In Jan Richardson’s Painted Prayer-Book we read: “There is a time for stillness, for waiting for Christ as he makes his dancing way toward us. And there is a time to be in motion, to set out on a path, knowing that although God is everywhere, and always with us, we sometimes need a journey in order to meet God – and ourselves – anew.” As Jesus enters his final week, he takes humanity with Him as He does every spring-time when we walk with him along the road to Calvary. We are not just remembering an historical event that happened over two thousand years ago. We are celebrating and taking part in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus as it happens today, to us and for us, because this sacred journey is seared upon our memory and is rooted in our daily encounter with him who continually makes all things new. This is our entry into the reality of dying and rising; in it we surrender our lives and loves in return for a wild and precious hope in the assurance of God’s Presence and Spirit, freely given when we empty ourselves of all pretense and self-prominence. Actually, it expresses who God really is and what it means to share our humanity so that we might share in his divinity. It is only in our decision to be self-emptying and self-giving that we can become a reflection of Christ’s love, a love that continually reaches through the cosmos to give us reason to be changed. After all, Jesus’ embrace of the cross is what “incarnate” signifies, for only The Cross offers the clearest picture of Who God really is: the One Who loves us to the end and lays down his life that we might share in his promise of eternal life. It was for us that Jesus endured the cross, with all its shame, its degradation and its untold agony. How can we do anything but love him and share our tiny portion of that cross?
Holy Week challenges us to reaffirm commitment to accompany those who cannot speak their truth, their despair, their doubt in this God Who calls upon us to relieve the suffering of humankind wherever and whenever it raises desperate pleas for compassion and concern. “The very stones cry out,” but do we listen? What are the metaphorical “palm fronds” of our lives that we are willing to relinquish so that others might live? It is always time to bear the weight of brutal violence and indifference from a cold and callous world. It is always time to offer our lives to the One still crucified among us in the person of the other. “Whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters… ”
In his book, The Life of Christ, Bishop Fulton Sheen reflected that “perhaps no greater paradox was ever written than this – on the one hand the sovereignty of the Lord, and on the other hand, his ‘need.’” Jesus never owned; he borrowed. “This combination of Divinity and dependence, of possession and poverty was the consequence of the Word becoming flesh. Truly he who was rich became poor that we might be rich. Jesus borrowed a boat from a fisherman from which to preach; he borrowed barley loaves and fishes from a boy to feed the multitude; he borrowed a grave from which he would rise; and now he borrowed an ass on which to enter Jerusalem. Sometimes God preempts and requisitions the things of man, as if to remind him that everything is a gift from him.”
The lines of Isaiah are paralleled in the suffering of Jesus: “GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them; I have not rebelled, have not turned away; I gave my back to those who beat Me; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting; GOD is my help; I am not afraid.” How true these statements will be for Jesus later in the week as he refrains from His preaching to the weary, and humbly faces scourging, hatred, incredible mental belittlement, excruciating physical pain, betrayal and finally death on that Cross, the ignominious wooden instrument of salvation. On Friday, we can pray with Jesus, “Into your hands I commend my Spirit,” and let another piece of our “wounded heart fall into the crucible and die.” The key line in the Gospel is the words of the Roman soldier after the death of Jesus: “Truly, this man was (is) the Son of GOD!” This truth should always be at the heart of our profession of faith!
Sr. Anne Daniel Young, OP