The Last Supper Before the Last Supper

the-anointing-at-bethany-by-daniel-f-gerhartz This Monday of Holy Week we heard St. John's account of the first Last Supper. Christ prepared us then for today, Holy Thursday, THE Last Supper, and now is urging us: "Remember Lazarus".

In every town Jesus travels through he encounters sinners and the sick. Bethany is no exception. Simon the Leper lives in Bethany. Mary the sinner is forgiven in Bethany. Lazarus is raised from the dead in Bethany.

On Monday Jesus passes back through Bethany, the "House of Misery", to dine with old friends. He is on his way to Jerusalem - on his way to death.

For Bethany, this meal with Jesus is a last supper.

"They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him." John 12:2

John's Gospel uniquely points Lazarus out at the table with Jesus. Lazarus was raised from the dead during Jesus' previous visit to Bethany (in John 11) and the town is still electric with the story of Jesus' miraculous defeat of Lazarus' death. It was a last straw for the Chief Priests and Pharisees.

"So from that day on they planned to kill him." John 11:53

The Jews travel to Jerusalem to prepare for Passover, and there prepare to arrest Jesus and put him to death once He arrives.

What did Lazarus and Jesus talk about?

Death, I'm sure of it.

No doubt the story of Lazarus, his tomb, his burial clothes, and Jesus calling him from the grave was told again. It is a story that should end in smiling and laughing. But you could imagine this room filled with a soberness as Jerusalem and what could happen there looms, only two miles away. Many could guess the intentions of those who were looking to arrest Jesus. A strange mutual understanding exists between Lazarus and Jesus.

The night of this dinner in Bethany, death is a guest.

Lazarus is a dead man, walking away from death. Jesus is a "dead man", walking towards death. The disciples have a clue at this point, they must have heard the rumors, and Jesus had already begun to speak more often of His death.

Death sits at table with the dying. Death retells his story. His memories, his last thoughts from the cusp of death, and then - what? What happened before awaking wrapped and bound in a tomb?

"I died."

His soul wretched from his body.

Suddenly Jerusalem seems too close.

Jesus will die. Could the Apostles be put to death as well? Could He raise himself from the dead? But there Lazarus sits. Eating and laughing and moving. He is ALIVE. There is no getting around it. Lazarus was dead but now he is alive.

And in the middle of this strange dinner of the dead, the dying, the sick, and sinners, a fragrance like sweet flowers fills the room. Mary anoints the feet of Christ and wipes those sacred feet with her hair.

Mary, Martha's sister, pours out all she has onto Jesus' feet. Three hundred day's wages would have been needed to buy that much perfume. Where did Mary get that kind of money? Could it be the spoils from a past life of sin? Could Mary have, in one act, poured out and died to all that was left of her attachment to the world and her past life onto the feet of Christ? These feet carried this gift and burden to the Cross where they were pierced for Mary. For you and me.

At THE Last Supper, did the Apostles remember Lazarus?

This time, they are without a walking witness to Jesus' power over death. Memory of their time with Jesus is all they have left. Memory and faith. They are on the eve of their Shepard being struck down and them being scattered. What would happen to Jesus? What might happen to them?

Tonight, at the Last Supper before Easter, place yourself at THE Last Supper. Your heart would have been pounding; the fear of death sneaking into the room, assaulting your faith. Jesus speaks of His death. Breaks His bread and shares it with you. Jesus washes your feet. And as the fear of death, yours and that of the Lord who lovingly washes your feet, slips into your mind, you try to repeat to yourself...

Remember Lazarus.

Remember Lazarus.


CATHOLICISM Lenten Reflection by Fr. Robert Barron [Videos]

Pope Benedict receiving ashes on his head during Ash Wednesday last year. ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images Photo: ALBERTO PIZZOLI, Associated Press


"Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning." Joel 2:12 "A clean heart create in me, God, renew your spirit within me." Psalm 51:12

Video Reflections to Prepare for Lent

Two teaser videos for you this Ash Wednesday morning from Fr. Robert Barron's Catholicism series.


Who is Jesus Christ?  He is either who he says He is, or he is a lunatic, liar, and maybe even worse.


The temptation of Jesus reminds us to strive to put God at the center of our lives during Lent.


And 'cause I like you I'm gonna throw this in here too.  I'm feeling particularly Lent-y this morning.


Listen, today is the last Mass our beloved Papa Benedict XVI will be saying as Pope.  If you don't already have enough reason to go to Mass and get your ashes to kick off this special Lenten season, go to Mass to join the Pope in the Eucharist offering prayers for him and this challenging time for the Church.  Do it!

Check out the Mass readings for today here.


Pope Benedict XVI Abdicates

DV940223 As my good friend Kathleen put it so clearly over the phone at 8am this morning: "I feel like a little kid who woke up to find out Santa isn't real!"

Shocking, Truly Shocking

Pope Benedict announced early today that he is stepping down from his position as Vicar of Christ, officially as of Feb. 28th. Director of the Holy See Press Office, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi said in a press conference that the “Pope took us by surprise”, but denied claims that the resignation has anything to do with a specific illness.  In the Pope's own words:

"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However [...] both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me." Read the Pope's full announcement here.

