From the First Hail Mary to Christ's Final Breath

User's Guide to Sunday, March 25.

(photo: Wikipedia)

Sunday, March 25, is the Fifth Sunday in Lent.


March 25 is normally the feast of the Annunciation, but this important feast day is on Monday, March 26, this year.

This is the day when Mary heard the first “Hail Mary” — when the angel called her “Full of grace” and said, “The Lord is with you.”

It is interesting to note that the first half of the Hail Mary is all about the unborn Jesus. In addition to the angel’s greeting, it includes Elizabeth’s greeting during the Visitation: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

This is the last solemnity before Passion Sunday, bringing Catholics, in six days, from the first moments of Jesus’ life to the last hour of his death.


This week starts a new occasional feature: the Hoopes family reading list. Here are some new books we have enjoyed:

April: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp: This is April’s new favorite; it is about turning everything over to God in light of gratitude. Voskamp has an unusual writing style that takes some getting used to, but she has lots of interesting insights that April is still gaining fruit from. At each “aha!” moment in the book, it is hard to believe that Voskamp is not Catholic, because her insights gel so well with the Catholic faith.

Tom: Ten Universal Principles by Father Robert Spitzer, SJ: Father Robert Spitzer is many things — a former university president, creator of a television lecture series on EWTN, an expert in the principles of physics and psychology, a CNN debater of Stephen Hawking. In Ten Universal Principles, he describes the principles that separate civilization from chaos — the culture of life and the culture of death. The appendix is worth the price of the book. Tom’s students have been analyzing movies based on Father Spitzer’s explanation of the transcendentals.


Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:3-4, 12-15; Hebrews 5:7-9; John 12:20-33

Our Take

Actually, Pope Benedict XVI’s take. The Letter to the Hebrews gives a stark portrait of Christ’s torment. The Holy Father explains it and applies its lessons to today’s Gospel and our lives:

“The man Jesus, who was a true man with the same sentiments as ours, felt the burden of the trial and bitter sorrow at the tragic end that awaited him. Precisely since he was God-Man he felt terror even more acutely as he faced the abyss of human sin and all that is unclean in humanity, which he had to carry with him and consume in the fire of his love. He had to carry all this with him and transform it in his love.

“’Now is my soul troubled,’ he confessed. ‘And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour?’ The temptation to ask: ‘Save me, do not permit the cross; give me life!’ surfaces. In the distress of his invocation, we may grasp in anticipation the anguished prayer of Gethsemane, when, experiencing the drama of loneliness and fear, he implored the Father to take from him the cup of the Passion.

“At the same time … he prays: ‘Father, glorify your name.’ By this he means: ‘I accept the cross,’ in which the name of God is glorified, that is, the greatness of his love.

“The same sentiments surface in the passage of the Letter to the Hebrews proclaimed in the second reading. Prostrated by extreme anguish because of the death that was hanging over him, Jesus offers up prayers and supplications to God ‘with loud cries and tears.’ He invokes help from the One who can set him free, but always remaining abandoned in the Father’s hands. …

“Dear brothers and sisters, this is the demanding way of the cross that Jesus points out to all his disciples. On several occasions, he said, ‘If anyone wants to serve me, let him follow me.’ There is no alternative for the Christian who wishes to fulfill his vocation. … There is no other way to experience the joy and the true fruitfulness of love: the way of giving oneself, of self-giving, of losing oneself in order to find oneself.”

Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,

where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.

The Earth is Not Our Mother

“The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate.”—G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy