As we enter the holiest week of the Christian calendar, I invite you to immerse yourselves in the story of the passion of our Lord in the scriptures. Today we will read from the gospel of Luke. It is a familiar story, of betrayal and friendship, of suffering and compassion, of rejection and surrender. It is also the story of the human family lifted up from death and darkness into strength and light. We know it is a painful story, painful to watch, painful that we are powerless in its unfolding. We even know how it ends. Although parts of the story are tragic, it is not a tragedy. Although some parts are horrendous, it is also full of hope. We know that after the tragedy of Calvary, new life emerges from the tomb on Easter morning. But Easter does not arrive before Calvary.
Yet there are people for whom this week is nothing special, for whom this week is like any other week of the year. For them Easter will arrive as it does each year, with its more popular sentimental non-religious entourage – the Easter bunny, his colorful chocolate eggs, the delicate spring flowers, the pretty frilly pastel colored dresses, the impressive Easter hats, the delicious pastries, the decadent desserts, the intoxicating beverages that accompany most celebrations. And in a day or two, Easter will all but be forgotten, until this time next year. And we would just as easily return to our tragic lives, tragic because it offers us little hope of anything better, just more of the same.
For us who observe Holy Week with a little more attention and care, the Holy Spirit has a wonderful opportunity to move us and bring about a more lasting change. We who live relatively comfortable lives, whose greatest challenges revolve around home, school, work, and church, we have the luxury of walking into and walking out of Holy Week as we please. We call to mind the horrendous events in Jerusalem, and Gethsemane, and Calvary; we embrace the physical inconveniences of formal prayer and liturgy; we welcome the emotional tension and rejoice in the spiritual consolations, we subject our minds to some manageable anguish that results from recalling this story. Then when we have had enough, we can set it aside and resume our mostly ordinary, carefree, and inconsequential existence.
But there are people who live Holy Week every week of the year. They endure betrayal, persecution, and condemnation on a daily basis. They are arrested, scourged, crowned with thorns, stripped of their dignity, and nailed to a cross. They are laid in the arms of their loved ones helpless and lifeless, and forgotten when they are gone. They do not have the luxury of walking into and walking out of Holy Week as they please. I invite us to find Jesus in our sisters and brothers the rest of the year, and carry his cross for a while like Simon of Cyrene; and wipe the blood, sweat, and grime from his face like Veronica; and weep for him like the women of Jerusalem; and defend him from insults when he hangs on the cross; and comfort his loved ones when his lifeless body is laid in their arms.
Immerse yourself in Holy Week, and walk with Jesus in those who suffer, in those who carry a heavy cross, and in those who cannot escape the darkness and death that surrounds them. Walk with them through the streets of Jerusalem, to Calvary, and to Easter.
Rolo B. Castillo © 2013