One of the reasons I love being Catholic is that it allows me to be religious and not just spiritual. The Catholic religion engages our bodies and souls. Our faith is indeed spiritual, but God chooses to relate with us most completely and profoundly through Jesus’ body and soul. So, too, the Lord invites us to respond to His love not merely with an assent of our spirit, but also with our bodies, whether that means physically taking care of the needs of those suffering from poverty or illness, or being bodily present at Mass, or respecting that the physical expression of the beautiful and sacred gift of sexuality is reserved for marriage. During this Holy Week, let’s consider some ways our faith engages our senses to move our whole being, body, and spirit.
As you come into church today and throughout this week, you might be shocked to see our statues and crucifixes covered. The covering of sacred images alerts us that we are in a special time of year, and focuses us on the words that are being prayed in Church during Holy Week, especially the Passion of our Lord. Lent is a time when we discipline our bodies through fasting and in this final stretch of the season our beautiful artwork is covered as a “fast” for our senses that prepare us for the feast of Easter.
Let’s consider the physical sign of the palms we wave this Sunday. They bind us to a very profound spiritual reality and transport us to the very first Palm Sunday. We become part of that great crowd that welcomed Jesus as king. But let’s not forget that many of the same people who gloriously welcomed Christ also mocked and spat upon Him as He carried the Cross. We are that crowd that has both praised and rejected Jesus Christ. Most importantly, we are that crowd Jesus loves so much that He sacrificed His life for us.
And how do I know that despite my sins, Jesus still loves me? After hurting someone I love, I need to express my sorrow. When that person forgives me, he or she helps me to return to wholeness and to a loving relationship. The experience reinforces my desire not to cause injury again, and let’s me know that the person’s love for me is greater than my offense. I am moved to my soul, but I receive forgiveness through my senses. Jesus offers the same opportunity to me when I confess my sins. Through the priest, I hear the Lord say, “I absolve you from your sins.” I also recognize that my sin, no matter how private, brings down the rest of my brothers and sisters because we are one body in Christ. I can audibly confess my sins and sorrow to the priest who also stands in as a representative for the whole Church. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Jesus allows my contrition to become something real and not merely in my head. Jesus allows His forgiveness to be expressed in the manner I experience all my other relationships – through my senses. Come experience the love and mercy of our Lord through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Reconciliation Monday is April 3rd, from 2-4 pm and 6-9 pm in all the Catholic churches in New York.
I am Catholic. That means I am not just spiritual; I’m religious. How blessed we are to experience our religion, body and soul this Holy Week.