Holy Week is here!
This is my absolute favorite part of the liturgical year. It may seem odd, given that it’s a pretty dark week with the crucifixion and all, but this week has everything in it. Drama, love, struggle, strength, sacrifice, death, victory, life. We go from joyous heights to the darkest depths and back again. And in the meantime, we discover how Jesus loves us and how He makes Himself available to us in a most spectacular way every day.
If you have a copy of my book, Walking Through Holy Week, be sure to use the note cards in the back to remind you of the highlights you want to focus on each day. There are so many treasures to be found in each liturgy, and each year I find that something different catches my breath and deepens my faith.
As we start this Holy Week, I would like to share a reflection on the gift of the cross.
On Good Friday, venerate the cross and remember how Jesus gave His life for our sins. If you really think about it, if you really understand what this cross represents it can be incredibly overwhelming. I know that each year, there are many tears shed as people walk away from the cross, and I add a few more. (Side note: We know this isn’t the true Cross, and we aren’t worshipping it, but we use it to help us be present to the moment of the crucifixion.)
The Cross is hard. It’s hard to confront, it’s hard to accept, yet we are called to pick up our crosses every day as we follow Christ. This is the way to salvation.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big fan of voluntarily signing up for suffering. No thanks, Lord. I’m happy to ask, as Jesus does, “If this cup can pass…” but I have a harder time saying, “not my will but Yours.” Even when I am given a difficult cross to bear, I tend to carry it with the goal of putting it down. You know how it goes, don’t you? “I will be stronger because of this.” “I will be more trusting.” “I will be able to help people better because I have experienced this.”
Once, when I was dealing with a health issue, I was talking to my spiritual director about the graces that were waiting for me on the other side of this suffering, and he stopped me dead in my tracks when he asked, “What if God isn’t allowing this for what it will do in the future. What if you are supposed to be right here, right now? What if you embraced this cross rather than carried it?”
That was not what I wanted to hear.
But it was absolutely true. I could continue to work towards healing; I should continue to do what needed to be done to treat the condition I was dealing with. But I should also allow myself to be present to the graces that came each day specifically because of what I was going through. I was called to see the gift I was given in this very suffering, rather than seeing it as something in the way of my gifts.
He shared with me a passage from the Constitutions of the Congregation of the Holy Cross that have forever changed my understanding of the Cross. If you’re not sure how to approach Good Friday this year, read them (copied below) and discover the gift Jesus has waiting for you.
117. Whether it be unfair treatment, fatigue or frustration at work, a lapse of health, tasks beyond talents, seasons of loneliness, bleakness in prayer, the aloofness of friends; or whether it be the sadness of our having inflicted any of this on others … there will be dying to do on our way to the Father.
118. But we do not grieve as men without hope, for Christ the Lord has risen to die no more. He has taken us into the mystery and the grace of this life that springs up from death. If we, like Him encounter and accept suffering in our discipleship, we will move without awkwardness among others who suffer. We must be men with hope to bring. There is no failure the Lord’s love cannot reverse, no humiliation He cannot exchange for blessing, no anger He cannot dissolve, no routine He cannot transfigure. All is swallowed up in victory. He has nothing but gifts to offer. It remains only for us to find how even the cross can be borne as a gift.