Tag Archives: Holy Week

Gut Wrenched and a Heart Torn Open

 This Holy Week I was reminded of my days working on my Masters in Theology.  In particular, I recalled our final paper in Christology.  We were to answer the question Christ posed to Peter:  “Who do YOU (my emphasis) say that I am?”  It was an exercise not as easy as I thought it would be.

However, it’s perhaps an exercise that all Christians should do every so often to inentory their faith.

Manning: A genuine Ragamuffin. His recent book and autobiography, "All Is Grace."

During my conversion to Catholicism as a young adult (25 years old), there was a particular author whose writings influenced my own understanding and relationship with The Son of Man.  Brennan Manning’s “Ragamuffin Gospel” gave me a deeper understanding of grace and that all my “narcissistic pursuits of spiritual perfection” could not win me the favor of God:  It had already been given to me through His Son.  Regardless of our pasts — and Manning had quite the past — redemption is available.

Powerful.  As the old hymn goes, “saved a wretch like me.”  Yes, a wretch.  A spiritual “ragamuffin.”  Love and favor has  already been given to me.

As we enter this Easter season — a celebration of the promise of resurrection for all of us — I am mindful of the suffering and sacrifice that led the way to the resurrection.  If, as Christians, we’re unable to know the meaning and purpose of His Passion, we’re missing something as we go through our own struggles:  He not only knows our struggles and pain; He lived it.  And the fact that He did it for the world should leave us in awe.

Life is tough.  And often “life” can get in the way of “living.”  My prayer this Easter is for all who feel abandoned, know you’re not.  For all who feel unworthy, well guess what:  All of us are “unworthy” of God’s favor.  But it does not matter.  Favor was earned for us on the cross.

Who do you say that He is?

I’ve never heard it quite explained like this, but it’s a description that could only perhaps be told by a “Ragamuffin.”   That person is Brennan Manning and I would encourage all to consider the suffering and resurrected Christ in this light:

May you and yours have a Blessed Easter by experiencing His love and resurrection.

Peace,

JC

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He’s Big Enough To Handle It… .

Perhaps the most spiritually stirring time of the liturgical year for me is Holy Week. While Easter Sunday is the ultimate celebration of our faith — Christ’s victory over sin and death — Good Friday shakes my soul like no other day.

Recovering from knee surgery earlier in the week, I hobbled my way to one of the benches in the back and rested my crutches against the wall. Standing for the reading of the Passion was…well, not easy. But seriously, am I going to complain? We’re reading about the Son of God who has just been condemned in what would be a mockery of judicial due process by today’s standards. He then proceeds to suffer an unbearably gruesome persecution and death. For me I’m grateful that my knee is the size of a large grapefruit and I can barely stand.

The time comes for the veneration of the cross. For those who wish, you could approach the cross to touch it, kneel before it, even kiss it if you so desire. As I work my way in line, the haunting hymn “Were You There?” surrounds the entire sanctuary. And it is true: “Sometimes, it causes me to tremble…tremble…tremble….” It’s not my bad knee, nor is it my crutches. It’s my trembling heart and soul and they are coming to grips with the fact that of all my sin and shame, this Man, has laid down His life for me.

I cry. Like a child. It hurts….But I am also liberated because I have gone beyond the basic, intellectual understanding that Christ died for my sins: I can feel it. I feel it just as much as I feel and smell the cedar of the cross that I have just kissed.

The distractions of regular life are gone from me. I’m not thinking about work that needs to be done or the taxes that have to be filed. I sure as heck am not thinking about those darn crutches. Even among the 800+ parishioners in the church, this is my moment alone with Christ.

As a convert to Catholicism, I’ve never really had an issue of taking for granted the real presence of the Blessed Sacrament; it’s the reason I sought the Church. And yet, I would receive the Eucharist later in the service and I was once again overcome with the power of God’s love for me by way of His son.

Powerful. Exhausting. Liberating. Filled with love. This was my Good Friday.

As the service concluded, parishioners made their way out of the sanctuary. It didn’t bother me much that no one was making way to give me a turn to leave. I was on my crutches and figured I’d just hold people up. It was ok; I was savoring the moment.

Just then a colleague whom I had not seen in months approached me. He greeted me kindly and softly asked what had happened. I responded that I just had knee surgery. At that moment one gentlemen “shushed” us giving us a very stern look. He then raised his arm as if to signal for us to keep our mouths shut. He held his arm for some time as he walked away.

Admittedly, I became angry at this man. I think I knew what he was trying to do: preserve the solemnity of the moment. It felt as though I was being scolded for desecrating the sacred space. As someone who has always taken measures to be reverential in the sanctuary — especially when the Blessed Sacrament is present — I felt wrongly accused.

And then I thought more about it.

Instead of ruining my own experience and giving this one person’s reaction power over me, I had to let it go. And I was reminded: Christ is big enough. He can handle it.

That night, we commemorated His persecution, His suffering and His death. In two days, we will have celebrated His resurrection.

I do not wish to be flip, but I’m guessing Jesus probably does not care that I responded to my friend’s inquiry inside the sanctuary. If anything, He might be pleased that someone cared enough to quietly ask. As for the person who admonished us, I’m guessing Jesus was thinking “Hey, thanks for looking out for me. But it’s o.k. I’m big enough. I can handle it.”

May the God, who is big enough, live in you always. Have a blessed, love-filled Easter.

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