Our Challenge In Holy Week

Author: Andy Drozdziak

Picture: The Tablet

Our Challenge In Holy Week

In Luke's passion narrative, Jesus gives back love in return for hate and healing in return for violence. We are called to do likewise, says Andy Drozdziak.

Reading the passion narrative from Luke’s Gospel, a theme develops in some of the characters presented to us. Many of the key players in order the story start well, with the best of intentions, but unfortunately fall short.

Pontius Pilate, for example, speaks as a man of integrity and a fair-minded leader when assessing Jesus’ case: “I can find no case against him,” he reasons. “I will let him go.”

The people of Jerusalem, too, welcome their king into the holy city. Laying their garments before Jesus as a sign of welcome, they hail their Messiah by waving palms and praising God with loud voice.

We may also admire Peter’s dedication to Jesus and his kingdom. “I am ready to go to prison and to death for you,”  he says. A noble promise.

Stories Of Human Weakness

Unfortunately, the characters above do not follow through on these initial good intentions; Pilate relents under pressure to crucify the innocent Jesus; Peter denies three times he knows Jesus, whilst the joyful, welcoming sounds of the Palm Sunday crowd soon give way to hateful cries of “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Listening to these stories of human weakness, I recognise my own unfaithfulness. My own optimistic promises to family and friends often come to nothing and I leave people, especially those I love, feeling hurt and frustrated.

Personally, I can recognise a religiosity, legalism and rigidity within me, the opposite of the kindness, compassion and grace Jesus displays. I need God's grace to soften my heart. The Biblical stories are, indeed, our own stories.

Stories Of Hope

In the midst of these stories of broken promises, we see stories of hope, such as the women who accompany Jesus and remain faithful to him. Peter, meanwhile, will go on to repent of his unfaithfulness and lead the early Church in inspirational ways.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ultimately, we are given the example of Jesus, the Son of Man, our icon and Saviour. He is the perfect example of how to be truly and fully human.

In spite of immense pressure, physical and spiritual pain, Jesus remains faithful to the Father's will and to serving. Pope Francis strives to imitate Jesus' example of service as he washes the feet of people from various disadvantaged groups, such as refugees and prisoners, each year on Maundy Thursday.

In the face of human brutality, shown by Peter cutting off a Roman soldier’s ear, Jesus shows compassion, healing the man’s ear; in the face of hatred and murderous cries, Jesus offers salvation to the repentant thief: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus refuses to give back hate for hate. By the power of the Spirit, Jesus gives back love for hate, light for darkness and life for death.

Becoming More Like Jesus

The following points may help us delve deeper into the mystery of becoming more like Jesus and imitating his love for the world.

  • Pray for a fresh outpouring of God’s Spirit. Jesus lived by the power of the Holy Spirit, trusting in the power sent by His Father.
  • With which of the people in the passion narrative do I identify? Why?
  • In my sufferings, when I am mistreated, misunderstood and rejected, how do I respond? Can I be the voice and face of compassion, when all around me screams “Revenge! Revenge!”?
  •  When I am encouraged to grasp for power, to be a celebrity or a superstar, can I, like Jesus, pick up the towel and serve my brothers and sisters in humility?
  • Bring your struggles, anger, resistance and frustration to the cross of Christ and ask the Holy Spirit to transform them into grace, peace, patience and  kindness. Ask to become Christ for others and for the world.

GK Chesterton once said, “Jesus does not want admirers, but followers.”  Using these questions reflectively, let us remember that each of us is called to imitate Jesus.

Come, Holy Spirit, help us to follow Jesus faithfully through his cross to the resurrection. May our lives bring light and life to the world. Amen

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