Today’s palm branch procession, and reading of the passion of Jesus, signals our step into Holy Week.
I call this week THE week since these few days contain every human experience and emotion, not simply as important past events but as the reason that our lives touch every other human life and our qualification for relationship with Jesus Christ who is God-with-us.
Holy Week is a microcosm of human experience, passion and desire.
There are high points: dinner with friends (Last Supper) and a heroes welcome (Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem).
There are low points: the growing sense of foreboding (towards the end of the Last Supper, betrayal, the long Gethsemane hours, arrest, torture, abandonment by friends and death as a criminal).
And there are experiences of ultimate fulfilment and unsurpassed joy (the stone is rolled back, He is not here, He has risen).
I always find it helpful to use these days before Easter as a week of retreat-in-daily-life.
In a retreat we look to Jesus who leads us to see the circumstances of our life with divine perspective. And in a retreat we can’t help but bring the stuff our our lives, the circumstances, which in the context of retreat, leads us to Jesus.
So as we journey together through this Holy Week to Easter let’s be aware of the miracles we need Jesus to work in our own lives and the lives of those we love.
Take a moment right now to boldly ask Jesus for a miracle this week.
And in these days we look together to Jesus, the one who is ready and waiting for the invitation to work miracles in our lives.
Again, confidently ask for that miracle.
We recall these events in the life of Jesus, suffering unjustly, death as a criminal and resurrection, events which give us new life.
When we think of something that happened a long time ago – especially when it happened before we were born, it is easy to see the event as past and therefore irrelevant. In this mode we remember what has happened knowing that it has already happened. It is over. While this mode of memory can help us to learn from the mistakes and methods of the past, this is not the kind of remembering we are invited to in Holy Week.
In Holy Week we don’t simply recall past events, but we engage in a here-and-now re-membering, that is, giving living body to the past reality that is really a present event and a living experience today. It’s not difficult to do, since we have all suffered.
Perhaps it is helpful to consider an example. From history many of us have learned of the Battle of Gallipoli. We know that this event happened. We have no doubt since our knowledge has come to us from many independent sources.
There is no doubt that for the families of the one hundred and fifty thousand soldiers (almost three thousand New Zealanders) who died, this event is unforgettable.
Now, a century after the event, for the descendants of these families to have a family member who died in the fighting has become a badge of family honour.
But the death of Jesus is not such an ‘historical’ memory for the disciple. The difference is that whereas those who fought at Gallipoli are now dead, Jesus is alive.
The blood on the battlefields of Turkey is no longer visible. But the suffering of Jesus continues just as the resurrection of Jesus continues.
The life, death and resurrection of Jesus are not simply moments of history. These events are the present reality of the life of the twenty-first century disciple.
The community of Jesus is alive and thriving today, not because of our successful pastoral plans and projects, but because Jesus is alive.
I invite you to immerse yourself fully in the events of Holy Week. The gospel passage for each day will guide you, and that is what we will focus on in these daily FFF reflections.
As we walk this journey together we do so not as passive spectators or students of history. Instead we journey this path as struggling Christians sharing (in our own lives) in the suffering and death of Jesus.
We know the promise too, that those who walk this path, and who live this life confident in the personal presence and activity of God, will share in the glory of the resurrection.
- Instead of the usual Lectio Divina today, because the gospel reading is the entire Passion according to Mark (around 15 minutes), I thought it more helpful to provide a link to a simple dramatisation for you to listen to as you sit, walk or drive. Click HERE to find it.
- Now, ask for that miracle again, and make this your prayer several times every day between now and Easter.
Yes indeed, Father John, we are not just remembering something that happened a long time ago in the past. We are remembering something that we also took part in.
We were there, shouting “crucify him, crucify him”, or at least we give our proxy to those people to shout that for us every time we sin.
Jesus died on the cross for all our sins, those in the past, we in the present and those to come. So don’t blame the Jews for crucifying Jesus we all did it.