As we reflect on Holy week this year it is different because the world is not the same for any of us right now. We are experiencing isolation and uncertainty as we long for the familiar rituals that we share with our sisters and brothers. This week each of us walks a personal journey to Calvary with our individual feelings, concerns and hope.
We know many of the events that occurred in the days prior to Jesus’s crucifixion and death, but I can’t help but wonder what were His thoughts and those of the disciples. Did they fear the unknown for themselves and for Jesus? Scripture tells us that the followers of Christ reacted to those fears in various ways. There was denial and betrayal, even running away by some, but then there was also compassion and caring, giving of oneself and forgiveness.
Jesus, in His humanity, experienced many of the same things we might at the end of our earthly journey. He gathered with those he loved and they broke bread together.
As they shared a Passover meal in the Upper Room Jesus washed the feet of His disciple’s which was the custom of that time before a communal meal. By performing this humble act, Jesus demonstrated by example how believers should love one another.
St. John Paul II said “The washing of the feet and the sacrament of the Eucharist: two expressions of one and the same mystery of love entrusted to the disciples, so that, Jesus says, “as I have done… so also must you do” (Jn 13: 15).
The garden of Gethsemane was a place where Jesus had on occasion went off to and so after Passover He went there with His disciples. While Jesus went off to pray, Peter, James and John were asked to remain nearby and stay watch and yet Jesus returned twice to find that they had fallen asleep, but He did not chastise them; he let them be.
There He was betrayed with a kiss by Judas Iscariot and then arrested by the Sanhedrin. Peter followed the guards at a distance and remained outside the gates of the courtyard where he denied knowing his Master three times before the rooster crowed. Judas and Peter were two of Jesus’s closest disciples and yet it was them who betrayed Him and denied Him. Have you ever felt that friends or family weren’t there for you in your time of need? If so how did that make you feel …. abandoned, alone, angry, disappointed, forgotten? If you were the friend who wasn’t there for someone were you remorseful, did you make amends, did you carry guilt with you?
On the day of the Crucifixion Jesus graciously accepted the kindness of Veronica as she stepped forward and wiped His face with a cloth. He also willingly let Simon of Cyrene help Him to carry the cross. It wasn’t that their gestures were of great magnitude but they were from the heart. The women who were with Mary at the foot of the cross they too gave a gift, one of compassion and support. What gifts have you accepted from others and received with gratitude?
We don’t know much about Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea except that they took Jesus' body down from the cross and then Joseph wrapped it in a cloth and laid it in a tomb. Yet another act of kindness.
Jesus prayed to His Father to take away the pain and suffering He was about to endure. So too now we turn to God as we are feeing anxious and overwhelmed. Let us pray to God to give us strength in the days ahead.
Today we are united as a family, a community and a nation as we navigate this new world we are living in. One that is full of uncertainty as we do our best to abide by the guidelines and regulations provided to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.
Can we do something more and if so what will make a difference? Jesus showed us the way. He gave us guidelines; He suffered and died for us while showing us about kindness and compassion, forgiveness and understanding, how to tend to the needs of others, ways of expressing gratitude and humility, and yes, to be thankful.
Since the spread of the coronavirus I have witnessed goodness over and over again everywhere around us. There were the three generations of a family together creating a chalk rainbow in their driveway that maybe offered people hope and brought a smile or two. Neighbors and strangers alike checking on each other and asking if anyone needs anything. People saying thank you and offering kind words to those performing any type of service. Food for the local food pantries being dropped off daily and countless offers of people wanting to volunteer in any way they can. People are coming up with all kinds of creative ideas to celebrate special occasions and to just be there for each other while practicing social distancing. We’re experiencing new ways to reach out and touch someone in loving and meaningful ways.
I love this quote from St. Gregory Nazianzen, “Give something, however small, to the one in need. For it is not small to one who has nothing. Neither is it small to God, if we have given what we could”. Remember it’s not about the gift, it’s about the thought!
The other day to my delight I discovered tiny red ribbons attached to some shrubs. It was so unexpected and it filled me with joy and hope. Look for the unexpected, especially the little things and focus on those positive gifts that can give meaning to your life.
The apostles certainly had their moments of doubt and at times must have felt alone and without hope just as we are experiencing isolation and loneliness during this period of quarantine. As Jesus suffered through the unknown of the darkness and death and was resurrected, we are reliving that Calvary with Him in our lives today and we too shall see the light and be resurrected again with Christ our Savior.
The prophet Jeremiah reminds us that joy comes in the morning and light after the dawn. Let these words resonate in our hearts today and may each of you know the warm embrace of Jesus this Easter. Pope St. John Paul II said “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song”.
May the Easter fire burn brightly within you.
Mary Ann Sekellick
As I began to reread what I had written I recalled the lyrics to the old Johnny Mercer song “You’ve got to accentuate the positive”. Take a moment and listen to it. I hope you will agree that it’s a beautiful message and one of those small unexpected gifts that we can all relate to right now.
Gather 'round me, everybody Gather 'round me while I'm preachin' Feel a sermon comin' on me The topic will be sin and that's what I'm ag'in' If you want to hear my story The settle back and just sit tight While I start reviewin' The attitude of doin' right
You've got to accentuate the positive Eliminate the negative And latch on to the affirmative Don't mess with Mister In-Between You've got to spread joy up to the maximum Bring gloom down to the minimum Have faith or pandemonium's Liable to walk upon the scene
To illustrate my last remark Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark What did they do just when everything looked so dark?
(Man, they said "We'd better accentuate the positive") ("Eliminate the negative") ("And latch on to the affirmative") Don't mess with Mister In-Between (No!) Don't mess with Mister In-Between
(Ya got to spread joy up to the maximum) (Bring gloom down to the minimum) (Have faith or pandemonium's) (Liable to walk upon the scene)
You got to ac (yes, yes) -cent-tchu-ate the positive Eliminate (yes, yes) the negative And latch (yes, yes) on to the affirmative Don't mess with Mister In-Between No, don't mess with Mister In-Between