I invite each one of you to pick up this gospel and read it slowly and prayerfully, a bit at a time, during this week. This will give you an opportunity to journey with Jesus from the joy of Palm Sunday into His last days on earth with his disciples. Allow yourself time to feel the change in mood, from joy to sadness and pain and hopelessness. Feel the sense of loss and confusion experienced by the disciples, and the great pain experienced by Mary, a pain which only a mother can feel, and the small group of women accompanying her. Try to imagine what was going through Peter’s mind when part of him wanted to follow and be with his beloved Master, and yet he was so scared that he denied even knowing the man. Finally, contemplate the abandonment Jesus felt from the cross, followed by His own total abandonment into His Father’s hands.
All this leads to our Easter celebration on Saturday night. The night of all nights, when victory is proclaimed and celebrated over sin, death, and all that is evil in our lives and in our world.
Years of celebrating the Holy Week liturgies risk causing in us a certain numbness to the real feelings experienced in that first Holy Week. We’ve heard the story so many times, and we know the ending! Yet the pain of everyone, the sense of betrayal and loneliness experienced by the Master, the fear that in different ways engulfed both Him and His friends are all very real. And as we meditate and pray, that pain becomes one with our pain, their fear one with our fears. We are invited to gently journey with Jesus during his week as we graft our experiences into the gospel-story.
The liturgies of Holy week validate our fears, pains, worries and uncertainties. After all, Jesus’ death was a real death. Belief in the Resurrection is not a denial of any of this. What Saturday night tells us is that pain, evil, death do not have the last say. It tells us that there is Someone who overcame all this, Someone who is powerful enough to unexpectedly bring something good out of it. And we know that life after the resurrection is never a return to the old life. It is an introduction to a life that is better than what we have known so far, beyond any human imagination.
As we journey and pray during this covid-stricken Holy Week, let us allow the One who is life to transform our human Hosanna into a divine Halleluiah.