Reminders

Standard

Hail to you, our King, obedient to the Father; you were led to your crucifixion like a gentle lamb to the slaughter.

Today’s Gospel acclamation reminded me of something that often strikes me as funny. As someone who did not grow up with the New Testament, on occasion I will hear something in the church readings and I will remember it from the secular world.

Lambs to the slaughter is one of those phrases.

Another one is when Mary Magdalene asks where Jesus has gone after his burial in the tomb. Her words are: They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him (within John 20: 1-9).

The way this was intoned the first time I heard this, it came out in a rhythm, and reminded me of Little Bo Peep: Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep and doesn’t know where to find them.

There are many times I wonder how many fables, how many familiar sayings come from the stories of Jesus, original reminders for the less than literate as his Death and Resurrection are repeated and told as more and more believers each find Him in their own time.

Kind of like me.

Passover

Standard

Friday is Good Friday. It is also the first night of Passover.

When I decided to go ahead and follow my conscience to be baptized and to become Christian and join the Catholic Church, I made the commitment to continuing to observe many of the Jewish customs that I had grown up with. Not to make too fine a point of it, but my kids are still Jewish, and for me my Catholicism is a very organic and logical extension of my own Jewishness.

This was my third observed Lent, my first after my baptism. I’ve had no problem abstaining from meat on Fridays and giving up something. For two years, it was Diet Coke and this year it was the McDonald’s Breakfast Burrito. The burrito holds a place in both my stomach and my heart as an amazing breakfast food as well as a fond memory of my first teaching job.

As a kid, Passover wasn’t terribly easy, but it also wasn’t terribly hard. We gave up bread, pasta, rice, certain vegetables and that meant that we truly gave them up. Nowadays you can practically eat anything and it’s kosher for Passover; even cake, and sandwich rolls. When my kids were really little, I bought the cereal (the box was tastier) and the potato chips without corn syrup. They hated all of it, so we went back to buying nothing but matzo and potato pancake mix.

This year, though we’ll be traveling to my mother-in-law’s, and it’s Holy Week, and Easter is Sunday, which isn’t usually a problem since I’ve abstained from chocolate and cake and anything not allowed.

But this year, I just don’t feel it.

I didn’t feel Rosh Hashanah, probably because the kids had school and I let them go.

I did observe Yom Kippur, but Chanukah was forgotten most of the week with everyone’s crazy afterschool schedules and my son’s work. We don’t do eight presents because that gets too expensive, but we do always get dreidls, gelt and potato pancakes. Except this year, I didn’t make any.

I’m not depressed; it’s not that, but I’m not feeling it.

I feel the importance of Passover; of the Exodus, but the joy of the Exodus is blended and jumbled with the joy of the Resurrection, and the latter seems more important even though it’s not a competition.

I feel guilty. It’s more than I don’t wanna also, but it both feels wrong to observe and wrong to ignore. I need to sort out a compromise for myself that is both emotionally satisfying and religiously authentic.

The customs and traditions were always important to me, and I don’t want to lose or forget that part of myself. It may take some time until I find the balance that I’m looking for.

Palm Sunday

Standard

In reading one of today’s reflections in Give Us This Day, I was reminded of something that has often bothered me throughout the years. Who killed Jesus?

Growing up Jewish I was always offended by the notion that Jesus was betrayed and that the blame always fell to the Jews.

My response has been that that was all there was. There were no Christians. You were Jewish or you were Roman and the Romans crucified everyone. How could the blame not fall to the Romans? Even Jesus’ followers considered themselves Jewish.

It was very confusing to me as a young person.

In reading and understanding the Gospel of the Passion, it is a little clearer, at least enough for me to speak on.

It also helps that the Church seems to have embraced Jesus’ Jewishness, something that surprised me when I first came to my parish.

Today’s Palm Sunday Mass opened in our parish hall where our palms were blessed, we were sprinkled with holy water and we walked out into the cold air under a bright sunny sky to the Church for the rest of the mass.

Most services have their own beauty, but these during Holy Week really do a good job of bringing us back in time, and letting us relive the original Passion, in addition to gaining the perspective of two thousand years.

Today begins the holiest of weeks for Christians. My first one as a Christian. I’m looking forward to growing and learning more as a Christian and seeing how different my views are from when I was growing up.

I grow every day.

A Minor Infraction

Standard

What are your plans for the weekend?

I was asked this when I woke up this morning, and I was embarrassed to answer. After a long pause, the question was repeated.

Umm….I thought, well…..I’ll be watching The Walking Dead.

All weekend? The finale is Sunday at nine. At night.

Yup. All weekend. Marathon starts at eight tonight so I can catch up on all of the season five eps I missed, and then the rest tomorrow after Palm Sunday Mass. Then after dinner, the finale. What do you want for dinner?

I was answered with a shrug.

I’m already making plans to invite friends over in the fall for the premiere of season six, but that’s another happening for another time. That also assumes the kids will get their rooms and the living room clean in a spotless sort of way, although right now it kind of works for the zombie apocalypse theme.

So yeah, my entire weekend is revolving around a season finale of a show that six months ago I refused to watch. It just goes to show you how conclusions are jumped and mistakes are rectified. They’re not always something as insignificant as misjudging a television series. We all have our more serious misjudgments and mistakes in our past. None of us are perfect, and those mistakes remind us not only of our imperfections, but also of how to retake control of our lives and move forward.

We need to forgive ourselves for our mistakes and leave them in the past, and then keep on going.

Life is all about making choices and then reevaluating those choices.

For television I can decide to go back. Luckily for me (and others like me) there is Netflix to remedy this minor oversight.

In the coming days we’ll be reminded of this again when Peter denies Jesus, not once, but three times, and in the end he is still forgiven and it is forgotten as he is asked to be the foundation for the new church; the rock that the rest is built on.

Big or small, whatever lapses we make, there is always room for encouragement and do-overs.

Remember that.

I know that I will try to.

Penance

Standard

Tonight was our parish’s Communal Penance Service. There was no Mass, but there was music and contemplation and an opportunity for individual reconciliation. In addition to our pastor, there were four other priests hearing confessions and absolving. While we’re waiting our turn, the lights are dimmed and our music director plays several hymns on the organ. There is time to think and meditate on our sins and our transgressions.

When it was my turn my priest took my hands in his, and said my name. I’m still only comfortable going to my own priest, although the whole process of contrition can be quite nerve-wracking for me; it’s still new to me. His eyes are both serious and twinkly. He has such a good soul, a kind soul; it radiates outward and is such a comfort. I got very lucky when I wandered into this church three years ago. Someone (clearly) was watching out for me.

I expressed my regret and sorrow for my sins. I named two specific ones, and at the moment that his hand touched my forehead, his open palm on my head, his words on my heart; when he says that I am absolved, I can feel the weight lift. It is a weight that I don’t realize I’ve been carrying until it is gone.

I think I am finally ready for Easter. I’ve gotten through this first year as a Catholic (a reflection for a later time), Good Friday is approaching and the Lenten season is coming to a close. I’ve been trying to use these daily reflections to show myself how much I really do meditate on the words of my life, not only the Scriptures but all the words of my life.

Penance is part of those meditations, and contemplations, and absolutions, and forgiveness.

It is also a reminder that I am somebody even if I’m still trying to figure out who that somebody is.

Do Not Be Afraid

Standard

“Do not be afraid, I am with you. I have called you each by name. Come and follow me, I will bring you home; I love you and you are mine.”

– You Are Mine (hymn)

Always a good thing to remember. This was a really hard week, and next week is going to be a really, really busy one. I will try to keep this hymn in mind as I go through everything.