'Parking Lot Mystagogy' Reveals The Touch Of God Grace
As a sacramental church, God’s grace is mediated through the person of Jesus, His Church and the sacraments. It has been impossible to meet personally with those who joined the Church this Easter to share where God’s grace touched them through the sacraments. However, we did manage to do some “parking lot” Mystagogy!
I recently shared in my homily the following reflections from a few new members of our Catholic family as a way to inspire the faith of God’s people because the sacraments are never solely for the ones receiving them. Plus I wanted to encourage an almost-empty Church during Holy Week to consider gathering next year to be touched by God’s graces – as our new members obviously were.
I heard this on Holy Thursday: “… when you washed my feet, I felt I was present at the Last Supper, unfolding in the Eucharist throughout time. He’s always with us, but I felt a special presence. When you kissed my foot, I felt loved because I feel like you, a priest are so above me, yet you kissed my foot, which brought tears to my eyes.” “It was a humbling experience because Jesus our Savior served on his hands and knees, and you were doing the same in his name. I felt very unworthy, but grateful. Although I’m a sinner, Jesus loves me anyway and forgives me. I was recommitting myself to try to serve others as you washed my feet.” (I assured her that as a priest I am NOT “above” her in the least!)
I heard this on Good Friday: “… venerating the cross seemed solemn and reverent as the people showed their love for Jesus. We weren’t idolizing a piece of wood, but showing our love for the person it represents.” “I understood in a more powerful way what Jesus did as I held the cross for people to venerate.” “For me, kissing the crucifix and watching others do the same made me feel that I was actually present at the crucifixion. I felt deeply united with Jesus. I could feel his pain and suffering, and was touched by what he did for us. I was one with him in his suffering.”
“When we lit the candles at the end of the service placing them around the crucifix, the quiet prayerfulness gave me the experience that we were actually kneeling at the Crucifixion. I prayed for the H.S. kids I teach who use drugs, another has cancer as I surrendered them into Christ’s hands.” “I experienced Christ’s presence as we placed lit candles around the crucifix. My prayer was that Jesus would help me and others to become more like him. I knew he would hear my prayer – since all the candles together represented our prayers in solidarity with one another. The whole church gave our prayers to Jesus crucified.”
I heard this on Holy Saturday: “I’m usually a nervous person, but I wasn’t that night because I knew that was where I was supposed to be as I was going to be baptized, confirmed and share in the Eucharist. Walking into the dark Church following the Easter Candle and sharing Christ’s light with each other was awesome. Lighting up the dark church reminded me how we are to bring Christ’s light into our dark world. Our baptism calls us to share Christ’s light as individuals and a community. I’ve been singing the Litany of the Saints all week. I feel connected with all those who believed in Christ before me. I felt in communion with them asking them to pray for us. Although I have never met them, or the ones to come after me, one thing we share in common is our faith in Jesus.”
“When we stepped into the baptismal bath, I was surprised you stepped into the water with us. Your words were inspiring for why you were doing it: ‘No Christian ever walks the journey alone.’ When you poured three pitchers of water over me, I felt everything bad I had ever done, all my sins, my stresses and worries were all washed away as the outpouring of God’s love cleansed me. During Confirmation, as the people stretched out their hands in prayer over me, I felt I was finally part of something. I belonged to these people. Receiving Communion took away the feeling that I wasn’t lost anymore because something had been missing in my life. I always believed in God and Jesus, but NOW I’m really part of Him in the Church.”