I have been blessed with very busy and beautiful times!
Monday of Holy Week, my husband and I met with this year’s RCIA participants to prepare for the Easter Vigil. This was a bittersweet gathering because it marked our last “official” class session together. My husband and I teach this class of those who are interested in exploring the Catholic Faith. Each one brings special gifts to the group and it is difficult to let them go. As the evening progressed, I recalled our first meeting. “We’ve come a long way,” I told myself. Afterward, I could not ignore the warmth which enveloped me. “They’re beautiful, aren’t they, Lord? Each one in his and her own way.”
Tuesday, I returned to church for our Lent Reconciliation Service. I settled in to reflect upon my regret and contrition with God’s other children. There is something powerful and comforting to be found among family. When our priest preached with words spoken and sung, he shared the loneliness he has experienced in the face of his own guilt. I identified well with this as I am certain many did. Though a variety of misdeeds brought us to church that evening, we were one in our contrition and in our peace before the God who promises always to forgive. It was not long before that warmth returned. I echoed my prayer from the night before. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it, Lord –all of us here together?” I was so filled with unexplainable joy that I was compelled to add, “Is this how you feel when you look upon us? Is this how you feel because we really are your family?”
Thursday and Friday evening, we filled our parish church again. On Holy Thursday, we celebrated the Eucharist and our call to service. Twelve from among us approached the sanctuary to have their feet washed. As the ritual unfolded, I imagined Jesus doing the same. Though Judas would betray him, Peter would deny him and the rest would withdraw in fear, Jesus washed their feet. This gesture invited each of them and each of us to care for one another and to serve wherever we are needed. That unmistakable warmth filled me up once again as I acknowledged that, in spite of our transgressions, God holds fast to the possibility that we will also accomplish much good.
On Good Friday evening, I held a crucifix to be venerated during the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion. Parents, children, teens and twenty-somethings, grandparents, singles, the healthy and the infirmed came forward to pay homage. I could not help being drawn to each one who kissed, touched or bowed before the image of the dying Jesus in my hands. Each one, regardless of the years and life experiences endured, radiated a beauty which I cannot explain. It was as though Jesus stood in my place, ignoring his own pain, to acknowledge his love for those who entered into this moment with him. I fought to hold back my tears as I realized that I had been given a glimpse of God’s love for us in a most tangible way. It occurred to me later that the warmth which filled me up this week was indeed God’s love at work among us.
Holy Saturday is extremely busy for everyone involved with Holy Week liturgies. After a full day of preparations, we returned to church to celebrate the Easter Vigil. We began in darkness which was dispelled by the new Easter fire. Before blessing the water for baptism, we sang the Litany of the Saints. The melody filled the church as our petitions to the saints filled my heart. Our amazing family includes we who are here as well as those who are already at home with God! The warmth I had felt throughout this Holy Week returned. Once again, I had received a glimpse of God’s unconditional love. Easter Sunday, after braving the crowded parking lot at church, our family gathered at our home to celebrate. When we sat together for our Easter meal, I whispered a prayer of thanksgiving. Like God’s other children, my family and I are loved, in spite of the times when we choose to turn away from one another or from God.
The morning after Easter, as I prepared for this writing, I pondered poor Thomas. The apostle did not rely upon an elusive sense of warmth to experience God’s love. Jesus blessed Thomas firsthand with evidence of that love in the forgiveness and cures he extended to those he met along the way. Jesus blessed Thomas further with his friendship. As I considered Thomas’ doubt, I felt his pain. How many times have we, who should also know better, wondered if God’s love is actually meant for us? Fortunately for Thomas, Jesus returned to the disciples to say, “Peace be with you!” -Thomas included! Fortunately for you and me, the message is the same. Regardless of our guilt or doubt, our uncertainty or fear, our denials or desertions, we are God’s beloved family. Once again, Jesus proclaims, “Peace be with you!” to us all.
©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved