A Voice in the Crowd

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Every Palm Sunday I struggle. As members of the parish in the pews, we are asked to participate in the Gospel, reading aloud the role of "the crowd." We have lines like: "Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us." And "Crucify him! Crucify him!" The crowd persists in their call for Jesus' death, and sadly, their voices prevail.

It's hard for me to recite these words during Mass. I understand that I'm playing a part. I know that I'm simply participating in a dramatic interpretation of the events. But it's still hard. Sometimes I simply sit and listen to others read the lines. While the reading of the lines has made me a bit uncomfortable, this experience has actually made me think. What would I say if I was actually a member of the real crowd, the one in Luke's Gospel? Would I join in and cry "Crucify him? Crucify him!" Would I stand silently by and simply listen?

Or would I have the courage to speak up and say, "I believe him. I think he truly is the Son of God."

Crowd mentality is real and it's challenging. It's easy to simply blend into the group and be swept along with the emotion at hand. We experience it today, some 2000 years later.

So that's my challenge this Holy Week. If I'm a believer, a true disciple, am I willing to stand out above the crowd and speak my truth? Am I willing to fight for my faith? Even at a consequence? If I'm not willing to speak the negative words at Mass, am I ready to say the positive words in my daily life?


Posted by Dan Herda

It's Never Too Late

What causes radical changes in our heart from day to day or week to week?  I can have days where I heavily invest in my relationship with God, and the next, push God aside and fail to spend personal time with Him in prayer.

A Jesuit at Marquette once told me that if Satan cannot tempt you into sin, he will keep you busy. Busy with work, busy with school, busy with extra-curricular activities. We run around all day until we collapse of exhaustion at night, only to repeat the next day.

That is the gift of Lent, to slow down and focus on what truly matters: God. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are meant to help us focus on our love for Christ over everything else that could control our lives. I, like many others, get caught up in the busyness and my good intentions fall to the wayside.

Yet, I am drawn to the second criminal on the cross. His life is done, he does not believe he can be or should be forgiven, yet he decides to put his trust in Jesus. Jesus responds by saying: "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise." It’s never too late. There is nothing you can do to lose God’s love. If you desire God’s love and ask for it, you will receive it.

Focus on The Cross

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During the last days of Lent, it’s a common practice to veil all crosses and sacred images. You may have seen this done before with violet cloths in our church.

Why do we do this? If you think about it, the use of crosses and sacred images is central to our Catholic faith. Jesus, by taking on a physical nature in the Incarnation, and by redeeming that physical nature through His saving Death and Resurrection, has made all physical matter a possible means of encounter with Him. This is why we take wood, stone, metal, and other physical “stuff” and make beautiful crosses and images out of them.

But why cover them these last days of Lent if they’re so central to our faith? Because doing so helps us focus on what has made these crosses and sacred images possible in the first place: Jesus’ saving Death and Resurrection. We focus on The Cross, and less on individual crosses; we focus on The Risen Christ, and less on sacred images of Him. We fast with our physical eyes so we can train our spiritual eyes.

While veiling crosses and images is most often done in churches, you can also do it at home. You may find it a fruitful spiritual practice in these last days of Lent. It’s also an opportunity to get rid of those old purple bed sheets you have lying around!

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