During Lent I have been returning to practices where I had already experienced the Grace of Christ, each week adding a different one, in exercises of remembrance and of stretching. This last week, the one we call Holy, I returning to and adding one practice where I have recognized God’s Grace over and over, the practice of giving thanks, being grateful for all the ways that God come to me, daily, and for all time. I am choosing in this week to practice those prayers of gratitude; but along with my general practice of gratitude, I am going to pray with gratitude through the gospel stories that are appointed for each day. There is so much about the Mystery of faith that I do not understand: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ is coming again. My learning, studying and growing older has not clarified the mystery for me, but in some ways makes the Mystery even more mysterious. But I can read sacred text, and give thanks for what I can grasp and cherish.
After Sunday’s readings in Matthew, a reading from John is given for our consideration by the lectionary, powerful stories, full of grace and truth:
- Mary anointing Jesus with perfume in her home (John 12:1-8)
- Jesus meeting some Greeks and pronouncing that he is Light of the World (John 12: 20-36)
- Jesus predicting that one of his disciples will betray him (John 13: 21-32)
- Jesus washing the feet of the disciples and commanding them to love each other (John 13: 1-17, 31b-35)
- Jesus betrayed, arrested, and crucified (John 18:1-19:42)
- Joseph of Arimathea requesting and acquiring the body of Jesus and burying it (John 19: 38-42)
All of these stories are familiar to me, yet I feel sure that if I can read them with the eyes of gratitude and trust, there will be a Word for me–a Word that connects me to the expansiveness and grace of Jesus, a Word that gives me strength as I look on suffering and betrayal, a Word that demonstrates ways to act faithfully in the face of cruel and chaotic forces beyond my control, a Word that gives me hope in the darkness. These will be the Words of Life that will take be beyond Holy Week into the Eastering to come.
A prayer from Ruben Alves of Brazil helps me in this journey of grateful grace:
Lord. Help us to see in the groaning of creation, not death throes but birth pangs; help us to see in suffering a promise for the future, because it is a cry against the inhumanity of the present. Help us to glimpse in protest the dawn of justice, in the Cross the pathway to resurrection, and in suffering the seeds of joy. (from Bread of Tomorrow, Janet Morley, ed.)