FROM FR. JAY SIDEBOTHAM +
Column dated March 29, 2021
The Collect for Today: The Monday of Holy Week
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. -Philippians 2:5-11
Wanderer, your footsteps are the road, and nothing more; wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking. By walking one makes the road, and upon glancing behind one sees the path that never will be trod again. Wanderer, there is no road– Only wakes upon the sea. -Antonio Machado, Campos de Castilla
We make our way by walking
So here’s the question that occurs to me as I read the prayer for today, included above: How do we find that the way of the cross is the way of life and peace? It’s about walking. In RenewalWorks lingo, it is about getting people moving. It is about the journey, the process, the experience of the way of the cross. As we begin this Holy Week, what does that way of the cross mean to you? Here are some thoughts on what it means to me. Use this morning’s reflection to think about what that way of the cross means to you.
It means walking in a spirit of kenosis, that Greek word which suggests emptying, noted in particular in a reading you may have heard yesterday in church, a reading also printed above. As we remember Jesus, his whole experience among us, but especially his journey through Holy Week, was about self-emptying, not grasping at prerogatives or entitlement. How can we do that this week?
It means meeting the pain of the world. I often think that the greatest miracle of Holy Week is that Jesus didn’t catch the first bus out of Jerusalem, which would have been my response. There were times earlier in his life when he eluded those trying to kill him, those who wanted to throw him off a cliff, those who wanted to stone him to death. But this week was to be his hour of glory, the moment when his holy nature is revealed. How can we boldly meet the pain of the world this week? (We don’t have to look far.)
It means stepping into service. This week, we will travel to Maundy Thursday, where Jesus gets up from the table and washes the disciples gnarly feet. That action echoes what he had tried to teach ambitious, thick-headed disciples, that true greatness is manifested in service. How might we be imaginative this week in terms of service?
It means always moving forward with an attitude of gratitude. On the same night that he washed disciples feet, Jesus instituted the eucharist, a word which really means thanksgiving. What frame of mind allowed him to focus on gratitude when he seemed to know what was coming? His witness indicates that gratitude finds expression without much regard for circumstances. Is there a way we can walk that way this week? What makes your heart grateful in crazy crisis times?
It means following a path of forgiveness. As his journey took him to the cross, his reaction was not defensiveness, resentment, or self-justification. It was not the kind of martyrdom that draws attention to the victim. It was an expression of forgiveness for those who were doing the worst, the unimaginable to him. In that way, the forgiveness seems to know no limit. I’m not good at that kind of practice, but I wonder how this week we might walk that way, even in baby steps.
It means walking a pathway marked by hope. Gospel accounts seem to vary on how much Jesus knew about how all this would end, but again and again he seemed to express the idea that he would be lifted up, not just on the hard wood of the cross, but lifted up by God’s glorious and gracious power. The cross was not a dead-end but a threshold. Jesus seemed to move forward knowing that.
There’s a lot to walk into this week, called holy because it is set apart. As we take next steps, may we do so in the spirit of Paul’s letter to the Philippians which calls us to have the mind of Christ.