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SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS | Holy Week is time to reflect on our need for the Savior

We’re saved by turning to God in the places where we fail

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

“I’m basically a good person.”

That’s what many people will say. We may think it about ourselves.

But that claim – that spiritual attitude – doesn’t stand up against the facts of Holy Week. “He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins … the Lord laid upon Him the guilt of us all … He shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses” (Isaiah 52-53). The events of Holy Week happened because we’re not good people, because we need a savior.

Was that sense of unworthiness overdone by some in previous generations? Sure. Some people were (and are) so focused on their sins that they didn’t (and don’t) see their goodness. Well, Jesus sees it! He saw it in tax collectors and sinners, and He sees it in us. We’re so precious in His eyes that He thought the cross was worth it to save us!

But if that was the mistake of a previous generation, the prevailing mistake today is the opposite: We’re so focused on our goodness that we don’t see our sins. Well, again: Jesus sees them! The cross was necessary because of those sins.

Perhaps King David, St. Peter, Zacchaeus and Mary Magdalene are good examples for us. Two things stand out clearly in them: 1) Jesus did choose them. 2) They didn’t deserve it. The same applies to us! We need to keep a firm grasp on both of those realities, rather than picking one and ignoring the other. Holy Week provides a great occasion to do so.

“Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” When Jesus said those words, they applied most obviously to Judas. But all of the apostles, looking forward, paused to ask: “Is it I?” And all of them, looking back, would be able to say: “Yes, I betrayed Him.”

That same truth applies to each of us.

We try to buffer ourselves from the stark reality of our betrayal by saying something like: “Well, I haven’t murdered anyone.” But even if that’s true, it misses the point. The Catholic tradition is heir to the Jewish tradition on this matter: The holiness of God is our standard (Leviticus 19:1-2), and perfection is our requirement (Matthew 5:48; Catechism of the Catholic Church 1030). We don’t just have to refrain from murder, we have to live into perfection!

Here, again, we need to hold on to two truths: 1) We’re not there, we all fall short. 2) That doesn’t mean we’re not loved; we are! And, again, Holy Week provides a great occasion to reflect on both.

So: Let’s stop pretending we deserve eternal life. We don’t. We need a savior.

And: We’re saved by turning to God in the places where we fail. King David — the adulterer and murderer — knew that well. St. Peter — who denied Jesus three times — knew that well. We need to know it just as well!

The Letter to the Hebrews tells us: “So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.” We can find grace and timely help — Jesus is waiting for us! But we won’t find the grace and help we need if we approach the throne with presumption about our goodness. It only works when we approach with honest confession and a cry for help.

From the Archive Module

SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS Holy Week is time to reflect on our need for the Savior 9464

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