Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Our Two Voices on Palm Sunday

Hosanna!or ‘Crucify Him!’
 
We inhabit two ‘spaces’ on Palm Sunday: companions of the Lord celebrating him as a triumphant King, and part of the crowd demanding his crucifixion.  Whether we like to admit it or not, as we go about living our lives, we still alternate between these two places in our own day.  In the holiest days of the year coming this week, where will you be?
 
Don’t get me wrong – I know we won’t be making huge signs that say ‘Crucify Him’ and lining the streets of our town condemning the Lord Jesus.  But how we spend our time this week is as powerful a witness as anything else we might say or do.
 
For example – how much time this coming week will we spend (a) watching TV, checking email, posting on Facebook, (or making blog posts - OUCH!), (b) cleaning house and grocery shopping for a big meal on Sunday, (c) taking care of Easter gifts and Easter outfits.  Don’t get me wrong – those things aren't bad in and of themselves, but when we compare that with how much time we spend in prayer this week, something becomes clear:  for many of us, this week is just like any other.

Friends – if Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday are ‘just another’ week for us, we might as well wear a sign that says, ‘Jesus was just another man.’  Consider the perspective of eternity: if we find ourselves sitting at home this coming Thursday and Friday when our parishes gather to celebrate the Institution of the Eucharist and the Passion of the Lord we are saying something with our actions that is more meaningful than any words we could ever utter.

Once a year, the Lord invites us to accompany Him in friendship as He gives us Himself in the Eucharist (Holy Thursday), endures His passion (Good Friday), and overcomes death forever for us all (Easter Vigil).  Where will you be?  How will you respond to His invitation?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde - Hosanna! & Crucify Him!

Palm Sunday - Yr B - 2015

Do you ever feel like a hypocrite on Palm Sunday?  In the space of about 15 minutes we go from being a rejoicing crowd, giving ‘Glory, Laud and Honor’ to Jesus our ‘Redeemer King’ – to raising our voices to plot, complain, accuse, and mock the holy one of God, crying out ourselves for his murder and execution.  Our praise and celebration of Jesus becomes Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!

Like all the worst stories in human history, our love and celebration of friendship with Jesus becomes a brutal betrayal.  The first time I ever really paid attention to the part I played in the pews as the Church commemorates Palm Sunday, I was overwhelmed by confusion.  I felt like the star witness for the defense and the prosecution in some tense courtroom drama.  He’s my friend – He’s my king – I love Him – I’ll follow Him anywhere – Look how awesome He is! Kill Him!  Destroy Him! Murder Him!  CRUCIFY HIM!

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The enormity of it used to bring me to tears – but nothing quite like the sorrow that settled into my soul the first time I realized that, truly, in my life, I actually do and say things throughout my days that just as loudly proclaim both.  We come easy to the palms and procession of this glorious day, dismissing or disconnecting from the part we play in the Passion.  But the truth is, friends, if we take an honest look at our days, at what we do and say (and what we leave undone and unsaid), if we’re honest with ourselves we can recognize that the Church gives us these lines in the Palm Sunday drama because we've earned them.  Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.  All Glory, Laud, and Honor and Crucify Him!

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We come to Mass on Sunday; we trust Jesus in prayer; we share what we have with the needy; we love even when it hurts; we carry our burdens courageously; we hold as patiently to the community of the Church as He held onto the Cross; we trust Him with the honest sacramental confession of our sins; we worthily receive His Body and Blood from this altar, and focus ourselves on offering the true worship of joyful, contrite, open hearts.  Hosanna to the King of Kings!!!

But what about those times we miss Mass and fail to offer prayers out of simple unwillingness to be inconvenienced?  We hold on to more than we need and leave others in desperate want.  We love as long as it feels good and give up on marriage, and Church, and faith the moment it asks something of us that we don’t like or is different than what it always has been.  We hide our sin or stubbornly believe there is some way to deal with sin apart from Confession and so spit in the face of Love Himself when we receive the sacred Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, knowing we’re unworthy and unprepared to do so.  We sit at Mass the way we sit in a movie theater, distracted, going through the motions, overlooking the divine realities taking place – that is, if we even manage to stay awake.  Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!

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Is it any wonder that at the end of it all – in His divine mind able to see the entirety of human experience – aware of the ways you and I would ignore, resist, and work against the very love His pain and agony offers us – is it any wonder that with His last breaths He felt abandoned and alone?  “…why have you forsaken me?”

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How will you spend the rest of this Holy Week?

Will you finally, after all this time, confess your sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation?  Hosanna!  Or hang on to whatever fear or illusion is keeping you from His love and mercy in the sacrament?  Crucify Him!

Will you come to accompany the Lord through His passion, death, and resurrection by setting your priorities clearly on celebrating Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil with our community of faith – or at the very least keeping Vigil with prayers and Sacred Readings at home to mark these holy days?  Hosanna!  Or will you live this week just like any other week, blind to the sacred realities we celebrate?  Crucify Him!


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Friends – we are all joined together in the hypocrisy of Palm Sunday.  We are all guilty.  Thank God – THANK GOD – this is a story, this is a day, this is a celebration of who Jesus is and not who we are!  Because, the story doesn't end with our hypocrisy – the story doesn't end with our fickle, two-faced transformation.  The story, the celebration, the Good News is that the pain and agony of the Cross, the humiliation and betrayal of the same people who welcome Christ as King becoming the ones who crucify Him with their words and actions (with our words and our actions) – this story, this celebration, this Good News is that Love wins!

