During the many years that I taught high school students, I observed a lot more than I let on while in the classroom. I did not have ‘eyes in the back of my head,’ but I did have quite a vantage point because I was standing while they were seated. I cannot claim that I saw absolutely everything, but I did notice a fair amount. Every now and then I would let them know that I saw much more than they thought I did, and that they should not take my lack of response as a lack of awareness. I had learned to choose whether or not to respond since not everything required a comment or to be brought to everyone’s attention. After all, they were teens doing what teens often do. While my choices were imperfect and sometimes the wrong ones, the Scriptures reveal that God’s choices, though mysterious, are always right and true because He has unfathomable wisdom and He sees all things. If we look to the Gospels we see that Jesus knew of the Pharisees intentions to thwart Him, especially when they attempted to trap Him in some conundrum concerning the Law. Yet He chose to respond to only some of these things, letting others go seemingly unnoticed. This is particularly true of their plot to kill Him. Jesus was so acutely aware of it that He predicted His death three times to His confused apostles. But when the time arrived, He let the Jewish authority and their soldiers arrest Him. Jesus went willingly and yet even as He was dying on the Cross, He chose not to respond, allowing them do what they had set out to do.
As we enter into the last part of Lent, especially Holy Week, it is time to shift our focus more intently to the events of the Passion of the Lord. No matter which Gospel version we choose for our reflection, we will see that at some point Jesus became completely aware of what awaited Him in Jerusalem and went straightaway once He knew it was the right time. The apostles sensed His urgency, but they had a lack of understanding (combined with denial) over what would occur. The intensity for Jesus, however, stemmed from being resolute in completing His mission (Luke 9:51) while experiencing all the human emotions that accompanied the knowledge that death was close. Yet throughout all the events of the last days of His life, Jesus allowed everything to happen, sometimes even pointing out that He could have stopped His enemies. For example, Matthew wrote that when Jesus was arrested in the Garden, He boldly stated that He could call upon the Father to send twelve legions of angels. But He let them take Him anyhow, accepting everything that followed. (Matthew 26:53-54)
When evil things go on in our world, especially tragic events or the apparent triumph of injustices, it is important that we learn from the Passion that it is not possible for us to understand the ‘why’ of God’s seeming lack of response. God does see everything and is in total control, but His wisdom is far beyond ours. Even if He tried to explain it, we could not understand. (Job 38-40) Our world is presently quite a confusing and even dangerous place, especially with society’s dismissal of the moral teaching and gospel values we hold dear as Christians. But we must trust that God is keenly aware of every little thing, down to ‘the number of hairs on our head.’ (Matthew 10:30) Therefore, the best thing we can do is to cling to Jesus no matter how little we comprehend. We can look to the Cross with confidence that God offers mercy and the needed graces to help us persevere, even when we can barely put one foot in front of the other. We do not need to understand, but we do need to trust in Him.
God knows the intentions of our hearts. We have little power over many things, but we can choose to cling to Him by living the gospel values Jesus taught. We can rely on His presence within the Christian community to which we belong. We can cling to Him in our prayer asking for wisdom, discernment, and whatever graces we need. He is always our hope and salvation. Remember, God is always active, pouring out His mercy and love upon those who approach Him. Everything happens for a reason quite often known to God alone, and when we join Him in Heaven, all will be revealed. Therefore, the wisest thing we can do is to turn to Jesus and hold on. His teaching offers everything we need to live and to share the Good News with others.
This message may seem a bit dire, but it absolutely is not. Yes, we need to stay the course, and to do so we need God’s help, but the Good News is that on the other side of the Passion is the Resurrection. The suffering and death of Jesus has no meaning without His Resurrection, and thus on Easter morning the Resurrection puts everything into a perspective which is where our hope lies. We do have salvation, we will one day be with Him in Heaven and we will have clarity concerning God’s response to everything. It is the hope of the Resurrection to which we cling; it is this hope that keeps us going when things are most difficult. Let us cling to Jesus so that in dying with Him we will also rise with Him!
May we have the courage to persevere through our own Lenten toil! May we come to see more clearly the love of Jesus that He would accept His suffering with silence and thus give meaning to ours! May we pray for the grace to choose wisely in uncertain times! And may we live in the hope of Jesus’ Resurrection! Let us meet in the Heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
1. Icon, Saviour of the Fiery Eye by Fr. William Hart McNichols. This is a reproduction of a 19th century Russian icon which depicts the merciful, loving presence of Christ. You can read about the original Russian version at https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/59503318_published-19th-c-russian-icon-savior-of-the-fiery-eye. To obtain a copy of the icon featured here (as written by Fr. Bill McNichols), you can go to fineartamerica.com/featured/saviour-of-the-fiery-eye-227-william-hart-mcnichols.html.
2. My photo of the original fresco of Jesus looking directly in the eyes of Judas during the arrest in the Garden, painted by Giotto. It is one of the frescos on the walls of the famous Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy.
3. My photo, close up of a beautiful bird, taken in the Black Hills of South Dakota. You can almost count the 'hairs' of his head. (Jesus references the birds of the air in the Sermon on the Mt. a few chapters previous to the quote I mentioned above.)
4. Painting, Composition, 1959, by Mark Rothko. It struck me as symbolic of the darkness with which we struggle, and the hope of life and resurrection which is just out of view now, but is present nonetheless. More on this work can be found at https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-mark-rothko-artist
5. My photo, a sunrise in my neighborhood. Sunrise, the ultimate sign of hope!
NOTE: In compliance with GDPR rules, I wish to make it clear that I do not gather any information on any of my readers at any time.
Heart Speaks to Heart