Sunday, March 27, 2016

An Easter Gift

As seems to be the usual for me, Lent didn't really "kick in" until the last few weeks.  I had an opportunity to go to Confession last month, but didn't take it, because "I wasn't ready," as I told my husband.  No this doesn't mean I wasn't ready to try to stop sinning and I wanted to party a little longer.  It meant that I hadn't really come to full terms and processed those things I needed to leave behind.

I was on a wonderful retreat this week and one of the stories the priest told was about a woman on retreat.  At the retreat, everyone was supposed to grab a stone and write on it all the difficulties and stumbling blocks they were facing.  Their sins and their crosses.  They were supposed to carry it to every meal and every service and talk throughout the retreat.  The woman picked the largest rock that could be found, the priest said.  He then noticed that she lugged this rock around everywhere.  The participants in the retreat were supposed to leave the rock at the altar, once they Confessed and gave their troubles over to God.  He noticed as the retreat went on, the rocks being left before the altar, but he didn't notice that very large rock their yet.  He prayed for that woman, that she could stop lugging that rock around.  It was the end of the retreat and finally, he noticed that large rock before the altar and happened to look out the window and noticed the woman turning cartwheels through the garden.

It feels so good to get rid of our burdens, it's probably one of those mysteries we won't know for a while as to why we all like to lug around that stuff with us.  I do know the feelings of that woman, the feelings of doing cartwheels.  I know when I was a child, I didn't really understand Confession and equated it more to being like when I had to fess up to my parents that I did something wrong.  As time has gone on, I have realized what a blessing it is is lay to down that rock before the altar, but I still sometimes forget, or for whatever reason, like carrying that rock around with me.  Confession is a wonderful gift that we receive.

This Lent, I feel that my cross that I have been carrying is one of a lack of faith.  For some that know me, that may be a surprise.  I certainly have relied on my faith and it has saved me often in my life.  From health crises to work crises to what seemed like perpetual singlehood (until I met my wonderful husband).  I guess faith is kind of like a muscle, if you don't use it, it grows weak, or if you don't nurture it, it can wilt.  I think in my case, my philosophical and science background makes me look at the trees and not always appreciate the wonders of the forest.

Lately, with the current political climate (I'm not keen on any of the candidates on either side) and the international atrocities (both my husband and I have friends in Belgium and fortunately they are all ok), it's been easy to get scared, fearful and frustrated.  All of these anxieties can really become almost paralyzing.  One solution is try to ignore these things.  Putting my head in the sand has never really been my way of dealing with things.  It just makes it worse.  Another solution is to try to save the world.  That is exhausting and is futile.  Trying to find the sense in it all and trying to find God's presence in it all is difficult for all of us.

After my Confession, I shared with the priest a gift I had received earlier in the week.  While talking with my two year old at dinner, he, on his own said, "I want Jesus to come to my house," he then kept going with his desires, "I want Jesus to rock me."  He continued as we told him Jesus is in our house, Jesus is always with him, when he sleeps and has a bad dream, Jesus is still with him.  We told him, "Jesus is at our house, he is with Mommy and Daddy when they receive Communion and he is there in our love for one another."  He was happy to hear all of this, and as we shared, sticking to honest simple truths, the honest, simple truth spoke to us.  The priest was touched by this, (I'm sure he hears a lot in Confession) and then said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven"
(Matthew 18:3)

As he said that, I told him, "so I guess my son's faith is better off than mine, huh?  Well, that's the way I want it to be and I guess I have a lot to learn from him."

One story that has particularly horrified and touched me this week is that of the Missionaries of Charity in Yemen.  If you haven't heard their story, read the link below:
4 Missionaries of Charity killed in Yemen- 1 survived  The Mother Superior of the order hid in a refrigerator as they sought after her- they came into the refrigerator at least 3 times reportedly and according to accounts shared with the sisters, "it was miraculous" they did not see her standing behind the door.  She lived to share her account.  The Indian priest, a Salesian who was staying with them was caught as he managed to hurriedly protect the Eucharist from the Evil.

There was some word that the priest who was staying with them would be crucified on Good Friday.  This story horrified me in so many ways.  I have worked intermittently with the Missionaries of Charity over the past 13 years.  I didn't know if I actually had known any of the Sisters, and the pure Evil of what had happened was just so horrific.  As I contemplated the horror, I did the only thing I could do- pray.  As I rocked my son to sleep around 3pm (the hour of Divine Mercy), I prayed the Rosary.  I struggled to stay awake, and like the Apostles in the Garden of Gethsamane, I couldn't do it.  I made it almost to the end, but with the knowledge of Christ's mercy and the Grace from the Sacrament of Confession, I knew the angels, or Mary herself may have finished my prayers.  Hopefully, the prayers from all around the world stopped the horrible atrocity from happening, but I know, even if it did not, Jesus was there with Father Tom and Jesus would take care of him.

My family was able to go and take some Easter eggs and cupcakes to our local Missionaries of Charity house.  It is always a joy and a gift to see those beautiful Sisters and the residents.  My son had a great time exhaustively going through their collection of balls and playing with my husband and the sisters and laughing, giggling and running.  Some of the residents and sisters even remember when I was pregnant with this little joyous boy.  One of the residents there, we will call her "Mary" has been there since I started volunteering.  One of the new sisters, who was not familiar with me, asked if we knew each other, I told her I'd known Mary for 13 years.  Mary does not remember my name, she hasn't been able to for probably about the past 6 years.  Mary had quite a history, I remember her telling me some of her story, she had been married to a wealthy man and then somehow ended up homeless, I didn't know all the details and at this point, she (probably thankfully) doesn't remember them.  When I first met Mary, she was a force to contend with.  She was the boss of the place.  She told all the residents and the volunteers, what to do.  I shared with my husband how she once gave me a tutorial on the appropriate way to wash dishes.  He knew how well that must have gone over with me...

This weekend when I saw her, she couldn't say much.  She giggled with glee at my son and had a smile on her face.  I couldn't understand what she said, but at one point, I asked her if she wanted a hug, I sensed she could use one.  She opened her arms and I gave her a big hug.  She had returned to a state of a child, almost and she seemed happy.  While the sister asked if Mary knew my name, I told the sister, "I don't ask her to remember it, all she needs to remember is I'm a friend."  Her joy and her hug reminded me of the lesson I learned from my son.

We will all have our crosses and even boulders to carry.  No matter how much spiritual reading or effort I put in my relationship with God, the only thing I need to put my Faith in is the Gift he has given us, the Truth of the Cross and Resurrection.  By his wounds, we are free from bondage.

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