Focus on what really matters

By | March 14, 2013

Look around. There are no wastebaskets in church.

The readings today talk about waste and rubbish and throwing things.

This is the fifth Sunday of Lent, what used to be called Passion Sunday, the beginning of something called Passiontide. This is the last Sunday of Lent before the beginning of the Holy Week liturgies, with Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion on March 24. The Lenten focus becomes more intense at this point for we are nearing the Cross with Christ.

Whenever we approach a crisis in life, or death is drawing near, the little bothersome things don’t matter all that much anymore. What was important yesterday, or last month, now becomes like rubbish — to use the words of St. Paul. Very few things matter anymore, in fact. But the important things do become very dear.

Think of how dear the Lord appeared to that woman when they wanted to throw her away, to throw stones on her and kill her. How stark that must have felt. What do you think mattered to her most at that moment? Have you ever felt that alone, that abandoned? What stones have been thrown at us? What stones have we thrown?

The church environment is very stark during these dwindling days of Lent. Some churches even place stones in prominent places. There may be containers of pebbles or sand — in which, yes, some small children may just write with their fingers.

Many churches will cover the statues for this Sunday, and their pictures of the saints. Even the cross will be veiled. These veils will remain in place until the Easter Vigil, when the light of the risen Christ tears through all veils. (The cross, of course, will be uncovered on Good Friday.)

For now, the crisis is approaching. The solace of saints and angels, the smell of flowers and the cool water of the baptismal font are all hidden from us. Even any comfort we might draw from the sight of the cross is taken from us. Do we notice their loss? Does their loss refine our focus? Does it make us yearn for Easter when “in the wasteland, rivers” will spring forth?

What other things that might be veiled, or even tossed aside right now, to help us focus more on Christ as Holy Week approaches?

Kasten is an associate editor of The Compass and the author of “Linking Your Beads: The Rosary’s History, Mysteries and Prayers.”

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