This past Sunday was Palm Sunday; the triumphant entrance of Jesus the week leading up to His death on the cross. This week is perhaps the most significant week for Christians both Catholic and Protestant. This is also the week I am being received into full communion of the Roman Catholic Church. I am not alone in this. There are many people from all over the world being received into the Roman Catholic Church on Sunday. This is not a decision I have made lightly. In fact, I had always been drawn to the Catholic faith for most of my life but it was largely due to my ignorance of the Catholic faith that prevented me from taking this step. With that said, I do believe there are many genuine Christians in the Protestant tradition who love and serve Jesus passionately. I have spent most of my life in the Protestant tradition, I went to a Pentecostal Bible College, and I also attended a Conservative Evangelical Church. I would not have come to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior if it were not for the Protestant tradition. However, the influence of my developing faith didn't start and end with the Protestant tradition but rather my Grandmother who was a devout Catholic all her life. Her example, although not perfect, influenced my faith a great deal.
So I am grateful to both the Protestant and Catholic traditions because both traditions have enriched my faith and both drew me closer to my relationship with Jesus and have guided me in how I choose to live my life and influences the choices I make today. I sense I have greater peace and can find rest in the place of tension and difficulty, struggle and conflict, and have a greater appreciation for the mercy of our Lord God in Christ.
Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind, and therefore have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning
~ Lamentations 3:19-23a
As I think about Palm Sunday I think about what Jesus was about to endure and experience for all of us. I think about the crowd who greets Him with joy on the street crying out Hosanna Hosanna only to a few days later be crying out with anger and rage ... crucify him! I would say that this would have to be the most tumultuous times he would ever have to endure. I can't help but to think, that in light of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, my own sacrifices, my own afflictions, and the pain I've endured, pales in comparison. I am not yet being asked to die for my faith though I feel it is a kind of death but I have to believe that what I am called into is something far better than what could be the alternative. I don't have the luxury to believe that my choices won't have eternal consequences. However, in the midst of this, I also believe that God is full of mercy and grace and who will forgive us our sins. Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again and there rests redemption and the possibility of reconciliation to God our Father.
This last Sunday I arrived at Mass a bit early. I sat in the pew during Mass and spent a few hours after Mass at home weaving crosses from the palm branches and during this time I began to ponder all of this including my life journey. Only God could orchestrate such a life. Only God could reach out to somebody living in such a dark place and lift her up and out of that place...
from mourning to dancing,
from sadness to joy...
I would like to say that it's all hunky dory... all rainbows and butterflies... and lolly pops... but it's not. I have endured quite a bit of pain in my life and I tend to struggle more than most. I don't preach a gospel that's without sacrifice. I don't give people false hope to believe that all struggles and problems will come to an immediate end the minute you pray one simple prayer. For some of us, we have a more profound understanding of what it means to pick up our cross to follow Jesus and what it means to suffer. We also may have a deeper understanding of what it meant in scripture when it said of Jesus ... "For the joy set before Him He endured the cross"... as we endure the cross we're called to. If I only looked at my current circumstances and my life as it is now that would drive me into despair but I look to Jesus the author and perfecter of my faith and I look towards what is to come but it's in times like Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday I am reminded that death comes before the resurrection. If we want to live in Christ we must first die and that's the part of Christianity that many people want to somehow skip over. But in all things we know that death is not the end ...
There is hope in the Resurrection!
Over the years as I journeyed with Christ there has been seasons of grieving and mourning, seasons of celebration and dancing, and there has been times in between. I'm old enough now to realize that these seasons come and go and healing is never linear but more cyclical in nature. One thing I am certain of, is that God has never abandoned me and in the mist of difficulty, in temptation, and within the conflict I find myself in, God is present and His mercies are new every morning and His love endures forever. There is something profoundly healing when weakness is acknowledged and when we allow God to be present in the midst of suffering or the conflict we may be going through because it is then we see the grey clouds part ways and the sun shining through and it is also there new life is breathed into us.