How does one enter into the Event that we call Holy Week single-mindedly and prayerfully?
With JESUS of course – but then again, so much is happening to Him that it is hard to hold to any one moment intensely, if you want to live all of them. It seems too much like floating on the surface without being immersed in the mystery.
This year, maybe a good word to sit with and to carry through the week might be: Truth.
On Wednesday of the 5th week of Lent, we heard JESUS say,
“If you make my word your homeyou will indeed be my disciples,you will learn the truth,and the truth will make you free.” (Jn 8:31,32)
How do you listen to JESUS?
Is He difficult to take at times – inconvenient – disturbing?
In accompanying Him through His Passion, with St Matthew; in noticing His encounters with the many people along the way; in observing the methods and plottings undertaken to bring about His death … … … where do I stand? Where do you stand?
Truth, in the Event of Holy Week seems to be – of all things – the most overlooked and the most deliberately ignored.
In the Gospel text of the previous Wednesday, it is curious that JESUS’ hearers focus on freedom over truth, in their response, and are indignant that they should be likened to slaves (cf Jn 8:33). It is almost as though by directing the conversation along this line, they can distract both the LORD and themselves from what He is really inviting them to enjoy – truth.
Is it not often the case, that people – even sometimes we ourselves – try to drown out the truth by so many, often subtle, alternate ideas or words or excuses, and the louder we are and the more words we use, the more we deceive ourselves into believing that we are likely to gain our point? And yet, in the Passion narrative, JESUS speaks so seldom, and His silence is almost deafening.
See, in the garden, to what lengths His opponents go in order to arrest Him: how they have persuaded themselves that He is dangerous and ‘a brigand’ (Mt 26:55), and so they arm themselves with frightening weapons to protect themselves from the truth – how afraid they are, yet how fearless is JESUS.
And when Judas later acknowledges his betrayal and is contrite, he fails to go to the one place, the One Person, who would without hesitation forgive him and heal him. Instead, he makes his confession to a band of men who care neither for him nor the truth – he served a purpose for them but is now superfluous – and he dies. Had he come to the point where, one wonders, he had so far rejected the truth, that he had actually and finally rejected himself?
One final observation: that is, that it would seem that rejection of truth makes us less than human.
Notice how, when the crowd has gained its point – ‘wins’ and achieves the verdict of crucifixion which it had sought – there appears to be no limit to its brutality: mocking the LORD, spitting at Him and taunting Him. … … … Slaves indeed, to the fiction they have invented, just so they can live on as they have always done and fool themselves as to their righteousness before God; carry on as before, making much of the letter of the Law while the poor, the oppressed, ‘the stranger, the orphan and the widow’ continue to be ignored and despised.
They have silenced the truth: smothered it beneath all their noise and activity and deafness.
But the truth is a Person and He is the One through whom and in whom life is gained. He will rise and we will know that indeed it is He – the Truth – who makes us free.
And although it is certainly daunting to ‘commit your life to the LORD’ (cf ps 37:5), even to trust Him – we have received, at Baptism, the utter fullness of God (cf Eph 3:19); and through reception of the sacrament of Confirmation, the gifts of the Holy Spirit have been strengthened in us: so we can draw on them to remain faithful: we can lean on Him to remain faithful.
‘The LORD is at my side, a mighty hero’ (Jer 20:11);
‘I know I shall not be shamed’ (Is 50:7).
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