“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. 2 In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 - And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. 4 Where [I] am going, you know the way. 5 Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” c8 Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. 12 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And whatever you ask in my name, I will do so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.”
Holy Week has begun. And it will be the strangest Holy Week we have ever experienced. We, as a Catholic people, the body of Christ, are without our Lord in the Mass, in the Eucharist. We cannot receive Him physically. This is not a small privation for us. The Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in the Eucharist really and truly changes our souls. The sanctifying grace received in the Sacraments changes our souls and makes us more able to be like Christ in the world. The Eucharist is THE healing balm for our souls. But the Act of Spiritual Communion made after examining our consciences and having true contrition for our sins, and also while affirming our belief in the Real Presence, will affect a positive change in our souls. Christ is present to us when we pray an Act of Spiritual Communion, and that is where our faith is grounded right now.
What is it that God is doing in each of our lives this Holy Week? Let’s all stop and pray and ask God specifically, what it is that He wants us to learn, where is it that we are called to grow, to convert, to stretch towards Him. There is a specific message for each of us this week, and we are called to make time to pray and to LISTEN to the gentle voice of our Loving God.
It might be that I am called to grow in patience with my children or spouse or aging parent. I might be called to spend more time in prayer with Jesus. I might be called to take on a Marian devotion. I might be called to help my neighbor. I might be called to express myself creatively. There are so many ways that God is reaching out to each of us RIGHT NOW.
Fear, worry, anxiety – none of these come from God. So, if you are experiencing these and feel disconnected from the Church, go to more prayer. Prayer is where Jesus is waiting for us with arms wide open. Those same arms and hands that were stretched wide and nailed to the Cross -for you and for me. For all of us, for all time. Jesus restores us to life through His death on the Cross, and that is where we are called to pray this week. To enter into His Suffering and Death and then be gloriously joyful in His Resurrection. But we can only truly experience the joy of His Resurrection when we have entered into His Suffering and Death. We can meditate on the Passion in each of the Gospels and imagine ourselves in each scene. Hear Jesus when He asks his disciples to get him the colt and bring it to Him, ride with Jesus on the colt into Jerusalem, and hear the crowds cheer. Spend time with Jesus early in the week as the events of the Passion approach. Ask Him what he wants from you and ask Him what you need to change in your life to draw closer to Him. Watch as Jesus washes the feet of the disciples and as the Passover meal is prepared for the disciples and look at Jesus’ face as he consecrates the bread and wine that Thursday evening. Imagine what it would have been like to have Jesus wash your feet. Feel his loving hands on your dirty feet and feel the love that is poured out from Him in His act of Service.
Watch and pray with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and see the sweat and blood fall from His beautiful face as He faces and is willing to bear all sin for all time, as He prays to His Father for this cup to be removed. Hear Jesus as He says to His Father, “Thy will be done.” Pray about what it would be like to know that you will suffer and die SO PAINFULLY; it’s the worst pain you could have, and choose it willingly! Feel how full of love Jesus’ Sacred heart is for us, that He would take on all the pain and suffering for you.
Stand beside Jesus as He watches Judas approach with those who will arrest Him. Feel the love Jesus has for Judas. See Peter cut off the ear of the slave, and Jesus heal that same ear of the servant Malchus. Feel the love, the compassion that Jesus has for all of those who arrest Him. Pray with Mary and Mary Magdalene the night Jesus is jailed and enter into the darkness and anguish and lack of understanding they must have felt. And yet our Blessed Mother, Jesus’ Mother, never doubted God, never gave up hope, she waited, she watched, she sorrowed, but she Trusted.
Hear the words of Pilate as he condemns Jesus to death and listen to the crowds cheer for this verdict. Look at the face of Christ through all of this, of the God-man who will save us, as he peacefully and lovingly accepts the Will of the Father, even though He is in pain and suffers more than we can imagine. See the love in Jesus’ eyes for each of us – and accept that love.
Watch with Mary and the other women as Jesus is scourged and then made to carry His own Cross and is mocked the whole time. See the blood pouring forth from His wounds – that blood that is shed for you and for me to save us from sin and death. Watch with Mary and John and Mary Magdalene as Jesus is nailed to the Cross and groans in agony. Do not look away. Face the pain and agony that Jesus experienced for each of us so that we can have eternal life. Watch as the Cross is hoisted up into the air and feel the pain that must have been unbearable as the weight of His body hung on the Cross. Know in your mind and heart that Jesus suffered and died and hung on that Cross, that horrible implement of torture, for you and me; and wait with Mary and John at the foot of the Cross for three hours on Friday.
Hear the words that Jesus spoke from the Cross and try to understand their meaning for you. What do the words say to you? Feel the relief and total grief that Mary and John felt as Jesus died. He is no longer in pain, and yet He is dead. Hold Jesus’ Feet as Mary holds Jesus’ body after He is taken down from the Cross. Look at those deep nail wounds, see the blood, and know that Jesus did this for you. These same feet that walked the earth carrying the body of Christ who brought with Him the message of Love, of Freedom, of Salvation, and yet was not received by most. Realize that we can be the hands and feet of Christ here on earth if we open our hearts to Him and let Him show us how to live for Him and serve others.
Help carry Jesus’ body, anointed for burial, into the tomb and gently lay him on the cold hard stone, wrapped in burial cloths. Help roll the stone over the opening to the tomb and lean back against it, exhausted, grieving, and alone. Sob and release all of the tears for the loss of the best brother and friend, teacher, and master you will ever have. Sit with this grief. Feel the emptiness, the hollow space created in each of us for Jesus to dwell, but now feels empty.
Sit and wait, do not go forward to Easter yet. Wait until Sunday. For now, for this Holy Week, when we have nothing but Faith and Love, enter into the events of Holy Week. Let’s watch and wait with Mary and the disciples.
Then, on Sunday, we will see what God can do! Then we will see that all things will be made anew. But not yet, be patient and pray this week.
Watch, Wait, and Pray.
“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight, At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more, When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death, And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”
-CS Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
*Photo of the altar mosaic at St Clement's Church in Rome, Italy by Helen Young