Who am I in the Story?
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD'S PASSION
ST PETER'S SQUARE
13 APRIL 2014
This week begins with the festive procession with olive branches: the entire populace welcomes Jesus. The children and young people sing, praising Jesus. But this week continues in the mystery of Jesus’ death and his resurrection. We have just listened to the Passion of our Lord. We might well ask ourselves just one question: Who am I? Who am I, before my Lord? Who am I, before Jesus who enters Jerusalem amid the enthusiasm of the crowd? Am I ready to express my joy, to praise him? Or do I stand back? Who am I, before the suffering Jesus?
We have just heard many, many names. The group of leaders, some priests, the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, who had decided to kill Jesus. They were waiting for the chance to arrest him. Am I like one of them?
We have also heard another name: Judas. Thirty pieces of silver. Am I like Judas? We have heard other names too: the disciples who understand nothing, who fell asleep while the Lord was suffering. Has my life fallen asleep? Or am I like the disciples, who did not realize what it was to betray Jesus? Or like that other disciple, who wanted to settle everything with a sword? Am I like them? Am I like Judas, who feigns loved and then kisses the Master in order to hand him over, to betray him? Am I a traitor? Am I like those people in power who hastily summon a tribunal and seek false witnesses: am I like them? And when I do these things, if I do them, do I think that in this way I am saving the people?
Am I like Pilate? When I see that the situation is difficult, do I wash my hands and dodge my responsibility, allowing people to be condemned – or condemning them myself?
Am I like that crowd which was not sure whether they were at a religious meeting, a trial or a circus, and then chose Barabbas? For them it was all the same: it was more entertaining to humiliate Jesus.
Am I like the soldiers who strike the Lord, spit on him, insult him, who find entertainment in humiliating him?
Am I like the Cyrenean, who was returning from work, weary, yet was good enough to help the Lord carry his cross?
Am I like those who walked by the cross and mocked Jesus: "He was so courageous! Let him come down from the cross and then we will believe in him!" Mocking Jesus….
Am I like those fearless women, and like the mother of Jesus, who were there, and who suffered in silence?
Am I like Joseph, the hidden disciple, who lovingly carries the body of Jesus to give it burial?
Am I like the two Marys, who remained at the Tomb, weeping and praying?
Am I like those leaders who went the next day to Pilate and said, "Look, this man said that he was going to rise again. We cannot let another fraud take place!", and who block life, who block the tomb, in order to maintain doctrine, lest life come forth?
Where is my heart? Which of these persons am I like? May this question remain with us throughout the entire week.
This week, Holy Week, more than any other week in our liturgical year I ponder the question - Who am I like in the story?
For at different times I am like Judas,
at times I am like Peter...
I am like the guards who mock him..
I am the like the women who mourn him...
You Want Me to do What?
As promised in my last post, "God is a User" I want to share with you the rest of the story.
RCIA (the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults for anyone not familiar with the acronym) was an eye-opening experience for me. Because I had little or no background in Christianity, much of what I learned was difficult for me to comprehend. There still were many practical things I needed to learn to fully live out this Christian calling.
Almost all of my past sense of spirituality and religious formation were based on my understanding of the "New Age Movement." I found it difficult at times to accept all that the Catholic Church taught. I had lots of questions. I had lots of doubts. There were times I would walk away from a class feeling 100% certain this was what God wanted for me. There were times when I would walk away and wonder what I had gotten myself into. It was at those times I would try to rationalize and adapt what I was being told to fit into something that I could accept. A bad habit that I would have to break, but that story is for another day.
Part of the journey for each person in RCIA are the rituals and periods of discernment. These moments are when the person in RCIA makes the decision to move forward on the journey. Amazingly, at each step of discernment I felt the call to move forward.
The culmination of the RCIA process is the experience of Holy Week and then to become a fully initiated Catholic on Easter Vigil. I had never attended a Mass during Holy Week before. I had no idea what to expect.
I watched with great reverence as Holy Thursday Mass took place and the feet of a great many parishioners were washed. It was a beautiful and moving Mass, and I was happy to be just a spectator at that point.
Ah, But Good Friday was another story. It was explained that we would be offered an opportunity to venerate the cross. Thus the conversation with someone from RCIA that went something like this:
"Well how do people do that?" I asked
They answered "Some people genuflect or bow at the cross, some people kiss the cross."
My doubts started to kick in. I thought to myself. Kiss the cross?...um... I don't think so! That seems just plain weird. What other weird things do Catholics do that I don't know about? What am I getting myself into?
So I asked the RCIA person, "Do we have to do kiss the cross?
They answered "No you don't have to, but...." and they proceeded to elaborate on why we venerate the cross and why I would want to do this as well.
All I really heard was, I don't have to kiss it if I don't want. I could handle that.
I went to the Good Friday service and I sat alone toward the back.
The cross was brought forth in the ritual manner that is reserved for Good Friday. It was placed in front of the altar and the people in the rows in front of me began to go forward to adore and to venerate the cross.
I watched intently as everyone in the entire first row genuflected and kissed the cross.
Then the next row did the same.
And then the next...
