We begin Holy Week with a fickle crowd who are all gung ho on welcoming Jesus as their King and Messiah. We all know what happens to this same crowd a few days later when they’re screaming at the top of their lungs “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.” Holy Week challenges us to see ourselves in all that is presented before us.
It is always significant to me that on Palm Sunday and Holy Thursday our Church actually asks us to re-enact the Gospel. Could it be that on these days the message is so significant that we need to feel it in our body in order to allow it to touch our heart? Accepting the palm and waving it is a sign that we are one of his companions going with him up to Jerusalem. Ed Hayes even suggests that we cut off a piece and put it in our wallet or our bed post or in our car as a reminder throughout the year that we have committed ourselves to the Christ. Many of our Sisters are much more creative than that as they manipulate the Palm. What is your tradition and how has it brought meaning to you?
But the physicality of these days continues to feel important. Perhaps to underscore the mystery, the Triduum is physically demanding and tactile, filled with water and oil and human sweat as we kneel and stand, wash feet and kiss crosses, pray through long litanies and Scripture readings and finally amid cries of Alleluia, turn on the light to initiate new members into the body of Christ. It is as though there is a plea in the liturgy to bring our whole selves to the celebration which indeed should represent the liturgy of our lives.
The Triduum is the essence of our faith, the entire Christian mystery concentrated and purified into three days, a mystery that overwhelms our mind, heart and senses. Each day of the Triduum takes us deeper into the mystery of the season with surprises here and there. On Holy Thursday when Eucharist was instituted, our gospel tells us Jesus kneels down and washes their feet showing them that service, love and compassion are the Eucharistic moment. On Good Friday we come face to face with the primary Christian symbol—the cross. To learn to internalize that reality is the challenge. St Paul tells us “The Son of God gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20) because he loved me. This laying down his life for love of us is what makes Good Friday Good. It’s one of those things we say with our mouth but often don’t allow to seep deep enough into our hearts. We also glide over the other reality, i.e. Christian living is a ceaseless movement to life through death — everyday! Like the life of Christ,; my own life has to be a ceaseless dying-rising. What is the cross we must take up? It’s easy enough to see the cross elsewhere: in the homeless, those killed by gun violence, the refugees fleeing the Ukraine, in those remaining for battle with the oppressor, in a world wondering how to help without creating a World War III. But the really important task for us is to see and acknowledge the cross that we are asked to take up each day.
Give Us This Day in a Palm Sunday reflection cites Walter Burkhardt who tells us what imperils Christianity is our lukewarmness. Jesus Christ does not turn us on. A rock group descends on a city and people flock to them by the thousands. Our sports team misses the playoffs and tears flood our homes and stadiums. God dies on a cross for us and business goes on as usual. He isn’t asking for ceaseless emotion but only that we live day by day the dying-rising that Holy Week symbolizes. It is within our power to let the reality of this Good Friday truly touch our hearts. If it does, it will transform us in ways we couldn’t imagine. It also will open us to the JOY of this Easter Season.
The excitement of Holy Saturday brings us to the moment of celebration when the Alleluias can begin. Very early in the morning, as soon as the sun came out and they dared to go outside, the women hastened to the tomb. They were loaded with linens, oil, and perfumes because they came to bury him properly. The men came afterwards, when the news about the empty grave reached them. John and Peter gazed into the tomb before entering it, full of hesitation. They were all surprised, very surprised.
The day is, of course, about what happened to Jesus, and yet when you read it, it is all about them. First it happened to Mary; then it happened to the other women; then it happened to John and Peter; then to the others; and finally to Thomas. They believed, something happened to them. Certainly, something had happened to Jesus. That is what we are celebrating today, No doubt, he rose from the dead. Yes, he overcame darkness and evil. But the story is really about what happened to them when they saw the empty tomb, when he appeared to them, a first time, a second time, in the house where they met, outside at the lake, seeing him walking over the sea, eating bread and the fish he fried for them. The story is about them. They believed. What we are asked to celebrate is what overcame them and what should overcome us.
What they started to believe—at that empty tomb, as they ran home, when they saw him—is that good will overcome, that death will disappear, that light will triumph, that up will prevail over down, the up of the resurrection over the down of the cross. They were not only willing to believe, they were willing to live that belief in their lives, themselves risen from all death. And then Jesus told them “GO” proclaim the good news. They went and asked us to join them. AMEN, ALLELUIA (Most of the Easter section is from Joseph G. Donders)
This closing is from Ed Hayes: The Risen Jesus echoed this command to his disciples: “GO” into the world and proclaim the good news” (Mark 16:15) “GO!” is the Easter commission for disciples of Christ in every age and time—-you and me.
- GO—and feed the hungry; clothe the poor,
- GO—and house the homeless of the world.
- GO—and care for all in need, and you will be blessed with more than good fortune. For when you care for Christ, you will be blessed with the fortune of heaven itself.
- GO—daily striving to see the Risen Christ in all: in friends and enemies, saints and sinners, in the kind and unkind; show your love for the invisible Christ in them.
- GO—into the World with enthusiasm like those old-time newspaper sellers, who stood on street corners shouting the headlines: “Read all about it: Death Has Been Defeated. LIFE Is the Winner!”
- GO—most of all in joy. Travel the road of life, daily doing all things with delight. Live in the joy of this Easter season, which is a joy that no sickness, loss or defeat can steal from you.
- GO—and live in joy since that is the parting wish of Jesus Christ. At the Last Supper, Jesus prayed that joy might be the abiding gift to his disciples: “…that my joy might be in you and that your joy might be complete” (John 15:11) and again, “…I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.” (John 16:22)
- Daily may we go into the world bearing the charming mark of every authentic disciple of Christ Jesus: JOY!