Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The tension is mounting. The suffering draws near. Jesus does not turn away; He leans into it. What do we do — will we go with Him into Holy Week?
Every year some individuals have a keen sense of entering into Holy Week with Jesus. Maybe there’s been a serious medical diagnosis. Maybe there’s a crisis in the family. Maybe there’s been the loss of a job. Whatever it is, Holy Week carries both a special intensity and a special consolation for these people — knowing that they can walk with Jesus in His suffering, and that He will walk with them in theirs.
It strikes me, though, that Holy Week this year can be just such an experience for the whole archdiocese because of All Things New. I know that some individuals feel this more keenly than others, and some parishes feel it more keenly than others. But the reality is that the entire archdiocese is going through this process together. Holy Week is a special opportunity for us to lean into our dying and rising with Jesus.
Here are two things that won’t help us. 1) To deny the hurt that we feel. This simply doesn’t work on a human level. Pain demands attention: It will come out, one way or another! 2) To make the hurt the central thing, the organizing principle and motivation for all our actions. This doesn’t work on a Christian level. It’s tempting, but it doesn’t bear good fruit. In fact, it’s a subtle form of idolatry: It makes the hurt, rather than Jesus, the center of our lives.
What helps and what works, humanly and spiritually, is to go into the dying and rising with Jesus. Holy Week is an opportunity to do just that.
It also strikes me that the Chrism Mass is especially important this year. It’s a special sign of unity, when I bless the oil of chrism, the oil of catechumens and the oil of the sick that will be used throughout the entire archdiocese for the entire coming year. It’s both a symbolic and sacramental moment to anoint all of the dying and rising that will happen in every parish throughout the year. The Chrism Mass has a special way of showing that we can be in it together.
It’s interesting that one passage — from the prophet Isaiah and the Gospel of Luke — shows up twice in the readings for the Chrism mass: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.” The “me” in that passage is a beautiful synthesizing point. It stands at once for Isaiah, Israel, David, Jesus, the oil and each of us. The anointing of Isaiah, Israel and David foreshadow the anointing of Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of those foreshadowings. Then the oil, and each of us, follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
And that’s just the thing! Just as Jesus’ anointing is foreshadowed in the life of ancient Israel, and then our anointing follows His, so also Jesus’ dying and rising is foreshadowed in ancient Israel, and our dying and rising can follow His.
I hope we can walk into this Holy Week together, following Jesus in His dying and rising, and allowing Him to die and rise again in us — each of us individually and all of us together.