By Fr. Tim Knepper, C.PP.S.
Before today’s Pandora or Spotify playlists, songs on repeat flowed out of the speakers of my dad’s stereo system. The song with the most airplay, and long-term memory storage for me, was “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” by Lynn Anderson.
I beg your pardon
I never promised you a rose garden
Along with the sunshine
There’s gotta be a little rain some time
When you take you gotta give so live and let live
Or let go
I beg your pardon
I never promised you a rose garden.
On repeat in the lectionary for this Easter season is the Acts of the Apostles. In today’s first reading, Paul and Barnabas are encouraging the disciples: ““It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” We sometimes have a naive narrative that being a Christian is a leisurely walk with Jesus. Instead, we are reminded that the earliest Christians experienced hardships and difficulties when following Jesus. Apparently, Jesus never promised us a rose garden either.
In Precious Blood spirituality, a number of images stand out for us: the covenant, the cup, the cross, and the the wounded but victorious lamb. There is an element of suffering in each image. The covenant recalls God’s promise to God’s people and the history of slavery and suffering in Egypt. The cup includes the passion of Jesus, especially when Jesus asks the sons of Zebedee, “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” The cross and the wounded but victorious lamb point us to the harsh wounds of suffering and pain, both in the life of Jesus and in our own lives. Just as Jesus is not in control over the suffering and pain he endures, the suffering and pain in our lives sometimes reminds us of how little control we have of our lives.
Today’s Gospel’s message for us to love one another might not seem to go along with the suffering embedded in the images of Precious Blood spirituality. But in the same way that these images include suffering, they include love. The love of God to God’s people in the covenant. The love poured out in wine and shared in the cup. The love of Jesus for his friends to lay down his life upon a cross. Love for one another reminds us of the need to get out of our own egos and try to find a way to accept life on life’s terms. As Jesus concludes in the Gospel today, and this is how the world will know we are Christians—by our love.