Holy Week tends to be overwhelming. It is accepted and known by faithful Catholics that all of the dysfunction and evil in the world likes to still come out in full display during Holy Week, even 2000 years after the Crucifixion of Our Lord. Last week was no exception from mass slaughter of Christians in Kenya to the rushing torrent of rage, hate, and anger that attempted to swallow up a small town pizza shop. Christians were under attack, as it has always been. It just seems that the attacks become cacophonous around Holy week.
All of the news and the horrible words used to describe us can be frustrating and discouraging, but we must remember that this is precisely what happened to Christ. Those Kenyan students died a death just like their Lord’s and that pizza shop endured the taunts and destruction that Christ endured during his Passion. So it goes for us Christians. This is precisely what we agreed to when we underwent the waters of Baptism and died with Christ to rise to new life. We accepted that we are no longer our own, but His. We accepted whatever Cross will come our way before the glorious Resurrection of our own bodies. The Good News is that the Resurrection does come after the Cross.
As a Catholic who rests in the Church’s fullness of truth, I find it painful to watch the heresies of our day. I know, isn’t that an archaic term in our relativistic society? No. There is truth and there is fallacy in the form of half-truths. The real truth is that Christ came to redeem us, he called us to new life and an abandonment of sin. He called us to holiness. He called us to the Cross. He called us there precisely because it is how we reach the Resurrection. There is no other way. He also called us to the Church, His Church, which is precisely why we are a missionary people. Our faith is not internal and private, our faith is about showing the world what it means to be fully human and to rest in the Divine Love found in the Blessed Trinity.
This is precisely why we must find a way to recapture our own narrative. Non-Christians, or people in error, are telling our story and we are letting them. We are allowing our culture to spew lies, vitriol, and hate about us. We are allowing people to water down authentic love both inside and outside of the Church. Mercy and truth both are required aspects of love. It is not merciful to ignore sin. It is not merciful in myself and it is not merciful in others. It is also not merciful to participate in sin whether cooperating or enabling. That doesn’t mean we shout at others about their sins, but it does mean we show them the way.
I made some serious sins in my Twenties. I lived in a state of mortal sin for a few years and I convinced myself that it didn’t matter. I could still be Catholic and use contraception, cohabitate, and receive Holy Communion. THIS is the greatest regret of my life. I have been to Confession at least 100 times since then and I know that I am forgiven, but I still know what I did was wrong. Thankfully, God’s authentic mercy brought me a conversion of heart and I was able to return to sanctifying grace. This is the Christian message. It is not to keep doing what you want. It is that someONE greater than ourselves is calling us to Himself. Joy comes from abandonment. Joy comes from a relinquishing of sin.
Now, that does not mean that we will never sin. The path to holiness is arduous and filled with temptation. We will most assuredly fall, but in those falls Christ picks us back up and keeps us on the path. Our eschatological end is Heaven, not something of this world. Our eyes must be fixed on Heaven. This reality is ever present in these 50 days of Easter as Our Lord reveals the Resurrection to each one of us.
Catholics are a sacramental people. Christ gave us the Church and the sacraments because he wanted to reach us bodily and spiritually. He nourishes us with himself, body, blood, soul, and divinity each time we receive the Holy Eucharist. He heals our sins when we reach out to Him in the Sacrament of Penance. He calls us to Confession so that we do not deceive ourselves, but look at our sins in His light, not our own. He strengthens our weaknesses in the Sacrament of Anointing. The Incarnation makes our faith a bodily and spiritual reality because Christ was the God-man. He came to reach us in the flesh and he heals and strengthens us in our humanity which is the uniting of body and soul. This is another joyful reality to share with the world. The Sacraments are not a right. We are not entitled to them, they are a gift to restore and give grace, but we must be open in love, real love. We must invite the world to the Eucharistic celebration, so that all may find rest.
How do we share our narrative with the world? By living it and never compromising the truth. The truth is Christ crucified and raised from the dead. The truth is the call to follow him up to Calvary in order to enter into the great mysteries of God. The truth is that we are called to be more fully human and that means an abandonment of sin. Yes, overcoming sin is difficult, but we do not do it alone. Christ walks with us and nourishes us at the Eucharistic table. He heals our sins and pushes us along the journey. He stands beside us as people hurl hate, anger, and threats at us. He is there when people choose evil and take our lives through violence. We recapture the narrative by living the Gospel. Not the made-up Gospel of our culture that takes ignorant pieces from Scripture. We live the Gospel as it has been proclaimed by the Catholic Church for 2000 years. We trust in the Holy Spirit who is the life of the Church. We live the paradoxes and unite suffering with joy.We live Holy Week every single day. We proclaim the Good News of Easter.
Yes, the storm is here, but it has always been here. The Church has been hated, attacked, and “doomed” in every age, and yet, she is still here. She will continue to be here long after the current “powers and principalities” have died out and withered into the history books. We know who wins. The path comes with pain, sacrifice, and even the risk of martyrdom, but we know that God wins. So let us walk out into the world in joy and faith as we endure what Our Lord has called us to. Let’s bring the world to Christ. A very blessed Easter to you all!