Most Rev. Oswald Lewis
Bishop of Jaipur

Holy Week Services in the City Parishes


As the spirit of lent still continues, the liturgical life of the Church is drawing us closer to the Easter mysteries. The opening words of Pope Francis’ Lenten message of this year are “Once again, the Pasch of the Lord draws near. In our preparation for Easter, God in His providence offers us each year the season of Lent as a Sacramental sign of our conversion.” Having sprinkled ashes, we reminded ourselves of the necessity of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The call of prophet Joel was a call to penance. “Gird yourselves and weep, O priests, come, spend the night in sackcloth.”(1.13). the prophet reminds us that the Lord calls us back, “yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning” (2.12) Repent and be reconciled; return to the Lord who is gracious and merciful, has been the initial spirit of Lent.

As we progressed, the Church reminds us of the immense love of God, the Father. From the time of creation, God has taken special care of man, assuring him of his love. He created Adam and Eve in his own image and bestowed upon them his love in the form of a covenant. But the law and the convenant underwent a complete change. God changed the agreement he had made with Adam and made a fresh one with Noah. God then made a further agreement with Abraham and he changed this so as to make a new one with Moses. The covenant with Moses was changed forever by the sacrifice on the Cross. “No greater love than this that a man lays down his life. This covenant is not going to be changed. God gave a law to Adam that he was not to eat form the tree of life. In Noah’s case, a visible sign of their alliance, God gave him a rainbow in the sky. For Abraham, chosen on account of his faith, the covenant took the form of circumcision which became a mark and characteristic for his descendants. In the case of Moses, the covenant was signified by the Paschal Lamb, slain on behalf of people.” (cf Dem.11, 11-12)

God bestowed his benevolence and love on the Israelites as they were rescued from the slavery, as they walked in the wilderness for forty years. God gave them law with explanation to observe it. But the Israelites failed to keep the commandments. So God abolished this law and its commandments and promised a new covenant, different from the old: The contrast between the Old and New Testament is that the Old Law was a contract between God and His people. God promised a special relationship to Israel if they observed the law. I will be your God, and I will take care of you, if you observe my commandments. If people observe them, they will be a people consecrated to the Lord. “You have today made this declaration about the Lord; that he will be your God, but only if you follow his ways; keep his statues, his commandments” (Deut. 26: 17-18)

With the coming of Jesus, in one stroke, the old order ceases to exist. Jesus gives a new dimension to the old Mosaic Law. “You have learnt how it was said, you must love your neighbor and hate your will be sons of your Father in heaven.” (Mt. 5: 43-48) During his public ministry, Jesus constantly had to confront the Jews and Pharisees, Scribes and Priests, who accused him of breaking the Mosaic Law. They even crucified him on this account. But eh new Law he gave will remain for eternity.

After having exemplified through the washing of the feet, Jesus said, “A new Commandment I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you”. (Jn. 13:34). The Liturgy of Holy Thursday will provide us with the opportunity to reflect on this aspect of the new law. The parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10: 25 ff), the response to the doctor of the Law (Mt 22: 34) goes on to explain the importance of the new law-love of neighbor. The highest type of brotherly love is to love our enemies and there is no greater encouragement to do this than the remembrance of the wondrous patience exercised by him, who offered his gracious face to be spat upon by his enemies. His body he exposed to scourging and he bowed his head to the pain of the crown of thorn. He submitted himself to insults and gave us an example of his meekness, patience and gentleness. From the Cross he taught us to forgive our enemies, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”

As we reflect on the meaning of the New Commandment we pray that the Lord may give us the understanding and the necessary grace to follow Jesus, the giver and the teacher of the New Commandment.

+ Rt. Rev. Dr. Oswald Joseph Lewis
Bishop of Jaipur

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