Each Ash Wednesday we look toward far-off Easter, wondering what events, happenings, or experiences might make this Lenten journey unique and memorable. However, soon after we are marked with ashes, we find ourselves encountering the daily events that take up much of our time and energy. Reflecting on these last forty days, we struggle to understand the impact this Lenten journey has had on our spiritual growth. All too soon we hear again: “The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark,” our essential prelude to Easter.
No matter how we read the Passion, we usually approach the familiar story with a knowing eye. We know this story and can almost repeat the lines before we hear them. There is nothing new for us here! Yet, how casually would we approach this story if we considered that the Passion is not a past but a present event! We are in the story, invited to identify with the players…their emotions and actions. This is the beginning of our annual examination of conscience, and our chance to connect the suffering and death of Jesus to the front-page stories of violence and evil occurring in our every-day lives.
As the drama unfolds, with whom do we connect? Are we one of the privileged who see Jesus transfigured, share his Last Supper meal, and then fall asleep in his hour of need? Do we connect with the woman who generously lavished expensive ointment on him in Simon’s home? Are we more like Judas who betrayed him, Peter who publicly denied him, or his disciples who fled when he was arrested? In what way do the happenings of our lives reflect the tragedy of this Passion story?
Of all the characters, perhaps Simon of Cyrene who helped Jesus carry his cross may be the most appealing. Simon reminds us that we all need help in being faithful to the Gospel. Theologian Henri Nouwen wrote: “Every time we are willing to break out of our false need for self-sufficiency and dare to ask for help, a new community emerges, a fellowship of the helped and the helper; the weak and the strong.” That community is made up of people who through mutual trust and support bring hope to our broken world.
The call of that supporting community continues today. All efforts to create a more just world, free from misery, hunger and ignorance, will be successful when people allow the Spirit of God to guide them. As Henri Nouwen stated, ”Our world changes when people move from fear to love, from death to life, from stagnation to rebirth, from living as rivals to living as people who belong to one human community.”
The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ unfolds again, as we reflect on the impact this experience will have on us and our world. Will we enter into communion with Jesus by loving and being loved, helping and being helped, and allow his presence to grow among and within us? Because of the Jesus who died and rose, loved and was loved, we become one with him and, because of him, one with the Father.
----Deacon Wilson Shierk