The events of this Holy Week are filled with sadness. At every turn tragedy is evident.
The sadness of these days cannot be avoided. We cannot walk away from the heartbreak of the events leading up to Jesus’ death by crucifixion. To look the other way is to be diminished as human beings. We only enter fully into the depths of the mystery that is Christ and the fullness of life he promised, by encountering the pain he bore.
As Jesus approached the holy city of Jerusalem, Luke says,
he wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.’ (Luke 19:41-44)
What are “the things that make for peace”?
Jesus gives one reason why the peace of Jerusalem is going to be destroyed, “because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” Jesus is saying, “You did not recognize the presence of God in your midst.”
The failure to acknowledge the presence of the divine dimension in life is a primary cause of the unrest, turmoil, and dysfunction in our world and in our lives.
The events of Holy Week serve to open our hearts to the reality that God is present in this world.
The cover of our Good Friday bulletin this year has a vicious picture of Jesus being raised up on a cross. The image, called “The Elevation of Christ” is a computer generated graphic version of a Rubens original. It conveys something of the horror and pain of this terrible event. Jesus appears utterly abandoned, alone in his agony and suffering. There seems to be no hope for him on this earth.
But in the top left hand corner of the cover are printed words that Jesus is reported to have spoken in John’s Gospel immediately after having predicted his approaching death. In John 8 Jesus says,
the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone. (John 8:29)
The tragedies of the world stem from the fear we all share that we are alone in a dark, uncaring, malevolent universe. We fear that the forces of violence and destruction are the greatest powers at work in the world. It feels as though we must spend our lives protecting ourselves, fighting for our rights, constructing a world in which we can feel safe and under control.
Holy Week suggests that there is another reality at work in every situation no matter how troubling or painful those affairs may be.
If you look carefully at the background of the picture on our Good Friday bulletin cover you will see that there is something more going on than just the brutality that dominates the foreground of the scene. Hidden down low in the picture are five indistinct figures. If you look carefully, you will notice that their faces seem to be filled with the pain of the scene unfolding before them. One of the characters reaches out towards the cross as though he would support Jesus in his suffering.
These are the hidden witnesses of love. They represent the tiny band of loyal followers who stayed with Jesus to the bitter end. They followed the prompting of love and stood with their Master in the midst of the horror of Golgotha.
If we look closely enough at any part of life, we will find these witnesses to the presence and the power of love. They are never absent. Love is always present. The divine has never deserted any part of life. If our eyes are open, even in the midst of the painful events that fell upon Jesus, we will find the presence of light and hope.