Assistant to the President for Mission Integration Catherine Punsalan-Manlimos is organizing a series of reflections from students, faculty and staff during the coronavirus crisis. To keep up on the University’s response to the coronavirus, please visit udmercy.edu/coronavirus.
She was barely two years old. Somehow she knew this was a sacred night and so she knelt silently and was so very still in prayer like all the grownups around her. The darkness that surrounded her did not seem to frighten her but only help her pray more deeply, whatever that means for a 2-year-old.
Each year, I have found myself recalling that night many years ago in a parish in South Bend, Ind. Today, my heart is once again moved but differently. She is now an adult. I cannot invite her to go to church with me. Most church buildings will be empty. Yet, the call to be in vigil, meditating on the depth of the love of the One who is to suffer his passion remains.
The Third Week of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius invites us to enter into this period in the life of Jesus. It is an invitation to enter fully into the suffering of another, of this Jesus whose profound trust and fidelity to his mission of love led him to the cross.
I have always found that last point to be the most baffling truth about the story of Jesus, of the Christian faith. Radical love incarnate in the world leads to suffering and death. Proclaiming the dignity and value of all human beings, broken as they may be, and the willingness to push back on all that rejects their worth, whether law, authority or power, leads to persecution. Somehow a life and message of forgiveness and compassion leads to rejection and betrayal.
For the church, these coming days are an invitation to be with Jesus in the culmination of his life’s work. It would be a mistake to forget that the days we remember in the Easter Triduum are a consequence of the days that preceded them, the days of the proclamation of the good news of God’s radical love for all people. To fail to take this seriously is to fail to recognize both the human condition of brokenness and the depth of the love of the God Jesus proclaimed. It bears repeating and underscoring. Jesus proclaimed an inclusive message of liberation, of a merciful and compassionate God who desires justice and wholeness for all people. Such a message and the hope it engendered in the hearers were deemed too dangerous to allow to persist. The messenger had to be eliminated lest people really begin to believe and demand they be treated as this man claimed they deserved, as beloved of God. On this night and the days to follow, the church invites us to enter fully into the consequences of proclaiming such a message for one man.
Given the reality of our world right now, it is also an opportunity to call to mind all those whose commitment to their mission, to their work are putting their lives on the line to save others today.
The story is incomplete until the close of the liturgy late in the night of Saturday into the morning of Sunday when radical love confirms radical hope. The story closes with an opening, with the resurrection, God’s definitive affirmation of Jesus’ message of liberating love.
This year, this week also marks the 30th anniversary of Catherine McAuley being pronounced venerable. In her is one example of a life committed to mediating the message of love and mercy. To celebrate this special day with the Mercy community, I invite you to read this commissioned poem by Mary Wickham, RSM.
The Weekly Video Reflections from the Office of Mission Integration resume his next week.