Hello Old Friend,
It’s Holy Week again, a time of year that I’ve really learned to appreciate over the past several years or so. Spring as a whole is a really powerful time of year in the Church, with Ash Wednesday and the Lenten abstention, then the progression of the Passion and Death of Jesus (Palm Sunday and Good Friday) and his ultimate Resurrection (Easter). Add these traditions to the natural blessing of new birth among both flora and fauna, and it’s clear to see that this is the perfect time to revisit, restrengthen, resurrect one’s faith in God, however He might appear to you.
We went to Mass on Sunday and while I sat next to the three women in my life and turn palm fronds into crosses, I begin to feel something, an idea, an understanding, opening up inside of my mind. While this blossom hasn’t fully bloomed, I felt like I needed to take it out of mind brain and put it on the page so that I can read and re-read and dissect it and hopefully reach more solid ground with it.
I’m not 100% sure how Palm Sunday goes in other churches. I don’t remember it when we went to a Methodist, then Lutheran services growing up. But I do know that when you go to Mass, there is a part where the story from the Last Supper through the Death and Burial of Jesus is read aloud and the congregation reads the part of the condemners of Christ. We read the words that were used to condemn our Savior to death on the cross. We play the part of the unruly mob.
It threw me off the first time, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to me. We are the descendants of the people who condemned Him. They swore His blood upon their hands and upon ours as well. It was humanity that wanted and needed the death of Jesus. Not just because that unruly mob hated him and the things he was saying. Not just because the wanted to silence a rabble-rousing do-gooder that spoke against the status quo. That’s why they wanted him to die. They, we, needed Jesus to die because it was laid out in Scriptures. Our Salvation was dependent on the Resurrection and thereby the Death of Jesus on the Cross. We, as Catholics honor a crucified Christ because it is in that moment that the Scriptures were partially fulfilled. There is no resurrection without death. There is no Christianity without the Crucifixion.
I feel it more and more each time Palm Sunday comes around. I feel shame and guilt that people would betray and humiliate and degrade and falsely sentence Jesus and that they would try to feed him wine with animal bile and shove thorns on his head and make the whole of the affair that much harder to endure. It’s hard to imagine being in that position. Knowing the end result and enduring the punishment in the meantime. Watching your closest friends deny and betray you. Listening to the crowd yell for you to die because you tried to teach people to be good to one another and reject the evils of the world. Enduring the suffering. Enduring. Suffering. The Passion.
That’s what this whole post is about really: the meaning of Passion. That’s my Holy Week revelation for 2017. You see, the word ‘passion’ derives from the Old Latin word ‘passio’ meaning suffering or enduring. It’s a struggle. Passion isn’t supposed to be easy or comfortable. It should be a struggle. Life isn’t easy or comfortable so the things that matter shouldn’t be, either. I think that passion implies motion and force. Passion is a river, not a lake. It moves and flows and adapts and sweeps and crushes and propels and delivers and hinders. Or perhaps it’s an ocean. With depth and mystery. I don’t know, I like the river because rivers have such a constant and powerful presence in the Good Book.
Passion is the journey more than the destination. It gets you to where you need to be, where you’re called to be. It’s the lead-up to the Cross, the Resurrection, the Salvation. Take that from the Book and introduce it into your life. Find what’s worth struggling for and embrace that struggle because it will lead you to your glory. And don’t be afraid because God is with you, all the way.