Sunday, March 25, 2018

Reminders: A Sunday Rumination

     Among those who disdain Christianity are some who specifically deride our liturgical calendar. It’s the same from year to year, they say, as if we weren’t aware of that. Such mind-numbing repetition is a form of conditioning, even brainwashing. If you need that to remain devoted to your faith, how much can your faith possibly be worth?

     Usually, the notion that even the most devout Christian can benefit from the occasional reminder goes right over their heads. For that’s one of the major purposes of the calendar: to remind us of why we believe. Indeed, we remind ourselves afresh at every Sunday Mass:

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

     The life, ministry, Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ is the indispensable foundation of the Christian faith. The calendar cycles through that story every year as a reminder to us that “being a Christian” isn’t just about supporting your parish, helping to feed the needy, or protesting abortion.

     There is a risk to repetition, of course. The mind has some mechanisms that act to filter out certain patterns of perception. That having been said, he who remains attentive to the Gospels, and to that which the Redeemer commanded us to do “in remembrance of Me,” is well armored against the attenuation of his faith and the possible separation of his soul from the Mystical Body of Christ.

But wait; there's more! To gather with other Christians to celebrate the Mass and to commemorate the various events of the calendar can also provide reminders of other kinds...reminders that might be just as valuable as the reminders of what we believe and why we believe it.

     As I departed the church this morning, I encountered a fellow parishioner named Lauri, a very nice woman with whom I’ve often swapped a few pleasantries and a “how’s it going?” story or two. What she had to tell me proved to be a reminder of a sort I needed rather badly.

     Lauri has a sixteen year old niece, Toni Anne, who had been feeling poorly for some time. Just recently, Toni Anne’s mother decided that it was time for Toni Anne to see a doctor. To shorten the tale a bit, after a battery of tests Toni Anne got some very bad news: she has two forms of leukemia. Apparently she’s in very serious condition, if I can judge from the hyper-aggressive schedule of chemotherapy Lauri told me about.

     It’s actually even a bit worse than that: Toni Anne’s family is financially hard pressed and can’t afford her treatment. They’ve set up a GoFundMe campaign to help defray the considerable expenses. (I’ll post the link as an update, when Lauri sends it to me.) Perhaps that will cover the margin they can’t afford out of savings; at least, we can hope so.

     The point of this? Other than the importance of charity toward those in need through no fault of their own? Well, it’s rather personal, so please bear with me.

     I’ve been moping about recently: feeling sorry for myself, mainly over a minor health problem I’ve borne for a few weeks that’s been stubborn about going away. It’s irritating – itchy, mostly – but no worse than that. Certainly no reason to bitch and moan and cry veh ist mir. Nevertheless, I’d been pretty self-indulgent over my sorrows.

     Then I learned about Toni Anne.

     “I wept that I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.” There’s just about always someone worse off than oneself. And while a bit of grousing can be excused on the grounds that even a minor misery is a misery still, wallowing in sorrow over something of which it can be confidently said that “It won’t even make you miss a meal” is disgraceful in the literal sense: it displays a lack of grace. It suggests that one’s perspective is badly skewed, that one’s perseverance meter is pinned against the left peg.

     Reminders can be valuable, especially when they’re this timely. If you’ve been treating some trivial misfortune as if the weight of the entire Solar System has landed on your shoulders, a reminder of how fortunate you really are can be most salutary. Psychologically corrective. Spiritually salubrious.

     You have to pay attention, of course. These days that can be something of a challenge. However, it’s not impossible.

     Today is Palm Sunday: the day on which we commemorate Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, shortly before His Passion. It reminds us that the very crowds that sang hosannas at His arrival would, only a few days later, be gathered about Pilate’s balcony shrieking for His blood. “Give us Barabbas!” they shouted, openly preferring the pardoning of a murderer to that of One who “came to call not the righteous, but sinners;” One who, even as He suffered on the Cross, would say “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do;” One who would endure the most ignominious death known to that era in irrefutable testimony that He meant every word He said.

     May God bless and keep you all.



G-d bless you, and keep you.

May your Easter be meaningful and joyous.


Adrienne said...

Happy Holy Week, Fran.