By Derrick Witherington, assistant director of Campus Ministry for Liturgical Programs
For five weeks of Lent, we have been preparing to celebrate the most important week of the entire liturgical year: Holy Week. This Sunday, we celebrate Palm Sunday and begin to walk with Jesus in the final stage of His journey to the cross and resurrection. It’s only fitting that our reflection this week focuses on Jesus’ passion and crucifixion in Luke 23:1-49.
In Luke’s account of these events, we can see nearly every variety of human dysfunction on display – lies, slander, mob rule, unjust conviction, as well as verbal, physical and emotional abuse.
Yet during this rampant brokenness, what strikes me most is that we still find moments of beauty and light. Jesus comforts the women He meets as He makes his way toward Calvary. Jesus promises the repentant thief that he is to join Him in paradise.
I believe the message here is that in moments of utter darkness, confusion and rejection, we all not only can find moments of light and beauty, we also have the freedom to make and enable these things to truly shine forth.
After everything that Jesus went through between the evening of Holy Thursday and the afternoon of Good Friday, I think nobody would have blamed Him if He would have turned completely inward in those final moments.
Nobody would have blamed Jesus if He had not even noticed the women who were weeping for him – or paid attention to the words coming from the fellow condemned men hanging on His left and on right. Yet during what must have been incredible physical and emotional pain, Jesus still manages to turn outward in compassion to the people and situations around Him.
We all have personal struggles, pains and questions. Life sometimes might strike us as being a very cruel and lonely place in the wake of a terrible exam, failed relationship or uncertainty regarding what the future will bring.
One of the many lessons of Jesus’ passion is that even in the darkest moments, the way to get through it is by pushing ourselves – to continue to be ambassadors of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness. As followers of Christ, we are not guaranteed constant comfort, but we are guaranteed the promise of resurrection and new life, rising out of the ashes and debris of the messes in which we sometimes find ourselves.
As we enter Holy Week, let us pray for the grace to always remember that we are called to spread God’s compassion and mercy, even if we find ourselves in dark moments. When we do this, we are faithfully following the example of Jesus – from the cold darkness of the cross to the radiant brightness of the resurrection.