All is ready now for the final days of our Lenten journey with Jesus. the drama of the Paschal Mystery will be re-enacted once again in parishes throughout the world. I have loved the liturgy of Holy Week since I was a boy and in this blog I hope I can share that love with you. We’ll go deep here. Please take time to reflect. Come with me now, won’t you?
Jesus entered the holy city Jerusalem on a humble beast of burden–himself burdened with the sins of the world. He was focused on his Father’s will and utter obedience to him. St. Paul captures all of that for us in the first reading of this day’s Mass in Philippians 2:1-11 . . .
5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. (NRSV)
Father Johannes Metz wrote a little book in 1968 called Poverty of Spirit that I liked a lot in which he says, “To become human means to become ‘poor’ to have nothing that one can brag about before God. To become human means to have no support and no power, save the enthusiasm and commitment of one’s own heart.”
Become poor? No power? We Americans would not buy that at all! But I was fortunate to have two wonderful mentors in my life who were ~ well ~ just human. They were not afraid to be just who they were, warts and all. They were delightful human beings.
The first one was the rector of my seminary, Father Eugene Walsh whom I was privileged to know personally over the years. We called him Geno. I told a story about him in a recent blog about how he affirmed me. The second was my Bishop, Bishop Norbert Dorsey whom I got to know when we lived together in the cathedral rectory in Miami for nearly a year. We used to sit up and watch Hawaii Five-0 together. He, too, was always just who he was, without pretense. Simply ~ human. He died a few weeks ago from a long bout with cancer but I had a chance to express my love for him.
And now,we’ve all gotten to know a fellow from Argentina who has become Pope Francis who insists on being just who he is! Isn’t wonderful? But he will pay the price for it. Several journalists took note of his down to earth qualities, his humility.
Now back to Jesus. He didn’t exploit his equality with God as so many of us would; he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave. Why did he do that?
Father Metz explains: “Jesus held back nothing; he clung to nothing, and nothing served as a shield for him.
Satan wants to make Jesus strong . . . Satan fears [ . . .] an open human heart that will remain true to its native poverty, suffer the misery and abandonment that is humanity’s, and thus save humankind.
Satan always tries to stress the spiritual strength of human beings and our divine character and has done this from the beginning: ‘You will be like God.’
Instead, Jesus subjected himself to our plight. He immersed himself in our misery and followed our road to the end. He did not escape from the torment of our life. . . With the full weight of his divinity he descended into the abyss of human existence, penetrating into its darkest depths.
Have we really understood the impoverishment that Christ endured? Everything was taken from him during the passion, even the love that drove him to the cross. . . His heart gave out and a feeling of utter helplessness came over him. Truly he emptied himself . . . . He became utterly poor.
[Thus] he accepted our humanity, he took on and endured our lot, he stepped down from his divinity. He came to us where we really are ~ with all our broken dreams and lost hopes, with the meaning of existence slipping through our fingers.
He came and stood with us, struggling with his whole heart to have us say ‘yes’ to our innate poverty.
[God’s faithfulness] to us is what gives us the courage to be true to ourselves.
And the legacy of God’s total commitment to humankind, the proof of God’s fidelity to our poverty, is the Cross. [The Cross is the sacrament, the sign] that one human being remained true to his own humanity, that he accepted it in full obedience.”
Thus each of us have the opportunity to embrace our poverty, to accept whatever brokenness shows up in our own lives and find the treasure buried within.
But this goes against the grain for us in American life. We are told to keep up with the Joneses. To strive for Power, Prestige, Possessions.
This is not the way of Jesus.
And this cannot be the way of a true follower of Christ. We are to have the same mind as Christ. And once we have embraced our humility, our poverty, our weakness, and not denied our brokenness we will realize that we, too, will be exalted as Jesus was (is.)
(Realize that the word “Humility” comes from the word “Humus” ~ “muck.”)
Lord Jesus, here we are at the beginning of Holy Week once again.
We raise our palms,
we listen to the story of your sacred passion and death.
And now we learn that You really meant it!
You weren’t just pretending to be human;
You immersed Yourself in our misery,
You got down int the muck with us
~ accepting it all, even death on a cross.
Jesus, help us to embrace our humility,
our poverty, our brokenness, our share in Your cross.
May this Holy Week truly be holy for us
so that we too will rise again with You to new life
and receive anew the gift of the Spirit.
To You, Lord Jesus, be glory and honor forever! Amen.
Before you go, dear friends, here is a beautiful song performed by some very devout young people ~ “Behold the Lamb of God”. Be sure to enter full screen. Have a fruitful Holy Week. I will publish again later in the week.