As the Holy Weeks pass by, year after year, more poignant questions remain, needing to be answered. I have long wondered – why? Despite degrees in theology I still ask why Jesus entered suffering and death while his life was steeped in acts of loving, forgiving, and healing others. Yet, after having supper with his twelve chosen ones, Judas left early, only to return and betray Jesus with a kiss.
Although Jesus brought his three closest friends with him to pray in Gethsemane, they too, failed at Jesus’s request. I once saw, in a storage room in the back of a medieval Italian church, dusty, old, marred, life-size statues of Peter, James, and John lying on the ground sleeping while Jesus kneeled in prayer. This mental image came back to me when I saw a multitude of life size statues used for Holy Week services in Antigua, Guatemala, in a downtown chain-link fenced yard. I self-questioned if my prayer becomes sometimes like that of the sleeping apostles, or a once-a year occurrence. A favorite picture of Jesus in Gethsemane resting his head on the shoulder of an angel gave me consolation and hope.
The tomb day, Holy Saturday, was observed as a very solemn day in the Catholicism of my childhood, as I recall. The church was barren of all ornamentals, the stationary statues were shrouded in purple, the Holy Eucharist was removed from the tabernacle with door left open, no exterior bells were rung, and there were no religious services, communal or private, of any kind (and certainly no Easter Egg Hunts!) It was the tomb day and there was a pervading sense of absence and missingness. Yet our hope sustained us until the next day.
Then, all the questioning becomes naught on Easter Sunday. Our faith tells us that Jesus rose, resurrected from the tomb, on the Third Day. It is that hope that brings us through these three horrible days in the life of Jesus.
As I write this, Notre Dame is burning. Notre Dame – Our Lady. Some Catholics refer to her as the Sorrowful Mother because of the trials she suffered along with her son, Jesus. Yet, as this magnificent cathedral is being destroyed and we grieve its absence and missingness, it too, sends us a powerful message that our faith can never be destroyed.
Our hope is in the Resurrection.