden of Eden. But one we’ll see again in Heaven.
God Himself made it possible for his fearfully and wonderfully made creation — born in sin and shaped in iniquity — to know the way back to Him. One has to believe first that Jesus is the Son of God, the Anointed One, the Messiah revealed in Scripture who would reconcile the sinner to God through the death, burial and resurrection of His only begotten son, Jesus, the Christ.
Jesus is our Royal Priest who sacrificed Himself as a ransom for our sins. He substituted Himself, a sinless Savior taking on the sins of the world, because He loved us so much. He did not want us to pay the wages of sin, which is eternal death. He took our place on that old rugged cross on a hill far away.
Jesus is indeed the Waymaker. He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. He gave us a second chance at not only life – but eternal life. He came to seek and save those who were lost – and that was everybody. He not only showed us the Way; He is the Way.
That is the Easter Story. Not to just be celebrated seasonally but every day of a Christian believer’s life.
Download a copy of Professor Mercer's reflection on Jesus's sacrifice for our sins. (PDF).
The Spirit of Truth and Love Reflections on John 14:15-21
Sophia Gilmour, Alumna, and Dr. Doug Gilmour, Professor, Philosophy Department
John 14:15-21 is a passage about consolation and promise in the face of fear and loss and despair. Jesus is speaking to His disciples about his imminent death but reassuring them that He will nevertheless be alive with them and close to them (that is, resurrected in their hearts), especially through the presence and comfort of the “spirit of truth” which He later refers to as the Holy Spirit.
While this is all very mysterious, we believe that everyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one, or despair over the suffering and loss of so many innocent lives in this world, faces the same mystery. In response, we see this poetic passage from the Gospel of John as a message of hope.
It begins with Jesus admonishing His disciples that “if you love me, you will keep my commands,” and the most essential commandments he shared with his followers were “to love thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul and all thy mind” and to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” We believe that the second of these commandments is essential to the first, because the way to love God “with all your heart, soul, and mind” is to treat others in the way you would want them to treat you: first, to love yourself and then to love others, coequally. This is, of course, known as the “golden rule,” and it is articulated with slight variations in virtually every major world religion. But consider what this means.
To love God with all your heart and mind and soul is:
- To love others as you hope they will love you.
- To honor others as you hope they will honor you.
- To respect others as you hope they will respect you.
- To listen to others as you hope they will listen to you.
- To care for others as you hope they will care for you.
- To cherish others as you hope they will cherish you.
- To delight in others as you hope they will delight in you.
- To forgive others as you hope they will forgive you.
- To bless others as you hope they will bless you.
- To find the divine in others as you hope they will find the divine in you.
If these are legitimate implications of what it means to keep the “commands” of Jesus, then it is equally clear how extraordinarily difficult (indeed, nearly impossible) this is for the limited, incomplete, needy, and self-interested creatures we are.
That is why Jesus promises throughout John to send us an “advocate” or an empowering spirit who He names “the spirit of truth” or “the Holy Spirit.” While as interpreters of scripture we struggle to make a clear distinction between the spirit, the spirit of truth, and the Greek ‘paraclete,’ meaning comforter, in this passage Jesus seems to be referring to Himself returning to us or remaining with us in a spiritual way.
Jesus’ promise, then, is that He will remain close to us even after his physical death. His spirit (which is essentially one with the Holy Spirit) can help us when our powers to love one another in the ways God loves us are diminished or destroyed by our experiences of suffering: of fear or despair or of loss and grief.
It is important to emphasize that, although the symbols of the Holy Spirit in art and literature are always deeply evocative, the Holy Spirit is not something that descends upon us in the shape of a dove or some mystical phantom-like wraith.
Rather, the Holy Spirit is more literally akin to the beautiful movement of God’s love as it fills us and inspires us to channel that love to others in the ways Jesus admonished us to love others in his commandments.
Thus, the Holy Spirit, although mysterious in the ways it moves within us, can be identified through the help of scripture and discernment. For as it is said in Galatians 5:22-23, “the fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” These are the many manifestations of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus’ promise is found in the hope that his spirit remains with us through all our greatest sufferings.
Above all, the Holy Spirit facilitates the experience of God’s radical love. We see this in the Old Testament, through God’s relationship with the Israelites, and we see it embodied in the New Testament, as the Incarnate Word, who gives guidance and comfort to the faithful and to the oppressed, and who was martyred for sharing this love in such a radical way.
Right now, in this difficult and uncertain time, we wish all of you the blessings of the Holy Spirit and the presence of God’s radical love and the hope that this love becomes incarnate in all of your hearts and lives.
Download and read this reflection by the Gilmours on the Holy Spirit. (PDF).
