Sunday, April 17, 2011

His Life Clarifies Our Life

Holy Week is the greatest week of the year for Christians, especially when we come to the Easter Triduum. It brings together the liturgical themes of Lent with the pillars upon which our Christian faith is founded, our Lord’s passion, death and resurrection, as we commemorate and celebrate, in a tight unity, these events in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

The door of entry for Holy Week is Palm Sunday, when we commemorate Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. and read the drama of the passion and death of Jesus in anticipation of the soon to come Easter Triduum. This Passion reading serves to remind us of the suffering and condemnation of the Innocent One whose death authenticates a lifestyle that He lives and proclaims as an example of happiness. We learn to offer our life for those we love instead of keeping it selfishly since “he that saves his life loses it, but he that yields and surrenders his life for the gospel saves and wins it for eternity.…” And we learn to receive the Resurrection, by which God the Father validated the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth, as “the way, the truth and the life” in Jesus, for each and every man and woman of good will.

In the Catholic liturgy of Holy Week the entire life of Jesus is presented to us as a model of humanity, as the first vocation to which we who recognize ourselves as creatures and children God the Father in Jesus Christ should all aspire; for “the mystery that is man is clarified in the mystery of the incarnate Word: Jesus Christ”. (GS 22)

Thus today, the hopes, the pain, the suffering and the evil that every person lives out in the daily experiences of life—especially during Holy Week and specifically on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday— are illuminated through the pain and the suffering of the One from Nazareth who, confidently, lays his life and destiny in the hands of the Father (“…Thy will be done, not mine”). The Easter Vigil, then, illuminates our thirst for eternity, our hope, our longing for transcendence, our dreams of a fuller life, our projections for the future that are not fulfilled in the here and now of temporal living.

The Resurrection, the confession of faith in the triumph of life over death in Jesus, at the same time proclaims the final and definitive destiny of mankind, that death does not triumph, but rather life; that desperation does not triumph, but hope; that evil does not triumph, but the merciful goodness of God. Yet that confession of faith presses and commits us to build by our deeds and words, through our attitude and behavior, spaces for abundant life in the here and now. The fullness of life that we expect in the future begins in the now of our daily hopes. The new heaven must begin with a new earth.

Holy Week retraces, as no other liturgical event, the paradox and mystery of human life in the particular life of Jesus of Nazareth. Along with it comes all the paradox of the Christian mystery, especially power out of weakness and salvation out of lunacy, both illustrated in the hard wood of the cross. For we, as Paul says, preach Christ crucified, a scandal for the world, but for us “power and strength”.

Let us live this Holy Week, not like people who are passing through a museum of two thousand year old antiquities, but as those who remember the deeds that occurred in the person of Jesus, which today come to life and appeal to us because his passion, death and resurrection illuminate our sufferings, our struggles, our jobs, our projects, our loves, our pains, our surrenders, our triumphs and failures, our longings for a more just world, more human and fraternal, our death and our life opened in hope, to the God of abundant life.

May we derive from this Holy Week, while commemorating what Jesus lived, and all that happened to Him two thousand years ago, power and strength to brighten our personal and communal lives and open us to the celebration of the liturgical Easter and the definitive Easter that we hope for and are building in the now but not yet of our present history.

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