One thing that I love about working with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is how new the Gospel is for those who have never heard it before. A few years ago on Palm Sunday, we headed downstairs from the sanctuary to break open the Word. We were not even to the basement door, when Roy, a man in his fifties touched my arm and said, with tears in his eyes, “I never heard that story before!” The day before I wrote this, because it was a snow day from RCIA, one of our catechumens and her eleven-year-old son read Luke’s account of the death and resurrection by candlelight at home for their homework. The mom texted me afterward. “What an amazing story!” she said.
For a heart of innocence, what could be so breathtaking about the death of Jesus? When I read it afresh, what flabbergasts me is what also impressed St. Paul—the degree of self-emptying, self-giving, self-sacrifice that Jesus was willing to undergo in obedience and for our sakes. Where did he get the strength to do that? “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard.” Isaiah says, “The Lord God is my help...He who declares my innocence is near.” Our God is Deliverer. God lifts us up. God is faithful. God is for us.
For someone who has never heard this story, to have the Lord of the universe care, to take our side, to be willing to die to lift us up from the muck of life—that is not something to be taken lightly. For those who are used to feeling adrift and alone, this is fresh and life-giving! After being baptized at the Easter Vigil, Roy broke into a smile and his whole body radiated happiness. New life! Not just a theological idea, but a gift from the One who cares.
Thanks to John R. Baker, OFM & Karla J. Bellinger from “Living the Word”