Monthly Archives: March 2013

Palm Sunday: Christ’s love and our freedom

Standard
"The Entry into Jerusalem" by Giotto (c. 1305)

“The Entry into Jerusalem” by Giotto (c. 1305)

This Sunday was Palm Sunday, the day we remember how Jesus was gloriously received as he entered Jerusalem amidst the shouts of “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” It was the only time that Jesus was received with great jubilation by the crowds as he entered Jerusalem.

However, we have just read the Passion of Christ, and we know that these same people who shouted, “Hosanna!” will also shout “Crucify him!” During the reading of the Passion we also shouted, “Crucify him!” and it is fitting that we did. It was our sins also that he bore on the way to Golgotha. He carried the weight of the sin of all humanity for all time with him to his death. He died for my sins and for yours so that we might be saved from eternal death.

"Ecce Homo" by Andrea Mantegna (1502)

“Ecce Homo” by Andrea Mantegna (1502)

Even though he died for all humanity, all humanity will not receive the same benefit from his death. He has entrusted his plan of salvation to his Church, expecting those who believe in him to be a light in the world, sharing the Good News of salvation with others so that they might believe in him and their lives be transformed by his grace. We each have a free will and we each must make the choice to turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.

Next weekend, during the Easter Vigil, there will be thousands of people received in the Church throughout the world. In a way, it will be a little like Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem as these people joyfully welcome Jesus into their minds, hearts and souls and the whole community will proclaim, “Alleluia!” as it was proclaimed for each one of us as we were baptized. During the Easter liturgy, we all will renew our baptismal vows together as a reminder of what Christ has done for us and of our need to put our total faith in him.

The reading of Christ’s Passion reminds us that our baptism is not only about the joy of welcoming Jesus Christ, it is about believing in him, trusting in him, and being faithful to what he has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church. Our purpose in this life is to know, love and serve God so that we can be happy now and forever. Jesus Christ shows us how to live our life close to God so that our faith will influence all the decisions we make. When we refuse to be faithful to Jesus Christ, we once again say, “Crucify him.

Learning what it means to participate at Mass

Standard
"Adoration of the Lamb" by Jan van Eyck (1429)

“Adoration of the Lamb” by Jan van Eyck (1429)

What does it mean to participate at Mass?

It took the calendar page changing from February to March to clarify for me what the difference is between attending or going to Mass and participating at Mass. Every March since I don’t know when, this proverb from my childhood pops into my head: “March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb.” Hey, I thought, that is just the opposite of the way Jesus blew into my soul.

As gentle as a lamb, Jesus embraced the desolate landscape of my soul, melting its hardness from years of selfish choices. With a desire to always feel His warmth, I returned to His Church and my Catholic faith to be with Him as closely as possible in the way He gave us; His Presence in the Eucharist.

Softly and patiently He guided me until I was ready to fully embrace my place that He has prepared for me in His Kingdom. I transitioned to repentant sinner, grateful believer and committed disciple. It was at this point, Jesus revealed Himself to me as King; Creator of Heaven and Earth.

Be still and know that I am God, supreme among the nations, supreme on the earth. (Psalm 46:11)

"The Lion of St. Mark" by Vittore Carpaccio (1516)

“The Lion of St. Mark” by Vittore Carpaccio (1516)

The best way I can describe it is that I witnessed His awesome power at the same time He tenderly held my hand. Jesus Christ first as a lamb and then as a lion conquered my soul with His gentle might. And just like the powerful lion that defends his pride, Jesus the King stationed Himself at the gates of my soul both protecting me from the evil outside and from the enemy within. His mighty roar both lifted my heart with trust in His protection as it brought me to my knees in His awesome Presence.

With this revelation of His power and might after first knowing Him as friend and redeemer, the Mass changed for me. Yes, I desire Mass so as to receive His love; but it’s no longer just about me. When He revealed His majesty to me He called me to serve Him; and the best way for me to do that is to come to His altar and worship Him as He deserves and that means my full participation. My duty as a Catholic became a privilege as His daughter, friend and disciple.

