Category : Lent

Holy Saturday Apostles
Faith, Lent
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Waiting on Holy Saturday

What happens on Holy Saturday?  …We wait…

It’s the period of in-between – that space between the pain and suffering of Good Friday and the joyful hope of Easter Sunday… this waiting is Holy Saturday.

In the time of Covid-19, those of us who are staying safe-at-home are right here, in the waiting.

Quite often, when we’re in the in-between—no longer in the throes of pain and suffering, and not yet in a place of joyful hope—we find ourselves somewhere in the process of thinking and praying and grieving what we’ve lost.

Here’s the thing that our faith teaches us about this in-between:

God is at work in the waiting.

~~~

Jonah

Recall the story of Jonah, who didn’t want to do the difficult thing God was asking of him. In his stubbornness, Jonah tried to run away aboard a ship, which is when things went from bad to worse. Blamed for the violent storm, he was tossed overboard and assumed he was going to die. “But the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17). Those three days and three nights must have provided quite a bit of time to wait… and think… and pray… and wait some more… And then, Jonah agreed.

In the waiting, God works in our hearts. 

It was three days and three nights of waiting… and thinking… and praying… for the Apostles as well. Waiting… with grief and sadness.

From their point of view, it didn’t look like anything was happening, but it was. They thought all was lost. But it wasn’t.

God is always at work in the waiting.

Trust God. Even if it doesn’t look like anything is happening… God is always at work in the waiting.

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Three Crosses Pixabay - Free for commercial use
Faith, Lent, Spirituality, Suffering
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Longing and Loss on Good Friday

Good Friday is the one day of the year that there is no Mass. The tabernacle is empty. There is no Jesus.

Good Friday is the day of the Passion – the suffering and Death of Jesus on the Cross.

There are many years that Good Friday prompts us to dig deep and examine our own sinfulness. For it was sin, selfishness, self-righteousness, greed, and pride that brought Jesus to the Cross.

But that’s not where we are this year.

This year we are suffering. We are grieving. We are physically isolated from community.

Many are sick. Many are unemployed. Many are overworked. Many are mourning.

So many disappointments. So many heartaches. So much lost.

This is the year we need to look to the Cross and know that we are not alone in our suffering.

This is the year we need to hear Jesus Christ, the Son of God, give us permission to cry out, “My God, My God, Why have you abandoned me!”

Although Jesus wasn’t ever actually abandoned by God (nor are we), in the depths of human suffering, it can sometimes feel like it.

Jesus was praying with Scripture. Psalm 22 laments pain and frustration with tremendous detail… and it then shifts. Around verse 21, the Psalmist begins to praise God’s Glory with confidence. We, like Jesus, can lament to God with vivid description and still be People of Faith.

Unable to gather as a community, unable to receive the gift of God’s grace in the Sacraments, unable to pray together as the Body of Christ in our Churches… it does feels very alone.

Photos - 2 of 3

The tabernacle is empty. The Church is empty. This is our very uncomfortable reality, feeling the longing and loss on Good Friday.

If this – the suffering, longing, and loss of Good Friday – is where you are, know that you are not alone… nor are you weak in your faith. Look to the Cross and know that you are not alone.

The essence of our faith is trusting in the knowledge that the suffering and Death of Good Friday is not the end of the story. But it is where we are right now… at least for today.

~~~

Post-Script: A Neighborhood Stations of the Cross

On the morning this reflection was posted, inspired by an idea posted on the Guadalupe Radio Network‘s Houston Facebook Group, my friend and neighbor Coleen asked for help replicating a North Houston neighborhood’s Stations of the Cross. This beautiful idea would allow people to walk/bike/drive the 14 Stations and maintain social distancing while journeying in prayer. Propelled by the grace of the Holy Spirit, our neighborhood Stations in Nassau Bay came together quickly and easily. Mosaic for Blog

Following the directions given by a member of the North Houston’s neighborhood group Prestonwood Prays, around 8am Coleen set out to purchase supplies. At 9am she asked me to gather, print, and laminate the images of the Stations, and then called upon Brooke to coordinate the locations into a coherent path. Together, we quickly found 14 homeowners willing host the sign-post at the edge of their property, and Brooke mapped and organized the locations to form a walkable 3.25 mile loop. Since I had recently put together a simple, Scripture-based, Traditional Stations of the Cross for use on a retreat, I integrated those passages, along with the address of the next Station, onto a second laminated page to be attached to each sign. We announced the opportunity on FaceBook and text, and provided the links to a printable Worship Aid and Map of Locations. Everything was installed and folks were making their pilgrimages by 2pm. After sundown on Good Friday, the Stations were removed and disassembled. We received such an outpour of gratitude from prayerful pilgrims that we will do our best to continue this tradition in the years to come!

Here’s the basic instructions and supplies needed to construct these neighborhood Stations. 

 


The tabernacle at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church was designed with doors that open to the sanctuary on one side, and the stained glass image of the Last Supper on the other. With gratitude to Mark Evangelista for the photo of the empty tabernacle opening to the hand of Christ offering the bread, and Miriam Escobar for the photo open to the empty sanctuary.

