A prayerful reading of the Gospels readings on Monday through Wednesday of Holy Week will aid to deepen our contemplation of the Passion of Christ. The Church in her wisdom has provided these Gospel passages to prepare us to celebrate the Paschal Mystery.
A close, contemplative reading of each of the three Gospel passages leading up to the Sacred Triduum will focus us on the Word Incarnate “pierced for our offenses.” Indeed, in each of these three Gospel passages the people surrounding our Lord are said to have reclined at table with him. So, let us recline in the spirit of contemplation in order to see what each Gospel brings to light.
In the Monday Gospel of Holy Week we contemplate Jesus reclining at table with his friend Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. There was obvious jubilation at this meal as those who were present were still rejoicing in the miracle of Lazarus being raised from the dead. Yet, in the midst of this joy the Gospel turns our attention to Mary’s solemn act of charity. Out of love and reverence for Christ, Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with “costly perfumed oil” and dries them with her hair. In this Gospel, then, we are led to contemplate the beautiful feet of Christ. On Good Friday, the feet of Christ anointed by Mary will be “pierced for our offenses.”
How precious and sacred are the feet of Jesus! The feet with which he walked to bring the Good News of Salvation; the feet with which he walked on water and calmed the fear of the disciples; the feet with which he ascended Calvary to accomplish our redemption. It is these feet that Mary lovingly anoints in preparation for his crucifixion; it is these feet that we lovingly contemplate on this Monday of Holy Week. It is these feet that were pierced for our offenses.
In the Tuesday Gospel of Holy Week we contemplate Jesus reclining at table with his disciples. It was the night before his death and his heart was “deeply troubled” because one of his disciples was about to betray him. As Jesus is troubled, Peter motions to the disciple “whom Jesus loved” to find out who was to betray the Lord. We are then led to one of the most tender encounters in the entire Gospel: the Beloved Disciple rests his head against Jesus’ chest and asks, “Master, who is it?” How blessed was John, the Beloved Disciple, to recline against the chest of Christ! How blessed was John to listen to the very heartbeat of Jesus!
In this Gospel, then, we are led to contemplate the sacred heart of Jesus. How precious is the heart of Jesus Christ! Never has a heart loved so much. It was this heart which grieved over Jerusalem; it was this heart which welled up with sorrow at the death of Lazarus; it was this heart which was overwhelmed with grief in the Garden of Gethsemane as he felt the burden of the sins of mankind. The Beloved Disciple rested his head against Jesus’ chest and listened to his heartbeat; it is this heart that we lovingly contemplate on this Tuesday of Holy Week. It is this heart that was pierced for our offenses.
In the Wednesday Gospel of Holy Week we contemplate the betrayal of Jesus. Judas, lured by thirty pieces of silver, sets out to betray his Lord. The other disciples are about the business of preparing the Passover meal for Jesus to celebrate with them. And while they are reclining at table, Jesus tells his disciples that one of them is about to betray him. As the disciples question, “Surely, it is not I, Lord?” Jesus says to them, “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me.”
In this Gospel, then, we are led to contemplate the hands of Christ. We see the hand of Christ dipping into the dish with the hand of Judas. In our meditation, we are moved to grasp the hands of Christ, the hands that Judas could have grasped instead of betrayed. The precious hands of Christ! It was these hands that touched and healed the leper; it was these hands that grasped the hand of Peter’s mother-in-law and healed her; it was these hands that held the hand of Jairus’s daughter and raised her back to life. And it is these hands that we contemplate on this Wednesday of Holy Week; it was these hands that were “pierced for our offenses.” The hands of Jesus which brought healing are now instruments of our healing, for “by his wounds we are healed.”
It is important for us during this Holy Week to contemplate the sacred humanity of Jesus, for it was through the offering of the body of Jesus that we have been redeemed (Hebrews 10:10). As we contemplate the humanity of Jesus we receive immeasurable graces; indeed, we are conformed more intimately to him. The three Gospel passages leading up to the Sacred Triduum afford us the unique opportunity to meditate on the parts of Christ’s body that were pierced for our offenses: his hands, his heart, and his feet. In our contemplation, we are invited to remember that it is the sacred humanity of Jesus Christ that is the instrument of our salvation. God became man to redeem us. What wondrous love is this!