Holy Week and the Easter Season 2018 did not fall into my well-intended, personal plans. Instead God took me on another journey asking me to let go of the control I grasped onto over my spiritual life and the manner in which I desired to enter into Holy Week and the Easter Season. There is nothing fundamentally wrong about having a spiritual plan or goals: attending Holy Thursday Mass and Good Friday Service or fasting and abstaining in a certain way for Good Friday or even baking hot-cross buns for Holy Saturday. But what if God desires something different and potentially more challenging? Do I flounder kicking and screaming against the tide of grace or do I surrender and place myself within the current wherever I may drift? Thankfully, he granted me the grace necessary to remain calm and united with Him.
This may seem an extreme description, but let’s be honest, we tend to think we can and should control even our spiritual lives- the manner and timing in which God reaches us or invites us let alone makes any sort of demand from us. God should allow me to attend the Triduum in preparation for Easter. I’m a faithful Catholic. I say my prayers. I offer up my sacrifices. I follow the letter and spirit of the law. God should rewards me not only in a physical way (allowing me to attend Mass) but should also reward me in a spiritual manner (partaking in the sacraments.) But entering into Holy Week and the sacraments isn’t a reward for good behavior. My logic is flawed.
How did Jesus spend his Holy Week two-thousand plus years ago? He entered into Jerusalem riding on a donkey praised and exulted only to be sentence to a brutal death by these same individuals a few days later. He broke bread with his disciples and instituted the Eucharist knowing that they would betray and abandon him. He poured his heart and soul out to His heavenly Father in the Garden of Gethsemane and sweated blood all while his disciples slept. Once he was arrested, his trial involved multiple layers of Jewish and Roman involvement fueled by fear and false testimony. “The Rock” on which Christ would build his earthly Church (i.e., Peter) betrayed Him not once but three times. He experienced unimaginable and brutal mental, physical, and emotional torture all while evil taunted Him.
He drug, eventually with the assistance of Simon the Cyrenian, a monolithic cross up a hill while covered in open sores and abrasions only to be led each step closer to a tortuous death. In the midst of the ugliness, a few women and his mother, Our Lady, entered into his passion. Once nailed to the cross, where he would slowly suffocate to death by the weight of his own body, Christ still ministered to the criminals nailed beside him. One rejected him and the other embraced Him. His mother, Mary Magdalene, and the beloved apostle John stood at the foot of the cross while the other eleven apostles and many other disciples cowered in fear and abandoned him. One disciple would take his own life. His garments were gambled off. The people taunted him and his divine power and authority. In his final earthly moments, he bequeathed us His Mother as Our Own. Then he spoke, “It is finished.”
He spoke, “It is finished.” He did NOT speak, “Everything is finished. Nothing else remains.” No, his sacrificial act of love was the beginning. When God asks me to suffer in private during Holy Week, who am I to complain and question why? He asked His own beloved Son to do the same all those years before. His suffering resulted in the salvation of mankind. Am I Jesus or a savior? No. Absolutely not. But I believe in my heart that beneath my difficult Holy Week and Easter Season lies a deeper purpose and plan. A purpose and plan I may be unaware of until the day on which I am raised up and hopefully enter into the Kingdom of God.
I used the inscription by Blessed Giorgio Frassati to caption this post, because this man was a young and vivacious godly man who desire many goods in His earthly life, but died unexpectedly. An avid climber, Frassati captioned a climbing picture with the Italian phrase “Verso L’Alto” meaning “Towards the Top.” Whether God asks you to climb up the mountain or fall down the mountain and back up always strive “Towards the Top.”
How do we strive upwards? Meekness- a quiet strength. A virtue made more and more present in my life during this Lenten and Easter Season.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” -Matthew 5:5
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.”- Mathew 11:29
DIVINE MERCY NOVENA: DAY 6
Intention: Today bring to Me THE MEEK AND HUMBLE SOULS AND THE SOULS OF LITTLE CHILDREN, and immerse them in My mercy. These souls most closely resemble My Heart. They strengthened Me during My bitter agony. I saw them as earthly Angels, who will keep vigil at My altars. I pour out upon them whole torrents of grace. Only the humble soul is capable of receiving My grace. I favor humble souls with My confidence.
Novena Prayers: Most Merciful Jesus, You yourself have said, “Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart.” Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart all meek and humble souls and the souls of little children. These souls send all heaven into ecstasy and they are the heavenly Father’s favorites. They are a sweet-smelling bouquet before the throne of God; God Himself takes delight in their fragrance. These souls have a permanent abode in Your Most Compassionate Heart, O Jesus, and they unceasingly sing out a hymn of love and mercy.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon meek souls, upon humble souls, and upon little children who are enfolded in the abode which is the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. These souls bear the closest resemblance to Your Son. Their fragrance rises from the earth and reaches Your very throne. Father of mercy and of all goodness, I beg You by the love You bear these souls and by the delight You take in them: Bless the whole world, that all souls together may sing out the praises of Your mercy for endless ages.
Who is my brother?
Jesus replied, ‘Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand towards his disciples he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers.’ Anyone who does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother and sister and mother.
Matthew 12: 48-50.
We were also instructed to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. If all these people are our brothers and sisters and mothers, why do we gossip, slander, and libel? Why do we Christians and Catholic Christians build each other up by putting others down? Why do we “bond” at the expense of another child of God?
Pope Francis calls gossip “the terrorism of words,” “poison” and the “devil’s weapon.” I myself am fully culpable of sins committed against others via flagrant or careless abuse of the tongue. Pope Francis recommends “biting our tongues.” Words can kill. But what about the “lesser” evils of words? Those abuses of the tongue that seem harmless or less harmful. Maybe funny? Witty? Cheeky? Intriguing? Bonding?
I’m an active listener. Daily I witness conversations which thrive on the expense of another or others. Everyday friends, family, and loved ones build each other up by putting others down. What ignorant and insecure people we are.
Observation without compassion and charity becomes sinful. There is right and wrong. There is natural law. There is physical and metaphysical reality. There is faith and reason. There is sin and evil. There is love and virtue. Not everything is relative.
What happens when we use our differences to hide our insecurities or avoid much needed growth? There is nothing quite like a little laughter and public mocking as a familial and bonding activity or an intense avoidance tactic.
Sometimes a familiar target is chosen. Many times an unknown target is chosen. Different: clothes, food, language, accents, employment, religion, residencies, vehicles, education, culture, geographic regions, expectations, music, etc. Oh, how many times I hear people mock Southerners or cultural expectations or music preferences. It’s always us versus them and cackle like hyenas. Aren’t we so enlightened and witty? You can’t get much further from the truth. If we must build ourselves up (and our families, friends, cultures, cities, groups, and loved ones) at the expense of others, how small, unenlightened, shallow, and insecure people we must be. Our love for comparison diminishes our capacity for virtue. Comparison also enslaves us and limits our freedom.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear.” 1 John 4: 18
Whether in a Siberian gulag, a Yazidi camp or African nomadic village, we are born, we live, and we die. We are more similar than dissimilar. An Alabama soldier is a much a person as an Idaho tire salesman or an Ivy League Scholar or a Midwestern housewife or a Mormon missionary.
We must remember that each and every person is a child of God. Our words must also mirror this reality, especially as Catholic Christians. It’s better to “bite our tongues” than spiritually die by the words that escape our lips. Words mean something. Words either bring forth greater light, life and love or not. Do our words send us to heaven or hell? Do our words reflect the intrinsic dignity of humanity or not?
We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whomever loves God must also love his brother.
1 John 18-21