Hosanna is an interesting word, which, I think, reflects the nature of Lent well. It can be used as a cry for help or as an appeal to be saved, but in a Christian context it is often used as an expression of praise and great joy. As someone who grew up in the Christian faith, it was a word I often heard on Palm Sunday, which just happens to be today.
When I was younger, Palm Sunday was one of my most favourite celebrations, but then, I adored all of Lent. I was a very introspective child, and having a whole 40 days where I was supposed to reflect on my own brokenness and on God’s sacrifice just seemed like such a wonderful thing.
Lately, I haven’t been going to church as often as I should be. I guess I’ve been feeling some doubts … not about God, of course – I know He exist – but more doubts about the content of my own faith. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christianity. I love the focus on self-sacrifice, service, and forgiveness. I love the affirmation of human equality regardless of age, ability, race, or sex. I love the philosophy and the belief in Truth. I love my merciful God. I even love the vengeful God of the Old Testament.
But there are some things that I don’t like about Christianity, especially the North American variety. The extreme focus on sexual purity, until you begin to think that your entire being is defined by what you’ve done with someone else. The focus on our outward actions instead of on our inward life of prayer, penance and our relationship with God. The constant cry of persecution in the American church, when our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East and elsewhere are being driven out of their homes and martyred for their faith. I have Christian friends who moved to North America as refugees, and what they have gone through in their home countries is almost unfathomable to me.
So I guess this year Lent has been more about trying to find my own place in my Christian faith. Hopefully that leads to a renewal and a deeper life of prayer, which can be easy to abandon in the busyness of life – especially when many of your friends are lapsed Christians or atheists.
Anyway, I hope all of you have a wonderful, prayerful holy week. Please consider keeping all of those who are being persecuted for their beliefs, including our fellow humans who are not Christians, in your prayers.
I’ll end this reflection with a quote:
… let people return to their minds. The problems of the world can only be solved by knowledge and brains. Enough insanity, the nerves of the people are shredded. Enough, enough—return to your minds; you people, you humans—return to your humanity, enough crimes.
This was said by a Christian man who survived the brutal massacre of his village in Syria. He is speaking to a rebel group who swept through his home and took the lives of his entire family, and instead of calling for justice and revenge, he asks those who tried to kill him, and who succeeded in killing his loved ones, to return to their humanity. I cannot imagine the love that this man must have for his fellow men, for him to be able to wish for them to return to their humanity, instead of wishing for their deaths.
This has been a big part of what my Lent has been about this year. If Jesus could forgive the men who crucified him, and if the Syrian man could love the people who tried to kill him, certainly I can love those who I feel have wronged me in some way. I pray that we can all be moved towards understanding and love for our fellow brothers and sisters, even those who have greatly wronged us.