Commissioning of the Disciples
By Dr. María Lourdes Alarcón Fortepiani Associate Professor
Rosenberg School of Optometry
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”
Reflecting about the “Commissioning of the Disciples” gospel is reflecting about our UIW Mission and its impact in our community and beyond. Jesus chose his disciples and invited them to follow him, but not all the disciples followed — only eleven out of the twelve were with him after his resurrection. We are all offered the opportunity to join Jesus and serve him, listen to him and follow his teaching; however, not everybody responds. That should never stop us from following him and spreading his words and actions through us.
As part of the University of the Incarnate Word the urge is even greater to follow and serve. We can teach and serve all those who come to us in the classrooms and during our daily interactions, but we should also go out of our comfort zone, out of our city and even our country if necessary, to spread the word. Now more than ever, we need to get out of our comfort zone and reach out via technology to be closer to those that need us: friends, family, colleagues, teachers, students, staff.
Jesus asked us to GO and make disciples and “baptize,” to reach out, but he is not leaving us alone with this challenging task. Do not let the uncertainty and unfamiliarity overwhelm you. Jesus will be with us every day; he is not dead, he has risen, and we should rise with him. We now face challenging times during this alarming COVID-19 pandemic, but we are not dead, we overcome our fear and difficulties through the days of social distance and adapt to newly evolving, unfamiliar situations.
As a teacher, I take this gospel commission very dearly. Every day I wake up with a prayer to take a day at a time and thrive against adversity. I take it as an opportunity to share with my students, and I try to reach out more to them or become more virtually available via online interactions. I feel the stress and uncertainty. During a regular semester, my door is always open, and I enjoy talking to the students, even if it is not about classroom themes or no appointment has been made. Now it is harder, you have to reach out on-line, fit it in to a busy schedule. You just don’t have the luxury of casual passerby conversations and those conversations are missed.
But Jesus said “GO” and make disciples, so it is our obligation to do so, as teachers and as students, to go out of our way and reach out to help or be helped. A few weeks have already passed, Spring semester is over now, but as we transition into the Summer semester, we are all still here working day by day, adapting and succeeding step by step. We are all in this together. We need you, your energy, your positivity but also your fears and uncertainty to find the ways to help you succeed.
As I reflect on previous challenging situations looking for some input to translate into this current situation, I place myself in the Mission trips I had the chance to participate with UIW. As an extension of our teaching role, we bring students to diverse Mission trips, to places with little resources, different languages and traditions from ours, away from the familiar faces, familiar buildings, technology, even familiar food and we prime them to learn. In particular, I would like to share my experiences from a Mission trip where surgical interventions were provided and I was not the surgeon, where eye exams were provided and I could not thoroughly perform one, and where people were blind and I could see. Everyone was helping using their skills, anyone could help. We did not stay sitting, waiting to see what happened next. We did not wait for patients to come to us, we were proactive and found ways to help. As students, as teachers, as support personnel we can all help. We could see in the faces of the students the uncertainty of performing a test without state-of-the-art equipment, but they learned how to use what was provided and succeeded. We saw the faculty overwhelmed with the number of patients, while working with the students, encouraging them, and having conversations that invited them to participate in their own learning.
Teaching is a very slow process. It requires, patience, commitment, and personal involvement on the part of the teacher and the student. We are doing our part and we must trust God will help us finish the teaching journey. The time passes without you even noticing it, suddenly it is getting dark and there are no more patients remaining until the following day arrives. The uncertainty is not only in the eyes of the students and teachers trying to do our best for the patients, but also in the patients. They trust us with their health but mostly they trust God.
This year, I experienced an overwhelming revelation when I was talking to an old man about how he could get to work with his blindness and I will never forget what he told me: I put my hands on the handlebars of my bicycle, bend my head over, and let God guide me to my destination. As this old man shows courage with one of the most debilitating situations — blindness — we should feel empowered by God as well, trust him as he leads us in the right path to our destination through these turbulent times of the COVID-19 pandemic. God, let us trust you in our journey, let us have faith in you like this old man did!
Download and read Dr. Fortepiani's thoughts on the Commissioning of the Disciples. (PDF).
The Faith that Offers Hope and Peace
(Reflection on John 20:19-23)
by Dr. Arthur E. Hernandez, Professor
Dreeben School of Education
The disciples were gathered behind closed doors because they were afraid. Perhaps some of them were more afraid than others, but they all sheltered, nevertheless. None of them could go beyond their fear. They believed locked doors would protect them, but no lock can shut out fear.
Of course, it is easy to understand why they were troubled and afraid. The disciples believed they had lost the Promised One, whom they had loved and served and for whom they had abandoned everything. They huddled and despaired. Gone were heady days of healing, teaching, and driving out demons. What they did not understand was that their loss was not the death of Jesus. They had lost their faith, no longer remembering or believing in the power of Jesus’ love or the eternal lives which they had been promised and which they could never lose.
