Dear Friends in Christ:
Here we are at another at Holy Week. In the Passover Seder, the youngest child asks (in Hebrew) “Ma nishtanah halaylah hazeh mikol halyot?” Why is this night different from all other nights? The child is then told what makes the Passover different: the eating of only unleavened bread, the bitter herbs, the dipping of vegetables in salt water and reclining to eat at the table. Each of these elements comes with an explanation of what it means in the telling of the story of God freeing the Hebrews from their slavery in Egypt. These questions, the explanation and the telling of the Exodus story from one generation to the next, quite literally passes on and forms the identity of the Jewish people. The recounting and telling of the story of the Passover and the Exodus are so important that even if a person is alone and there cannot be others at a Seder, he is to ask himself the questions! This recounting of the Passover and the Exodus, the liberation and identity of God’s people is not simply an account of an historical event, but it is renewing of the liberation and identity of a new generation and renewal for the older generations. The major focus of this ritual is on the children (even adult children) so that they may learn and experience God’s continuing action of saving and delivering His people to be present in their lives.
As Christians, our Passover meal is the Holy Mass. Our annual re-presentation of liberation is Holy Week culminating with Easter. But do we know what we are really doing? Do we remember the questions of why? Perhaps we can borrow from our Jewish brothers and sisters, our elders in the faith. This Holy Week while at the table, have one of the children ask these questions: Why are the days of Holy Week different from all other days? Why did Jesus give us the Eucharist at the Last Supper? Why did he pray in the Garden? Why did he undergo the humiliation and pain of the Crucifixion? Why did he die on the cross? Why did Jesus rise from the dead? For us to have the children (or the youngest or one another) ask these questions, also means that we need to know the answers! It means that we have to be open to accepting and embracing the answers that Christ gives us through his Church. Do I consider my opinion equal to the truth and teaching of Jesus? Is my personal experience superior to the collected wisdom and truth of God’s revelation and the 2000 year old message of the gospel as given by the Lord and taught by His Church? It also means that we must be willing to live these answers.
In a time and age of instant transmittal of data, there is surprisingly little real communication and even less real understanding and meaning. We have quick factoids and lots of noise. Slow down, take the time and ask real questions, ponder them and think about the answers. Go deeper to a more profound understanding. What do the events of this week mean? How is this week holy for me? How can I become holier this week? Am I desirous and willing to allow God to change me and make me holy? What is the Eucharist for me and my family? Is it merely an occasional occurrence? An obligation? Boring? Routine? Or is it the very best part of my week? Is it my opportunity to give myself to God and receive Jesus in his body and blood? Is it my chance to renew and strengthen my relationship “through Him, with Him and in Him”? Am I really ready to let go of the life that I have and to live a new, more beautiful, more powerful, more joy-filled life?
Our telling of the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is living it anew. It renews within us not just the effects of our freedom from sin and death but also renews our identity as His disciples. Just as every time we sign our name we re-affirm our identity, every time we pray, perform an act of love, read the gospel, go to mass and live Holy Week, we re-affirm, re-new and make present again that we are the people for whom “God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son, that whoever believes in Him might not die but have eternal life! (Jn 3:16).
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately