The Wood of the Cross

Once again the holiest week in the history of the world is upon us. Once again, I’m not ready. How can I be ready for what is about to happen this week? No matter how I may have observed the season of Lent, despite knowing the story by heart, I’m not ready. This week is too shocking, too raw, too unbelievable to embrace. It’s easier to skip over the truth of this week and focus instead on the new dress, the chocolate bunny and the colored eggs. But as Christians, we’re called to walk the Way of the Cross with Jesus. We enter into His Passion. We call for His Crucifixion with the others in Jerusalem mob. We strike the blows the soldiers delivered as He was tied to the pillar. We see Him killed and we see Him rise again on the third day. It’s too much to imagine, too scandalous to endure.

And without love, none of it makes any sense. Only through the eyes of love can we bear to watch it all unfold again. No other religion has a story to equal this one, or even compare to the truth of Holy Week. Our Creator died for us, sacrificing Himself for our sins. The One Who is without sin becomes sin so that we may live. It’s not logical, not rational, not pretty. And it’s not safe. Following Christ changes everything. Forever. That’s what Love does.

His love for me is perfect and yet the love I return to Him is so small and measured, so flawed and weak and failing. That’s why this week is more than I can bear. In the face of His love, I must turn away. Out of the corner of my eye, I’ll watch Him enter Jerusalem on a donkey. I’ll take a sideways glance at the Last Supper, my dull vision obscuring the Truth of the Sacrament. In the Garden, I’ll hide behind a tree before falling asleep with everyone else and when I wake up, they’ll all be gone. I’ll be there at the trial, in the crowd, unable to look at Him, but caught up in the frenzy still. As He struggles to carry the Cross to His death, I’ll hold back, afraid to see or be seen by the One Who made me. I’ll hear the nails being driving into His hands and feet, but I won’t go near the hill. Too hard. Too real. Too much my own fault. My most grievous fault.

Each one of us experiences Holy Week in our own way. For me, there is a moment in the Liturgy of Good Friday when all my feeble efforts at holding it together come up short. We’ll see the Cross brought inside, the wooden Cross of Christ in our midst. And we will kneel and kiss the rough wood in veneration. That kiss always breaks my heart. With that kiss, I stop trying to be ready for it all and just let go. I’m Peter and Caiaphas and Mary Magdalene. I’m the soldier thrusting the spear into His side and I’m the Beloved Disciple resting my head on His shoulder. I’m the young rich man who walked away. And I’m Lazarus, stumbling out of the grave in my funeral wrappings. I’m the Good Thief and the proud Pharisee praying loudly in the Temple square.

In the Cross, I lose myself and the Love of Christ floods in. Every year for me, that moment at the Cross is my new beginning The reality of His love and sacrifice is the truth revealed in Holy Week. Every year we experience it anew. I pray that you’ll find a new beginning this year and that some moment will open your heart to the mercy of our loving Father. This week is a treasure of our faith, given to us as our ladder to Heaven. Love opens the way for us.

“For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

    —I Corinthians 1:18 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: