We join together with millions of others throughout the world to walk the final days of Jesus’ life. Of all the weeks in history, what a week re-lived for two millennia. The church is divinely ordained to recall these days for the sake of the world. It is important to remember the story of that final week of Jesus’ life because we need in it for our own times, in our own lives.
We know this story, how it begins with Jesus riding into Jerusalem amidst accolades and the greeting of palms and how quickly things go from promising to crushing. The world’s multitudes know how quickly life can turn from good to bad. We know what it feels like to be filled with hope and then to be filled with fear. Holy week is the story of when good and holy enters the bastion of power and violence. It is not a pretty sight. Holy week is the story of the champion being felled, the disciples falling short, the heart of a mother being broken.
Holy Week is a testimony of the beauty of love and the ugliness of hatred. It is a testimony of just how far hatred will go, and… is a testimony of how much further God’s grace and redemption will go. Holy week begins on a donkey and ends in the grave. The final week of Jesus’ life begins upon the mount of transfiguration amidst the ecstatic affirmation of divine love and belonging and ends upon a hill called Calvary, hung upon a cross enveloped by darkness and isolation.
Holy week must be remembered because the darkness and agony of those days return again and again in life. Those holy days return in the wake of diagnosis, tragic death, crippling addictions, broken marriages, acts of hatred.
Holy week is the eternal proclamation that there are times when days are dark and grow darker – when it feels like everything beautiful, holy, innocent, pure, lovely, and good is lost…dead….beaten….stripped of dignity…drained of life. Holy week recalls and relives that time of suffering and it places Jesus, the sacrament of God, the bearer of all that suffering, the victim of all that hatred, the condemned of all that judgment.
For me, the message of Holy week answers the question, “Where is God…” Where is God when countless innocents are being gunned down? Where is God when my body is stricken with disease? Where is God when my parent or spouse, no longer knows me as their son or husband? Where is God when my homeland is devastated by war, violence, corruption, or natural disaster? Holy week tells me where God is… not on the sidelines, not in the distance, not among the mourners, not safe with the righteous.
Where is God? Bullet ridden and bleeding out upon the pavement. Where is God? stricken and disfigured with disease. Where is God? Homeless and hunted as a refugee. Where is God? beaten and imprisoned, in agony and alone hanging in the balance. Where is God? Lying in the tomb.
Holy week is the story that tells the world, God is known amidst the glory, the beauty, the goodness, the richness, the joy of life and…. And … God is known in the agony, the suffering, the poverty, and the depression in life. And from these places the institutions of compassion, this yearly pilgrimage through the life of Jesus that we walk together every year.