According to Vatican Expert Rocco Palmo, Fr. Lombardi has since made some clarifications about the Pope's decision.

"Pope Benedict XVI has given his resignation freely, in accordance with Canon 332 §2 of the Code of Canon Law.

Pope Benedict XVI will not take part in the Conclave for the election of his successor.

Pope Benedict XVI will move to the Papal residence in Castel Gandolfo when his resignation shall become effective.

When renovation work on the monastery of cloistered nuns inside the Vatican is complete, the Holy Father will move there for a period of prayer and reflection."

New History

This is definitely uncharted waters for the Church.  The last Pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII in 1415 who did so to end a troubling time in the Church of schismatic anti-popes and a confused college of Cardinals.  It wasn't exactly a resignation of the same kind.  But if you look back before 1415 to the first Pope to resign willfully, things start to get interesting.

Pope Celestine V resigned in 1294 only five months into his pontificate, just after issuing a decree declaring it permissible for a Pope to abdicate.  And there are some very interesting and symbolic historical connections between Pope Celestine V of 1294 and Pope Benedict XVI, foreshadowings almost, as Dr. Scott Hahn noted on his Facebook page:

"Back on April 29, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI did something rather striking, but which went largely unnoticed.

He stopped off in Aquila, Italy, and visited the tomb of an obscure medieval Pope named St. Celestine V (1215-1296). After a brief prayer, he left his pallium, the symbol of his own episcopal authority as Bishop of Rome, on top of Celestine's tomb!

Fifteen months later, on July 4, 2010, Benedict went out of his way again, this time to visit and pray in the cathedral of Sulmona, near Rome, before the relics of this same saint, Celestine V.

Few people, however, noticed at the time.

Only now, we may be gaining a better understanding of what it meant. These actions were probably more than pious acts. More likely, they were profound and symbolic gestures of a very personal nature, which conveyed a message that a Pope can hardly deliver any other way.

In the year 1294, this man (Fr. Pietro Angelerio), known by all as a devout and holy priest, was elected Pope, somewhat against his will, shortly before his 80th birthday (Ratzinger was 78 when he was elected Pope in 2005). Just five months later, after issuing a formal decree allowing popes to resign (or abdicate, like other rulers), Pope Celestine V exercised that right. And now Pope Benedict XVI has chosen to follow in the footsteps of this venerable model."

What Now?

Normal canonical protocol in the wake of a Pope's death calls for the voting process of the next Pope to take place between 15 and 20 days from the moment of vacancy.  In this situation, however, the nine days of official mourning before the election will not apply.  (At least not officially.  Twitter and Facebook have already begun the mourning process.)

What should we be doing during this strange middle period between the solemn announcement of our Holy Father's resignation and the election of the next Pope?

Pray.  Pray a lot.  Thank God for the holy man that has been leading the Church up until now.  Pray that he be comforted in this humbling, courageous, and hard decision.  Pray for the Cardinals who will be trying to elect a new Pope, that they will be guided by the Holy Spirit. Do some extra penance and prayers this Lent for our Church, for Pope Benedict, and the entire Church.

Express your love and support for Papa Benedict XVI.  Facebook, Twitter, your front lawn, anyway you can to let the world and our Beloved Father know that we are praying for him and are so thankful for the gift he is to the church.

And most importantly:


###UPDATE:  For a list of current eligible papal electors, see this resource.

The Mass: A Model for Personal Prayer

St. John of the Cross Statue by Magdeleine Weerts

What should the rhythm of our personal prayer look like?  Is prayer just one action, or a movement toward God with a beginning, middle, and end?  The Church gives us an answer in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  This rhythm is akin to the Mass and can help us enter into prayer more easily and develop a habit of prayer that moves us towards God.

Personal Prayer and the Mass

If we look in the fourth pillar of the Catechism on prayer (remember, the Catechism is split into four pillars - Creed, Sacraments, Morality, and Prayer) especially the section on contemplative prayer, the Catechism makes the connection between contemplative prayer and the Mass:

"Entering into contemplative prayer is like entering into the Eucharistic liturgy" (paragraph 2711).

Remember, contemplative prayer is not something only reserved for Nuns or levitating Saints, contemplative prayer is nothing more than "a close sharing between friends" and "a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus" meant for every Christian.

As we'll see in the Catechism, there are four movements to this rhythm of prayer: GATHER, RECOLLECT, ABIDE, ENTER.

Let's unpack the rest of paragraph 2711 to find a rhythm of personal prayer and its connections to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.


"Entering into contemplative prayer is like entering into the Eucharistic liturgy: we "gather up" the heart, recollect our whole being under the prompting of the Holy Spirit, abide in the dwelling place of the Lord which we are, awaken our faith in order to enter into the presence of him who awaits us." CCC 2711 __________________________________________________________________________

At the beginning of Mass, we begin with the sign of the Cross and with an opening prayer, called the Collect.  Thus the beginning of Mass is a call to gather ourselves up from the world and reorientate ourselves in relation to Christ.

