As I sit on my sofa, taking in the fact that my first year of university is now complete, the state of emergency in Ontario possibly extended to July and churches throughout the Archdiocese of Toronto will open their doors for Sunday Mass this week, the members of the Class of 2020 from Chaminade College School and other Class of 2020 graduates from their respective schools (my sister and her friends from St. Joseph’s College School included) are fresh in my mind and are in my thoughts and prayers during this time. It is for that reason that as the school year winds down for students in secondary school, I want to deliver a few words of advice and encouragement. More in-depth advice can be found in my post about my first-year U of T experience and the Class of 2019 Valedictory speech.
With the Solemnity of Pentecost this Sunday, we conclude the Season of Easter. What a journey it has been! We went through the 50 days of Easter reading of the various accounts of Jesus’ appearances after rising from the dead, and read of his Ascension last week. This week, we actually come back to where we started – with the Sunday of the Lord’s resurrection as John notes, “It was evening on the day Jesus rose from the dead, the first day of the week.” (Jn 20:19)
Why does the Gospel read today sound so familiar? Didn’t we just hear this Gospel some time this Easter? Your assumptions are correct. The Gospel today is John 20 verse 19-23 and we heard this portion of the Gospel in its longer form this past Second Sunday of Easter where we read the Gospel of Doubting Thomas which goes up to verse 31. It is interesting that even though this comes from the same Gospel from the Second Sunday of Easter, the emphasis of what is in that Gospel is completely different. That week, we focused more on the figure of Thomas. This week, without the latter portion of Thomas, we focus on the ten disciples that were locked in the room.
My first year of university was gone in a blink of an eye and wow, what a roller-coaster! I think that is the case for many first-year students like myself did not expect to end our first year with online classes and online exams. For grade 12 students like my sister probably did not expect to continue their classes through online means, nor expected the fate of their prom and their graduation. I remember my grade 12 year at Chaminade vividly and the last months of secondary school are supposed to be the most memorable time with classmates, awaiting their Graduation Ceremonies.
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down for many first world countries like Canada, and even Catholicism. Being at home for Holy Week and “attending” Mass online was not the same and felt in a sense…”weird”.
1. The Miracle of Hope: Francis Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận; Political Prisoner, Prophet Of Peace
The late-Cardinal Francis Xavier Thuận Văn Nguyễn persevered through the darkest nights – thirteen-years in a communist prison in Vietnam, nine of which spent in solitary confinement. However, even in those dark nights, he kept the flame of faith alive. Some people have commented about how restless they are during this lockdown – but it is nothing compared to what the Venerable Văn Thuận went through during his days in Vietnam. This book opens one’s eyes to the injustices Cardinal Văn Thuận’s family had to endure, and his own personal trials and liberation. This biography of the late Cardinal by Andre Châu sheds light on a life of man who suffered much, but within his suffering, he was a source of hope and light for those around him.
It was in my mental calendar – today, April 23rd, 2020, I would be at the St. Cecilia’s Church for the celebration of Mass to pray for the repose of the soul of Thầy Tuấn – a friend, mentor, and humble “labourer in the Lord’s vineyard”. The Mass was also for thanksgiving of his life. Two years ago the Lord called Thầy Tuấn back to Himself. For those who do not know him, I would honestly find it hard to sum up who Thầy was – he held a variety of roles within his family and within the parish.
In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith — being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:7
It is interesting how the Word of God can speak to everyone in times when we need it most. Going on YouTube or various replays of Masses, the homilies of priests and bishops the past month or so have always to some degree addressed the pandemic. The Word of God truly brings us the comfort and inspiration needed during these times.
The Lectionary Readings today to be upfront, speaks about believing – the attitude we should have as believers in the resurrected Lord. For some who hear the Gospel of Doubting Thomas which is read every year A, B and C on this Sunday, it is easy to laugh at the disciples for being scaredy cats, and Thomas for doubting our resurrected Lord. “It’s so simple!” some may say. However, I hope we will have a different perspective this year when we read the Gospel among the first and second readings, and Psalm 118 in light of these times.
“Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”
Is it Easter already? It is, according to the Liturgical calendar (and probably from the ‘Happy Easter’ messages and posts you have been seeing). Yet, without public Masses and physical participation in the celebrations of the latter half of Lent and Holy Week, doesn’t it feel like like Lent? A Lent that might go on a couple more weeks? I remarked to my family that this past Triduum was a little “weird” as I am so used to a Triduum filled with liturgies and helping at liturgies. I even had notes for 2020 prepared. While the outward celebrations cannot take place throughout the majority of the world,I think that it is important to know that it is Easter.
The Paschal Candle shines in all its glory in the darkened Church during the Easter Vigil Liturgy. The flame in the darkened building signifies Jesus Christ, the Light of the World who shines forth in a world covered by the darkness of sin.
The mystery of Salvation that we celebrate this night is made evident not only in the dramatic Lucernarium, but also reflected in the Lectionary readings, most vividly in the ones that come from the Old Testament. An Old Testament reading that must never be omitted during this Vigil is that of Exodus, recounting the crossing of the Red Sea. It is interesting that we bring up Exodus at this night because at the start of the Paschal Triduum, with the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we read Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14, which recounts the events of Passover, including the directives for the preparation of the lamb and the Seder Meal. Tonight’s Exodus reading serves as the bookend for the Passover and the Catholic Triduum, in which God shows his mighty power to save the Israelites and overturns the Egyptians.
The Celebration of the Lord’s Passion begins not with an Entrance Hymn, but rather with the celebrant prostrating on the ground and the congregation kneeling in silence. This is the only time within the Liturgical year where a liturgical function begins with this dramatic silence. We silence our hearts as we reflect on ourselves, our relationship towards God and to our brothers and sisters.
Prostration – this action is seen a couple times in Catholic liturgy. This gesture is done at the litany of saints during ordinations and profession of vows or virginal consecrations. To lie flat on the ground is to surrender oneself totally to God. In prostrating, we recognize that we are nothing without God. It is also a sign of repentance. Many bishops have adopted this gesture in Liturgies of Reparation. In recognizing that we are sinners, we recognize that sometimes our egos take the best of us. Yet, we are called to put all of that aside and come close to the ground. That is what humility means – it comes from the Latin word, “humus” the ground.
While the secular world sees Valentine’s Day on February 14 as a day of love, I consider Holy Thursday the Catholic Church’s day of love.
“…He loved them to the end,” (Jn 13:1) today’s Gospel records. Love has been at the core of Jesus’ teachings because “God is love.” (1Jn 4:8) However, the theme of love became so concrete during the last days of Jesus’ earthly life. Love was put on full display. Yet, before enacting on love, Jesus gives a new commandment, “….love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (Jn 13:34)
Jesus gives the new commandment right after the washing of the feet, as Jesus knelt, literally, “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.” (Phil 2:7) and washed all of his disciples’ feet, the first symbol of selfless love. To truly love is to have within oneself total humility, taking on tasks that perhaps not a lot of people would want to do.
Vincent Pham, known as The Catholic Man by many of his friends, is a student at the University of Toronto’s Trinity College of the Faculty of Arts and Science pursuing a double major in Ethics, Law and Society, and Philosophy along with a minor in Christianity and Culture. Vincent is an alumni of Chaminade College School in Toronto (Class of 2019). He has a great love for all things Catholic, especially Catholic liturgy.