Holy Week: A time to ponder the example of Jesus in aligning our will with God’s
By Nan Onest
Every year on Easter Sunday, the visual focal point at our former parish in Fort Wayne, Indiana is a gossamer banner displaying a life size image of the risen Christ dressed in white robes, arms outstretched, surrounded by the soft hues of a perfect dawn. It is purposefully positioned to juxtapose the resurrection with the crucifixion. Similar to the nail wounds that remain with and identify Jesus after the resurrection, this visual image serves to remind us that the events of a lifetime leave an indelible mark on all human beings. Over and above, it is a summary of the narrative of Holy Week. In one glance, it proclaims the story of Christ's passion in contrast with our own struggle to reconcile our will to the will of God.
Palm Sunday begins with what, by all accounts, every practicing Jew at the time would have recognized as the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Zechariah who said, "Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See your king shall come to you: a just savior is he, meek and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." (Zec 9:9) The Messiah enters Jerusalem yet, we suddenly find ourselves participating in the Passion. What went wrong?
On that day, the crowds, including many of Jesus's disciples, envisioned a warrior who would free them from oppression. Jesus came in peace. Combined with the incitement of leaders desperately trying to retain or gain power, their misunderstanding and frustration escalated. The tragedy that ensued was the choosing of our will over the will of God, resulting in victimization, villainization, marginalization and death.
How often do we hear of similar stories throughout history, the media, board rooms, politics, picket lines, social organizations and even houses of worship? The magnitude may vary but the fundamental source is consistent. We tend to want our will to prevail at all costs to the other. On Good Friday, the cost was the life of Jesus the Nazarene. His suffering and death was the consequence of his steadfast commitment to the will of God.
There is speculation about his final words that day. Some scholars suggest he died as he was reciting the Psalms. Others believe he was overwhelmed by deep abandonment. Accepting that the definition of sin is a turning away from God, I tend toward the latter. That day on the cross, deserted by all but a few, taking on all the sin of the world in varying degrees of collective separation from God, Jesus must have felt an intense absence of the one to whom he is so intimately connected.
The night before he died, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed for strength to remain aligned with the will of God for himself and then for us as he petitioned; "that they may be one, as you Father, are in me and I in you." The triumph, the oneness that God intends is a oneness of mind, heart and being. Through Jesus, we are invited to participate in that triumph. Not a triumph as expressed in the notion of a god of retribution or someone's prosperity gospel, but rather in peaceful unity with the Creator. On Easter Sunday, in the early hours of a perfect dawn, Jesus Christ shows us how that looks.
As we prepare to enter into Holy Week, let us reflect honestly on the alignment of our own will with the will of God. Where do we stand when God calls us to be peaceful, merciful, humble, non-judgmental and just? Do we seek to "put on the mind of Christ" (1Cor. 2:16) or do we dare to cast the first stone?
Nan Onest is the pastoral associate at Holy Name Parish in Cedar Lake. She holds a Master's degree in Theology from the Catholic Theological in Chicago.