Day after day, if we let ourselves be pierced by the Mercy that flows from the Passion and Death of the Lord, sin is overcome in our lives and the crucifixion earns for us a place in that kingdom where we become wholly, completely and forever the parade of faithful witnesses ringing out Hosanna to the King!

Jesus wins in our lives!  Love wins in our lives!  Hosanna to the King!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Never Too Late to Lent Well

It’s Never Too Late to Lent Well 

I’ve noticed a common pattern for Lent in my own discipleship and, by offering spiritual direction and counsel to many others.  We get to the 5th Sunday of Lent…and sometimes realize that our Lenten practice hasn't been what we hoped it would be.  We haven’t prayed as much or in the ways we thought we should.  Our CRS Rice Bowls aren’t as full as we promised they’d be.  We haven’t fasted, might have even missed a Friday of abstaining from meat.  In our case, we might have found ourselves complaining even with the purple bracelet on our wrists Our tendency is to throw up our hands and say, ‘Well – maybe next year.’  And then, we give up.  But friends, that misses the very point of the holy season of Lent. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Water, Light and LIFE

5th Sunday Lent - Yr A/Scrutinies - 2015

As thirsty and blind as we are, you’d think we’d be dead by now.

No matter who you are, your education, background or tax bracket – we’re all thirsty.  As thirsty as that woman Jesus met at the well.  Thirsty for love, understanding, justice, peace, holiness, faith, and rest.  But we’ve heard that Jesus came to quench our thirst:  ‘whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst.’  We thirst – and Jesus satisfies. 

We’re thirsty and blind – like the subject of last week’s gospel – we are men and women born spiritually blind.  Our eyes might function, but we cannot see.  We’re blind to the dignity of the impoverished and imprisoned, blind to the healing available in the Confessional, blind to the sacredness of creation and the tender care Mother Church offers us in her traditions, liturgies, and disciplines.  We’re blind – but Jesus restores our sight!  He offers us His complete divinity and humanity on the altar, and sends us to wash – to wash in our service to the marginalized, to wash in our respect for the earth, to wash in docile receptivity to the Church and in the cleansing humility and miracle of Sacramental Reconciliation – and just like the man born blind, when we receive Jesus and go to the places we are sent, He restores our sight! 

As thirsty and blind as we are, you’d think we’d be dead by now…but we’re not, are we?  We feel like it sometimes.  Walking around under the burden of our thirst and blindness…carrying with us all that we know in our heads about the living water that comes from the One who cured the blind man’s physical sight to show us He wants to give us the fullness of spiritual sight.  Desperately trying to live in the fullness of life in Christ, carrying the dead thirst and blindness around with us that we’ve been hauling around for longer than we want to think about…hauling it around like a dead limb…dragging it behind us…like…like… well.. like a zombie.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Laetare Sunday

Rejoice!  That’s the meaning of Laetare, an instruction, a command, to ‘rejoice’ in the midst of our Lenten journey.  The Church reminds us as we journey through the wilderness, confront our sinfulness, and do penance for our sins, that the journey isn't about the wilderness – the journey is about Easter!Think of this Sunday as a rest stop.  A time to evaluate the journey so far, make corrections or adjustments to our Lenten practices, and ‘step up our game’ a bit so that we can be as prepared as possible for the joys of Easter and the renewal of our baptismal promises.  So – how are you doing? 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Thirsty and Blind

4th Sunday Lent - Yr A/Scrutinies - 2015
Last week I mentioned that the great images we encounter in these last weeks of Lent tell our story in its most basic form: water, light and life. Like the woman at the well, we all thirst: we thirst for love, for understanding, for acceptance and a sense of belonging; we thirst for justice and peace, for comfort and rest, for holiness, faith, and freedom from sin. And like the woman at the well, when we encounter Jesus authentically, with all of our masks removed and no longer attempting to hide our sin from Him, when we encounter Jesus authentically He quenches our thirst. Whoever we are, whatever our background, age, gender, or tax bracket, we thirst – and Jesus is for us the water that completely satisfies: ‘whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst.’ The blessed water of the baptismal font and the holy water we use to bless ourselves and our homes and sacred objects – our sacramental use of water is a tangible reminder throughout our pilgrimage on this earth (from baptism to burial) that we all have a basic, deep thirst that finds its satisfaction only and permanently in Jesus Christ.

We are all thirsty…and blind…

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Complain Fast...

Complain Fast…

Last Sunday I shared the invitation of the Liturgy Committee and myself to join a parish-wide Lenten observance of fasting from complaining.  (A ‘complain fast’ – not an invitation to hurry up and complain…Haha!)

If you’re like me, complaining is a habit – and perhaps one that’s so ingrained in my daily life I don’t always even know when I’m complaining.  The coffee is too hot or too cold.  The meeting is too early or too late; it didn't accomplish what we wanted it to accomplish.  There’s too much to do or not enough to do, or we’re doing the wrong things.  The music is too loud, too soft, or the song isn't the ‘right one’.  (Or…the music isn't as good as it used to be…)  I’m a champion complainer – and I’m beginning to recognize how unhelpful complaining is in myself and others.

Have you ever noticed how self-centered complaining is?  

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Thirsty

3rd Sunday Lent - Yr A Scrutinies - 2015
Whoever you are – whatever you do – whatever your background, education, profession or occupation – whatever your family situation, your age, your gender, or life experience – whoever we are, each and every one of us comes to the Mass today thirsty.