Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sometimes Catholic

Christ looked out over Jerusalem and wept for it, because it had not recognized God’s visitation.

As this Holy Week begins, I wonder if He is looking down from heaven and weeping over me, because I have not recognized His coming to me, have not felt His graces, not seen His mercy, and have not known His love.

When I pray “Thy will be done,” does He look at my actions and say: “Is THIS how you perceive my will? Would a loving God, such as I am, act as you do?” And does He wait for me like the father of the Prodigal Son, wondering if I will return, disappointed in my actions --- in MY will?

This Holy Week I will repeat some of my usual practices. I’ll watch the movies Saving Private Ryan, I Am David, and the Passion of Christ, and watch for and contemplate their presentations of the difficulties of our earthly life, and their point that many men must face a supreme sacrifice for others, and of the way they show that men can love one another, even in the simple acts of daily living. And during Holy Week I’ll read differing perceptions of the Passion, including Clarence Engler’s My Other Self and Fr. Groeschel’s The King, Crucified and Risen. And again this year my parish will offer adoration of the Blessed Sacrament all through Holy Thursday night, until 6AM Good Friday, that night when Jesus was alone with the guards who beat and mocked Him, and He felt forgotten by all He had come to save. But I will be with him all that night, offering atonement for all the times when I was one of those who forgot.

My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?

And this week I’ll meditate on His passion. I can’t begin to describe it, what He felt and what it means. So I will share with you here Engler’s moving perception of what Christ would say to us today about His passion:

My other self, I would have you learn three lessons from my passion and death. The first lesson is the horror and tragedy of sin. … The second lesson is how to conform your life to the divine will in the midst of sin. …

The third lesson is that you can endure anything sin can hurl against you if only you throw yourself trustingly upon me. That is how the saints were able to accept martyrdom. That is how you, too, will be able to accept martyrdom, if this should be the divine will for you.

Suffering is necessary to bring the mind and body into subjection. Either you will be the slave of your passions or you will be their master. Rightly endured, suffering will help make you free. I gave you example by suffering every torment imaginable; torture in every limb, every joint; torture in my back and head; mental agony of anticipation, knowing the torment that was to come, knowing the day and the hour; mental agony of sorrow at the betrayal of my onetime comrade; mental agony of revulsion as I was spat upon; mental agony of shame as I was exposed to obscenity; mental agony of dereliction as I was abandoned on the cross; mental agony of the utmost as I watched my Mother’s own martyrdom.

Every sorrow was mine, my other self. As I conquered them all, so I promise you that you also can conquer whatever suffering I ask of you; yes, conquer and rise again with new control over your passions and something regained of the integrity humankind lost through the first human sin.

Learn these lessons. And know this as well.

Though my soul was sorrowful beyond measure, even to the extent of asking my Father to let this chalice pass from me, yet I had one sweet consolation: the thought of my Mother, my saints, and you. You would understand me; you would be loyal to me; you would love me so much the more because these others hated me; you would follow me so much the more closely because my disciples left me; you would watch and pray so much the longer because my chosen three slept in the garden. You would come to me more often in the Sacrament of my love; you would live for me and in me; you would be, with me, the Father’s victim; you would join your life to my Calvary in one gloriously redemptive and atoning Mass.

Thus, my other self, I was consoled.

Knowing this, can you fail me? Can you ever, with full deliberation, sin again?

-- My Other Self, published by Ave Maria Press, pp 174-6

Returning home from mass this Palm Sunday, I listened to a talk on Ave Maria Radio by Fr John Riccardo. It was his Holy Week talk. He quoted Pope Pius XII and John Paul II who noted that “The most serious sin of our age is our loss of the sense of sin.” He mentioned the man who came to him in confession and said to him: “Well, it’s been a year since my last confession and, I dunno, I don’t know what sins I have to confess.” It was a classic example of someone who doesn’t know what sin is, nor what it does. Are you bored with Holy Week, hearing the same old gospels again? Are you tired of the movie The Passion (Ewww, too yucky!)? Are you, like this man who came to Fr Riccardo in confession, a “Sometimes Catholic” or “Sometimes Christian”? Do you visit church once in a while and think that, overall, you are a pretty good person? You are lying to yourself, you are lying to your family and friends, and you are lying to God. Not lying in a mean-spirited way, but by omission: you don’t understand your faith, the Passion, nor sin. I strongly encourage you to look up the Ave Maria Radio website and listen to and/or order this talk by Fr. Riccardo; have them express mail it to you. You need to hear this; you need to understand why God chose to sacrifice His Son for you --- for YOU. You need to find the gigantic value awaiting you in this Holy Week. Don’t be a “Sometimes Catholic”. Know and live your faith, and your life will have great meaning, and joy.

Dear Mother Mary;
This week I’ll contemplate the joy, the pain, and the sadness of the Passion of your Son, and you. You truly know what it is to carry the heavy cross of another’s pain. I ask you to remember those still here on earth, those for whom He died, who are carrying their crosses of pain or sadness. You Son bore His pain well, died, and rose again. Please pray that those carrying heavy crosses of pain may imitate --- entirely --- this part of his life also.

“If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him.” -- John 12:26

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