I feel very resistant to the drama at the start of this Holy Week! There is too much drama all around: last minute budget compromises; last-minute plans for coups and/or saving face by political leaders; people crying “wolf, wolf” when there is no wolf. So Palm Sunday doesn’t feel very auspicious for me as it approaches with its planned acts of theater, the madding crown mentality, the reactive keepers of the way-things-are. Too much of life seems to dramatic already!
What draws me more are the quotidian events that occupy Jesus all week long even in his full knowledge of all that this week will bring and mean. It is provocative that more than half of the Gospel of John takes place following Chapter 12 when Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph. Yes, there is drama, but there is much else beside. There is quiet dinner with friends May and Martha, made memorable by an anointing with fragrance, and Jesus’ acknowledgement and affirmation of this gesture of love. There are moments of encounter, teachable moments,with a variety of folk, all offering opportunities for jesus to tell his Truth, be who he was. There were occasions with “signs and wonders” which seemed fruitless, since people remained skeptical and unconvinced.
The iconic moment for me comes in John 13, this gospel’s account of the last supper Jesus has with is disciples, the one that our Christian traditions celebrate as Maundy Thursday. Jesus is so attentive to God’s Spirit within him that he enters this moment, fully alive, fully open, and fully aware of all that would befall him. In just a few lines, the gospel writer sketches Jesus’ points of reference: loving his own until the end, even knowing that one whom he loved would betray him; and fully trusting that God was at work in him and the human events around him. He chooses to wash the feet of his loved ones. This physical act of hospitality and grace touches not only their tired and anxious bodies, but comforts their anxious and bewildered souls. He demonstrates that even in times of dangerous drama, worlds careening out of control, the act of loving presence sustains, centers and heals. It is a gift of himself that they can see and feel and savor and remember, before the gift of his life which he pours out in the next few hours. It becomes an icon for their own ministries which are to follow for years to come, and it is rooted and grounded in love.
That place of loving groundedness is the part of Jesus’ last week that I would like to be characteristic of my Holy Week this year. I have been trying this Lent to practice each day the things that make for peace. In the world and the neighborhood, there has been drama, there have been moments of quiet intimacy; there have been opportunities to teach a word that leads to wholeness, and there have been moments when it has felt as if my lustrous and wise pearls have rolled right underneath the trotters of the swine who were there when I spoke them. And there have been occasions of deep loss and pain, sacrifices that feel too deep to bear. But what I learn from Jesus is that he keeps his heart steadfastly in the Holy One who sent him, in trust that God is working through his open heart, and that the Spirit is giving him whatever resources he needs for the demand of each day and moment, on the road into town, at the home of a friend, in a garden at the the foot of the Mount of Olives, in a kangaroo court, in the midst of torture and death. With that anchor for his heart and soul, he is faithful to one he calls Abba, to the beloved community and to the world.
I may not leap into a parade this week, nor crowd around the sites of spectacle, but I am honoring this week in the memory of Jesus, who loves me and empowers me to be one that attends to Holy Presence in my life by loving the ones I am given in joy and in pain. may I have the grace so to do!