Among the many blessings I benefit from serving in an apostolate with long-term and palliative care patients, is the fact that the majority of them come from one or two generations before me. Those patients who share our holy Catholic faith, frequently demonstrate just how deeply rooted this faith of ours can become... but we need to be able to see it.
In this modern-day society that surrounds us, we tend become blinded a little or numbed into thinking that “newer” is always somehow better . But the Gospel of Matthew [13:52 ; DRV] tells us that , *“...every scribe instructed in the kingdom of heaven, is like to a man that is a householder, who bringeth forth out of his treasure new things and old.” *
And what more concrete example could we have of the fulfillment of those words from our Blessed Lord other than the entire Old Testament and New Testament which consummate each other ; and which we commonly refer to in their entirety as the Word of God ?
On occasion, I have happened upon these little “jewels” which certain patients “bringeth forth out of their treasure” - jewels which have been handed down to them by tradition ... Please permit me to share one of them with you :
Three or four months ago, I was bringing Holy Communion to one of the (many) patients who were unable to attend Sunday Mass – André . André is a layman but had been educated by members of a religious order ; as he tells me (in French) “They gave me a very thorough formation.”
At one point in our conversation, André said to me, “Let me ask you : When you enter a church, why do you genuflect ?”
I told him it wasn’t so much because I entered the church that I genuflect , but because Jesus is truly, entirely and personally present in the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle. I told him I face the tabernacle when I genuflect; that the genuflection is an expression of reverence – an exterior expression of what is in my heart for my God and Savior; and, I told him, I hoped it could help to also remind others of Jesus’ Presence there.
André smiled a little, but then shook his head and said to me, “You still haven’t got it.” At that point I would usually have the option of bringing in a little lightheartedness, by providing a reply along the lines of, “Sorry André – I didn’t study. No one told me there was going to be an exam.” However, the look in André’s eyes was a serious one. So instead, I asked for his explanation of why we genuflect “when we enter a church”.
He said, “They taught me that when I genuflect before the (Blessed Sacrament in the) tabernacle, I am making reparation to Jesus for the cruel mockery- for the genuflections of the Roman soldiers before Him as they crowned Him with thorns, beat Him, and spat upon Him.”
“What a holy thought”, I said to myself. I told André I would try to remember that the next time I was before the tabernacle . The “thought” has become part of each of my genuflections before Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar . It adds a new perspective.
Anyone who has been Catholic for a while knows how easily we can slip into that rut- where we discover that some of our holy gestures (even the Sign of the Cross at times) can suddenly appear to have become routine . In other words, we make the physical gesture without really thinking about what we are doing. If anyone feels or senses it may be happening when they genuflect, they may wish to try looking at it the way André describes, if they haven’t already : That you are making reparation for the sacrilegious mockery - the genuflections of the soldiers after they'd pressed the Crown of thorns into Jesus' sacred head. Even when we may be physically incapable of genuflecting, we are always able to carry that intention in the heart – in that place where Jesus looks first.
A little research on genuflections (right here at CAF's Catholic Encyclopedia), turned up this reflection by St. Ambrose:
"The knee is made flexible by which the offence of the Lord is mitigated, wrath appeased, grace called forth" (St. Ambrose, Hexaem., VI, ix)
Was St. Ambrose also referring to that first offence when he said the "offence of the Lord" ? That we should be mitigating the very offence of mock genuflections made to our Lord during his cruel Passion by our own genuflection before Him in the Blessed Sacrament , would seem to be a particularly appropriate thought for Lent. Was there ever a greater offence in the universe regarding genuflecting ? Yet He endured it because He loves us with such unspeakable love.
*Mark 15:16-20 *[DRV]
"And the soldiers led him away into the court of the palace, and they called together the whole band: And they clothed him with purple, and platting a crown of thorns, they put it upon him. And they began to salute him: Hail, king of the Jews. And they struck his head with a reed: and they did spit on him. And bowing their knees, they adored him.  And after they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own garments on him, and they led him out to crucify him.".