Sunday, April 01, 2012

Holy Week: A Time to Move Beyond ‘Iffy’ Love

Henri Nouwen

(Palm Sunday (B): This homily was given on April 1, 2012 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I. by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Philippians 2: 6-11.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Palm Sunday 2012]

During this season of Lent, I’ve been reading a meditation each day by the late Catholic spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen.  In one of those meditations—one that I read a few weeks ago—Nouwen spoke about the conditional and imperfect love that we all encounter in this sinful and imperfect world—even from very good and sincere people.

Based on what he said in his reflection, you could call this “iffy” love.  He wrote, “The world says: ‘Yes, I love you if you are good-looking, intelligent, and wealthy.  I love you if you have a good education, a good job, and good connections.  I love you if you produce much, sell much, and buy much.’”

He continued, “There are endless ‘ifs’ hidden in the world’s love.  These ‘ifs’ enslave me, since it’s impossible to respond adequately to all of them.  The world’s love is and always will be conditional.  As long as I keep looking for my true self in the world of conditional love, I will remain ‘hooked’ to the world—trying, failing, and trying again.”

My brothers and sisters, this is one of the primary reasons why so many people in our society right now are frustrated and unhappy—even if they have lots of money and lots of possessions and lots of earthly friends.

They desire perfect love; they desire unconditional love (and they desire these things whether they realize it or not)—but all they have in their lives is a lot of “iffy” love!

St. Augustine, prior to his conversion, was one of these frustrated and sad souls (even in the midst of the Playboy lifestyle he was living).  After he came to Christ and began to build a personal relationship with him, he recognized the reason for his sadness and frustration, and that led him to write those famous words, “O Lord, you made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

This is why Holy Week is so important for us, both spiritually and emotionally.  Holy Week is a time to move beyond the “iffy” love that often dominates our earthly lives, and it’s a time to focus on, and get in touch with, and be transformed by, the PERFECT AND UNCONDITIONAL LOVE OF jesus christ: the love which led him to that cross, the love which led him to suffer and die for our salvation!

“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.”  (John 3: 16)

What will you do this week in order to accomplish this?  Please think about that today.  What will you do during the next 7 days to focus on, and get in touch with, and be transformed by the perfect and unconditional love of Jesus?  Well, here’s what’s going on at St. Pius.  These are some possible activities you might consider participating in: On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we will have morning Mass, as usual, at 7am.  We will have Eucharistic Adoration all day on Tuesday.  We will have Stations of the Cross at 6:05 on Tuesday after Benediction.  We will have Morning Prayer Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the regular Mass times.  And, most important, we will have the Liturgies of the Triduum on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings: the Mass of the Lord’s Supper will be at 7pm on Thursday, followed by Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the church hall until 11pm.  On Friday we will have the celebration of the Lord’s Passion at 7pm, and Stations of the Cross twice: once outside at noon (weather permitting), and then at 3pm here in church.  And finally, we will have the first Mass of Easter—the Easter Vigil Liturgy—at 8pm on Holy Saturday night.

Let me conclude this brief homily by urging you to plan your Holy Week today!  I can’t emphasize that enough.  Plan your Holy Week activities today.  Don’t wait until the week gets going.  If you wait until the week gets going, you’ll probably get distracted, and other things will get in the way.

Remember, the world says, “I love you, if . . . “

But, with Jesus Christ, there are no “ifs”!

May we all come to understand that truth more completely this Holy Week by making some special time for the Lord.