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As We Journey Into Holy Week …

“Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:6-11

“Like every believer I know, my search for real life has led me through at least three distinct seasons of faith. Jesus called them finding life, losing life, and finding life again, with the paradoxical promise that finders will be losers while those who lose their lives for his sake will wind up finding them again. You do not have to die to discover the truth of this teaching. You only need to lose track of who you are, or who you thought you were supposed to be, so that you end up lying flat on the dirt floor basement of your heart. Do this, Jesus says, and you will live.” —Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith.

Taylor’s powerful image of “lying flat on the dirt floor basement of your heart” is something each of us can relate to at some point in our lives. As Jesus was tossed into the desert, as we read in the Gospel on the First Sunday of Lent, we too have been thrown into the basement of our hearts by life’s events— whether by the death of a loved one, a diagnosis of life-threatening illness, divorce, depression, or a loss of a job.

We are about to enter the holiest week of the Church’s calendar, an opportunity to journey with Christ from death to new life. This short week sums up our life with Christ, an arduous journey with all its times of finding life, losing life, and finding life again. The liturgy on this Sunday, Palm or Passion Sunday, invites us into Holy Week with Paul’s letter to the Philippians. When Paul invites the Christians at Philippi to welcome Christ as the key to life and death, embedded in his message is a hymn that was already being used by Christians. The central message of this hymn is what we refer to as “the Paschal Mystery.” The word “paschal” is derived from the Greek word meaning “pass over.” At its very heart it is less about events and more about movement: it is about both “from…” and “to…”: from slavery to freedom, from finding life to losing life, from losing life to finding life again.

The liturgies we are about to celebrate are not just commemorations of historical events. They make that once and for all supreme act of love real and present here and now. They pull us into that great movement we call the Paschal Mystery. In these celebrations we go down into the tomb—the dirt basement of our hearts—so that we can arise with Christ to new life.

What strikes you most in the way Jesus approaches his passion and death? What could you do to emulate him?

Good and gracious God,
by the paschal mystery of Christ
you conquered the power of death and opened for us the way to eternal life.
Let our celebration of Holy Week
raise us up and help us find life again
by the power of the Holy Spirit that is within us.
Grant this through Jesus the Christ. Amen

Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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