How did God surprise you during Lent?
Recently the National Catholic Register published an interview with Archbishop Georg Gaenswein. The Archbishop is the personal secretary to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and the article was on the occasion of Pope Benedict’s 90th birthday.
2005 was the year that marked the end of the long and public suffering and death of John Paul II. The archbishop recalled the events of this time:
“I remember very clearly what he said to me when he made me his Secretary. He said: ‘We two are on interim assignments. I will soon retire, and you will accompany me until that moment comes.’ That was in 2003. Time passed by… the rest of 2003, then 2004 and then came 2005. The “interim arrangement” lasted and lasted. Cardinal Ratzinger was really looking forward to having some time off in order to be able to finish writing his book about Jesus. When we realized that the death of Pope John Paul II was imminent, he made other plans, hoping that the new Pope would let him take his leave, entering his well-deserved retirement.”
The Cardinal didn’t know – that things were about to turn out quite differently – He became Pope himself. The Cardinal had plans, but there was Another who had different plans for him. Once again, the Lord took him up on the promise that Father, then Bishop then Cardinal Ratzinger made to the Lord year ago. God surprised Pope Benedict.
Soon after being elected Pope, Benedict attended World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany. There the Pope received another surprise. He was not only surprised that so many young people came to see him and attend World Youth Day, he was taken aback at how enthusiastically and warmly they greeted him. The Archbishop said that Benedict was filled with joy for a long time and the love he had felt from the young people.
I attended World Youth Day and I remember one particular line from Pope Benedict that struck me: “Give God permission to surprise you.” The Holy Father indicated that God is a God of surprises. But you only can receive the surprise when you are in proximity to Jesus Christ and you actually want the surprise. Christ is a gentlemen – he stands outside the door and knocks and asks permission to come into your life and surprise you.
Mary Magdalen got surprised in the garden.
Peter was surprised when he went to the tomb.
The disciples were surprised about their encounter with Christ on the road to Emmaus.
The Jews were surprised when they couldn’t locate the body.
Over the next few liturgical weeks, we are in store for even more surprises:
- The appearances of Christ along the shoreline.
- The descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
- The Ascension.
During Lent, when I would hear Confessions, I would often offer the following 4-part penance:
- What’s going well in your life? Thank God for it.
- What’s going poorly in your life? Ask God to help you.
- Who do you know who is suffering?Ask God to help them.
- Ask God for a miracle.
I was surprised how many people felt uncomfortable and guilty asking God for something big and wonderful and spectacular.
What is the Easter surprise that you want from God? Invite Him and and give him permission to surprise you.
Audio version of the homily is here: