It’s Holy Week once again, can you believe it? Lent just seemed to sore by this year, but then again I feel like I said that last year. . . It’s Holy Thursday, and the Church is calling all believers to meditate and pray about the most important 3 days in the history of Christianity. The night before Christ’s death (Thursday, the last supper), the day Jesus was crucified and died (Good Friday), and the day Jesus conquered the grave (Easter Sunday, the Resurrection).
I just got home from my holy hour at Church. I began my holy hour very focused on prayer. I set out to pray the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet (DMC). I love both of these prayers, and I pray them often. However, late at night in a dim room is not really the best condition for me to pray those prayers. I try to say my prayers in the morning or late afternoon, because I find that when I pray at night I’m so tired I can’t focus. So I try to pray the bulk of my prayers during the day, and then just have a short prayer before bed to thank God for the day. I’ve learned over the years that there is a difference between saying prayers and praying prayers; true prayer involves meditation, attentiveness, and focus. I don’t want to just mindlessly mutter to God, I actually want to converse with Him and be attentive to Him. So when you pray and where you pray matters!
Prior to this year, I never came to church after Holy Thursday mass for a Holy hour. During high school late night adoration on a school night was not allowed, and during college my parish didn’t offer adoration all night following Holy Thursday mass. So this year I was dead set on coming to church for a holy hour, and having some solid prayer.
I started off strong with the DMC. I was saying the words slowly and intentionally, thinking about what I was saying and meditating upon the Passion. Towards the end though, my back started to hurt, then my knees, and before I knew it I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I wanted to sit down in the chairs behind me. I opened up my eyes and collected my thoughts. I told myself “Allie, you will kneel and you will pray. Jesus endured the pain of the cross, you can endure the pain of kneeling on the tile floor of the Parish Hall.”
I started my Rosary, and man oh man was it a struggle. Every time I began a new decade, the only thing I could think about was how many decades I had left. The entire prayer felt like a fight. I would start a prayer and then find myself thinking about stupid things to distract myself from my discomfort and tiredness. This is what was going on in my head (btw I pray the rosary in Spanish):
Dios te salve Maria. . .
Should I wear the purple dress or the white dress for Easter?
llena eres de gracia
Did I lock my car? I wonder how long I’ve been praying
El Señor es contigo, bendita tu eres entre todas las mujeres y bendito
It’s really hot in here, how is that lady wearing a coat?
Should I go to the 9:30AM workout class tomorrow or just go for a run?
FOCUS ALLIE, FOCUS JESUS IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOUR FACE
I finished up my rosary and sat down feeling defeated and pathetic. I started to think about the disciples and the readings from the mass earlier that night, when the Holy Spirit dropped a humility bomb right in my lap. I can remember in years past thinking that the disciples were pathetic and dumb. How could they have failed Jesus? HE WAS LITERALLY RIGHT THERE WITH THEM!!! Yet, they fell asleep, while Our Lord contemplated and prayed about his passion and death. They deserted him when he was arrested. Peter denied him not once, not twice, but THREE times. None of the disciples yelled to release him when Pilate gave them the chance. Judas turned his back on Jesus for money.
I always thought to myself, “I would not have fallen asleep on Jesus, I would not have deserted Jesus, I would not have denied Jesus, I would have shouted ‘crucify Barabas,’ and I most certainly would have never chosen money over Jesus.”
But as I sat in the humid parish hall, with my knees aching and my eyes drooping, I realized that I am no different from the disciples. I would have done the same exact thing as them. . . even worse. . . I do the exact same thing they did in my daily life.
I find myself distracted or drowsy when I pray, or sometimes I go through the motions when I’m at mass. I desert Jesus every time I fail to serve the people in my life and in my community who need love and care. I deny Jesus when I fail to extend mercy and forgiveness to those who have done me wrong. I sometimes care more about what others think of me and blend in with the crowd, instead of being my authentic self and being a voice for the truth. I often think of myself and my comfort before I think of helping others. I settle for temporary pleasures instead of investing in eternal treasures.
I’m no better. I’m just the same as the original 12 ragtag bunch of sinners. Yet, Jesus died and rose for me. He never stops pursuing me, even as He sees me falling asleep during prayer. He sees me for who I truly am, even when I am oblivious to His presence in my daily life. He claims me as His own, even when I am silent about being one of His own. He stands by my side and keeps up with me, even as I try to run away from Him in fear or yell at Him to go away. He chooses me, even when I don’t choose Him. He never dishonors, disowns, or disrespects His own. He is the Good Shepherd, who doesn’t leave His sheep at the sight of wolves or danger, and will not leave even littlest of His own behind.
You died for me Jesus, and You rose for me. You defeated death, and You rose above sin and shame to show me that I could too. To prove to me that I didn’t have to be ashamed about not always being brave in the face of fear, positive when everything is falling apart, perfect in every situation. I am not defined by my sins and shortcomings. I am not a slave to fear. I am a child of God, who can rise above my sins just like my Lord Jesus did and be the person I was created to be.
In the words of Saint John Paul II “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son Jesus.”