They found no comfort in each other, shut away from the world that only wanted to hurt them. But at that moment, without announcement or fanfare, Jesus came to them. His greeting, “peace be with you,” rekindled their faith with the realization that they had not lost their Lord after all. He had always been with them and now, by repeating softly “peace be with you,” He reassured them that He would never abandon them. He breathed upon them the gift of the Holy Spirit. This source of all strength came in a single breath of love, teaching them to seek His presence in quiet, simple acts of love rather than miraculous acts of power.
Easter was the day the Lord was raised from the dead and also the day the disciples’ faith was resurrected. This is God’s love and example; neither suffering nor death are defeat or cause for despair. The Lord’s constant presence in our lives shows us that nothing defeats love, that love without limits is more powerful than even death. In this we place our confidence. The Lord’s love for us is without limits. Love, the author of all, the cause for all, and the meaning of all is Jesus.
During these troubling times of social distancing and huddling behind locked doors, when we can so easily give in to fear and distress, we rely on the love of Jesus, which is without limits as attested by his Resurrection. His Love is the foundation of our faith, which gives us hope and offers us peace.
April 9, 2020
Download and read Dr. Hernandez's reflection on the apostles' life in times of lockdown. (PDF).
Solemnity of Corpus Christi
Rev. Leo Almazán
The Institution of the Eucharist happened, according to the four canonical Gospels, as follows: "While they were eating [the Passover meal], He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, 'Take it; this is my body.' Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, 'This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many'." Both Luke and Paul add the phrase, Do this in remembrance of me," while John includes the washing of feet of the Apostles, the new commandment, and Jesus' high priestly prayer (i.e., his farewell discourse) to the Father on behalf of his Church.
Our Catholic faith holds that the bread and wine become the living Christ. The Holy Eucharist has a threefold significance for us believers: first, it is a commemoration (the past made present) of the Lord's Passion, of His true sacrifice; second, it is a visible sign of our unity as a faith community, in which we are brought together through this sacrament to a holy communion (Christ present in and among us today – so we become Christ to others); and finally, it is a foreshadowing of our union with God beyond this life; hence, it is a viaticum, nourishment on our journey to heaven.
Liturgically speaking, the Institution of the Eucharist is specially commemorated on Holy Thursday and celebrated at every Mass. However, given that there are other important elements being celebrated during Holy Thursday, in 1264 Pope Urban IV ordered an annual celebration of Corpus Christi in the Thursday next after Trinity Sunday. Pope Urban IV explained his decision with these words:
Therefore, to strengthen and exalt the Catholic Faith, we decree that, besides the daily memory that the Church makes of this Sacrament, there be celebrated a more solemn and special annual memorial. Then let the hearts and mouths of all break forth in hymns of saving joy; then let faith sing, hope dance, charity exult, devotion applaud, the choir be jubilant, and purity delight. Then let each one with willing spirit and prompt will come together, laudably fulfilling his duties, celebrating the Solemnity of so great a Feast.
Unfortunately, Pope Urban IV died shortly after the promulgation of his decree. Consequently, the universal observance of Corpus Christi did not take root until later.
In summary, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, historically known as Corpus Christi, celebrates the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist—Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity and it is traditionally celebrated on the Thursday following the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity.
How to celebrate Corpus Christi during the Coronavirus crisis
As we celebrate Corpus Christi this year 2020, we are painfully aware of our inability to do so in the usual way. This year, there will be no processions, no crowds, and many of us will not even dare to go to Church to receive holy communion. Of course, we will continue participating in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist via media and receiving our Lord spiritually. However, is not there something else we can do to highlight this most important feast of our faith?
Here are some ideas to highlight this celebration:
- Participate in the live-streamed celebration of the Holy Eucharist for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi at the Altar of the Chair in St Peter’s Basilica on Sunday, 14 June 2020 at 9:45, Rome time. The Mass will be presided by Pope Francis.
- The celebration of the Holy Eucharist will conclude with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction. Devote some time in silence to adore the Blessed Sacrament, either at the end of the Pope's celebration or at another convenient time during the day.
- Find videos of famous processions of Corpus Christi from around the world and use them both to learn about other cultures/peoples and to unite in spirit with this act of popular piety.
A special recommendation: read, meditate upon, memorize, and sing this famous hymn composed by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) for the Office of Corpus Christi. View a version in English.
Pange, lingua, gloriósi
Quem in mundi prétium
Fructus ventris generósi
Rex effúdit géntium.
Nobis datus, nobis natus
Ex intácta Vírgine,
Et in mundo conversátus,
Sparso verbi sémine,
Sui moras incolátus
Miro clausit órdine.
