Saturday, March 19, 2016

How did we get here?

We praise you, O Christ, and we bless you,
for by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world!
We have recited together this acclamation during our communal celebration of the Way of the Cross this Lent.  Now we have reached the day that we stand together at the foot of Christ’s cross, and see the fullness of the Father’s love for us. 
It is easy to wonder where God is when something bad, or awkward, or confusing happens to us, to someone we love, or to someone harmless and helpless.  We assume He must be absent or inattentive to allow such an injustice to occur!  But today we are reminded where He is at such a time, when we look at His Son, dying a death He freely accepted for our sakes.  He is right there with us, precisely in our pain.
We praise you, O Christ, and we bless you,
for by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world!
We begin by waving palms, shouting Hosanna!; but soon we are shouting “Crucify him!  And thus on one episode we act out in the church the story of our entire lives.  At one moment we praise our Lord, shouting our heartfelt adoration and devotion.  Minutes later, we turn our backs on Him, push Him away from us, and grab at something that we fear He would take from us.  This is sin.  We sin against Him; we sin against one another.  We scream ”Crucify him” without even realizing what we are saying, or to whom. 
Let us be frank with ourselves about both.  Yes, we greet the Lord and claim him as our Savior; yes, we frequently, repeatedly, inexplicably participate in crucifying Him by our various selfish deeds.  And no, there is no way these two opposites can “balance out” in our favor.  We need a remedy, help from outside of ourselves.  We need saving.
First, we must to acknowledge to ourselves that we have indeed sinned.  The second step is to bring that acknowledgement to Jesus, and speak our sorrow in the Holy Sacrament He has provided for us.  Thus we know that He knows of both our awareness of our sin, and our sorrow for it.  And then He will make us aware, with confidence, that He gives us His forgiveness.  This admits us to the third step, the same as what occurs on the third day: resurrection.  But we cannot reach that goal without taking the first two steps.
We praise you, O Christ, and we bless you,
for by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world!
If we were uncertain of the outcome, if we were uncertain of Christ’s purpose in drawing from us this admission of guilt, how could we ever face it?  But it is precisely our confidence in the Resurrection that makes it possible for us to face our sins, to admit that they are ours, and that they have done damage to our relationship with God and with others who love us, and even to our own identities.   Our anticipation of Easter makes it possible for us to acknowledge and embrace our role on Palm Sunday, and our anticipation of mercy makes it possible for us to acknowledge our sins.
So let us stand shoulder to shoulder, and admit here, together, that our sins have contributed to the gruesome spectacle of the death of the Son of God.  And then, again together, may we receive from this same Lord Jesus, who yearns to free us from our sins, a deep intimacy with Him in this Holy Week, and in its culmination on the Day of His Resurrection, great joy.

Monsignor Smith

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