Praised be Jesus Christ! “He comes to us as one unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside, he came to those men who did not know who he was. He says the same words, “Follow me!,” and sets us to those tasks which he must fulfill in our time. He commands. And to those who hearken to him, whether wise or unwise, he will reveal himself in the peace, the labors, the conflicts and the suffering that they may experience in his fellowship, and as an ineffable mystery they will learn who he is,” (Albert Schweitzer). Holy Week has come and as the quotation makes clear, we’re given a choice to engage and follow or sit back passively and watch the Lord pass by on His way to saving our souls. This week plays out the greatest story ever told, one that involves betrayal, heartache, redemption and hope. Of course, we can only receive what our hearts are open to receive. If we’ve generously lived Lent by sincere prayer, regular fasting, and true alms giving (and this week we have a great opportunity by sharing our material wealth with the long- suffering Christians in the Holy Land; that collection is taken up on Good Friday), then our hearts are ready for the remarkable graces that are about to flood our world. Even if we’ve cut corners and led a lethargic and listless Lent, it’s not too late to make this a truly holy week. A question worth considering is ‘When was the last time I went to confession?’ This is still our Easter duty and you’ll have ample opportunity to honor God by allowing Him to wash away your sins. And if you’ve forgotten to fast or flippantly foregone it Good Friday is a chance to redeem yourself and embrace Christ’s self-sacrificial love by living a day on bread and water. Maybe you know the story of the monk who was not allowed to eat meat for all of Lent (common to all Catholics until the 1960s). He decided to be ready for Easter and did his shopping early. He purchased a nice, juicy summer sausage and kept it locked in his room. However, as the week crept past the temptation became more and more compelling, and he gave in to his hunger pangs by eating the entire summer sausage at 3:00 p.m. on Good Friday. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak!” Holy Week is an annual opportunity to really open our hearts to God’s love and ask Him to help us trust Him in everything. So many of us are willing to show God the areas that we’re proud of: our accomplishments, our contributions, and our good deeds. But when the Lord asks to enter the basement of our lives, we cower and tell Him we’re ashamed of the things we’ve locked down there. I know what this is like, as all human beings struggle with temptation and sin. But I’ve also come to know the freedom of allowing God into everything, especially the areas of our heart that cause us shame, guilt, and lead to profound loneliness. Jesus is passing by this week and for those who believe, He gives us the power to become more like Him in our ability to forgive and love people who are not easy to love. Another story I recently came upon was the one about 5 year old Sammy, who because of a sore throat stayed home from Mass on Palm Sunday. When the family returned from church they were carrying several palm fronds. Sammy asked what they were for... “People held them over Jesus’ head as He walked by,” his Dad responded. “Wouldn’t you know it,” Sammy complained, “The one Sunday I don’t go and He shows up.” This week changed world history and continues to do so in the hearts of people of faith. As the quote at the head of this article makes clear, Jesus has some tasks that He asks us to fulfill in our time and place. People who pray, fast, and share their life with others are the ones who most readily follow the Lord. Let’s pray for each other, especially this week, so that we may more and more abide by Jesus’ new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
May this Holy Week bring us and our fallen world to deeper faith and a fruitful spiritual life!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin