The journey from Lent through to Holy Week is one of great significance to Christians, but often that significance is obscured by the sheer intensity of the events that lead to Jesus’ resurrection. How do we go step by step with Jesus when his journey is one that seems so superhuman? Fr Kieran J O’Mahony OSA, Augustinian friar and biblical scholar, has teamed up with Messenger Publications to offer a new book entitled Hearers of the Word – Praying and Exploring the Readings for Lent & Holy Week: Year A.
Following on from his first volume which covered Advent and Christmas, Fr Kieran grounds the scripture readings of Lent and Holy Week, illuminating a structure of resonance that connects Jesus to his Old Testament forebears and to those who follow in his footsteps today.
The book is divided into nine chapters encompassing Lent, Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil. Fr Kieran guides the reader step by step in order to fully engage with the scripture readings. For example, he presents a ‘thought for the day’ as in chapter one of Lent: “The temptations of Jesus are not at all temptations to this or that sin but rather fundamental options that matter for the direction of his life… In a less obvious way, we too can be attracted by choices which can shape the way our life unfolds… Only the Word of God truly nourishes and illuminates”.
Regarding a connection between the Old Testament and New Testament, Fr Kieran states: “historical Israel fails the test in the desert and emerges as unfaithful to the covenant, whereas Jesus, the Son of God, comes through successfully and models the fidelity God desires from us”.
After further study involving input on Old Testament background and New Testament foreground, he encourages us to pray: “Renew us in these Lenten days: washed clean of sin, sealed with the Spirit and sustained by your living bread, may we remain true to our calling and, with the elect, serve you alone”.
With commentary, prayer guides and reflections on the scripture readings, the biblical scholar draws together the story of Jesus’ final days; allowing us not only to walk with Jesus, but also to see and understand the significance of Jesus’ actions for the Jewish people of his time and for the Christians of all times to come.
As in chapter seven on Holy Thursday, ‘pointers for prayer’ are offered to integrate the readings into our personal lives: “Loving to the end and perfectly – when has that been my experience? Whom am I called to love like that?” Or in another pointer: “Peter finds it hard to be served – sometimes it is easier to give than to receive. When have I hesitated to receive? Do I find it hard to receive from God?” Fr Kieran also provides a section on Study Bibles with a variety of Ecumenical, Jewish and Catholic sources and a Biblical Index of the key scripture readings.
Hearers of the Word – Praying and Exploring the Readings for Lent & Holy Week: Year A sets out to nourish those who desire something deeper and richer than is possible in the usual setting of worship. Fr Kieran prays that the words of scripture may not be just signs on a page, but channels of grace into our hearts.