You know you're getting older when the passage of time catches you off-guard. This year--maybe because of the winter that never came--I've found myself particularly unprepared for Holy Week. Forty days used to seem like a long time. Now I wonder if it wouldn't be a good idea to hold on to Lent for just one more week.
The events of Christ's Passion, however, teach us that any attempt to keep things as they are is not only detrimental, it is doomed to fail. Nothing expresses this more clearly than the liturgy of Palm Sunday, which opens with joyful "hosannas," but quickly pushes us along the Via Dolorosa to the Cross. Our world is passing, which is another way of saying that our world is fluid.
This is the world that the Son of God entered at his Incarnation. But this is also the world that Jesus came to transform and save. He accomplishes this when he does not try to hold onto his ministry, his friends, or even his life--when he willingly lays them all down.
It is through the act of laying it all down, that God moves. Why? Because the total offering of self as gift and sacrifice is the ultimate game changer. It is the thing that changes us. We are most like God when we give ourselves totally in love as he does. That gift gets God's attention, and God moves when he is moved.
The liturgies of Holy Week teach us how to follow Jesus, that is how to move with him. That is also the power we experience when we pray the Stations of the Cross. The fourteen stops we make remind us that we are moving along the way of the Cross. In actuality we are being moved down the path that each of us must travel if we hope to see the stones rolled away from the entrances of our tombs.
God moves because God is alive. When we dig in our heels and refuse to move, we dig our own graves. Yet it is so much easier to stay put, to get comfortable with who and how and where we are. And it is so difficult to take a step in any direction, to overcome our spiritual inertia, and get going.
Few people travel just for the sake of traveling. Destinations are what motivate us. There is no better place to end up than in the arms of the Almighty. The reason we hesitate, however, is that we lose sight of the destination, and see only the sole path that leads to it. That path is the Cross.
We can find the motivation we need to take up our crosses when we spend time with Jesus as he carries his. That is the gift the Church gives us every Holy Week. She provides us with countless opportunities to walk alongside Jesus, to take the road of his cross before we walk the way of our own; to share his sorrows and sufferings in a manner that gives us the strength to fully embrace and bear our own.
Those who sought to stop the mission of Jesus attempted to do so by arresting and executing him. Interestingly enough, Mary Magdalene also tried to keep Jesus where he was in the garden that first Easter morning. Trying to "take hold" of him, Jesus instructs her not to touch him, for he has not yet ascended to the Father. His journey has not come to an end.
The story of salvation does not stop any more at the empty tomb than it did at the cross. Our lives are the continuation of that story, and not in merely a symbolic or figurative way. As St. Paul tells us we "make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ." (Col 1:24) And just what is lacking? Our daily and full participation in our own salvation; our movement along the way he has prepared for us; our carrying the cross that he has, by gracious love, designed as our bridge to eternal life.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.