This weekend, we celebrate the Second Sunday of Lent. Just this week, I received from the Bishop this year’s regulations for Holy Week during our current restrictions. While it will certainly be a lot less restrictive than last Easter, it still won’t be quite what we’re normally used to. Most of the things will be pieces that we’ve become mostly accustomed to in our current world. We won’t be able to pass out Palms until the end of Mass on Palm Sunday and we won’t have the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday. We’ll be able to venerate the cross on Good Friday, but won’t be able to touch it, and at the Easter vigil, we won’t be able to each have individual candles.
As I look at those restrictions, most of which will apply this year to all Catholic Churches throughout the world, I think most of us are well past ready to be done with all the COVID restrictions, and we’re getting anxious to get back to so many of the things that we miss from before this pandemic started. It’s hard to believe that in just a few weeks, it will have been a year since all this began with a “two week shutdown” so that the hospitals wouldn’t be overwhelmed.
I find it’s so very easy to complain about all of these restrictions and to get weary of all of it. When we see these restrictions for Holy Week, it can be so easy to roll our eyes and say, “do we still have to do all this?”. Yet, as we keep walking through all of these things, I think now is a good time for us to remember what’s really important. I think of all the sacrifices we’ve been making over the last year. It’s been difficult, there’s no question. We’ve given up seeing friends and family. We’ve given up all sorts of activities we love to do. We’ve accepted all sorts of daily restrictions. I think of all of the things we’ve sacrificed, and I realize that right now we’re still able to come here to receive Jesus.
Then I look at our first reading this Sunday. God had called Abraham from his native country, and sent him out to a new world where he knew no one. He promised him that he would be the father of many nations, and until he was old, he was unable to have a child. Then, having a son in his old age, God asks him to take his son up to Mount Moriah, and sacrifice his only son. Think about that for a moment. Of all of the things that we’ve been asked to do that we complain about. Of all the things that the Church has ever asked of us that we complain about, nothing in any of our lives comes anywhere close to that. Even though God stayed his hand, Abraham trusted God that much. Think of what that meant about his relationship with God.
As we continue through this Lenten season, I’d like us each to really, honestly, ask ourselves. “Have I been growing closer to God through all of the events of the last year?” When those moments came that I really had the time, and at least at some point this year, all of us had more time that we’ve ever had before, what did we do with it? Did that time help us grow in our relationship with God or not? Did we break open our bibles to read? Did we spent more time in prayer? Did we make some serious attempts at learning more about our faith and working to deepen it? I’m sure many did, and hearing that will feel like a recognition. Others didn’t, and it’ll feel like a disappointment. Yet, no matter what we did, we get to decide how we move forward through this Lent. So I’d ask each of us honestly, to really take seriously the call to take this Lent to grow closer to Jesus in our faith.
Coming up in the next few weeks, we’ll be offering multiple confession times: Thursday, March 18th at 6:30pm, Wednesday, March 24th at noon, and Thursday, March 25th at 6:30pm. We’ll have a different visiting priest at each time. I’d challenge each of us to really take the time to ask ourselves where we’ve fallen short of the amazing things God calls us to. Make use of the sacrament, so that we can again approach God with a clean conscience, and then no matter what things look like for Easter, let’s remember just how amazing the grace of God really is that he offers us his very body and blood as food. That having received the bread of life, God himself works to transform us from the inside out to be like him. He loves us and wants to call us to Himself if we let him. If we could really grasp how amazing that is, we’d put up with whatever restrictions, rules, or hoops, we had to jump through if it meant coming into contact with our creator, with the one who loved us so much that he sent his only son to die for us on a cross, so that we might live forever.
Sometimes, especially during Lent, we have to remind ourselves of that basic lesson.
Father Matthew Baum is the Parish Administrator at Prince of Peace Church in Northern Cambria, PA.