Today, we begin the solemn celebration of Holy Week, as we recall the last days of Jesus on earth. It was during these days when he fully accomplished the Father’s mission for him to save humankind through his passion, death and resurrection (paschal mystery). And because of the pre-eminent fruit of the paschal mystery, which is our salvation, the Church has always kept these days as the most important and sacred in her liturgical calendar. Thus, the name the Holy Week.
Let us endeavor to keep these days truly holy by spending time in prayer and reflection (instead of having fun in beaches and mountains). Let us accompany Jesus as he goes through his suffering and death. His final days were days of deep darkness and total rejection. The extreme pain he suffered was not only physical, but moral and spiritual as well. He had never felt so helpless and abandoned. The crowd that used to follow him has now turned against him shouting, “Crucify him, crucify him.” His own apostles left and betrayed him. Even his own Father seemed to have deserted him. At the height of his pain, he could only cry from the cross, “Father, Father, why have you abandoned me?”
In the end, by entering into his darkest hour, Jesus brought us into the light, and by dying the most excruciating death, he won for us the new life of his resurrection.
In these days of the Holy Week, let us unite ourselves with Jesus as he takes the road to Calvary. We too are passing through days of darkness and uncertainty. The world is at the brink of self-destruction unless we do something drastic to arrest the ecological crisis. Cruel war is raging not only in Ukraine, but in many parts of the world. We are not yet done with the pandemic, and we continue to suffer its consequences. And I dread to think what could happen if we fail to elect the right leaders in the crucial elections a few weeks from now. Let us pass through our darkness with Jesus and he will lead us to the light which is none other than he. “I am the light of the world.” (Jn 8:12)
The Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) is certainly among the most popular practices we have during Lent. This devotion never fails to move us to contrition and repentance for our sins which are the cause of Christ’s unspeakable sufferings. More importantly, it arouses in us a lively hope that we too will share in Christ’s new life, if with him we take up our own cross and seek the Father’s will at every step of the way. St. Paul gives the assurance that if we die with Christ, we shall live with him, and that if we endure, we shall also reign with him. (cf. 2Tm 2:11)
In one of my reflections on the Way of the Cross, a peculiar idea crossed my mind that more important than our following Christ to Calvary is the fact that Christ follows us to our own Calvary. When we follow Christ, we are never sure if we shall follow him all the way. Fear and hardship can make us give up. What is sure is that when we carry our own cross, Jesus follows us all the way and never gives up on us.
This reminds me of the beautiful scene from the movie, “The Red Turtle,” of a mother and child lying on the beach side by side. Wanting to feel secure, the child reaches for the mother’s arm and holds it. In response, the mother frees her arm from her child’s hand in order to hold him.
This image often comes to my mind whenever I pray the verse from psalm 63, “My soul clings to you; your right hand holds me fast.” Holding on to God is definitely reassuring, but not as much as being held by him. While our hand can lose grip and let go of God, God’s hand will never let go of us.*