Well, this will be different.
Holy Week for many Christians, as well as for many other faithful who worship significant holidays during this time of year, will soon realize that this too is unfamiliar.
We will trade in our traditions and our comfort for a harsh yet sacred invitation to reunite with God.
Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday, captures the rise and (temporary) fall of Jesus- ending with his death on the cross on Good Friday.
For many of us, Holy Week is typically a prayerful practice of our imagination. This year, it is a live performance.
Some will be called to be Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross for Jesus on his way to His death. These first responders and medical professionals will try to alleviate the pain and suffering for God’s creation.
Others will be called to mourn their loved ones dying before them and dying alone. Some, like Mary, will see their children leave this world too soon. Some, like John, will see their dear friend pass. Like many disciples and friends of Jesus, others will be far away from the final breath.
Some politicians will wash their hands like Pontius Pilate.
Others will act out of greed like Judas.
Many will simply do nothing.
Too many will unfortunately die this week, and like Jesus, we will wonder how this could be different. Like the song, “Could We Start Again, Please?” from the play Jesus Christ Superstar, these words will resonate true from the hearts of the living:
I’ve been living to see you
Dying to see you, but it shouldn’t be like this
This was unexpected, what do I do now
Could we start again, please?
I’ve been very hopeful so far
Now for the first time I think we’re going wrong
Hurry up and tell me this is just a dream
Or could we start again, please?
Some of us, and I pray, most of us, will trade in our processions, devotions, and worship for the role of observer from our home. We will be like those on the sidelines who saw Jesus walk by to his death, finally understanding what it must have been like 2,000 years ago to see such suffering and injustice in our communities. We will do this from afar, seeing the rising death count and sensing the overwhelming fear and heartbreak.
A note: Before the pandemic, the unjust walk to the cross was (and still is) a reality for many, especially those most vulnerable in society. Too often, we turned our attention elsewhere- where it was safer, easier, comfortable.
Whatever role we play, this different Holy Week invites us to open ourselves to this experience with courage and vulnerability.
While the Church doors will be closed, our hearts are called to open like never before.
You see, what begins on Palm Sunday does not end on Good Friday. Yes, it knocks us to our knees- but it is here where we then stand up.
It is here, in the suffering, that we discover God. We understand love in a new, immeasurable way- not just for ourselves and our families, but for our larger human family. Might we finally bring to life the hope of Jesus that “we all become one.” (John 17:21)
On the night before He died, Jesus asked God to take away what was to come, before finally surrendering Himself and accepting God’s will. We do not know if Jesus knew what would follow His death, but we have the advantage of knowing how this story ends.
We, too, must surrender, and trust in our God that does not inflict pain, but remedies it. Yes, we pray for a miracle and we see it answered in all who are sacrificing their lives as you read these words and as I write them. God is as present now as God was present with Jesus as He lived that first Holy Week.
2,000 years later, we walk our own Holy Week, united in blood and sweat, in fear and worry, in mourning and despair. We can play many parts this week, as we do throughout our lives, yet in the end, we are called to simply be God’s beloved. Surrender and trust, knowing in the depths of your heart that God is there.
My prayers for you this Holy Week…