Holy Week for the Unholy

This week is Holy Week: Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter. I always find myself a little out step with the truly holy this week or at least my perception of what qualifies as holiness. I believe in the Creator and the Redeemer, but I just don’t pray enough or sacrifice enough or give enough. I do however have a lot of Catholic guilt if that counts for anything.

Yesterday, Palm Sunday, is a favorite day of mine. I love watching the folks come to church and take their palm branches. There are those among us who hold on to them reverently like some ancient relic; and those who grab them absent-mindedly with a sort-of “oh right, it’s that day” look on their faces; there are the creative ones who braid them in to crosses and what-not; and of course the kids who use them to “sword fight” when bored during Mass. Please understand, I’m not demeaning the ritual. I love all the sights, sounds and smells of Holy Week. I especially like the fact that it makes people (me) pay better attention to what’s going on. This is different – this is not your usual ‘phone-it-in’ Sunday mass. This is Holy Week.

When I am feeling particularly unholy, Holy Week comes along and rescues me from my complacency. Truth be told, I usually find Jesus in the congregation more often than in any Gospel reading or prayer or ritual. I look at the father of the severely disabled child who shows so much compassion and tenderness. I find myself exhausted just watching this family but the father remains steadfast in his love. I look at the mother of three very young children who deals with the screams and tantrums in what seems like an endless merry-go-round of trips to the ‘Gathering Space’ to comfort or discipline one of her tiny delinquents. Her composure is of epic proportions. I look at the elderly man who often occupies one of the last pews. He seems to pray so fervently. I wonder if he is alone (or lonely). I pray that his prayers are being answered. In my own feeble way, I try to extent some holiness to each of them. A smile; a friendly nod; a kind word. And I thank God for their presence.

So, again this Holy Week I will pray that the examples of the truly holy will lift me up and remind me that God invites sinners to the table as well. And I will be transformed from an unholy participant to a grateful recipient.



Learning About God From Children

Recently our (almost) 5 year-old granddaughter Anna was discussing Easter with her Mommy. She was talking about Jesus dying on the cross and rising from the dead. She knows that we live forever in heaven even though our bodies remain on earth after death. She wants to know if Grannie is an old lady in heaven or has a ‘zero baby’ body. Also she’s super excited that Sophie (our aged Maltese) might someday be a fuzzy puppy in heaven and that we’ll all be with her and Grannie someday. But “not for like a hundred years”.the-story-of-easter

Pretty profound stuff.

Anna’s conversation with our daughter reminded me of a time years ago when our younger son Blake was 4 or 5 years old and was attending ‘Pre-school Sunday School’. He was learning about Jesus and Easter and Salvation. And of course as anyone with a preschooler knows, there were lots of questions:

Why did Jesus have to die? He died to forgive our sins.

Is God Jesus’ Daddy? Yes.

Why didn’t his Daddy save him? Because God knew that Jesus needed to die to so we could live in heaven forever.

I’d rather live here than in heaven. You would save me, wouldn’t you? Yes.

Do you have to believe in Jesus to go to heaven? I’m pretty sure that you do.

What about Greg (his older brother’s Jewish best friend)? Well I’m not sure. Ummm, can we talk about what the Easter Bunny will bring you?

A few days later he woke me up in the middle of the night. “Blake why are you awake?” “I’ve been worrying about Greg, but just I figured it out!” “What’s that Buddy?” If God made Greg Jewish then that’s what he should be – God wouldn’t be wrong!” “So Greg can come to heaven, too.” “Oh, okay Pal, can we go back to sleep now?” “Sure!”

Blake fell fast asleep that night. I on the other hand laid awake for hours amazed at his insight. Great scholars and theologians couldn’t have spoken more eloquently.

And then I just stopped pretending to have all the answers. In fact, I realized back then (and still know today) that I had few of the answers.

What I do have is faith. Faith in the unknown; the unseen; the unproven. I’ve been blessed to have glimpsed heaven a few times through the eyes of a child.

As we enter Holy Week may you stop looking for answers and rest assured that God already has them all.