Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Meditation on Holy Week and Easter

The readings for Sunday, April 1, 2018:

First Reading: Acts 10:34-43

First Reading (Alt.): Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm: Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Second Reading (Alt.): Acts 10:34-43

Gospel: Mark 16:1-8

Gospel (Alt.): John 20:1-18

Finally we move through Holy Week to Easter Sunday. At last, our Lenten pilgrimage draws to a close.  It's strange to write about Easter when we have yet to move through all of Holy Week.  But the Christian life invites us to live in this strangeness, the coming of God existing in various planes of time:  the past, the present, and the not yet.

Perhaps that state explains the disjointedness in which many of us find ourselves as the liturgical year rumbles on.  Perhaps you still linger back at As  h Wednesday. Perhaps you find the Good Friday texts more evocative than the Easter texts. Maybe you're in a state of joy, back with the shepherds hearing the angel choir.  Maybe, like Mary, you prefer silence and pondering the mystery.It's interesting how our emotional lives aren't always in sync with the liturgical seasons or the Lectionary.

 Maybe this year we can approach the Holy Week stories differently.   Maundy Thursday gives us a view of how to love each other.  Notice that it's about what we do:  we eat together, we wash each other's feet, we anoint with oil.  It's not about an emotion--it's about an action.  It's not a theory of love, but a concrete way of being loving.

We are called to break bread together, to drink wine together. We are called to invite the outcast to supper with us. We are called to care for each other's bodies--not to sexualize them or mock them or brutalize them, but to wash them tenderly. Thus fortified, we are called to announce that the Kingdom of God is breaking out among us in the world in which we live, and we are called to demand justice for the oppressed.

Perhaps we find ourselves more like the disciples who would transform the loving act of anointing with oil into a way to help the poor by selling that oil and giving the money to the poor.  It seems a good way to show love.  Jesus rebukes this way of thinking.  We will always have the poor; we won't always have the ones we love.  This year, a year when so many mourn such severe losses, those words speak to me.

Good Friday gives us a way to think about betrayal and how we can respond.  The Good Friday message is that we will all betray God.  But some of us will try again, while others will give up in abject despair.  Some of us will apologize and try to do better, while others will choose death.

I also find myself thinking about the tree that must wish for a great destiny, but is transformed into the cross,  an instrument of torture.  Likewise, Jesus, who has been in some amount of control of his own actions, but finds himself handed over to others.  In these past years when I've watched so many friends and colleagues battle cancer--handed over to the medical-industrial complex--the idea of the Passion takes on an excruciating hue.

Easter promises us that our efforts will not be in vain. In Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, N. T. Wright says forcefully, " . . . what you do in the Lord is not in vain. You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that's about to roll over a cliff" (208). We may not understand how God will transform the world. We may not be able to believe that bleakness will be defeated. But Easter shows us God's promise that death is not the final answer.

Spring reminds us that nature commits to resurrection. Easter reminds us of God's promise of resurrection. Now is the time for us to rekindle our resurrection selves.

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