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Christ crucified (cropped) - by Fr Will Howard

Roll Back the Stone…and Enter!

This is the week in which Love gave itself totally for the salvation of man.

This is the week of the Passover: the Passover supper instituted by God in the Old Testament and the supper of the Lord in which Jesus gave himself to us as food in the Eucharist.

At each Mass we partake of these events with Christ. Through our communion with him, we participate in his passion and resurrection. The Last Supper is always new for us. He told his servants, Go out into the highways and byways and bring people to my supper (Lk 14:21).

He is doing that now. Are we, who are hiding in a thousand alleyways and hedges, responding? Are we ready to understand with our hearts what it means to love without limit, to lay down our life for our brother?

This is the week of understanding. What a foolish word, for how can we understand a mystery? It is impossible, but this is a week of closing the wings of the intellect and opening the doors of one’s heart. We will understand then the mystery of who we really are: the people who have been salvaged by God. Christ has lifted us to his Father, who asked him to make us one, to cherish us, to look after us.

This is the week of his sorrow. As he gave himself totally, Christ experienced everything that man experiences, for he was like us in everything but sin.

He knew fear. After the Last Supper, when he entered the garden of Gethsemane, blood poured from his face like sweat and he cried out, Let this chalice pass me by!  But then he also cried out, Not my will, but thy will be done (Lk 22:42). In that sentence lies holiness. Christ surrendered totally to the Father’s will.

Jesus Christ sweated blood from anxiety. Since anxiety is not a sin, it consoles me tremendously that God had anxieties.

In this week called holy, are we willing to share the anxiety of others? In the garden, Jesus found his apostles sleeping and asked, Couldn’t you watch one hour with me (Mt. 26:40)? Have we time to watch an hour with our neighbor who is in anxiety, who is lonely, who is in pain?

There is no person who is not lonely. Have I the courage to enter into the loneliness of the other? It is difficult to enter another’s loneliness, but if you love, you will get the courage to do so and to be crucified there. It takes faith to enter that loneliness, but there you will meet God.

During this week that is holy, he is going to enter the tomb, and a heavy stone will be laid at the entrance. How many of us are in tombs, with heavy stones before them? In our love, we have the power to remove these stones and to resurrect our brothers and sisters, for the Lord said, “You will do greater miracles than I.”

This is the week of his death. We can only prostrate ourselves before the cross and pray a prayer of thanks, the kind of thanks that is torn out of us because it is buried so deep that we don’t often bring it forth.

This is the week of thanksgiving.

This is the week for meditating on how much we are loved. If there is anyone who thinks that he or she is not loved, let them follow the Holy Week liturgies and they will know with what love we are all loved!

For those who do know a little of that love, let this week be one of loving others, for no one can receive the infinite love of God without passing it on. God meant it to be that way.

Russians say that this is the week of the gift of tears. We believe that tears are a gift of the Holy Spirit that washes away our sins and the sins of mankind. God will not reject silence and tears and a contrite heart.

But it is useless to prostrate ourselves and to kneel and pray unless we too are willing to become servants of those for whom Christ himself became a servant. When Jesus had finished washing the feet of his apostles, he reminded them that the Son of Man had come not to be served, but to serve.

This is the week when I have to serve my brother in whatever capacity I might be needed, because prayer without action is dead. You have to integrate your prayer into your life and preach the Gospel with your actions. Otherwise, people will not know that this week is different from any week that ever was or ever will be.

This is the week of confession and of overcoming sin. It is the week in which we know that while we cannot overcome our sins, Christ can.

As one of our priests said, “During most of this holy season of Lent, you have to work at living Lent, but then comes the time when you no longer have to carry it. The liturgy is so strong, so powerful; that it carries you. The strength and power at work in the Church carries us all through Holy Week.”

During this Holy Week, let us join hands in deep forgiveness of one another. Let us reconcile ourselves to those with whom we are not reconciled. Let us each enlarge the circle of love in our heart so that it can encompass all who come near, for such is the love of God. Mercy flows from it, forgiveness is part of it, and humility sings a song to it.

For Holy Week to happen in our hearts, we need faith and prayer. To really live the words “Not my will, but thine,” one has to pray. Alone, without God, we cannot do it. Only in the darkness of faith will we roll back the stone, enter the hearts of others, hear their loneliness and share with them the compassion of God.

We need faith during Holy Week, more than at any other time, because this week will reveal to us the Prince of Darkness, who rejoiced on Good Friday because he thought he had killed God.

Every aspect of this Holy Week applies to you and me. Christ is in us and with us, and he lives his passion in each one of us, Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me (Mt 26:40).

Let all this sink into you, for God is with us at every moment. He is present right now. Let his love, his simplicity, his ordinariness and his extraordinariness—all of him—enter your heart, and you will know why this week is called holy.

Adapted from Season of Mercy available  from MH Publications.

Restoration March 2024

Christ Crucified by Fr. Will Howard. Used with permission.