06 Apr Dropping the Mask for Holy Week
In three days the Church will celebrate Palm Sunday which launches us into Holy Week. Holy Week, in turn, propels us through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday to the pinnacle of the church year, Easter Sunday. I love Easter, and I am particularly excited for it this year because frankly, I could use some good news. And Easter is all about Good News.
But, we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves. Before we get all dressed up in our Easter finery, dye eggs, get our favorite Peeps or chocolate-covered marshmallow bunnies, and buy the Easter ham, we must first walk with Jesus to the cross. And that walk starts Sunday.
One of the invitations embedded within the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ last week on Earth is the invitation to insert ourselves into the story, to see ourselves as one of the disciples who fell asleep when Jesus asked us to pray or as one of the followers who fled in fear when Jesus was arrested. We’re asked to see ourselves as a betrayer, like Judas, and as one who denied Jesus, like Peter. The religious council, the Sanhedrin, wished an innocent man dead. Roman soldiers tortured and humiliated him for sport. Pilate sentenced Jesus to be executed in order to satisfy the crowd, the same crowd who preferred a messiah preaching violence to a messiah preaching love. The same crowd who on Palm Sunday welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem like a conquering hero, only to turn on him by Friday, demanding that he be crucified. We’re invited to identify with all of them.
It’s not easy to put ourselves into the story, not because we lack the imagination but because we hate seeing ourselves in such an awful light. We are really good at denying that we have anything in common with the people who surrounded Jesus in his last week of life. In fact, we’ve perfected the art of self-denial, especially when it comes to the evil that lurks in every human heart, our own included. We think we know ourselves better than we actually do. When we look in the mirror we don’t see fickleness, betrayal, and the propensity for erring on matters that are of ultimate importance. We much prefer the masks of respectability and goodness we’ve crafted for ourselves. It’s understandable. But, it’s also deadly.
One way to think of the Lenten season is that it is a time to dare to slowly pull the masks down, to look ourselves square in the face, see ourselves in the Passion narrative and repent of all the ways we blow it. Sometimes we need help doing that, and to that end, I want to share this prayer written by Thomas Merton. As you enter the final week of Lent, I pray it will minister to you as you confront Jesus Christ crucified.
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know if I will do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen.
Holy Week Blessings,
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