mcj-2019-04-17-opinion-johns-column

John Warde

I enjoyed an opportunity to attend the Lenten luncheon at St. Helen’s Catholic Church in Amory recently. I feel a special affinity for my friends there since my wife and I serve at a neighboring church a couple of blocks away.

I was inspired to see the beauty of community with the diversity of souls present. I didn’t know everybody there but was sufficiently acquainted with the people to know that Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians and Pentecostals were there to worship together with our Catholic friends. It was such a beautiful day that the exit door near the chancel was left open during the service.

I shared a table at the luncheon after the service with African-Americans and Hispanics, as well as those of my own group.

The Catholics have distinctive traditions that make the Easter story so much richer to me.

Sister Lael Niblick led the devotional by taking her audience though the Stations of the Cross that culminated in Christ’s crucifixion.

I learned something new to me at Station Six, where a spectator along the Via Dolorosa by the name of Veronica is said to have wiped the face of Jesus. According to church tradition, she was moved with sympathy when she saw Jesus carrying his cross to Golgotha and gave him her veil that he might wipe his forehead. Jesus accepted the offering, held it to his face and then handed it back to her – the image of his face miraculously impressed upon it.

The lesson drawn urged us all to remain sensitive to even the little ways we can reach out to offer gestures of kindness. Sister Lael also illustrated a negative application from the narrative with the nails that were used to hang Jesus on the cross.

She challenged us to reflect on what we may have done that would nail Jesus to the cross again in a figurative sense – a selfish motive…an angry outburst…a prejudicial attitude. Per her homily, the universal antidote is to endeavor daily to die to ourselves that me might rise with Jesus.

The beauty of our meditation was solemnized with a closing hymn we sang together without accompaniment: “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.”

The season of Lent serves to bind us together in the beauty of community as we empty ourselves of unnecessary burdens that we may more fully be blessed by the glory of Easter.

Sister Lael’s closing words on the subject reminded us of the mission of Lent – to discard what is not beneficial so that we can come away better than we started.

John Ward is a staff writer for the Monroe Journal. He can be reached at john.ward@journalinc.com.

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