The End of Lent: How do we Celebrate Holy Week with Holiness?
Happy Holy Week! We find ourselves in the most emotionally charged week of the liturgical year, reflecting on the betrayal, death and resurrection of Jesus, hoping and praying that God gives us the grace to experience all of that and feel a closeness with Christ. I am struck with a feeling of great anticipation and joy every year during Holy Week. The celebration of Easter is incredible and very moving to me, but I think that is because I, living in the 21st century, know the end of the story. Jesus rose and is alive and well in the world. For the people of that time, however, they lived in 3 days of turmoil, grief, and confusion after a few days of terrifying events. How then do we celebrate and appreciate the full experience of this week in all of its many emotions while knowing the greatest twist at the end? And how do we live holy lives in order to continue our pursuit of Jesus and in our world where holiness can be hard to find?
In the Catholic Church we look to those who have lived lives of extraordinary holiness that are venerated as saints. Many of the most influential people in the world have done extraordinary things that have led them to lives of spreading the good news of Christ to the world. Thomas Merton spoke best about his view of sainthood and the importance of living a life of holiness. He said, “For me, to be a saint means to be myself.” This is such a gift to think about sainthood in this way, being able to see ourselves as worthy of sainthood by simply living the way God created us to live. As God continues to create us in an ever-changing world, we are continually invited to be in deeper relationship with Christ and a continual exploration of the deepest purpose God created us with. With an eye towards strengthening that relationship with Christ, Spokane Bishop Thomas Daly offered three steps to holiness in our everyday lives. The first is true self-knowledge. We must be able to take a look at ourselves in an honest way, with all of our faults and successes and know that every part of ourselves are a beloved creation from God. The second step is we must be humble. True humility comes with a great surrender we must have to the will of God and our limitations as humans but a true appreciation for the freedom God has given us to live in relationship with Him. This freedom is a gift we are call to use in the purest pursuit of truth, love, and justice. The last step is to have a sense of humor to be able to see the world with joy and light despite anything else that is happening around us.
I think the best way to summarize these things and to gain a true experience of Holy Week is to be authentically ourselves. We are all created by a loving God and we do great service to God by appreciating and loving all of His great creation; ourselves very much included. Holiness does not have to come with solemnity and quiet reverence but it comes with being true to our hearts. So, allow yourself to experience all of the humanness God has gifted to you; the joy, sorrow, excitement, grief, joy, pain, love, and peace. Allow yourself grace to continue to fail knowing that you are still perfect in the eyes of God. Experience this week as it comes to you and find as many ways to encounter Jesus alive in the world as you can. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Phil. 4:8). Happy Holy Week and let us rejoice in the light of the Lord. Amen.