He Has the Power

The back of our convent faces the back of a New York Cityhigh rise residence. Occasionally, children can be heard playing on the small patio behind the apartment complex. It’s always a delight to hear the laughter and joy of kids playing rather than the typical NYC cars’ honking or construction drilling. One recent afternoon it was apparent that two younger kids were back there. Presumably they were brother and sister, and at one point the little boy, who probably wasn’t more than six years old, shouted at the top of his lungs the famous line from the cartoon character He-Man, “I have the POWER!” Without skipping a beat, his younger sister responded with almost as much fervor and volume, “no you DON’T have duh power!”

The windows of our chapel are just across from that patio, and as that little interaction took place we happened to be praying our daily holy hour. I couldn’t help but smirk, but as I continued to gaze upon the Blessed Sacrament I began to recognize the profundity of that exchange. Before me here in this monstrance is Power Himself – the actual He-Man.

During these past few weeks of Lent our daily mass readings have been from the gospel of John. The evangelist has been presenting Jesus as the Savior. The All-Powerful One whose mission is to bring us to salvation. Each year during Lent we’re given the opportunity to enter more deeply into the Paschal Mystery and thus recognize our radical need of salvation. We experience this in a dramatic way on Ash Wednesday when the priest takes ashes and marks our forehead with the very sign of our salvation – the sign of the cross. With this he says either, “remember you are dust, and unto dust you shall return” or “turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.” Both are powerful reminders of our need for continuous conversion.

Receiving this sign of ashes not only expresses our desire for deeper conversion, but with great faith and hope we are confident that the Lord is compassionate and abounding in mercy. These ashes signify the beginning of our trek along the road of deeper conversion. This journey reaches one of its most climatic points during our participation in the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation during this time of Lent. So with pure heart and soul we can proclaim our Easter Alleluia with renewed vigor.

Pope Benedict recognized the importance of this during his homily on Ash Wednesday. He emphasized that:

“The Lenten Season proposes to us a journey of 40 days in which to experience God’s merciful love effectively. The appeal: ‘Return to me with all your heart,’ resounds for us. It is we who are called to convert our hearts to God, in the constant awareness that we cannot achieve conversion on our own, with our own efforts, because it is God who converts us. Furthermore, he offers us his forgiveness, asking us to return to him, to give us a new heart cleansed of the evil that clogs it, to enable us to share in his joy. Our world needs to be converted by God, it needs his forgiveness, his love, it needs a new heart. ‘Be reconciled to God’ (2 Cor 5:20).”

Jesus affirms, “I make all things new.” In confession when the priest says the words of absolution, Jesus is washing us clean. He is making us a new creation. I remember as a child dreading few things more than going to confession, but every time I walked out I felt like I had just awoken and it was Christmas morning or my birthday. Whatever hesitation I had was far outweighed by the joy, the grace really, of the Sacrament. I had been renewed, so much so that it was palpable. I encourage you to experience this great gift and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation during these days leading up to Easter.

A sense of newness is present throughout our celebration of Easter. From something as simple as little girls in their new Easter dresses. Or the eggs that are decorated in glorious colors that are brought out on Easter Sunday, symbolizing that the darkness of Lent has ended. I’ve even heard it said that the Easter egg roll is a symbol of the breaking away of the rock from Jesus’ tomb.  Far more significant than these symbols, though, is the new life of innocence that comes with those who are baptized at the Easter vigil. Or for those of us already baptized, the renewal of our baptismal promises.

As we approach these holiest days of the year, we are given the opportunity to awaken in our hearts the Lord’s presence and power in our lives. As I explore further the very mystery of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection I can’t help but think of that little boy playing outside our chapel window. I think there is some truth in his assertion. To an extent, we do “have the power.” In reconciling ourselves to the Lord and entering into that deeper conversion of new life with Him through a vibrant living of the Sacraments, Jesus actually raises us into His Divinity. We rejoice with the entire Church in this reality at the beginning of the Easter Vigil mass when during the Exsultet the cantor proclaims, “This is the night when Christians everywhere, washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement, are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.”