Normally, my mid-week “Musing” would be a look ahead to the readings we will hear at church the coming weekend, a reflection on how the Holy Spirit spoke to me as I prayerfully digested those readings. And I’m really tempted to stay true to that plan, even if it’s just to not interrupt the system.
But this isn’t just another week.
This is Holy Week. That makes this coming weekend the Easter Sunday celebration. For my money, it’s the most spectacular day on the Church calendar. Jesus rose from the dead, conquering sin and opening the doors of heaven.
Before Easter, though, we encounter Holy Thursday and Good Friday. The Easter season lasts six weeks. We get to rejoice in the glory of God for a month and a half. I look forward to every single one of those days.
That said, we get only one Holy Thursday. Only that one day to savor with a most special and particular delight the great gift bestowed upon His People: The Eucharist. And we get only one Good Friday. Only that one day to feel to the depths of our soul the sorrow and heavy guilt of what our sins did to our Lord Jesus Christ.
I think we can take something memorable from each of these two special days of Holy Week that can last throughout the year – indeed, throughout our lives.
On Holy Thursday, we remember in greater detail the “Last Supper,” when Jesus shared a special meal with his closest disciples in the upper room of a building in Jerusalem. It was on this night that Jesus knelt to wash the feet of those disciples, and it was on this night that Jesus gave us food that looked like bread and drink that look like wine but actually was his flesh and blood.
We have the opportunity to experience that same meal every day if we wish, at least every Sunday. It should cause us to re-evaluate exactly how well we are living up to Christ’s example of servanthood. And we should carry the holiness of this Thursday meal into each Mass we celebrate.
To spend some time reading the Scripture selections we will hear at Mass that night, click here: Holy Thursday.
The experiences of Good Friday can seep deeply into our lives as well. In some ways, the lessons we gain from our meditations and prayers that day can actually change our lives in more profound ways than Holy Thursday.
For one thing, it can cause us to do an intense examination of our conscience and life. We hear Jesus praying in the garden and feel humbled by the agony he felt – for us. We witness Jesus being tortured and eventually dying on the cross and feel guilty because of the sins that put him there – our sins.
To spend some time reading the Scripture selections we will hear at our church services that night, a reliving of Christ’s Passion and death, click here: Good Friday.
It becomes very personal. Yes, it’s about death and sin and guilt. Yes, it’s about the cross.
And that can turn aside many people. They want a Christian faith that makes them feel good, that promises light and peace and joy. They don’t want to travel through the streets of Jerusalem with Jesus. They don’t want to take Simon’s place in helping the Lord carry that cross part of the way. They don’t want their sins to be a reason the centurion hammered a little harder as he pounded the nails into Christ’s feet and hands.
One fact of life, however, is that each of us receives a cross. We each are given something difficult during the course of our years on earth: sickness, death of a family member or friend, loss of a job, poverty, fear for our own lives. We want avoid carrying that cross, pass it off to someone else, do anything to make it easier to bear.
Father Benedict Groeschel once said that people don’t mind carrying their cross as long as it is a light one, preferably a cross made of Styrofoam. Remembering that, I went and googled “Styrofoam cross” and found numerous places where I could buy one. They come in all sizes and can be used to top a cake or include with a collection of party balloons, maybe with a nice floral arrangement for a funeral. You can get one as inexpensively as $2.75 or pay more than 30 bucks.
They might be fine crosses. But I like my cross to be a little heavier, a little more creative and colorful. I like my cross to have more substance and meaning.
Of course, my cross is more difficult to carry than a Styrofoam cross. My cross has been clinical depression for 12 years, financial challenges throughout the years, worries about children and parents and friends. At times, it can feel like too much. I’m sure my mom, who is recovering from high-risk surgery to remove a brain tumor, or friends who have dealt with the loss of a child or multiple sclerosis or cancer, all would agree that sometimes, they don’t want to go on.
And yet they do. It can be beautiful to watch.
Said St. Theresa of Avila: “If the cross is loved, it is easy to bear.”
Our prayer, then, becomes the desire to love our cross. For in the end, the most enduring lesson of Good Friday is hope – because we know the story doesn’t end there.