Sunday, April 17, 2011

Walking the Distance in Holy Week

Most of us know what it's like to have a fair-weather friend. "You can always depend on them… to depend on you. They make withdrawals from the friendship account, but never any deposits."

Sometimes our fair-weather friends desert us completely if we lose an important job or because we're no longer a celebrity or a sports hero. It's often said that when times get tough you get to know who your friends are. Many of the newspaper stories about the death of the actress Elizabeth Taylor mentioned that she was one of the very few friends who stood by Michael Jackson as he spiraled from being the most popular entertainer in the world to a figure of ridicule.

Today Jesus is surrounded by friends. His entry into Jerusalem is cause for public celebration; crowds flock to welcome him—you might say they give him a parade. But just five days later, the streets are empty and he is left with very few friends indeed, only his most faithful disciples. The general public has turned away.

Waving our palm branches, we too have joined those welcoming Jesus to the holy city. The practical question we can ask ourselves is this: are we going to walk the rest of the way with him?

Will we "watch one hour" with him on Holy Thursday? Will we stand beside the cross on Good Friday? And will we wait outside the tomb on Holy Saturday? Or will we wait until the drama is over, and rejoin him only when he is again triumphant on Easter morning?

These questions aren't abstract or rhetorical questions. They are practical questions that need an answer from each parishioner. What are your plans for the rest of Holy Week?

Jesus invites us to walk the distance with him this week; the liturgies of the sacred Triduum – the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday, the Celebration of the Lord's Passion on Good Friday, and the great Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night – are opportunities to show that we are not fair-weather friends but disciples, willing to walk the way of the cross before we enter into the joy of the resurrection.

It's no sin if the next time you show up in church is Easter morning. The liturgies I've just mentioned are not holy days of obligation. But friendship is not, of course, about obligation. Friendship is not primarily about duty, but freely and willingly offered.

Let us consider with great care what we are saying to Jesus if we cannot find the time to share his journey – triumph and tragedy, joy and sorrow. Participating in the rich liturgical life of Christ's Church this week is truly one of the great privileges of our friendship with Him.

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