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The Sorrow and Glory of Holy Week

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The interesting thing to ponder about Holy Week is that, in the moment, only Jesus knew what was going to happen. The apostles and disciples did not. They were coming into Jerusalem to observe the Passover as they did every year throughout their whole lives. Nothing different. Same old, same old. The only difference is that they were unsure of where they were going to celebrate it, but Jesus had that covered. The second difference is that they were greeted with a parade, and Jesus was the star! Imagine what that had to have been like. They proceed to go about their business in the city as usual to prepare for the feast during the early days of the week. You would think that they would have noticed how Jesus is on edge, and he isn’t exactly explaining why. His responses are cryptic at best. The Jewish leaders are really poking at him, which is making everyone a bit agitated. To be there in the moment had to be frustrating. I am sure the hope was that once everyone could settle into the Passover festivities, all would be well. The prayers are said. The songs are sung. Then the meal begins, but Jesus starts to do “it” different. He talks about the bread being his body and the wine being his blood. Then he tells Judas to go off and do what he needs to do. He tells Peter that he is going to deny him. It is all so strange. To be there, one couldn’t help but think that something was about to go wrong. In fact, unbeknownst to everyone, everything was about to go right.

The beauty of hindsight. Jesus had led everyone to it so that he could lead them through it. Looking at the events of Holy Week and then at Easter and the Ascension from the perspective of placing yourself “live” in the story, makes it the most sorrowful and yet the most glorious of experiences. This is why I LOVE my faith. Jesus is awesome! To experience the worst of humanity to bring about the best of humanity is more  than my feeble words can relay. God is so good! Thank you God!

Suffering the Sleepless Nights of Motherhood

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Recently, a notification popped up on my phone’s calendar app: A year ago on that day, my youngest child slept 6.25 hours. High five! 

She would have been just two weeks old at that point, and that would be the best that any of my children have ever slept in the first year of their lives. Looking back, it seems her awesome sleep performance peaked that day. In fact, between molars and learning a bunch of new skills at once, from walking to talking to making the most adorable kissy noises, my littlest one hasn’t sleep in, ohhhh, six weeks, give or take.

Growing up, my mother advised me never to think too much about anything while you’re tired. Sage advice. Except what do you do when there’s no sleep in sight? No one really prepared me for that, and the suffering that I’ve felt by being chronically tired has been both immense and intense.

Suffering is a topic that has driven many a person away from God. They wonder how an all-loving God could allow the big awful things to happen, the sudden deaths, the horrible medical diagnoses, the car accidents. But suffering pervades our earthly lives in tiny ways, too. In fact, it’s mostly in these ways that we experience suffering - the irritating comment made by a family member, the engine refusing to turn over when you’re already late to an appointment, the excruciatingly slow pace children suddenly take on whenever it’s time to leave to go anywhere, a debilitating lack of sleep. 

It becomes crucial, then, to understand why God allows suffering, or at least to understand as much as we can and trust in the mystery of it, and then, of course, to let God in to help.

To say it briefly, we can’t know why God lets this suffering happen or this amount of pain to exist. That belongs to His grand beautiful exquisite and extraordinarily complex plan. But we can trust that God is a loving, merciful Father who allows some amount of suffering so long as an even greater good can come of it. We can picture it easily if we envision a parent taking a child to the doctor for an inoculation. Yes the child will suffer, but the parent knows, while the child can’t quite understand, that in allowing the pain of the needle’s prick and the next day’s sore muscle, greater suffering is avoided and the child will be more likely to enjoy better health. Apply this to Almighty God and we can begin to accept why we are allowed to feel the pain that we do.

And pain we certainly will feel. On both the macro and micro level, we and the world at large are broken and sinful. An unfortunate and continuing side effect of this reality is suffering. Mothers know this acutely, interiorly and in the suffering we feel by proxy with the sensitivities we naturally assume towards our children and our spouse.

One of the greater goods that can come from allowing pain in our lives is an increase in creaturely dependence, that is, the dependence we develop, creature-to-creature, as well as creature-to-God. 

During these sleepless weeks, I’ve had to rely more on friends and family to help. A friend has babysat for me so I could run errands without so many extra people to shuffle in and out of stores. I’ve said yes to the imperfectly completed chores that my husband has offered to do. It has been good for me to rely on them, and it has been good for them to be allowed to help me. It fosters better community, better relationships, better understanding of charity and mercy. 

I’ve also depended more on God. The prayers have been ongoing and constant. “Help!” “Please” and “Thank you” have been dispersed among rosaries and novenas. I continue to pray for the intercession of the saints. St. Jude and St. Rita, patrons of impossible causes, have put me at ease. St. Gianna Molla has walked alongside me.

The suffering will continue. Once the baby begins to sleep again, there will be another kind of suffering. After that subsides, another. God didn’t promise us complete and total happiness in this life. That, He saved for eternity with Him in the Beatific Vision, but in the meantime, I can embrace the suffering He allows, trusting there is some greater good that will come from it, even if I can’t see it through bleary, tired eyes. 

Long-suffering

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I'd like to reflect today on a small little autobiography I've read, rather a memoir, about Mother Teresa entitled “Something Beautiful For God: The Classic Account of Mother Teresa’s Journey Into Compassion” by Malcolm Muggeridge. It was published in 1974, which was important to know while reading the book. Mother was just starting to expand her charity outside the streets of Calcutta at that time. Her mission was just starting to grow. Similar to the daily readings this week. The Good News is starting to spread. Collections of the faithful are starting to take root in the cities where the apostles/disciples teach. Each small group is sharing all they have with one another as they bring people into knowing, loving, and serving Jesus. You are all doing that in your own homes right now. The Church couldn’t be stronger, in my humble opinion. Why? Because we are suffering. Long-suffering is a fruit of the Holy Spirit – it is evidence that God is alive. Suffering is meant to foster a dependence upon God. We continue to feel deeply for those around us. If we didn’t feel deeply, then that means that “we retreated so far into our egos and our flesh, put between us and Him so wide a chasm, that our separation became inexorable” (p132). We care. A lot. What we do matters, deeply. Mother Teresa lived this to her core. This is why she saw everything she did as an offering, something beautiful for God, to turn suffering into joy.

I asked our students who their favorite superhero is. Mother Teresa is certainly one of my superheroes. Her model of vocation, tenacity, compassion, and suffering turned inside out is something I strive for. While I know the poverty she encountered every day is foreign to my own experience, she reminds me that poverty exists in many forms. It is where and how we meet poverty that is the love of Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I am feeling things rather deeply at this moment. A sense of helplessness that I am unable to correct despite my efforts. It is a feeling that I am not unfamiliar with but results in a level of suffering. As my superhero demonstrates, connecting to God is what helps the most. Pray. Pray unceasingly. Pray that we learn what the Lord is teaching us and never to forget the lesson.

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