You are walking in the park, and all of a sudden three men jump out of the bushes and tackle you.
They start punching you over and over.
Then one of them grabs a branch and starts hitting you with it.
Another pulls out a knife and starts stabbing you in the arms and legs.
They drag you to the middle of the park, and prop you up on a bench.
A crowd gathers to watch.
You are beaten, bloodied, and embarrassed.
One of the men then falsely tells the crowd that you were a criminal ... and proceeds to shout out a list of horrific things you supposedly did. He then pulls out a gun and points it right at your head, asking you if you have any last words.
Choose your answer:
a) Why did you do this to me, I don't even know you?
b) I (expletive) hate (expletive) all of you (expletive).
c) I didn't do any of those things you said I did. You have to believe me! I swear!
d) You better shoot me or I will kill you.
e) I forgive you, and I ask God to do the same.
Once upon a time, a priest friend of mine, after getting tired of hearing me yearn for more detail about the life of the Apostles and Evangelists, finally said:
"Why are you so interested in every little detail of the past? The truth is, what WE are doing today is AS important ... if not MORE important ... than those little details."
That hit me like a ton of bricks.
Now in fairness, he wasn't saying that we were more important than those folks. What he was inferring was that they already did their job. They passed the Word down to the next generation.
Now its our job to do the same.
Our Faith relies on each generation carrying out the task successfully, regardless of obstacle. The early followers faced persecution. We face indifference.
(Sometimes it is hard to tell which is worse.)
In any case, that priest's words kept echoing in my head this Easter. We read the Gospel proclaiming the Resurrection and it's easy to feel like the Easter story is over.
We write a new chapter every single day.
"What is truth?", Pilate asks Jesus.
This line has always bothered me as it's just left out there with no answer.
Was he mocking Jesus? Or really looking for an answer? Did Jesus respond? Did Pilate just walk away after asking it? Was it rhetorical? And why did John feel compelled to include that line in his Gospel?
Personally, I always assumed it was part rhetorical/part mocking.
Just like I always assumed Pilate wrote Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews on the sign above our Lord purely to mock the High Priests.
But this Triduum, I wondered if the two weren't related.
What if Pilate really was seeking the truth? What if during that short window of time, Pilate realized that the Truth was Christ? And that He was not only the King of the Jews, but the King of Kings?
A long shot, perhaps. But one can hope.
Here's hoping this Easter brings more people closer to Jesus - the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And special prayers for those that have left the church ... may the Risen Christ bring them back for good.
A very Happy and Blessed Easter to you and your families.
I enter each Holy Week wondering if God will share something new with me.
If He will move me even more than He did the year before.
If, despite reading the same passages multiple times, year after year, He will open my eyes to something I've missed.
By now, I should know the answer.
Of course He will ... assuming I'm ready to listen.
This year while listening to Mark's Gospel, I realized how little attention I've paid to Jesus' time on the cross.
I've written before about the suffering Our Savior endured during his beatings, and how unbearable it must have been to watch. (Especially knowing our sins did that to Him.)
But two phrases from Mark popped out at me this weekend.
Nine o'clock. And three o'clock.
That is how long Christ suffered on the cross.
It goes by so fast when we read it the Gospels, doesn't it? Our Lord moves from Crucifixion to turning down wine to death in a few short sentences, while our minds quickly move to the Resurrection and endless Thank Yous.
But those six hours must have been brutal. There are plenty of resources that explain the pain of crucifixion, but a common phrase used to describe it is "unending, excruciating, agonizing pain."
For six hours.
That is the length of two baseball games. Or six Masses. Or twelve, half-hour sitcoms. Heck it's almost a full work day.
It's such a powerful example of His love for us.
And I've been shortchanging it for years.
I hope each of you has a similar, eye-opening, Blessed Holy Week.
P.S. Bonus Exercise: Check the clock right now. Set an alarm for six hours from now. Then think of everything you did during that time, and imagine that instead, you were nailed in one spot ... in more pain than you have ever felt for every second of it.
(Note: There are 21,600 of them)