"The human factor...is valued as a method in the Church, a means by which something greater is channelled in our direction. In fact, because human reality is God's means of self-communication, what reaches us via the human factor is more than human. It is divine." (L. Giussani, Why the Church)
Would you be surprised to come upon a woman nearing her third trimester of pregnancy hunched over in a pew, a toddler strapped to her back and six more children surrounding on her side and in the row in front, head resting on the pew in front, not even trying to keep her eyes open for sheer exhaustion? That was me this past Wednesday, the last day of Lent and the day before we entered the Triduum. I had not had much opportunity to make it to daily Mass during Lent, and I had not planned to be there this particular day either. The thought that this was the last day of Lent had not even occurred to me. I was there out of complete desperation - because life with all these kids and all their commitments had grown to be more than I felt capable of handling. I was there because I needed Christ.
I couldn't disguise my exhaustion, nor did I make any attempts to. I will spare you the details of what life at this moment looks like for me, save to say that many of the things the kids are involved in all have major events occurring at the same time. That particular day I had been to town and back twice before noon, it was on the third trip in that I knew I needed to re-focus. Being there in that church a full ten minutes early was a blessing (we're never early!) I laid my head down in those precious moments before Mass started and for the first time in a long time, I felt rest. I didn't try to utter any words, I let God see my heart as it was and allowed Him to give me the respite I needed.
The pastor of this parish was so solemn in his observance of the day that it really touched me. He was so reverent in drawing our attention to the fact that this was the last day of Lent, and I felt that it was not by accident that God had led me there that day. Throughout the liturgy his words were so full of conviction that I was able to enter into Lent more than I had previously been to that point. I was so grateful for this. I began to see what a grace it is that the circumstances of my life were so overwhelming in that moment, because more than any of the other preparations I could have done this Lent it was my extreme sense of incapacity and fear over what lays in front of me that truly helped me to enter into the Lord's Passion. In order to sympathize in some way with what Christ does for us, I had to be stripped bare and called forward from that. In order to fully gaze on Him, I had to be emptied of myself.
Today is Good Friday, and as I listened to the words of the Gospel during this morning's service it struck me (as it always does) how frustrating it must have been to Pilate, to be putting so many questions to Jesus and have them unanswered each time. He was trying to help him, to give him a way out, but Jesus always turned it back on him. Not for the first time I wondered, as I'm sure Pilate did in the moment, why Jesus didn't just give him the answers he was looking for. But I suppose in that way I am often like Pilate. I want to do the right thing, but I'm looking for Jesus to give the answer. Instead, He turns it back on me. Even in His most desperate moment when the horror of what laid before Him could have been undone in an instant, He never foregoes our freedom. Like Pilate often I struggle and ultimately, retreat. But then, like this week, there are moments when life crashes down and the only answer is to look to the cross.
We may think the drama of the Passion is a million miles away. But really, it is the story of each of us. It plays out daily, in every moment. And we have one of two choices: we can fall silent and let life keep passing by. Or we can fall to our knees and acknowledge just how desperately we need Him.