At times a part captures the essence of the whole. For Christians, Holy Week is the essence of the whole life of faith. To walk with Jesus and the disciples in this week is to walk from the joy and promise of relationship with Jesus into the chaos of human betrayal, sin and expediency that destroys life itself—only to discover that the love of God prevails, bringing life out of death. It is a journey that starts in hope; is humbled and challenged by Jesus’ teaching and example; is shattered by fear and betrayal; is overwhelmed by grief and finally rejoices in new possibilities.
Following Jesus had filled the disciples with hope for the future, a hope crowned by the affirmations of Palm Sunday as people praised Jesus as the Son of David. Despite rumblings in the background of conflict with the religious leaders the disciples expect better things ahead—as we all have in ordinary times.
However, the following days see fear grow—in political leaders afraid to lose control, in religious leaders afraid of losing their authority to a lay person and in Jesus’ own disciples; Judas cannot follow where Jesus is leading and to him, betrayal is easier. The insidious power of fear leads gathered groups to unwarranted action as the crowd cries out for the release of a prisoner whose sin they recognize rather than the one who was still a mystery in many ways. Rumours, chaos and uncertainty break into the dream the disciples had shared—from confusion about Jesus’ teaching about servanthood in the Upper Room to the chaos of the arrest and trial to the heart of death on the cross. Their expectations are shattered, and their own fears lead to the denial and abandonment of Jesus.
This Holy Week journey has echoed in our lives in these past two years. The stability we once took for granted has shattered. The pandemic has revealed the fragility of the social contract and exposed its inequities. Our health-care system has teetered at the brink of collapse as we have discovered the degree to which people do not trust in the gifts of science or elected political leaders. The protests in major cities, especially Ottawa, have revealed the depth of personal anger at and frustration with the limits that have been imposed on our lives. Loneliness, depression, long COVID and fears have been woven into our lives. We have been living in the shockwaves trying to comprehend the implications for ourselves, our families and our world.
At the centre of it all is Jesus steadfastly living his calling. He controls what he can—his own words and actions—to be consistent with his relationship with God. He prepares for his entry to Jerusalem and the Passover meal; demonstrates the humility of servant leadership in the washing of feet and teaching of service; enters into prayer in the face of personal costs in Gethsemane; offers healing for violence when his disciples try to resist his arrest; and does not resist the power of the betrayal and political or religious expediencies even in the face of humiliation and death.
Jesus is the still point in the circle of chaos. The resurrection is the promise that following him can and will bring new life out of whatever we face in that chaos. Holy Week is the reflection of life that takes us beyond pain into the hope of the resurrection. May we deepen our hope for today as we draw near Jesus, our still point, in this Holy Week.