A few years ago, our parish switched from a passive listening to the Passion to an active participation; we now read the lines designated as “the crowd.” I’ve written at my own blog about why I am so moved by this kind of declaration of the Gospel:
Even though no one ever told me in so many words when I was a child, I had this idea that I needed to say “Crucify Him!” during the Mass. I knew, even though it made me cry (even as a very small child), that I was responsible in some way for what happened to my Beloved Jesus. No one ever told me that, and I don’t recall my CCD teachers being blunt enough to say that my sins were responsible for Jesus’ death, but I knew it. And I think that the reason I knew was because every year the people in the pews would help to proclaim the Gospel. Just once a year, and we did it just to accuse ourselves of Christ’s death.
It’s a tradition that deserves a comeback. It’s a silent catechism: gentle, but stern. It helps even small children to understand that we are the ones denying Christ, that we are the ones putting the nails in His hands and feet.
And I realized this year that we are constantly vacillating between two crowds: those that welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, as our parishes do each year, and those who call for His death on Good Friday.
There’s so much about the parts of the Gospel that we read that is growing in meaning for me as I grow spiritually, but this year I thought – and have been thinking – a great deal about what it means to be a part of both the adoring crowd and the murderous one. Surely there were people in both groups on that day 2000 years ago – the ones who were certain that Jesus was establishing an earthly kingdom and crushing the Romans but who grew disillusioned as He refused to fight back as He faced a humiliating death on the Cross. Maybe they cried “Hosanna” on Sunday and “Crucify Him” on Friday.
When I was younger, I would look down on those people. Today, I realize I’m just like them.
I cry “Hosanna” on Sunday morning as I worship God at Mass. But then I go to work and slap Jesus in the face with my bad attitude towards my coworkers.
I worship Jesus as Lord at Wednesday night Adoration, then deny Him more times than Peter by gossiping about someone I don’t like.
I say “Jesus is Lord” with my lips, then deny him in my actions.
When things get hard, am I like Peter, pretending I don’t know Jesus? Do I go along with the crowd (for fellowship) rather than stand out from the crowd and do something others will think is weird?
When I choose to waste time on a game rather than buckle down and pray my Morning Prayer or the Rosary, aren’t I just like the crowd calling for Barabbas?
And when these things come to my attention, and I’m made aware of my shortcomings, how often do I make excuses, crying, “Take Him away! Take Him away! We have no king but Caesar!”
But the beauty of our Catholic faith is that when we start to realize this, when we begin to resemble the murderous crowd more than the adoring one, we have the graces of the Sacraments available to us, specifically within Confession. There, we can admit to Jesus how sorry we are for denying Him. We can ask for His forgiveness, just like Peter. And, just like He did for Peter, our Lord forgives us.
I maintain that the most beautiful words we, as Catholics, can hear are those of absolution. There is such healing in those words. And of course, for the words of Christ are efficacious! And, as I’ve said in the past, it’s Christ Jesus who meets us in the Confessional and who offers us forgiveness for our sins.
If you haven’t been to Confession in a while, and especially if you’ve been feeling like you’re far more a part of the murderous crowd lately, take time and go. Do it even if you have to make an appointment. (I’ve found it’s not as scary as it seems to do so, and most priests will make time for you. Sometimes, I even have asked a priest after Mass and have never been turned down.) You need those words of healing – we all do.
Because when we go to Confession, we are set right again with God. And He’s ready to bring us back into the Adoring Crowd again.
Copyright 2018 Christine Johnson