I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain… (John 15:15-16)

Our Catholic faith teaches us about this. The Second Vatican Council produced a document on just this subject titled, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, in which they write:

Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people’ (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.

In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else . . .

So what does participation at Mass mean? A few points:

  • We arrive before Mass starts and present ourselves before the Lord.
  • We vocally pray and sing in communion with our brothers and sisters.
  • We actively pay attention to the readings and homily.
  • We mentally offer our prayers, needs and our life at the Offertory in union with Christ.
  • We reverently receive Communion.
  • We stay until Father recesses, leaving in unison with one another.

If Mass has become a dull routine for you; consider the roles our Lord has called us to: a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation and a redeemed people and what now may simply be a box to be checked off as your Sunday duty will become an honor and the joy of your week.

How I learned the Good News – and then some Better News.

Standard

Have you ever heard this one?

The Good News is: There’s a Messiah!
The Even Better News is: It’s not you.

frustratedI think I need to write this joke on my mirror, because I often feel like everything’s up to me: I’ve gotta write that email! I’ve gotta be involved in that meeting! I can’t get sick or rest, because if I do, everything’s gonna fall apart!!!

Wrong.

Recently, we’ve all gained a hero in this regard. By his abdicating what’s arguably one of the most powerful seats in the world, the Chair of St. Peter, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI made everyone stop and think, ‘Hold on…did he really just do that?’ And yes, he did. Taking all the consequences into consideration, he decided to step down from being THE POPE. The leader of over 1 billion people. The Vicar of Christ on earth. Yes, he did it.

That decision took an almost-unbelievable amount of humility, a virtue quite rare in our modern world. Today, people give up their privacy, safety, and health for just minutes of fame on TV. In politics, business, and even schools and churches, we accept cherished leadership positions for which we’re not prepared, qualified, or to which we cannot dedicate our time. Social media, while giving voices to once-voiceless minorities, have also contributed to a culture of vanity, egoism and pride.

Where did we go wrong?

jesus-and-the-disciples-going-to-emmausUndoubtedly, you and I have responsibilities; we’ve each been entrusted with a mission from God that no other person can accomplish. He ‘calls us by name’ and sends us forth to accomplish this mission (cf. Isaiah 43:1). However, Jesus teaches us repeatedly in the Gospels that we are stewards. We have a mission, but God provides the mission and the means to accomplish that mission. To make this point, he asks his disciples, “‘When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals, were you in need of anything?’ ‘No, nothing,’ they replied.” (Luke 22:35)

When we begin congratulating ourselves for what God has helped us accomplish, we start nudging God out of the picture. Certainly, we should have joy and ‘take pride’ in skills, talents and abilities that we’ve refined with hard work. But we cannot lose sight of the Source of every good thing in our lives: Our Heavenly Father.

God has taught me this lesson by allowing me to suffer greatly over the past several years, in my body, my mind, and my spirit. The pain often led me to immense frustration with God. Over time and with prayer, however, my pain helped me realize how little, weak, fragile and frail I am. I realized that I couldn’t accomplish anything without God’s help. God had given me my body, my soul, my spirit. He filled me with talents. He provided me with wonderful opportunities, a family, and friends. With every sunrise, He’s brought me a new day of life.

We cannot live the Good News without remembering “the Better News,” as the joke calls it. God lives! And despite how everything may appear to you, He is taking care of everything. So, cultivate your sense of gratefulness. Start your own ‘ritual’ of daily offering; for me, that means getting on my knees every day and saying, “Lord, I love you. I thank you, and I give you everything that you have given me. Help me serve you well today.”

Let God be God. You, be you.

I always knew that the Lord is in the ship, that the ship of the Church is not mine, not ours, but His – and He shall not let her sink. It is He, who steers her: to be sure, he does so also through men of His choosing, for He desired that it be so. This was and is a certainty that nothing can tarnish. It is for this reason, that today my heart is filled with gratitude to God, for never did He leave me or the Church without His consolation, His light, His love.
– Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, during his final General Audience