When I first walk into Mass, there are a thousand thoughts and distractions going through my head, as when I first begin to pray.  At the beginning of prayer and the Mass, the first step is gathering our attention and thoughts and disengaging from the world around us (like Kevin Costner in that baseball movie...) so that we can place ourselves in the presence of God.  Making the Sign of the Cross is a good way to begin prayer because it reminds us why we pray and to whom we pray.

St. Francis de Sales offers four ways of disengaging from the world and placing ourselves in the presence of God in the Introduction to the Devout Life:

1) Realizing God is omnipresent; that God is in everything and everywhere 2) Realizing God is in a very special manner in your heart and the depth of your spirit 3) Realizing God looks down on us from heaven, especially those in prayer 4) Imagining Jesus Christ in his humanity as though he were near us or next to us


Narthex with Central Portal

"Entering into contemplative prayer is like entering into the Eucharistic liturgy: we "gather up" the heart, recollect our whole being under the prompting of the Holy Spirit, abide in the dwelling place of the Lord which we are, awaken our faith in order to enter into the presence of him who awaits us." CCC 2711 _________________________________________________________________________

At the beginning of Mass after the opening prayer is the Penitential Rite, where we acknowledge our sins and repent of them, followed by the Gloria praising God for his mercy and love.

Likewise the next phase of prayer means being honest with ourselves and with God about the state of our our soul and our heart.   "We do not know how to pray as we ought" (Romans 8:26), but if we ask, the Holy Spirit teaches and guides us in prayer to acknowledge and relate to God truthfully who we are, where we have been, our thoughts, desires, baggage, and even our recent sins and shortcomings.

A few paragraphs back, the Catechism explains contemplative prayer in the words of St. Teresa: "Conteplative prayer in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends" (Catechism 2709).  It's like answering the question "How ya' doing?" from a friend you haven't seen in awhile.


"Entering into contemplative prayer is like entering into the Eucharistic liturgy: we "gather up" the heart, recollect our whole being under the prompting of the Holy Spirit, abide in the dwelling place of the Lord which we are, awaken our faith in order to enter into the presence of him who awaits us." CCC 2711 __________________________________________________________________________

During Mass, we abide in the presence of God and listen to Him.  We hear His voice in the Old Testament, His glory in the Psalms, and encounter Him in the flesh in the Gospels, all during the Liturgy of the Word.

After coming to God in prayer and talking to Him about what is honestly going on in our heart and in our lives, the conversation begins to turn over to God.  Just like on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), after we unload what is on our hearts we give God the opportunity to respond to us.  This is when true contemplative prayer can begin.

In the following paragraphs of the Catechism, it explains that "contemplative prayer is hearing the Word of God." (Catechism 2716)  In order for us to hear the Lord, we need to be patient and wait on Him (Psalm 27:14).  I can't stress enough how important interior silence is for prayer.  How can we hear God speak to us if we never shut up?  Don't be afraid that you are doing nothing by sitting in silence this way.  "Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus." (Catechism 2715).  As long as you are focused on God, you are praying.  Sometimes God speaks words to your heart, sometimes He sends you peace, sometimes He may just be present with you in that moment, pouring out His love on you.


"Entering into contemplative prayer is like entering into the Eucharistic liturgy: we "gather up" the heart, recollect our whole being under the prompting of the Holy Spirit, abide in the dwelling place of the Lord which we are, awaken our faith in order to enter into the presence of him who awaits us." CCC 2711 __________________________________________________________________________

The most intimate moment of Mass happens when we receive our Lord in the Eucharist and come into communion with our God.

Contemplative prayer is a gift beyond words.  Initiated by God, we become caught up in the life of the Trinity and are led to share in the love between the Father and the Son.  There is no way to make this happen, we must abide in God's presence and wait for Him to bring us into communion with Him.  But when this gift does occur, when God allows us to enter into His mystery and experience a foretaste of heaven, it is like an blaze of faith, hope, and love being ignited in your chest!

It's That Easy! (Sort of)

Prayer is hard work, especially contemplative prayer.  Remember, God is the one who initiates contemplative prayer, it is a gift and we can only patiently wait with a loving gaze fixed on Him.  Realize that it will be hard at the beginning, but if we put in even the smallest effort to reach out to God in love, God graciously reward us.  Set up a time to regularly practice praying in this way everyday and you will begin to experience the deep love, joy, and peace of a life in intimate relationship with God.

A Rhythm of Prayer from Catechism 2711 "Entering into contemplative prayer is like entering into the Eucharistic liturgy: we "GATHER up" the heart, RECOLLECT our whole being under the prompting of the Holy Spirit, ABIDE in the dwelling place of the Lord which we are, awaken our faith in order to ENTER into the presence of him who awaits us. We let our masks fall and turn our hearts back to the Lord who loves us, so as to hand ourselves over to him as an offering to be purified and transformed."


###What do you think? Was this helpful?  Let me know in the comment box.  God Bless!