Gospel: John 18:1-19:42
Sometimes I wonder, when life can seem very dark already, why we need to make this somber, gloomy journey through Holy Week. I know, you’ve probably heard me say that unless you make the entire journey through Holy Week, as you faithful few are doing today, then it is difficult to fully experience the joy of Easter morning. The idea of resurrection just isn’t as powerful unless you first encounter the stillness of the grave. Unless you have walked alongside Jesus as he carried the cross to Golgotha, unless you have seen our precious Lord placed in the tomb, how can you really grasp the idea of a risen Christ? But even so, particularly when times are difficult and we are bordering on despair, do we really need to allow ourselves to feel worse by focusing on Jesus’ farewell to his disciples, to Jesus’ betrayal, to the angry mob crying “Crucify him”, to the agony Jesus felt on the cross, to his burial in a cold tomb. At such times most of us are tempted to simply bypass all that and say, “Can’t we just get on with Easter?”
But here is why I think that would be wrong. All of us know pain. All of us have felt sorrow – you may feel it now. But most of the time we don’t know where to put our sorrow or our pain. When people ask how we are doing, we lie and say, “Fine. How are you?” And they lie right back to us and say they are doing great. When in reality, we are all wounded; we all suffer. And we stuff our suffering somewhere inside and eventually it comes out as anger, or it makes us sick.
This journey through Holy Week, this experience of the Passion of Jesus, offers us a dark place where our own agony can be left on the cross. I think that Jesus’ suffering creates a place for our suffering as well. It is a safe place where we are allowed to feel the pain that we usually deny even exists.
For Christians the cross is a place of catharsis, a place where pain and sorrow can be released – in compassion with the suffering and death of Christ and with compassion for ourselves and our own suffering.
Don’t make the mistake of rushing to Easter. Yes, Jesus died so that we might have new life. But new life isn’t revealed simply by waving a magic wand. For new life to appear, an old life has to pass away. Take this time to linger with your pain and to say goodbye to the suffering that weighs you down. Take the time to bid farewell to an old way of being. This journey through Holy Week is a time to construct a tomb where you can lay your sorrow to rest. The joy of Easter morning will come soon enough.