After reading St. Mark’s Passion account on Palm Sunday and now anticipating St. John’s Passion on Good Friday, here is an important point, one worth remembering all this week: to His first followers, the brutal execution of Jesus must have seemed a total disaster. For people who stood watching His crucifixion from a distance (Mark 15,40) and others who had fled for their lives, but who heard the story later, it seemed an unmitigated tragedy. The inspiring good news of Jesus that had filled them with enthusiasm now seemed an apparent sad delusion. With His death, all their hopes seemingly lay in ruins. They had not taken seriously His various predictions that He would have to suffer, but would then rise again. (Mark 8,32).
Only later, after their glimmering, puzzling visions after the Resurrection did they take those predictions to heart and begin to understand them for the first time. They were helped by studious members of their group who came to realize that all Jesus’ sufferings were foretold in prophecy; and most clearly in the Isaiah poems about God’s loving Servant (Isaiah 49,1-6, for example). It suddenly dawned on them that prophecies which had first applied to the whole people of Israel were now fulfilled in Jesus. It was to Him that God promised, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” The apparently futile aim of Jesus to renew and purify His Jewish people (and redeem the world) did not end with His death. In fact, His death on the Cross achieved more than any other action in His life. Its effect was a new gift of spiritual life for people everywhere (“I will draw them all to myself.”) His friends now saw in Jesus the fulfillment of Isaiah 49,6, “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
That His salvation has reached the end of the earth (even North Portland!) we now know what we are all called to become: “beloved disciples.” We are called to be as close to Jesus as He is to the Father. What an amazing call that is! “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; remain in my love…” Jesus wants us as joined with Him as He is with His Father. That is, indeed, our privileged calling this Holy Week. May God complete the good work He has begun in us.
Holy Week Bonus: Did you know that Monday of this week was International Piano Day? A piano, as we know, is a large musical instrument played by pressing black and white keys on a keyboard. The word piano comes from the original Italian name for the instrument: piano e forte (or, “soft and loud”). Give this some prayerful thought this week: these holy days of Holy Week begin softly, but will end with the loud and resounding cries from angels on high: “He is Risen!”
Let us pray. “Lord God, we give you thanks, for you are good, and your mercy is endless. Here we are, early in this Holy Week, a week in which your Church remembers Jesus’ passion, death, and Resurrection. Although we easily grow distracted by many things, we ask you to turn our eyes to the One who comes in your name, the One who opens the gates of righteousness, the One who answers when we call. We bless you, Lord, for shining your light upon us and for sending your Son to us. Help us to praise Him with a pure heart this week, to walk quietly in the way of His suffering, and to share also in His Resurrection. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.”