Monday, September 9, 2013

What's in Your Ritual?

In a recent conversation, a friend said (more or less), “What the Seven Sacraments have in common is death.”  Each Sacrament calls us into the cross, into suffering, into dying to self.  Ultimately, they call us into resurrection life- but only AFTER death.  No shortcuts, end runs or free passes.  Jesus is clear.  “The man who holds onto his life will lose it.  The man who loses his life for my sake, shall live.”  In case we miss that, Jesus also says, “Pick up your cross and follow me.”  Simple, unqualified and without nuance.  Where did Jesus carry His cross?  To Calvary, where He gave up everything that was within Him as a man, complete death to self.
In the Catholic Church, we are blessed by the gift of the Sacraments, rituals that are laced and loaded with meaning.  Every word, every action within the ritual has meaning and is designed to point us and anchor us to the reality!  But, that reality is a hard reality.  In Baptism, we enter into the family of God, but we reject the enemy and all his evil ways.  Death to self.  In Matrimony and Holy Orders a man covenants himself to his bride, pledging to place her ahead of his own fleshly desires.  Death to self.
Yet, let’s be honest.  Most Catholics are hardly aware that the ritual calls them into such a radical reality.  And even when they do, they often dare not go onto that ground!  I’ve lived much (if not all) of my life avoiding the cross.  And this is what it looks like.  It’s easy for me to trust God in the places where I trust Him.  But, oh, I will pass on trusting Him with the areas of my life where I think He has abandoned me, rejected me and failed to come through for me.  “Thank-you very much,” I say in my flesh, “but I’d rather trust me with this.”
And here is the sad, sad reality that occurs, either by my ignorance, or by my will.  The ritual no longer reflects and points to a reality.  Instead, it becomes a routine, just another mindless check-box item to take care of in a busy life.  Baptism carries the same weight as my birthday, or brushing my teeth.  I am not speaking here to the conferral of grace within the Sacrament, but the human experience and understanding.
Yet, the only place I truly experience life, is where I’m willing to die.  The only vibrant Catholic, the only vibrant Christian, the only vibrant church, is the one that is willing to pick up a cross, drag it to Calvary, be crucified upon it, and die.  And having done that, we shall find only one thing.  Jesus. His life.  His freedom.  “So I set before you life and death.  Choose life.”  So, what’s in your ritual?

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff Ken! You nailed it! I am DYING to read more! :-) So that I may LIVE more!