Musings For Holy Week
Entrance into Jerusalem-Palm Sunday ___________________________________
Today no one is murmuring with the question: “Who is he?” Today no one marvels that you are “only” the son of a carpenter. Today they run out to meet you—the man who gave bread when there was none to give, the man who gave sight to the man born blind, the man who gave life to someone already three days in the grave. Today they know who you are. Humble, riding on a colt, the foal of an ass, you are as discreet as the rocks on the road but not so discreet as to evade the praise that rises up to meet you. Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest!
The children especially—running they come, cheering you, and blessing you—before and behind you crying out, acclaiming, palm branches waving as if for a celebrity, a king. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
You do not deflect their praise. You do not divert it, pointing upward with solemnity to the sky. Nor do you prophesy and chastise their coming betrayal. The turncoats in your midst do not know they will soon cry out for your blood, and you leave them to their praise. You let it come. You let their praise rain over you and the children you once blessed now bless you and you let it be so for now.
Spy Wednesday ___________________________
“One of you will betray me, and another deny me three times.”
You foretell the dark abandonment and utter forsakenness that awaits you with a voice serene and modulated and composed. Your friends—your intimates—sit close by you, and not a word of yours escapes them. Looking at each other with incomprehension they do not fathom your meaning. Betray you? Deny you?
Leap to your feet Jesus! Overturn the tables, shatter the dishes, and rebuke those yellowbellied hypocrites who dine with you today and will deny you tomorrow! Forge a whip and tell them in clear language what a disgrace they are after being shown such favor, such privilege, soiling the very word “disciple” and trampling over friendship. They deserve to be cast out like salt that has lost its flavor.
But you do not upbraid them, abuse or humiliate them. You don’t even lecture them, counsel them or even coach them in loyalty, perseverance or fidelity. Come on Jesus, gather them in a huddle and tell them how it will be, how badly they will want to run, how the fear will grip them, how dark the terror will be, go on…if you but spell it out and encourage them, “Whatever you do, don’t run away!” Beg them, Jesus, not to leave you in this dark and fearsome hour.
Pep talks and pleading, emotional manipulation and guilt trips are the strategies in another’s play book, but not in yours. No, you let Judas leave. And you know the others will follow…but you let them be. You do not insist on them being anything other than what they are. And when they flee down the same path Adam fled, you let them run.
It is night. And you? You will go into the heart of darkness alone, for them, with eyes fixed on a Father you can no longer see.
Washing of the Feet _____________________________
It is the Last Supper. You are about to be led to your death. It is your last night on earth. Before handing yourself over in death, you handed yourself over in life—in the Living Bread. Tonight, you entrust to the Church—represented by these twelve chosen ones—your parting gift, your very self in the Eucharist. After 2000 years it is still beyond our comprehension when we stop to consider it, but what did it mean that night, that dark, sorrowful night, the night of betrayal, the night of the first Eucharist? When we receive the Eucharist, we are not sitting close at your side, looking into your face as we consume the same you in the host. How could they have understood what you were giving them? Did they have any idea? But then again, maybe understanding isn’t the point.
On this night, when you made your chosen band into priests and you gave them your living body for sustenance, on this night when you “instituted the Eucharist” and “instituted the priesthood” you did not seize the moment for a crash course in Sacraments. You did not give your first priests a precursor to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal or tell them where they could get the most suitable altar cloths or the appropriate way to wear their robes—considering their new office. You did not explain the important aspects of their future ministry or give them even the scantest outline to follow for their second Mass. What you did do was kneel down before them and wash their feet.
Jesus, you did seize the “teaching moment,” and on your knees you taught them everything they needed to know.
Jesus, you have drunk from the chalice, and the sins of humanity swirl around you in triumph. You let the reality of betrayal, the reality of the dark will of your enemies, the accumulation of the disobedience of man, wash over you. It comes crashing down on you and you let it come, you let it crash, and gave yourself over to the tsunami of disorder and the diabolical dissension of man departing from God—children hiding from their Father. No, Jesus you did not race ahead to resurrection; you walked every step of your passion until you shed every drop of your blood.
Your breathless body is a lifeless universe. Without you nothing has meaning or purpose or beauty or truth. But the Father receives your spirit. His will is accomplished. This chaos will be recreated, and the new creation will be better than the first.
A soldier gazes into your pierced side and body slumped on the cross and he comes to belief. It is as if your breath exhaled is inhaled by him, “This truly was the son of God.” And so it begins.
The Tomb _____________________________
You are alone in the pitch black, sealed tomb. But it is not you. It is your sacred body only. As for your soul…to speak of your soul on this day is to toss words like pebbles over edge of a fathomless abyss.
You have met the fate of every person—the great undoing—when soul and body separate. The fear of which, like a relentless undertow, torments humanity from time immemorial. Now, only in death you are poised to answer the question asked by every soul alone in the dark, “Is this all there is?”
Mother Clare, CFR