As Ash Wednesday approached, I had a plan. I set up this blog; I pulled out a stack of my favorite books on the Church, faith, and spirituality; I had every intention to start a daily Lenten blog. (That subtitle, "Holy Week Reflections," used to say "Lenten Reflections.") And then, on Ash Wednesday itself, the plan imploded, life got in the way, and here we are on Palm Sunday. I'm finally sitting down to blog.
Every day I thought I'd have time, but as Genesis says over and over, "...evening came, and morning followed." I felt bad. Depending on the day, I felt like I was having my own version of the Passion or I felt like I was having no Lent at all. In that regard, it's been the toughest Lent I've had in almost twenty years.
But thank God, the Holy Spirit persisted. And the Son loved me nonetheless. And the Father had His own plan, full of "sheer goodness," and perfect timing.
So here I am on Palm Sunday. Instead of going out into the desert for 40 days, I went out to the beautiful Texas Hill Country for one day. It cleared my mind a bit, sitting with my fellow Spiritual-Directors-in-Formation, and listening to the Spirit speaking to me through their lovely voices. It eased my own spirit enough to think I might be able to sit down today and do this. But I wanted just a bit more inspiration, so I looked up some movies on Amazon Prime. I started with one on St. Augustine -- "Late have I loved you..."-- but it was glitchy and I couldn't get through it. I moved on to one about The Divine Mercy -- "Jesus, I Trust In You"-- but then the phone rang.
It was a FaceTime call from my younger daughter, and when those calls come in, I anxiously wait while it says, "connecting..." to see if it will be her just-like-me-only-better face or if it will be the nearly perfect face of one of my grandchildren. Sure enough, it was my granddaughter who also has a just-like-me-only-better face. She is growing up thinking a cell phone is something you see people on; it's fascinating. We chatted about the Easter Bunny and ballet class and a field trip she has this week. My grandson popped in the frame to wave and babble about his version of the Easter Egg Hunt, and show me his Sissy's new book. My daughter got on to tell me about their weekend and their plans for the week.
Talking to my daughter is always a bit of a jumble. As the mother of a three-year old and an 18-month-old, chaos reigns. Telling a simple anecdote or passing along a tidbit of information takes multiple tries. A few words pass, then someone wants a snack, a few more words, then someone is getting into something they shouldn't, a few more words, and they both want the same toy. And in addition to the conversation with me, she's engaged in at least two other conversations with these bright and beautiful, completely self-assured souls who have no patience at all. It doesn't bother me a bit. But it makes her crazy.
And after I got off the phone this evening, it suddenly occurred to me that this is how God must see us through our busy, overwrought, often fraught, lives. We can't seem to get our connections clear, can't seem to get our prayers out with any depth, and we certainly don't listen to Him. We squeeze Him in, catch as catch can -- the maker of Heaven and Earth, the Word Made Flesh, and the Advocate. A few words of prayer, then a work issue pops up, a moment of thanks, but then the mundane and ever-present obligations of life take over, an attempt at closing the day in prayer, but then sleep shuts us off. However, after tonight, I'm not so sure that bothers Him at all. Maybe what is important is that one of His children called upon him, even if it's for just a minute or two, even if the chaos of their life makes a jumble of their prayer. Maybe its just the glimpse of seeing their face -- His own creation -- and hearing His name on their lips that brings Him joy. Maybe those connections, like those with our children or spouses or other loved ones or dear friends, are the point. Maybe He knows, better than anyone else, that sometimes were doing the best we can with what we've got. (Not that we shouldn't always love Him with all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength.) It was a God-moment, this thought. It was grace and Spirit and blessing; perhaps just what I needed to hear, and finally did because I was actively listening. I was so grateful for this sliver of awareness of His steadfast love, hesed.
That sliver opened up into a bigger thought... there were some good people who missed Palm Sunday. They were busy, preparing for the Passover, so maybe they didn't make it into the crowds holding up those palms and crying out, "Hosanna!" But they loved Him nonetheless. And some in the crowd on Sunday were too afraid to come out later in the week to see the same man, broken and bloodied, walk to His death. They tried to love Him but their fear took over -- like ours sometimes does. Or others had changed their mind by that time and shouted, "Crucify him." They let themselves be carried by the crowds and times they lived in, not much has changed in some ways. Some, like Thomas, may have doubted the story about the empty tomb and had their own problems to worry about anyway, so they went on with their lives. And others still took no part in any of it, but heard Peter or Paul speak truth later and came to know Him after He was gone. But no matter in His loving heart, He came and died for all of them, and all of us. He draws all the members of His body to him, inexorably, repeatedly, lavishly, unconditionally. Even in our busy-ness, our chaos, our weakness. His steadfast love. Hesed.
Which brings us back to Holy Week, the days leading up to the greatest act of love the world has ever or will ever know-- the very definition of hesed. I love Holy Week. I love everything about it. I love how the Holy Spirit permeates this week. I love the Triduum. I love spending the day in prayer on Good Friday. I love the Easter Vigil with the Paschal Fire dispelling the darkness. I love that this week shows me, like no other time of the year, that I am loved with an extravagant love beyond my worthiness, in spite of my chaos, just as I am. Hosanna!