We live in a culture that loves drama. Think of the week-to-week serials like "Once Upon a Time" and "Law and Order," or competitions like "The Voice" or "Dancing with the Stars"—people tune in every week with enthusiasm and fascination, and they feel involved, even though watching is such a passive act.
When the story is over, it's over, and ultimately, it has been nothing more than a diversion we'll be chatting about, then forgetting.
Sometimes the same kind of passivity can invade our spiritual observances. We just coast along on autopilot with no real reason to dig in and search for the truth and g-r-o-w.
If we have suffered from the "same-old-same-old" doldrums and been tempted to muddle through these final days of Lent, let us reconsider. We are approaching the high holy days, which begin on Palm Sunday, April 1st. There is still time left to draw more intentionally into the things of God and the message of faith, in these final days before Easter.
Allow me to suggest two exercises for your spiritual growth and renewal during the remaining days of the Lenten season into Holy Week: challenge yourself to read parts of the Bible as well as the Catechism.
First, take time to read the Scriptures that will be proclaimed each Sunday and on each day of Holy Week. You can use your Bible, or find an online link here. One of the simplest methods of praying with the Bible is imaginative prayer or Ignatian Contemplation.
Imagine the drama of Holy Week. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you hear the Word anew.
Then put yourself side by side with the persons in the Scripture accounts.
Visualize Jesus' triumphal ride upon a colt to shouts of praise in the city streets of Jerusalem; the heartbreakingly poignant Last Supper and Gethsemane dialogues and prayers; the betrayal and arrest of Jesus; the trial and condemnation; the pitiable scourging and the hard road to Calvary, in which the shouts in the street were no longer of praise, but ridiculing jeers and epithets.
Many people were demoralized and despairing in the midst of Jesus' Passion. After all the good that Jesus had done, had it really come down to the final suffering of crucifixion and death? Worse than a cliffhanger, the beloved hero gets killed off in what seems like the final moments of the story.
It always stirs my imagination to think how so many people passively (and some aggressively) walked away from Jesus at the end of his life. Even his own followers! I wonder if I would have walked away in search of "the next big thing," rather than in search of God?
Of course, we already know the end of the story. Jesus Christ rose again from the dead and triumphed over sin and the grave. It's the knowing that sometimes tempts us to tune out; we think we are over-familiar with the story, and pass it by with eyes glazed over and hearts unmoved.
Shake off the "rerun thinking" we are all prone to; it goes I've heard this all before, I don't need to pay attention. When it creeps in, ask the Holy Spirit to stir our hearts and minds during this coming last weeks. Let's really enter in and engage!
Holy Week and the Easter Triduum are the high holy days—the climax—of all we believe in the Christian faith. There is real beauty and joy in what is familiar about this season. Familiarity should lead us toward knowing the mystery a little deeper, a little better, and not the opposite effect.
Finally, I'd like to suggest a few sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that might prove to be good spiritual reading over Holy Week. You can find an online link to that here.
Suggested readings from the Catechism:
For Palm Sunday: CCC 557-560; 595-598; 1850-1851.
For Holy Thursday: CCC 607-618; 1322-1327; 1334; 1337-1344; 1380-1381.
For Good Friday: CCC 595-605; 711-716; 766.
Easter Vigil: CCC 142; 260; 460; 355-361; 624-628; 1214-1225; 2560-2565.
Easter Sunday: CCC 640-642; 185-191; 1168-1169; 1329, 1347.
(These suggestions are taken from Opening the Scriptures, A Guide to the Catechism for use with the Sunday Readings from Our Sunday Visitor.)
Seek Jesus out! God's Word promises that if we seek him we will find him! (See Jer. 29:13.) Let us not miss these opportunities to grow in the graces of this season.