O LORD OF LIFE, we thank you that the day of resurrection has dawned upon us. In its clear light, help us now to step from whatever sign of darkness there may be in ourselves into the true light and life, which is now yours—and which you long to share freely and fully with us.
Come to us – tune our heart and mind to give abundant thanks and praise to God – that on every Sunday we may solemnly celebrate the day of our Lord’s resurrection. Give us this day quiet peace and special gladness, that being protected day and night by your mercy, we may rejoice always in the gift of life given to us by our faithful Savior.
– Norman Shawchuck
TO PRAY FOR one another is to enter the dark not-knowing of Holy Saturday, suspended between the savagery and sorrow of the world and the undisclosed work of a hidden God. … We, in hope alive but besieged by the enormity of the world’s distress, release our prayer into the unseen flow of grace that courses through the interminable wait for God’s response. “How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever?” (Ps. 89:46
PAUL INTRODUCES US to a God who groans. We are tempted to think God is far away, aloof, distant. … [But] Jesus, who is the image of the invisible God, gives us a different picture. Jesus’ weeping with Mary and Martha as they grieve reminds us that God weeps too. When Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he reminds us that God enters into our pain and our forsakenness. Even beyond crucifixion, in his resurrection body in heaven, Jesus bears the scars. We worship a God who grieves, who weeps, who groans with us and all humanity.
- Trevor Hudson and Stephen D. Bryant
IT IS A STARK SCENE. Jesus praying in Gethsemane, saying, “My heart is ready to break with grief. …” Does this look like the picture of a saintly Jesus resting in the palm of God? Hardly. We see an agonizing, straining, and struggling Jesus. We see a “man of sorrows.” We see a man struggling with fear, wrestling with commitments, and yearning for relief.
We see Jesus in the fog of a broken heart.
My, what a portrait! Jesus is in pain. Jesus is on the stage of fear. Jesus is cloaked, not in sainthood, but in humanity.
The next time the fog finds you, remember Jesus in the garden. The next time you think no one understands, reread the fourteenth chapter of Mark. The next time your self-pity convinces you that no one cares, pay a visit to Gethsemane. And the next time you wonder if God really perceives the pain that prevails on this dusty planet, listen to the pleading among the twisted trees.
Seeing God like this does wonders for our own suffering. God was never more human than at this hour. God was never nearer to us than when God hurt. The Incarnation was never so fulfilled as in the garden.
Jesus, may I watch with you in your pain and so come to understand that you watch me in mine. Amen.
WHEN JESUS SPOKE about a seed that is planted in the ground and then dies, he was referring primarily to his own death. He would pour out his life for others on the cross. At first, his death would look like a tragedy, but in the end it would be a triumph. It would look like defeat but would really be a victory. Jesus’ death would ultimately be the triumph of the resurrection power of God’s self-giving love over the forces of sin, evil, and death. This is why Christians say, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” We often call this proclaiming “the mystery of faith.”
This mystery is unique to Jesus. We cannot do what he did. But Jesus invites us to share in a different part of the mystery. Like a seed that is planted in the ground and dies, we are invited to die in order to live. This is the gospel secret expressed by Jesus. If we want to become alive to ourselves, to others, to the world, to God, to Jesus, and to the Spirit, we must let go. We must lay down our lives for God and for others in order to be raised to life.
Let me be clear. When Jesus spoke like this, he was not trying to lay heavy burdens on our lives. He was describing reality. Richard Rohr says that God always comes to us disguised as reality. Jesus was describing the reality of how life works. … We can embrace it or fight it. When we embrace it, we are transformed.
- Trevor Hudson
When Mary poured a rich perfume on Jesus’ weary feet,
Her caring filled that humble room; the fragrance there was sweet.
But full of anger, Judas said, “We could have used this more!
Why was her gift not sold instead, and given to the poor?”
The Lord replied, “Leave her alone! She bought it for this day.
This caring love that she has shown is faithful to God’s way.
The poor will always be with you, but you will not have me.”
He blessed her and he thanked her, too, for giving lavishly.
O Christ, what can your people bring to show you thanks and love?
You need no fragrant offering; for now you reign above.
Since there will never cease to be the poor throughout the land,
May we, your church, serve faithfully by offering them our hand.
—Carolyn Winfrey Gillett
TODAY IS PALM SUNDAY, and also Passion Sunday: today’s little parade is fanfare, prelude, signaling the arrival of the unholy circus we call Holy Week — whose climax is not three rings but three Roman crosses, stabbed in bloody relief against Jerusalem’s skyline, an eclipse of justice so cosmic as to be mirrored in the heavens on a festival Friday afternoon.
With populist fanfare Jesus descends from the Mount of Olives into the valley of the shadows of his death. And we too, following, make our own sharp descent into the maelstrom of the week’s intrigue. …
It is hard work, the work before us this week. If Jesus’ first followers found themselves wishing to go back to the good days before the unpleasantness began or, like us, jumping ahead to the glory they might have imagined lay ahead, like them we have to remain here for a while. For this hour, to this place, this coming trouble — this is where Jesus journeys, and all his disciples, like it or not, must journey with him.
- Thomas R. Steagald