The end is near!…of Lent that is. Today we celebrate Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. Jesus is treated like the King He is. People gather along the streets and lay palm branches and cloaks along the road. Luke records that the people shouted with great joy praising God saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” They could not get enough of Jesus. They had seen all of the great miracles Jesus had done. He had won over the people even if the leaders still resisted Him.
Today kicks off the holiest week of the year. Again, we kick the week off with Palm Sunday. We move through the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and finally end with the Resurrection. Sometimes people ask me why crosses in the Catholic Church have a body on them. Most of our Protestant brothers and sisters do not have a body on their crosses. Jesus has risen so why do we bodies on our crosses? Yes, Jesus has risen, but rising was the easy part. It was the sweating of blood, the arrest, betrayal of friends, the scrounging, the humiliation of the crown of thorns, the weariness of carrying the cross, and finally the excruciating pain of dying on the cross that was the hard part. But Jesus did this because He has an eternal loving thirst for the salvation of each one of us. Not to be a party-pooper, but if we are honest about our lives, hopefully we have lots of times of joy, but even in the joy, most often life a struggle…a struggle to become better today than we were yesterday. A struggle to overcome the evil that drags us down. When we are struggling, we can join our sufferings to the sufferings of Christ and not rely on our own strength. Colossians 1:24 says, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church…” In some ways there is nothing lacking in Christ’s afflictions on the Cross. His sufferings and death on the Cross covers anyone’s sins who avail themselves to the forgiveness and mercy of God. However, our lives often contain suffering. We can join our sufferings to Christ’s on the Cross for the redemption of humanity. Jesus allows us to participate in the redemption of humanity through our own suffering. Suffering does not need to be wasted. It can be, when joined to Christ on the Cross, because the means of some of the most powerful prayer there is. If you are suffering, know that you are not alone. Look at a crucifix and know that you are not suffering alone. Christ is suffering with you and you with Christ on His Cross. Give Him your emptiness and loneliness. He is strong enough to bear it. He did so just for you on the Cross.
This is a glorious week. Good triumphs over evil. The victory is secured. Allow yourself to enter deeply into the mystery of each day of the Triduum. I hope to see you.
Dear People of God,
I had a good retreat in Buffalo. The topic for the retreat was Confessions. We talked about the history of the Sacrament of Confessions. In the early Church it was something you only did once after Baptism. It was public and the penance could last years. If we went back to that, we would probably have even less people go than we do now. We also talked about whether people feel the need to go. Do people have less of a sense of sin than they did in the past? In a society where it is believed that there is no objective right or wrong, do people feel shame or remorse? One priest remarked that the attendance at Ash Wednesday would seem to indicate we do have a sense that we are sinful people. Do people feel like they can just pray to God and have their sins forgiven without a priest? The Church teaches that this is true of venial sin, but not for mortal sin. If one has committed a mortal sin and is not in a state of grace, one needs to go to Confession and receive absolution before receiving Communion. Even if one has not committed a mortal sin, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is also good for receiving the grace to resist sin in the future. If we are trying to become saints, if we are trying to become more holy, receiving the graces of the Sacrament of Reconciliation to resist sin is a great gift from God. The Sacrament of Reconciliation can be scary, but it does not need to be. Even if you have forgotten what to do, the priest can help you remember. And if the priest reveals anything you say in the confessional, then the priest is kicked out of the Church. People pay good money to tell people their problems (psychiatrists, psychologists); however, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is free.
Glancing at my calendar, I don’t see any big events coming up. Keep up the Lenten practices. Pray for fortitude and courage. The end is in sight. Easter (April 21) will be here before you know it. Hopefully you have family coming for this most important day in the life of a Christian. As of now, my parents are planning to come for Holy Week. So if you see a strange grey-haired couple wandering around, say hi to them.
God loves us! He created us for greatness. The penance, the suffering, is preparation for greatness, for heaven. Ask Mary’s intercession to receive the grace needed to become saints. Sainthood is not for other weird holy people. Sainthood is for all of us. Virtue and morality steeped in love, especially God’s love for us, is what will get us to our Baptismal goal, sainthood.
Peace of Christ,
It is finally beginning to look like spring. Wednesday I was out riding my longboard (a type of skateboard) around the MSU campus. I’m assuming the farmers are starting to get a little antsy to get out into the fields. Hopefully the ground will dry out sooner rather than later.
This week I will be gone from Sunday afternoon until Wednesday afternoon. We have our every-other-year Lenten priest retreat up in Buffalo, MN. So please pray for us. Pray that we are renewed in our desire to bring the suffering and joy of Holy Week to the people of God.
This week we have the amazing parable of the Prodigal Son. Being part of a family is not easy. It is often the people in our family that we take for granted, that we treat the worst. Sometimes we treat our family members worse than our enemies. And yet we are called to love our family members. Sometimes family members are not ready to be reconciled. We can’t force them. Sometimes all we can do is pray that they, like the prodigal son, see the error of their ways and come back to their family. We have to trust that God loves them even more than we do. God wants families to reconcile, but He also gives each of us free will. It is hard to see loved ones fall away. The father even says upon the prodigal son’s return, “…this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again…” We pray for all families and for unity.
Again, don’t give up on your Lenten penances. If you have fallen, start over, start again. Lenten penances are good for growing in virtue and morals.
I pray you are continuing to have a blessed Lenten season.