This week is the holiest week of the year: Holy Week.  As we accompany Jesus on the way to Calvary may we get a glimpse of the suffering of Christ and of the deep joy in the heart of God. 

Holy Thursday

 “He loved them to the end. (John 13:1)

     On Holy Thursday we celebrate a night different from all others.  With awe and gratitude, we remember the night that Jesus entered his passion.  The night he saved us from slavery to sin and death.  The night he loved us “to the end.”  “Lord Jesus, I marvel at your humility.  On this night, though your heart was heavy with the suffering to come, you didn’t think of yourself.  Instead, you took on the role of a servant.  You, who sustain the very universe, knelt and washed the feet of men who would betray you, deny you, and abandon you in your hour of need.  You humbled yourself and showed us what it means to be great in the kingdom of God.  You showed us how to love.  You loved us to the end.”                  

    “Lord Jesus, I stand amazed at your generosity.  On this night, knowing that you were returning to the Father, you broke bread and shared wine with your disciples.  You, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, gave us your own Body and Blood in the Eucharist.  You held nothing back.  You gave yourself to us, a sacrifice that nourishes us and unites us to you and the Father until you cone again.  You love us to the end.”

   “Lord Jesus, I am silenced by your obedience.  On this night in Gethsemane, you prayed in agony and abandoned yourself to your Father while your disciples slept.  You, who could have summoned legions of angels to save you, embraced your Father’s will to save us.  You freely gave yourself into the hands of sinners, knowing that it would mean accepting death on the cross.  You looked upon your betrayer, your fleeing disciples, your accusers, your torturers, as well as us.  You, who never sinned chose to offer yourself for our sins.  Like a sheep to the slaughter, You loved us to the end.”

Good Friday

So shall he startle many nations; because of him kings shall stand speechless. (Isaiah 52:15)

    For many people, Good Friday is a sad and gloomy day.  We are presented with images and depictions of the crucifixion of Jesus, God’s only Son, someone who was completely innocent and undeserving of punishment.  It was a supreme injustice, an outrage even.  So yes, we should have a reflective attitude today—maybe even a somber attitude.  But today is not a day to be gloomy.

     Instead, let’s approach the passion and death of Jesus with gratitude and awe and adoration.  Let’s gaze at our crucified Lord and expect to be startled, even to be rendered speechless, by what we see (Isaiah 52:15).  Because, as paradoxical as it may seem, the sheer agony and injustice of Jesus’ cross reveal the powerful and surprising beauty of our God.

    The crucifixion of Jesus shows us that God’s love is so powerful that it can make even the evil of sin and death serve his perfect plan.  It show us that the goodness and strength of God’s desire to redeem us cannot be overturned, not even by the wicked scheming of the devil or the selfish desires of fallen human beings.  No act of violence or deceit can ever thwart him.

    It doesn’t seem possible that Jesus’ suffering could end in triumph.  But even though Jesus was “marred…beyond human semblance,” God promised that he would be “raised high and greatly exalted”. (Isaiah 53:13,14)  That’s where the surprise comes in: just when evil seems to have had the last word, good wins out!

    When you contemplate the passion of the Lord, remember that you know the end of the story.  The ugliness of the suffering, pain, and rejection Jesus endured was real.  But so is the redemption that he accomplished through it.  So is the perfect culmination of God’s plan to forgive and redeem you.  Death does not have the final word; life does.  And that’s something truly beautiful.

Easter Sunday

This man God raised on the third day. (Acts 10:40)

    Alleluia! Christ is risen!  What joy we feel when we hear those words on Easter!  We have made it through the forty days of Lent.  We have walked with Jesus on his journey to the cross in Holy Week.  Now we can proclaim the good news of his resurrection and celebrate with all the angels and saints.

    But Easter doesn’t end today.  As a Church, we celebrate Easter as an octive, for a full eight days.  We celebrate it as a liturgical season, lasting fifty days until Pentecost.  And we celebrate it every Sunday throughout the year.

    The truth is, Easter never ends!  What Jesus accomplished through his death and resurrection can never be undone.  What our Father created as “very good” (Genesis 1:31), what was corrupted and lost has now been redeemed.

    So, look beyond this joyous day to the season ahead.  Spend time over these next fifty days reflecting on the scripture readings to see how the apostles responded to this good news.  For them, the resurrection changed everything and turned their whole world upside down!  Jesus had risen—they had seen him with their own eyes.  Where once they were afraid, now nothing was more important to them than sharing the good news, whatever the cost.

    Jesus’ resurrection has changed everything for you, too.  You are loved.  You are redeemed.  And “when Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:4).

    How will you respond to this amazing news?  Don’t let Easter come and go.  Live in this truth every single day.  Let it seep into every fiber of your being.  Baptized into Christ’s resurrection, you are a new creation.  Christ lives in you and you live in Christ, both now and forever.  ALLELUIA!