Sunday, March 16, 2008
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 life...my action was directed at Christ HIMSELF. And His answer...to 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 Him...to 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.