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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Palm Sunday

I left Mass somewhat shell-shocked this morning. It as a combination of things, but mostly, I think one of my lenten prayers was answered, at least in part.

I had a rough night, woke up around 4:30 and couldn't relax enough to get back to sleep, so I got up an got ready to go to the 7:15 am Mass, which was the one I planned to attend anyway.

Once I was there, I had a very difficult time getting recollected. I'd forgotten to bring my Magnificat with me and there wasn't enough time to pray the rosary. So I just sat and looked up at the crucifix, really not thinking about much at all, not really even praying. Present...but not accounted for.

Of late, I've been thinking a lot about Jesus' actual moment of death, and how He willingly surrendered his life. It's such a profound concept, one can get lost in thinking about it. Today, during the gospel reading, it was this scene that caught my attention.

Two revolutionaries were crucified with him,
one on his right and the other on his left.
Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying,
“You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,
save yourself, if you are the Son of God,
and come down from the cross!”
Likewise the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him and said,
“He saved others; he cannot save himself.
So he is the king of Israel!
Let him come down from the cross now,
and we will believe in him.
He trusted in God;
let him deliver him now if he wants him.
For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
The revolutionaries who were crucified with him
also kept abusing him in the same way.

From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land
until three in the afternoon.
And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”
which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Some of the bystanders who heard it said,
“This one is calling for Elijah.”
Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge;
he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed,
gave it to him to drink.
But the rest said,
“Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.”
But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice,
and gave up his spirit.

This scene came alive in my imagination this morning. The pitiful image of Jesus, crucified, helpless, nailed to the cross, bleeding, suffering, humiliated...dying. Completely exposed in His humanity; His divinity hidden.

His children, the ones He had come to save, mocked Him cruelly, and how their taunts must have been even MORE agonizing than any of the physical sufferings they had heaped upon him in their anger.

And yet, He resisted their taunts, He loved them too much to respond by fulfilling thet signs that they demanded.

He loved all of us so much that He willingly gave up his spirit so that his humanity could experience the ultimate consequence of death.

I realized that each time I had ever spoken back to my mother, each time I had looked at another with hatred or anger, each time I had ever shunned another person, ever in my action was directed at Christ HIMSELF. And His surrender to the pain and cruelty, to go to His death...even for me.

As we knelt, at that point in the gospel, I was shaking, stunned, finally realizing my own personal responsibility for the death of Christ. It's hard to explain, but I've never really grasped, at a deep level, the guilt I personally bear. And this lent I have been praying that I see, finally, the blood of Christ on my own hands.

Strangely, I didn't cry, not really, perhaps because the sword has gone too deep to be able to respond.

Then, during the Consecration, suddenly I wasn't sure if I believed that was really Jesus, there on the altar. Why the sudden crisis of faith? I didn't understand, so I offered this crisis, knowing the theology, knowing intellectually, and deciding that sometimes we have to will our faith. I considered the words of St. Ignatius on the Eucharist, a few phrases, over and over: "Love crucified...flesh of God."

After Communion, I returned and knelt, those words becoming a prayer. "Love crucified...flesh of God." I knew Jesus was with me. I knew I knelt before Him, guilty, bleeding myself, and wearing His blood on my very hands. Love crucified...for me.

And softly, that little interior voice whispered so softly, "Do you believe again?"

Oh, yes, Jesus. I believe...

We can never understand the depths of God's love for us, especially if we are unable to behold our own guilt. Today, Jesus answered my prayer, and in doing so, is reaching out His hand to invite me to go deeper, to walk with be crucified with Him so that I, too, can be resurrected and reborn. Because He died for love of me, of all of us, so that we can be joined with Him for eternity.

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Jesus, I trust in thee.


Anonymous said...



Anna B. said...

O my all-merciful God and Lord,
Jesus Christ, full of pity:
Through Your great love You came down and became incarnate in order to save everyone.
O Savior, I ask You to save me by Your grace!If You save anyone because of their works,that would not be grace but only reward of duty,but You are compassionate and full of mercy! You said, O my Christ,"Whoever believes in Me shall live and never die."
If then, faith in You saves the lost, then save me,O my God and Creator, for I believe. Let faith and not my unworthy works be counted to me, O my God,for You will find no works which could account me righteous.
O Lord, from now on let me love You as intensely as I have loved sin,and work for You as hard as I once worked for the evil one.
I promise that I will work to do Your will,my Lord and God, Jesus Christ, all the days of my life and forever more.
Prayer of St. John Chrysostom

Anonymous said...


Again, beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Adoro, I know exactly what you mean.
I think the 'crisis of faith' is based on feeling unworthy of such a great sacrifice that Our Lord underwent for us. And after that, the great responsibility we have to give ourselves in return and be worthy of such a sacrifice. In short, self doubt.
The answer, as we know is that Our Lord would not have undergone such torture if we were not 'worth it'. Clearly we are, and the chance of eternal life for us was one of the most important reasons for this, Our Lord wanted us to have the opportunity to live with Him in Heaven for ever.

This never ceases to amaze me, and I have to work hard to remember this not only during Lent, but also throughout the year.

May we all follow Our Lady to Calvary and watch with her as Jesus our Beloved gives everything He has for us, His Children.


adoro said...

Alice ~ That's a beautiful reflection, and I think what you say is the case for some people. I'll admit that at times I have felt so unworthy of His sacrifice,although that wasn't the cause of my crisis on Sunday.

It literally WAS doubt in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Of course I know all the theology around it...I even TAUGHT it just recently! I had no problem understanding Jesus' sacrifice for us and that he did it...for some reason what hit me is that there He really was, present on the altar...and suddenly I didn't believe anymore.

It was weird, but it has happened before and it will happen again. A year ago I was contemplating the Trinity and suddenly I didn't believe in God at all. This happens to me on occasion, and I just have to remember that faith is an assent of the will, not full understanding or warm/fuzzy feelings.

And I truly believe that this crisis of faith of mine in these moments is an attack of the devil as it most often happens when I'm being drawn closer to God through some particular means, maybe, as on Sunday, because of the sudden understanding of my own guilt.

It's hard to explain.

Anonymous said...

Praying for you Adoro!

We all have a speck of St Thomas in us don't you think? Even the Cure of Ars was afflicted by the devil in this way, and we all know that the devil only afflicts those who are striving to be close to Our Lord.