This morning I woke up, anxious.
Fraught with worries and pettiness. Compared myself to what I could be, things I’ve done to what could have been done so much better. Concerned that I’m not doing good enough, or enough at all. My heart ached for a friend who had received a devastating cancer diagnosis. And for a family who just lost their daughter in a freak accident.
I had one of those moments where one wonders, “Is this really what it’s supposed to be like? Because I didn’t think this was what it was supposed to be like….” Wondering if there ever was a plan in all of this, or did I just unknowingly fall out of it and am just now realizing it.
As we drove to Palm Sunday Mass, my children sat cautiously quiet in the back of the car – not to upset the grumpy mother.
As we sat in the pew, my husband took my hand. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. It was just one of those days where you don’t want to be at Mass but you are and you will do it anyway. Because it is good. Always. You know it in your mind, and in your bones, as you settle into your normal spot. But your heart is isn’t in it.
And then the readings began. The readings that kick off this beautiful Holy Week, where time seems to pancake on top of itself. Where every human emotion that has ever exsisted on the face of the earth seems compacted into just a few days.
And what struck me, what strikes me every year at Holy Week, is the utter chaos of the events. The fickleness of the people in Jerusalem. The cries of “Hosanna in the highest” turned to “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Jesus, telling his friends what must take place and his friends losing their minds when it does. The woman, pouring out her heart and all her worth through oil onto the dusty toes of her master, and being made fun of by his closest friends. Peter, the rock, the unstoppable, burly, grizzled fisherman who cowers in denial. Judas and the kiss. The image of these faithful followers, who had climbed mountains, proudly walked just a few feet behind him these three years, sat on hillsides and handed out fish and loaves, who had seen him heal and even restore life to the dead. These followers who now run like panicked animals, some even so scared they run off without their clothes.The struggle of marriage, as the wife of Pontious Pilate tries to make her voice heard, and is ignored. And the pure cowardice of her husband as he does what he knows to be unjust in the name of justice. Simon of Cyrene, doing what he didn’t want to do. And yet we all know his name, still today. Joseph of Arimathea doing what he knew he had to do. Even the scriptures call him “brave”.
It’s like a gripping soap opera. Except every single second of it is REAL.
I can image his followers throughout the city. The ones who had heard Him these past three years, whose hearts burned within them at His words. The ones who talked quietly with cautious hope in the safety and anonymity of their homes, who wondered if He might be “the One”. But over those first few days after His grand entrance, He rocked every expectation they had of Him. They expected Him to return, take on a crown of gold and fight to claim the throne for Israel. They expected a soldier king, and got a man preaching, saying strange things, challenging everything they knew and causing everyone to worry and rile with anger. What is this?
As they watched Him carry His cross, as they watched Him nailed and hung and suffer for three long hours, I am sure they had never known such despair in all their years.
Not only did Jesus fall into death, completely and totally. But He allowed His people to fall, too. Completely. Totally.
I do not claim to know the mind of God. But I do know what His works do for me. Because I believe.
Because I know what happened after just three days.
Every mutter of despair. Every cry. Every body that sank to the floor in shock. Every man, woman and child who thought all was lost, that all their hopes had been dashed upon the foot of that bloody wood of the cross. Every one of these could then hope again when that stone was found rolled away.
So when I have these days, such as today, when even my own skin feels strange to me, when I have doubts and wonder about everything, I can know that there IS a plan. Because of this week. 2000 years ago, and still today, our fickleness and chaos doesn’t scare Him. I find my closest friends in the pages of Scripture, walking those streets, in that garden, in those homes. I am in good company. And I am united with them. I am willing to feel lost with them. We die with Him, but also rise with Him.
By the end of the holy Mass, my eyes, which had been furrowed and dark, were brimmed with tears. He had been lifted up before me, in that ever real form of a tiny piece of bread turned Christ. For me. These thousands of years later, He still waits for me. To rise up and see Him. Alive. To tell Him I love Him, no matter what. And hold Him close in my heart.
“No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39