I have invited Fr. Henry Donasco, our Diocesan Liturgist, to take my column for this week, which he graciously accepted. Here is his homily.
The old practice of veiling the crucifix and sacred images on Saturday before the 5th Sunday of Lent until the beginning of the Easter Vigil remains an option in some churches today. It can be traced from the tradition of “hunger cloth.” Originally, Lent was a time when public sinners who were admitted to the Order of Penitents were banished from the Church and deprived of joining the congregation in all liturgical services. The practice of covering the front of the altar with violet cloth was therefore meant to restrain the penitents from seeing the altar. Eventually, this practice became a Lenten observance of “fasting of the eyes.” But why does Lent invite us to fast from something that is good?
We hear in the Gospel today that some Greeks wanted to see Jesus. However, when they finally met him, Jesus spoke unexpectedly about the glory of his imminent passion and death. He even indicated the kind of death he was to die – lifted up from the earth and drawing people to himself. The Greeks found this to be ridiculous for a Messiah, who according to the law would remain forever. Indeed, it was nice to see Jesus but he did not meet their expectations. Jesus instead wanted them to realize that there was more than what they expected to see.
This brings us to the spirit of Lent. The Church invites us to temporarily keep ourselves from something that is good and beautiful in order to make us realize that there is more than meets the eye.
The pandemic has become a long celebration of Lent for us because we have been restrained from doing many good things. They say that this pandemic has stolen from us our most meaningful ways to connect. We cannot come closer to each other to avoid the rapid transmission of the virus. But who could have thought that this situation made us realize also how much we need each other; that everyone around us matters, and that we cannot live alone? We were deprived of making physical transactions with our business partners and clients, but who could have thought that these can be done online, which are far easier and more accessible? We were forced to cost cut our daily expenses and expenditures because of our low earnings, but who could have thought that we would develop a good mindset that everything counts and that we would start to conserve our resources from water to energy?
Now, we can see that there is value in “losing” – “unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
This is a good disposition to keep, as we enter into the celebration of the Holy Week. We shall witness how the Lord would gradually give up everything he had, and even his life on the Cross. We shall see that the people he loved and served and even the closest among them, his very disciples would gradually desert him. However, as he prophesied and as confirmed by the voice from heaven, this was the manner that he would be glorified.
Well, the Lord does not teach us to glorify suffering because there are sufferings that are not worthy of glorification. The Lord simply tells us not to be afraid in times that we are being stripped of many good things because the best is yet to come!*