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Last Supper - Jen Norton 2
Lent, Passion, Scripture, Service, Suffering
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A Holy Thursday without…

Did you know that the last party or social gathering that you attended would, in fact be the last one for the foreseeable future?

When reading the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper, it’s pretty evident that the Apostles had no idea it would be their last. Yet what happened while they shared the Passover meal with Jesus would be remembered and celebrated as the first: the Institution of the Eucharist.

Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.” (Lk 22:19-20)

The Last Supper is the focus of the Church’s celebration on Holy Thursday. Yet for almost all of us, this will be a Holy Thursday without the Eucharist.

For anyone planning to watch the liturgy at home, since it’s a Holy Thursday without the presence of the people, it’ll also be a Holy Thursday without the Rite of the Washing of Feet.

I always found it interesting that while the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke provide the details about the Last Supper, the Gospel of John does not. Instead, John cuts to the meaning of the Last Supper: humble service.

So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. (Jn 13:14-15)

In the time of Covid-19, while we celebrate a Holy Thursday without so many things, let’s really turn our attention to humble service.

As a society, we’ve been doing a better job of recognizing and appreciating the humble service of so many of whom we’ve never even realized were essential employees! From health care, to supermarkets, to truckers and delivery persons, to police and first responders, to teachers…

How can you express gratitude for the humble service of others?

Amid so much grief and suffering that we cannot control, there are countless acts of humble service happening all around us, from making and donating reusable masks, to checking on and caring for neighbors, to finding ways to celebrate kids’ accomplishments and birthdays, to the sharing of musical talents, to the distribution of meals…

Where have you seen examples of humble service to others?

So on a Holy Thursday without so, so many things, perhaps you can find a way to be in communion with Christ through acts of humble service… (even if that service is a matter of reframing your interactions with those you are trapped at home with) …remember that Christ is present in these acts of service and sacrificial love.

Christ has given you an example; how will you humbly serve others?


Banner Artwork “Last Supper” ©Jen Norton. https://www.JenNortonArtStudio.com . Used with permission.  

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Agony in the Garden
Lent, Passion, Scripture, Suffering
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In the Garden with Jesus

The only thing worse than the actual struggle of going through a difficult time is feeling completely isolated in the struggle. Unless, of course, you like to also compare your struggling with others (who certainly have it worse than you) and minimize your own pain because it always helps to pile guilt onto the sense of isolation to reduce that suffering.

This is what is happening in Covid-19.

It honestly doesn’t matter how bad you do or don’t have it. We are all suffering right now. We are all grieving for normalcy.

So let’s just stop right there. Nowhere in Scripture does the God of Life and Redeemer of the World minimize or compare suffering. Instead, Scripture presents us with invitations and affirmations, especially in the Passion and Death of Christ.

Focus, for a moment, on the image of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus knew what was happening, and he knew it was about to get a lot worse before it got better.

Let the very fact that “knowledge” caused Jesus grief affirm you; this is hard.

Jesus prays and asks his closest friends to pray, telling them: “I am deeply grieved,” and “The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me” (Mt 26:38 NRSV and GNT).

Jesus models speaking truth to your closest friends… 

…gives permission to speak the truth of your heart to God… 

Jesus prays, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me…” (Lk 22:42).

…petitions God for the deepest longings of the heart…

…asks clearly and directly…

Jesus concludes,  “…yet, not my will but yours be done” (Lk 22:42).

…invites trust in God…

…models surrendering to God.

In our agony, in our suffering, in our frustrations, in our confusion, God sees us. God is with us. Angels are ministering to us. And God will redeem this.

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Artwork ©Jen Norton. https://www.JenNortonArtStudio.com . Used with permission.
Lent, Life, Liturgy, Passion
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Palm Sunday’s Highs and Lows

While listening to our Pastor proclaim the Gospel as we watched our Parish’s Palm Sunday Mass on YouTube, my 12-year-old asked, “But wait–why are we reading about the crucifixion and death now. Isn’t that what happens on Good Friday?”

Lego design by my 12 year old son, Max.

Yes. Yes, it is. Palm Sunday begins with Jesus’ Triumphant Entrance into Jerusalem as the crowds sing “Hosanna in the Highest” and wave their palm branches. And then we are plunged into the solemness of Holy Week.

That tension from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows is stark… it’s uncomfortable… and it’s exactly the point.

In light of the pandemic, take a moment to reflect on your experience of this stark contrast in your own life. Think back to February or early March… recall the events, activities, travels, and celebrations that you had on your calendar.

  • What were you looking forward to with joyful anticipation?

Think of the disciples watching the One they know to be the Messiah and Son of God entering the Holy City of Jerusalem surrounded by glory and praise… and within days, he is arrested and crucified.

Before stepping more deeply in to the Passion, realize that having joyful anticipation abruptly cut down—that very sense of disappointment—is a crucial part of our Palm Sunday liturgy. We are all feeling it; we have all felt it, including Jesus and his disciples.

Allow this jarring experience and sense of profound disappointment to be an entry point into the Passion as we begin Holy Week.

Let Jesus meet you where you are.


Banner Artwork ©Jen Norton. https://www.JenNortonArtStudio.com . Used with permission.  LEGO design and photograph by the same 12 year old son who asked the opening question https://www.instagram.com/todayinlegocity/.

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