Friday, April 6, 2007

Quiet Time with the Lord

Celebration of the Lord’s Passion
Good Friday, 6 April 2007
Rosary Monastery, St. Ann’s, Port of Spain


In today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah Jesus is called “My Servant” and in the second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews He is called “The Supreme High Priest”.

“Hence I will grant whole hordes for his tribute, he shall divide the spoil with the mighty, for surrendering himself to death and letting himself be taken for a sinner, while he was bearing the faults of many and praying all the time for sinners.” (Isaiah)
“Let us be confident, then, in approaching the throne of grace, that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help.”
“Although he was Son, he learnt to obey through suffering; but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation.” (Hebrews)

His Obedience, His Exaltation, Our Salvation

My sister who lives in Switzerland shared with me by email recently her positive impressions of a Lenten weekend retreat for the adolescents she teaches in catechism class. She also commented that although she had found them chatty and distracted in class, it had never dawned on her how pervasive this behavior was until she spent a whole weekend with them and noticed they were never, never really quiet.
Older people like myself generally know what you mean when you say you’d like a little quiet time, but it would seem that a big part of the younger generation only knows “sleep and go”. Their motors don’t seem to have other gears, like quiet time. “Quiet time” is different from what some parents talk about when they tell their small child, “You need a time out”. Normally, “a time out” means disengagement, separating two fighters or two teams. In sports it’s used to catch your breath and get your team strategy down. “Quiet time” is very different and not possible as an alternative to an afternoon nap, where children used to curl up with a book, because unfortunately today’s child may instead of books have a TV or stereo or some kind of GAMEBOY thing in his or her bedroom, which successfully keeps “quiet time” from ever coming to be.
How do we reflect on the great events of these holy days and their meaning in our lives today if we’re never quiet, if our minds are always racing? That’s tough, also because the idea of Jesus’ obedience to the Father is not a simple equation of 2+2. It needs some sorting out if we are to understand its meaning in our lives. You’ve got to be able to be quiet and in some way reflective if you want to be able to appreciate how surrendering himself to death, bearing the faults of many and praying all the time for sinners can lead to Jesus being exalted by His Father.
What is “salvation”? My big Webster’s Dictionary gives as meaning N. 2 and I quote: “In theology, [salvation is] the redemption of man from the bondage of sin and liability to eternal death; the saving of the soul through the atonement of Jesus.” It’s a good definition, but memorizing a definition like that is barely a start to becoming a religious person, a happy person, a person who lives his or her baptism, a true follower of Jesus Christ. It takes quiet and thought; it takes reflection.
A local priest here in T&T had many thoughtful, otherwise quiet hearts troubled because of his article in the CATHOLIC NEWS a few weeks back which insisted that packing folks in at church, jumping and shouting, and lots of emotion count more toward salvation than the seven sacraments, than a reflective, prayerful celebration of the Sunday Eucharist… Maybe he’s too young to understand the importance of quiet time? I don’t know.
I hope your minds were quiet and attentive during the reading of the Passion according to St. John just now. If they were and you didn’t get emotional, don’t feel bad, don’t be uneasy. Sentiment or emotions do belong to this day; Good Friday should tug at our hearts. But the reason for the long Scripture account is also and perhaps primarily to help us fix firmly in mind the scene of Jesus’ suffering and death for our salvation. In a moment, as God’s children, we will intercede for the entire world in prayer with texts which are not spontaneous but official: dignity and duty call for such formality. After that, with an informed eye we will gaze upon, venerate the crucifix. It is our annual thank you to Jesus; it is our identification with him, which then carries over into the reception of Holy Communion for those who may.
Good Friday, the ancient liturgy in modern form and language which we celebrate today, would be familiar to the European pilgrims who found themselves in Jerusalem on this day in the basilica built by the Emperor Constantine to encompass the Tomb of Jesus and Mount Calvary. Our worship today is similar to how Christians have observed this day for over 1,600 years and continue to observe it in the Catholic tradition of the Latin Rite even in our time. We must have something good going for us, if this celebration has been around that long. I only wish I could give everyone “quiet time” especially on this day so that they could understand this.
The old spiritual hymn asks the question “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Yes, I was today. I have it all, every moment, fixed firmly in my mind and heart.
If your Good Friday has been troubled up until this point, don’t worry. Start your reflection right here and right now. I wish each and every one of you “quiet time” this Good Friday and Holy Saturday. It’s important to realize that Jesus does it all in obedience to the Father and does it perfectly, such that the Father exalts Him, Who alone has won salvation for each and every one of us.

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