In suprémæ nocte coenæ
Recúmbens cum frátribus
Observáta lege plene
Cibis in legálibus,
Cibum turbæ duodénæ
Se dat suis mánibus.
Verbum caro, panem verum
Verbo carnem éfficit:
Fitque sanguis Christi merum,
Et si sensus déficit,
Ad firmándum cor sincérum
Sola fides súfficit.
Tantum ergo sacraméntum
Et antíquum documéntum
Novo cedat rítui:
Præstet fides suppleméntum
Laus et jubilátio,
Salus, honor, virtus quoque
Sit et benedíctio:
Procedénti ab utróque
Compar sit laudátio.
Sing, my tongue, the Savior's glory,
Of His Flesh, the mystery sing;
Of the Blood, all price exceeding,
Shed by our Immortal King,
Destined, for the world's redemption,
From a noble Womb to spring.
Of a pure and spotless Virgin
Born for us on earth below,
He, as Man, with man conversing,
Stayed, the seeds of truth to sow;
Then He closed in solemn order
Wondrously His Life of woe.
On the night of that Last Supper,
Seated with His chosen band,
He, the Paschal Victim eating,
First fulfils the Law's command;
Then as Food to all his brethren
Gives Himself with His own Hand.
Word-made-Flesh, the bread of nature
By His Word to Flesh He turns;
Wine into His Blood He changes:
What though sense no change discerns.
Only be the heart in earnest,
Faith her lesson quickly learns.
Down in adoration falling,
Lo, the sacred Host we hail,
Lo, o'er ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail:
Faith for all defects supplying,
When the feeble senses fail.
To the Everlasting Father
And the Son who comes on high
With the Holy Ghost proceeding
Forth from each eternally,
Be salvation, honor, blessing,
Might and endless majesty.
Download and read Rev. Leo Almazán's thoughts on the Institution of the Eucharist. (PDF).
Monday Advent Reflection
Isaiah 4:6 "For over all, the LORD's glory will be shelter and protection: shade from the parching heat of day, refuge and cover from storm and rain."
Tuesday Advent Salvation History Story
God shares His life with humans.
Listen to a reflection by Rev. Trevor Alexander
Adam and Eve, read Genesis 2:4–24 (PDF) *
Wednesday Advent Reflection
Isaiah 25:10 "This is the LORD for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!"
Thursday Advent Salvation History Story
Noah and the Flood: God’s presence among humans and with all living things.
Listen to a reflection by Dr. Glenn Ambrose.
Noah and the Flood, read Genesis 6-9. (PDF) *
Friday Advent Reflection
Psalm 27:14 "Wait for the LORD with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD."
*Excerpt from The Stories of the Old Testament: A Catholic’s Guide by Jim Campbell (Loyola Press, 2007). Posted with permission of Loyola Press. Visit Loyolapress.com for more resources to nurture your faith.
Monday Advent Reflection
Advent Reflection — Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception - Luke 1: 38
"Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."
Tuesday Advent Salvation History Story
The Passover — Celebrating Salvation
Listen to a reflection by Rev. Trevor Alexander
Passover, read Exodus 11-13 "Take your flocks and your herds, as you said, and be gone." Exodus 12:32 (PDF) *
Wednesday Advent Salvation History Story
David is flawed, but God’s love for him is steadfast.
Listen to a reflection by Fr. Thomas Dymowski, O.SS.T.
Thursday Advent Reflection
Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe - Revelation 12: 1
"A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars."
Friday Advent Reflection
"For the LORD watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked vanishes."
*From The Stories of the Old Testament: A Catholic’s Guide by Jim Campbell (Loyola Press, 2007). Posted with permission of Loyola Press. Visit Loyolapress.com for more resources to nurture your faith
Monday Advent Reflection
Advent Reflection — Psalm 25:4-5
"Your ways, O LORD, make known to me; teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior."
Tuesday Advent Salvation History Story
Jeremiah – New hope and forgiveness
Listen to a reflection by Dr. Horacio Vela.
Jeremiah's message of hope and forgiveness (PDF) *
Wednesday Advent Salvation History Story
"She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
Thursday Advent Reflection
Advent Salvation History Story: God’s Promise through Isaiah – Each of us is called by name (PDF) *
Listen to a reflection by Dr. Horacio Vela
"A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars."
Friday Advent Reflection
Advent Reflection: Luke 1:32-33
"He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end."
*From The Stories of the Old Testament: A Catholic’s Guide by Jim Campbell (Loyola Press, 2007). Posted with permission of Loyola Press. Visit Loyolapress.com for more resources to nurture your faith
Monday Advent Reflection
Advent Reflection — A Savior is Born to Us
Listen to a reflection by Sr. Walter Maher, CCVI
Tuesday Advent Reflection
Advent Reflection — Luke 1:79
"In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace."