Saturday, April 13, 2019

Answer me.


My people, what have I done to you?
Or in what have I grieved you?
Answer me.
(Refrain for the Reproaches, Solemn Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday)
Way back at the beginning of Lent, I lurched into action to lead the first parish celebration of the Stations of the Cross. The first one is always a bit clunky and uneven, since I am out of practice, and so is everyone present.  In that regard, this year was no different.
However, as I began speaking the prayers that direct our minds to the Passion of the Lord, and the steps along His way, this year was different.  Part of it was the crowd; it was large, the size we normally have toward the end of Lent once everybody is in the habit.  But part of it was how the prayers and Scripture passages that crossed my lips made sense.  The words could have been my words, could have been the words of the whole local church.  
My people, what have I done to you?
Or in what have I grieved you?
Answer me.
As a priest, I often give voice to the words of Christ, and in so doing speak not for myself, but for Him.  To accompany Him that Friday evening on His suffering way and give my voice to His words reminded me that He asks for, in fact takes for his own, more than just my voice, but my flesh and my whole self.  This is a daily experience for me, but in that first Way of the Cross it touched me in my inmost being.
As the whole congregation at Stations would drop down on one knee and then stand again, as we moved through the Christ’s falling for the first, the second, and the third time, then stayed down as He died on the Cross, it was manifest that I am not alone in having my voice and my flesh inhabited by the Suffering Servant.  He takes flesh in His body, the Church, and corporately we endure with Him the suffering that we ourselves have brought about.
The church has suffered grievously in these days, our local church of Washington in a particular and intense way.  It has been hard to find the Lord in such shame and scheming as we have been forced to endure.  Some have concluded that He is not here, and walked away.
However, because we did not walk away, and because we participate in these devotions and liturgies where we personally and physically put ourselves next to Christ in His Passion, we have the opportunity to recognize how more than we ever take on His suffering, Our Lord has taken on our suffering.
Stations of the Cross never made so much sense to me as it did that first Friday of this Lent, after all the grief inflicted over the past ten months upon us who love the Lord and His Church.  Since we entered the Passiontide last week and veiled the crosses and images, and Jesus has moved about secretly because of all who are trying to kill him, I have known how close He is to us.  
This week, as we lend our voices not to Him, but to those who shout Crucify him, we can find in our own hope for mercy and forgiveness, the ground for the hope of the Church.  Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do, says the Lord.  Never before have we so needed to hear those words, and so needed to lend them our voices.
Monsignor Smith

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