Today, in Mercy, we enter the sacred embrace of Holy Week.
Last year, about this time, as Jesus began his Paschal journey, we too began a journey whose end we could not foresee. It was a terrible, frightening, and disorienting time. It was also a time of amazing nobility and courage.
Now, this long year later, each one of us has come to a new place, both blessed and tragic. So many have not made it here with us — so many lives lost across the globe, some at our own table. And a way of life, for better or worse, has been left behind forever.
Many of us continued to make this past year’s journey with Jesus, long after Easter had passed. In some ways, all of 2020 was a extended “Passion” with its very real:
Deaths and Burials
Palm Sunday is a feast with two faces.
Jesus rides in triumph into Jerusalem, but his deep heart realizes that the road ultimately leads to his death. Jesus, who once called himself the Vine, knows that the bright green branches waved in adulation will soon be trampled to the ground.
In these final days of Lent, we are faced with the question, “What turns green hope to crumbled brown in us – and how can it be green again?”
Many years ago, I sat in a marbled, flowered funeral home with a bereaved father.
“There are things worse than death,” he said. After several absent years, his drug-addicted son had been found dead in an alley, under the cardboard box where he lived. “At least I know where he is now. Finally, we can all be at peace.”
Jack’s son had been lost to him. In the stranglehold of heroin, the great hope of his young life had degenerated into profound suffering. The vigor of his early dreams had withered, like broken tendrils on the once hopeful vine. It was, in every sense, a human tragedy.
Jesus understood such withering. He prayed for his disciples that they would not suffer it. He knew what would face him and them in the week following the lifted palms. He knows what will face us as we try to discern the honest path to joy, peace and fulfillment.
The enticements of evil are deceptive. Greed comes clothed as entitlement. Lust masquerades as passion, addiction as pleasure. They entwine and choke us in a false embrace that whispers, “This is for you.” Fed by the fear of never having or being enough, we resort to these very catalysts that will destroy us. Even the voice of love struggles to reach someone locked in this cycle of self-absorption. Like every barren branch, they wilt and sever themselves from all that could enliven them.
Jesus acknowledges that the choice for life is not always easy. He tells the disciples that, indeed, they will be pruned. No life escapes the incisions of hard experience. Like his followers, we too will face loss, pain, frustration and diminishment. But if our hearts have been fed by his word, we will hold to grace and we will thrive.
Much of the Palm Sunday crowd shifted gears by Friday, becoming a rabble of accusers. They could not follow Jesus through Calvary to his Resurrection.
But there is no true life apart from God. There is no path to perfection and joy but through God’s Will. The Passion and Death of Jesus have already set our roots in this blessed soil. May we cling by grace to that treasured Vine.
Music: J.S. Bach – Cantata; Himmelskönig, sei willkommen / King of Heaven, be Thou welcome – BWV 182