When the profound realities of the liturgical year – the past that comes again, ever new, with each turn of the calendar – should be coming alive in our hearts and minds.
When the passion and suffering of our Lord should be the meditation of our hearts and the prayer on our lips.
When we remember the gift of His body and blood, in the once-for-all-time sacrifice of Friday’s cross and in the ceremonial establishment of the Eucharist at Thursday’s Passover meal.
When the truths that fade away from us so easily – the forgiveness God offers, the love He extends, the high cost of His grace, the mercy that seasons His justice, and the pathway to unity that He creates – should be standing out to us in sharp relief.
And yet, in Holy Week, the world still keeps spinning and life still keeps going on as it always does.
In Arizona, we held presidential primaries on the Tuesday of Holy Week this year, distracting ourselves from the King of the Universe in our quest to choose a new president to lead us to greatness. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the crowds acclaiming Jesus on Palm Sunday, sure that He would be the Messiah to rescue them from Roman oppression, only to turn on Him a few days later when they realized that His was a heavenly kingdom. A heavenly kingdom doesn’t fix our problems here and now, like Trump and Sanders and Cruz and Clinton all promise to do in their various personal styles – so the heavenly kingdom can wait, right, while we focus on cleaning up the issues we’ve got going on right now? (Well, no, actually, that heavenly kingdom should always come first, and should inform our approach to the temporal problems we’re facing.)
In Brussels, another terrorist attack left the city (and Europe) reeling and devastated, unsure of the best way to respond to danger without losing freedom and integrity. With friends and family killed or injured, people are dealing with a sea of sorrow and, most likely, anger and a desire for justice. Does God offer that justice and revenge this week? We see Jesus’s grace and forgiveness extended even to those who murdered Him, and we cringe because such an act is too great for us, in the raw pain of our grief and outrage. He says, watch, I have suffered for you, and I suffer with you – and we say, go somewhere else with Your presence and Your comfort, and let me find another who will promise me the security and vengeance my heart craves.
People still go to work, performing the same tasks and interacting with the same coworkers as on every other day of the year. Families still deal with bedtime battles, dirty diapers, potty learning, sicknesses, homework, friendship drama, housecleaning, and marital stress. The daily commute, the daily chores, the daily routines are all the same.
And into the middle of everyday, normal life, Christ comes.
With the power of His sorrowful passion, He comes. The details of Jesus’s suffering on the cross make us uncomfortable and uneasy, but in Holy Week we are almost forced to think about them.
Let these daily routines be baptized in Me, He says. Let your great worries and great sufferings find solace in Me; come drink of peace and rest. My suffering has purchased for you redemption – that all the banalities and all the piercing sorrows of life, alike, might be worked into new life, and beauty, and purpose.