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Walking Our Faith: What I can learn about my faith now

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson
Walking Our Faith
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson

My spiritual life has changed during this time of isolation. I begin my day watching daily Mass, and at 5 o’clock I end my day with evening prayer via Zoom with 20 other Summit Country parishioners.

These spiritual bookends give my day rhythm and structure. I have discovered I value these daily spiritual practices that I never had time for before we entered into quarantine.

This weekend, we approach a much larger bookend. The season of Lent draws to an end as we enter Holy Week. But this year is different. Our imposed isolation and the closure of our churches will find us navigating this week alone.

Since I’ve been quarantined in my cozy little apartment, I’ve become aware of how much stuff I’ve accumulated and how much less I need or want. With a desire to declutter, I’m gathering bags of clothes and shoes to donate. I keep imagining how freeing it will be to surround myself only with things I treasure.

I now feel the same way about my spiritual life. As I sit in silence contemplating a Holy Week of solitude, I find myself focusing on the core of what I believe.   

This is my essential truth: If I believe nothing else in this time of anxiety, illness, job loss and fear of the unknown, it is this: God loves all of us, dearly.

What I find in each event of Holy Week are tangible expressions of this belief, of God’s love and the promise that he will never leave us or abandon us.

On Palm Sunday, I will celebrate Jesus Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem and my very human desire to crown him as king, just as I wish to be elevated through my work. Instead, I discover the events of Jesus’ final week encapsulate his life’s work and describe one who has no desire to be measured by our standards of success.

Service

“It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end … Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:1-5)

From his birth into poverty, to the Sermon on the Mount, his encouragement of forgiveness, healing, loving not things of this world, but people — the works of Jesus Christ are exemplified in this final act of service.

Kneeling, he washes the feet of those he knows will soon desert him in his hour of greatest suffering. And yet he still loves them. He washes our feet. He loves us.

Forgiveness

When Jesus later breaks the bread and says, “Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my Body which will be given up for you,” and then when he offers us the wine and says, “Take this all of you and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this is in memory of me,” he becomes the living sacrifice, not only for those sharing his final Passover meal, but throughout time. Made on my behalf, for the forgiveness of my sins.

When he asks me to do this time and again, forever, he reminds me not that this is a memorial sacrifice that must be repeated, but that he is always with me. In the consecrated bread I find his body, and in the wine, I find his blood. Evidence that he has taken on the burden of my sin, and I am forgiven.

Love

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16,17)

On Good Friday, I see him on the cross. He has chosen this ignoble death not because he had to, but because he would take my burden as his own to demonstrate his love for me.

In Christ’s anguish, I see his humanity. In his unanswered plea, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” I hear not only his willingness to die for my sins, but to do so in a way that requires him to experience my greatest fear: that I am abandoned to die alone and without hope.

Because of his acceptance of this burden, when I have lost hope, when I turn to Christ, I know he is not a distant god, but someone who has experienced what I have experienced.

Hope

In the quiet of this Holy Week, stripped of everything other than Christ, I come to understand the entire point of his life and death and resurrection is the triumph of light over darkness, and when I find darkness in my life, this is the source of my hope.

This week invites me to remove every obstacle that blocks my observation of Jesus. And then he asks me to bring his attributes into my life.  

In this time of isolation and uncertainty, what greater gift could I give my God than to practice service, forgiveness and love in the name of Jesus Christ who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at suzanne@suzanneelizabeths.com.


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