By: Father James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.
Dear Parishioners and Friends,
It is baseball season. Most of us grew up in the culture of baseball. At an early age we learned the terms and the basic rules. Most Americans have played the game as far back as we remember. And we take for granted that everyone else understands the game.
However, not everyone understands baseball. Many people emigrate from baseball-less countries. They don’t have a clue what the game is all about. Did you ever try to explain what balls and strikes, walks and hits, steals and balks, pop fly and ground out, safe and out, curve balls and sliders are all about to a kid from Nigeria. Unless you grow up with the sport, it is a difficult game to comprehend. In the story below, a kid explains baseball.
“You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that’s on the side that’s in goes out and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out. When three men are out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in out. When both sides have been in and out nine times, including the not outs, that’s the end of the game.’ Now that clears up everything. But – we still want to know who’s on first.
If baseball seems to be a mystery to the uninformed, imagine what kind of a mystery the Catholic Religion is to a second grader. Try explaining the nature of God to that little mind. Or, how can three persons in one God be the Trinity. Have you ever tried to convince a second grader that the bread and wine in the Eucharist are really the Body and Blood of Christ? Of course, it’s all about the gift of faith.
Our Catholic Faith Formation teachers have volunteered their time every Sunday morning to teach St. Gerard students about Jesus Christ. The basic truths about Jesus Christ will take place this week, On Holy Thursday we celebrate the Last Supper. We render present what Christ said to his Apostles: “This is my Body. This is my Blood.” Since that time we have been rendering present what happened at the Last Supper. We don’t repeat the Last Supper. We don’t recreate it. We don’t just remember it. We render present. For there was only one Last Supper. There is only one Mass. Each time we celebrate Mass we are rendering present what happened at the Last Supper.
On Good Friday we celebrate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Jesus claimed that he was the Son of God. The people of His time viewed His statements as blasphemy. And so they unjustly condemned him to death. The people placed him in a tomb and rolled a heavy boulder in front of the cave.
On Easter Sunday they found the stone rolled back and the tomb empty. Jesus had risen. He was the first person to ever rise from the dead. The empty tomb convinces us that Jesus was divine. Because of the empty tomb we believe everything that Jesus said to be true.
Like the little children, we too have difficulty understanding the Last Supper, the crucifixion, the death, the resurrection and the ascension. We thank our God for the gift of faith. Since we have faith, we believe.
Years ago a famous priest preached about the crucifixion. After the Mass a stranger came up to him and said, “I don’t like the way your spoke about the cross. I think that instead of emphasizing the death of Christ, it would be far better to preach how Jesus taught us and gave us an example to follow.” The priest replied, “If I presented Christ in that way, would you be willing to follow Him?” “Of course I would,” said the stranger. “All right then,” said the priest, “Let’s take the first step. Christ did not sin. Can you claim that you never sin?” “Why no,” he said. “I am a sinner like everyone else.” “Then,” the priest replied, “Your greatest need is to have a Savior, not an example.”
Indeed Christ is a great example for us. However, we cannot erase the cross and crucifixion. Christ is our Savior. He died on the cross to save us. However, death could not contain him. He rose from the dead.
During this most sacred week we gather with Christ to share a meal, the Last Supper. We then spend time with Christ in the Garden of Olives as He prays and sweats blood. We must walk with Christ on the way of the cross. We must stand beneath the cross as we watch his life drain from this body. We must take the Lord down from the cross and place him in a tomb. Then, we wait. We wait for three days. We wonder with the apostles – is all lost. But, unlike the apostles, we know the end of the story. After three days, there is new life: The resurrection.
All of Holy Week is one long event. Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday are three days in one – triduum. It is suffering, dying and rising. Then on Easter Sunday we celebrate the resurrection.
One day a Priest and a Rabbi meet for lunch. They talk about sin and repentance. The rabbi explains the solemn Day of Atonement called Yom Kippur, a day of fasting and penitence. The priest in turn tells about Lent, and his 40 days of self-denial, abstinence, fasting and alms giving.
That evening the Rabbi tells his wife about his conversation with the Priest. He explained how Catholics have 40 days of fast and penitence as compared to the Jews’ feast of Yom Kippur – one day of fast and penitence.
The Rabbi’s wife began laughing. She says, “forty days of Lent…one day of Yom Kippur! Not only do Catholics need an awful lot of repentance for their sins, but even when it comes to religion, Christians pay retail.”
Happy Palm Sunday.
Fr. Jim Shea