Saturday, March 31, 2012

My Defeat, God’s Victory (Palm Sunday)


I won’t ask what you did for Lent. I haven’t asked anyone that since the time one of our young parishioners replied that he’d given up red meat, cold showers, and alcohol—and then innocently asked me what I’d given up.

Actually, I would be willing to tell you about my failed Lenten resolutions, but all I can really remember is forgetting them!

Has your Lent been like that?  Good resolutions at the start, but not much to brag about at the finish?

If your Lent hasn’t been a great spiritual success, I offer two last-minute proposals.

First, I suggest you give up something for Lent. No, not candy or coffee or dessert—it’s a bit late for that. I suggest we give up trying to please God by our own efforts.

Thinking we can prove ourselves to God is one of the great traps of the spiritual life. It always leads to failure, and to the conclusion that we’ll never make it since we’re just too weak and sinful.

The fact is, God has already done the heavy lifting—God has already made it possible for us to please him: not by our efforts, but by the death of His only Son.

That’s why we read the long and painful story of the Passion twice this week. It’s proof that we don’t need to “achieve” our salvation; in fact, we can’t.  Jesus has done it for us.  In His humanity, our humanity suffered.  In His humanity, our humanity accomplished what needed to be done to reconcile sinful humanity to God.

So even if we’ve felt like losers this Lent, we can be victors. The Passion is the first chapter of the greatest victory in all history. Jesus has shared it with us, and all we need to do is place our hope in him rather than in ourselves.

My second proposal is one I make every year: celebrate fully the sacred Triduum—the three days that take us from Lent to Easter.

The Triduum begins with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. We recall the institution of the Eucharist and the priesthood, and Christ’s example of charity as he washed the feet of his apostles.

On Good Friday, of course, we read the Passion for a second time, and enter into it even more fully than we did today, through prayer, fasting, and abstinence. We pray with special fervour for the needs of the whole world and the entire Church.

On Holy Saturday night we celebrate the greatest of all the liturgies in the Church, the Easter Vigil. We mark the Passover from darkness to light, from death to life, and we celebrate the sacraments of Christian initiation. Not surprisingly, when Mass is over we have a party to welcome some ten new members of the Church.

Whether your Lent’s been the best-ever or the worst-ever, do yourself a big spiritual favour and celebrate all three of the Triduum liturgies. God will not disappoint you.

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