Move Toward a Changed Self — By Fr. Rich, O.P.

FrRichWebWell, we’ve arrived; Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion. And that pretty much says it all. The liturgy opens with the triumphant enter of Jesus into Jerusalem; then Mark’s Gospel. Opening with an account of Jesus’ anointing by the woman with oil, “anointing my body for burial”; it builds inexorably through the meal in the upper room, his sharing of his Body and Blood; a final gift to his friends. Then we move to the Garden, Jesus’ “soul sorrowful even to death”; submitting his will to that of his father. Then comes Judas’ betrayal and all that follows: the abuse, the beating, Peter’s denial. I wonder what hurt the most. We are on the journey to Golgotha “Place of the Skull”; so different from the triumph days earlier. Then the nails, the derision, the darkness, the startling, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” then, “Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.” The sacrifice of the Lamb to seal the Covenant is complete!! Those who loved him cared one more time for Him; “wrapped him the linen cloth and laid him in the tomb …”

What a journey! We’ve experienced today the widest range of emotions, thoughts and prayers possible, it seems. And yet, it is only the beginning of the one of the holiest periods in the liturgical calendar. We will re-visit the upper room, more fully experience the gift that Jesus offers those he loved, “What I am doing, you do not understand now …”; once more Jesus ministers to his friends as he bathes their feet.

The darkness and grief as we experience the Passion and Death through John’s Gospel; as we mourn at the foot of the Cross and, having “laid Jesus … for the tomb was close by”, we depart.

Then, there is this time of almost holding our breath. Didn’t He say, “Destroy this temple and in three days, I will re-build it”? Wasn’t there something about dying and then rising again? What was that he said before Lazarus was raised from the dead? “I am the Resurrection and the Life!”

As we wait, breath held, this is a perfect time to look back over our Lent. As a community, we asked, “What are you giving for Lent?” Now would be a good time to examine our experience. Now would be a good time to honestly ask if we are different now than before we began this journey. The classic themes of prayer, fasting, almsgiving were before us always. How did we respond to the challenge? Were we intentional in our efforts to attain the goals that we had set; positive in our approach? Were we consistently able to set time aside for prayer and fasting? If we are satisfied with our examination, then I would offer that our Lenten journey has prepared us for what is to come.

In a larger sense, we have been moving toward a changed self, one who is more open to the presence of God in our lives. Hopefully, we’ve opened ourselves to an awareness of opportunities for ministry and responded to them. If we have been successful in our journey, our prayer life has deepened, become enlivened and satisfying.

We ran the risk of experiencing a Lent that truly challenged us to prepare ourselves for the Son rise of Easter. We ran the risk of giving up old habits or routines that interfered with the grace that Jesus died to surround us with. We ran the risk of beginning to live as a Child of God grounded in the Gospel message of love. We ran the risk of living more fully for Jesus, our brother and redeemer. The questions are: Were we challenged? Are we changed?