I began to panic for some reason. My thoughts raced. That's it. No way. I can't do this. Maybe I'm not meant to be Catholic. I thought back to the Mass I went to as I child, when I was asked to bring up the gifts. Maybe I am just a fake. Someone else please just bow or something, Or better yet, someone else stay in your seat, then I won't feel like the odd person out if I stay in my seat.
It was almost time for my row to go, and so far every single person in that church had kissed the cross. And, you guessed it, not a single person stayed behind in their seat.
It was my row's turn. My need to blend in and not stand out were very strong. So, I got up with the rest of the people in my row. I approached the cross. As I walked forward inching ever nearer, I told myself "I will just bow or something I guess, because I am not going to kiss it."
And then It was my turn. I was at the foot of the cross. I knelt down. And then something else took control over me and I did what I said I wasn't going to do. I kissed the cross.
I felt nothing. I turned and went back to my seat. I sat down and I started to tremble. And then I started to cry. I don't mean that I just teared up. I mean I started to sob. I did not care at that point if anyone saw me. Because in that moment, in that most extraordinary moment, the spirit of God come upon me to let me know that everything was as it should be. That I was doing the right thing. I belonged there.
The next day at the Easter Vigil, with my husband, mother and father in attendance (my parents drove 100 miles to be there) I was received into the church. I felt like I was floating on a cloud the entire night.
My sponsor would tell me later that I looked so peaceful. and that I just seemed to glow.
You know what? I think I probably did.
by Cyndi Marlow
'For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. -Jeremiah 29: 11-13
God is a User!
It is amazing the way that God uses the ordinary things and people in our lives to reach out to us.
I grew up in an unchurched home. My mother was raised Catholic but did not attend Church due to a prior marriage and not being able to partake of the Eucharist. My father had no religious affiliation. .
I am the oldest of four children. Our only exposure to church was through our grandmother who was a devout and practicing Catholic. She made sure that all of us siblings were at least baptized Catholic. And she would on the rare occasion take us to Mass.
When I was 9 or 10 years old, I have a very distinct memory of attending Mass one time with my grandmother and my cousin. My cousin was a practicing Catholic. I watched as she knelt and prayed. Like most kids. I wanted to fit in, so I did what she did (at least what she was doing physically). It was while we were both kneeling that someone came up and asked us to bring forward the gifts at the preparation of gifts.
Being just a kid, I wanted to do it because my cousin was doing it. So, I said yes. My grandmother was so surprised when she witnessed the event. Afterward, it was all she could talk about, she was so proud. What I remember most about the experience was being petrified that I was going to be “exposed” as a fake.
I grew into adulthood mostly an unchurched soul. I fell in love and I married. My (late) husband was Baptist by upbringing, but he did not attend church or practice his faith as an adult. No religious affiliation and no regular church attendance were solidified as the status quo for my life. Over the years, I would attend a church service on occasion when my well-meaning friends, worried about my soul, would invite me to their church. One time I even made a truly heartfelt altar call. But the moment was short-lived
During most of my young adult life I considered myself a spiritual person, but not a religiously affiliated person. I had a deep fascination with reincarnation and the entire New Age Movement. I even attended a few workshops and retreats on metaphysics. I took classes when I could find something relevant. It was during an adult education class on “Meditation” offered by our local school district that I took the first steps on my journey toward conversion.
I don't remember all of the details about the actual class. I just remember that once a week for four weeks we studied different types of meditation techniques. Our homework was to spend time meditating using one of the techniques. I did my homework just as I was told.
I wasn't prepared for what was going to happen next.
While doing a visualization technique, I entered into a very deep state of relaxation and awareness. In my visualization I was in a dark cave, lying in a pool of water that left my face exposed above the water. Every aspect of my surroundings seemed alive and surreal. Then it happened. A voice spoke. I knew it was God. Some things you just know. I could not see Him, but I felt Him. He spoke loud, very loud. He said, “my child you need to go to church.” I was taken aback but I had enough wits about me to ask “What Church?” He only repeated what he said before. I came out of the experience shaken from the sheer force of His presence.
Needless to say, I dropped all the New Age garbage. I spent quite a bit of time looking for a church home. But none of the ones I found on my own ever felt like they were right. I begged for God to show me. I begged for Him to talk to me again and tell me “Which church?” I looked in the Bible trying to find clues. Every church said they were the right one. Yet, when I would be at one they would bad-mouth the other. Somehow it always felt wrong.
Life continued on as normal. Then one day a co-worker said to me out of the blue, “My church is getting ready to start RCIA, would you like to go and find out about it?” Astonishingly, I heard myself answer “yes.” At RCIA, it finally felt right! That co-worker eventually became my Sponsor and we attended the same Church for a number of years. Some years later we would both reminisce on how astounding it was that the entire conversation actually took place, for it truly was the Holy Spirit at work.
I can't say the rest is history. If you have read any of my other posts you know I am the first one to admit to being a stubborn person. I didn't step into this journey of new found faith without putting up a fight. There is more to my story of conversion. You will have to come back for part two.
For this part of the story, I am thankful that God used my fascination with the metaphysics to reach out to me one night and to connect with the very depths of my soul. I am eternally grateful He used my co-worker to guide me toward the Catholic Church.
God is a serious user of persons and things!
I for one, am glad He is.
by Cyndi Marlow
How has God used others to reach you?
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. ~ 2 Corinthians 2:14
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