by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
During a recent flight, the man seated next to me shared that his mother is a very devout Catholic. He told me that his mother derives great strength, comfort and joy from her faith. I inferred from our conversation that he did not consider himself a practicing Catholic.
I asked him if he attended any church. With a certain amount of dejection in his voice, he responded that he struggled with faith. I asked him what the sticking point was that made it difficult for him to believe.
For this man, it was not a case of being wounded or hurt by any representative of the church. For him, what made faith difficult was that it seemed too good to be true. When he considered the vastness of the cosmos that contained many universes like our own, it was difficult for him to believe that the God who created all of this could be concerned about our tiny planet — Earth — much less care about him as an individual person.
I acknowledged that our Christian faith is indeed amazing and even startling. We believe precisely in what this man found so difficult to accept — namely, that the creator of the cosmos, the King of kings and Lord of lords desires a personal relationship, friendship, with each one of us.
I encouraged my fellow passenger to go to one of our eucharistic adoration chapels and invite Our Lord to reveal himself to him. I urged him to invite Our Lord into his heart. He impressed me as a man of integrity and virtue. Please join me in praying for him that he will be able to overcome the obstacles that are preventing him from faith in Jesus and his church.
This coming week, we commemorate the central events by which God revealed his unconditional love for us. What we believe as Catholics is astounding and outrageous: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
It is mind-boggling that our creator became a human being in order that we could share in his abundant and eternal life. As Catholics, we do not believe in a distant, impersonal God, who created the universe and who is now detached from the creatures that he brought into being. We believe in a God who knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows our weaknesses and vulnerabilities and loves us nevertheless.
I encourage you this week to read prayerfully one or more of the Passion narratives in the Gospels. On Palm Sunday this year, we will read St. Matthew’s account of the Passion and every Good Friday the church presents us with St. John’s version. The Passion narratives are the heart of the Gospels. They describe the events that are foundational for our Christian belief.
Even though if you are reading this article you are most probably already a strong believer, still we all need throughout our lives to have ongoing encounters with Jesus. We need frequently to invite Jesus into our hearts to reveal anew his unique and personal love for us.
If you read the Passion as an historical account of long-distant events, it will have a minimal impact on your life. On the other hand, if you read the Passion narrative as an eyewitness account of what were life-changing events for the reader 2,000 years ago and for us today, you will experience it to be transformative.
In the liturgy, we only read the Passion narratives on Palm Sunday and Good Friday. We need to take advantage of these days when everything in the church is attempting to focus the attention of our minds and hearts on the crux of the Gospel.
Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter change everything. If we believe in what happened on these days, we will never doubt God’s love for us, despite all our defects and frailties. We will know that we can never be separated from the love of God. Our life will never be without purpose or meaning, even — or especially — during moments of difficulty and suffering. We will never be without hope, because we know our God is a God of miracles and our destiny is to live with him and the saints forever.
I urge you to participate in the Triduum liturgies at your parish: the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday and the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night. These are the most powerful and beautiful liturgies of the year.
This special week with its unique moments of liturgical prayer and worship has the ability to put us in touch with the central mysteries of our Catholic faith. Each Holy Week, Our Lord offers us an opportunity to renew and deepen his peace and joy in our hearts. Through these sacred liturgies, we do not simply remember what happened 2,000 years ago, but we actually touch the events that gave us life in Christ.
Please know that you are also invited and most welcome to come to the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kansas, for one or more of the Triduum liturgies. On Holy Thursday, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper begins at 7:30 p.m. On Good Friday, the liturgy of the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord begins at 3 p.m. The Easter Vigil begins at 8 p.m. on Holy Saturday.
I will also be the celebrant for the 11 a.m. Palm Sunday Mass, as well as the 11 a.m. Easter Sunday Mass. The cathedral is a church that belongs to everyone in the archdiocese.
For the disciple of Jesus, every moment, every encounter and every relationship with another is fraught with meaning and purpose. Through our baptism and friendship with Jesus, we possess a freedom from which no earthly power can deprive us. It is the freedom to give glory to God and to love others, no manner the circumstances of our lives.
Even in life’s darkest and most difficult moments, our Christian faith gives us reason for not only hope, but the capacity for joy. Because God is with us always, we are never alone. We can never be deprived of the source of our peace. May this Holy Week renew our gratitude for the tremendous gift of our faith! May it motivate us to do all that we can to share this priceless gift with others!