When you love someone, you know them, and you want to know them more and more. When they are suffering, you want to know their pain. When they are happy, you want to rejoice with them.
What is faith? Some do faith as a list of laws. Some do faith as an ideology. Many exploit a certain faith for the sake of controlling others. Some do faith as though we are following a distant God who set the earth in motion and watches for our every mistake.
My Faith is a relationship with someone that I often forget is right here. It is not a distant memory of someone who lived 2,000 ish years ago. It is not a system of sacred ceremonies to hold to ancient wisdom and divine revelations (well, a bit). At its core is a relationship with an actual person, the maker of the universe who creates and wonders and laughs and needs and feels pain. (Needs and feels pain, you say? See below.) My faith is a relationship with someone who is present with me here and now… who I can reach out to behind, into, and through this veil of matter — beautifully created but often confusing matter – to find an ever-present heart which never imposes nor leaves me on my own. The hero of the universe is right here.
Saturday morning, listening to Fr. Tim’s homily, I was struck. John 11:45-56: The chief priests and the Pharisees were immensely afraid – the Romans would certainly crack down on them because of Jesus. They did not like new religion nor fervor around anyone who seems to be a leader. Caiaphus said that it was better for one man to die for the people, and they planned to kill Jesus. So Jesus “no longer walked about in public.”
Jesus had, indeed, been out and about. He was teaching; he was healing. People could find him, touch him, listen to him. Then he went into hiding; he “no longer walked about in public;” he went to Ephraim in the desert and stayed there with his disciples.
Holy week is about walking with Jesus through his experiences. Have we been out in public then stuck hiding? Absolutely we have. This year, we absolutely have. When Fr. Tim spoke this, it hit my heart.
Holy week is a time to walk with Jesus through his capture, through his agony in the garden, through his betrayal and abandonment by beloved friends, through his torture and death. Jesus is right here with you, in your trials, gazing with love and bringing wisdom and help. Holy week is a time to be there with him too. And this year we have been given a chance like no other.
But didn’t this happen a long time ago?
Those who have studied the Mass know that the Mass isn’t simply remembering what happened a long time ago. It isn’t redoing it either. It is a time machine in a way. We go back and enter in. Sure, it still looks like we are in a church (or lately, watching one on a screen), but with God there is no time. And at Mass, we are part of what happened, what is eternally happing. The lover is sacrificing himself for his beloved. Jesus, the Godman, is dying, then rising and conquering death. At Mass, we are spiritually present there. When we are not at Mass, we can still join with him there in a different way; we can let God bring our hearts to his at that eternal moment. We can be there with him because this person is someone we love.
Shared experiences create intimacy. The circumstances we are in, the Ephraim/hiding in the desert aspect of our lives, whatever fear and suffering and loss we have can be united to our beloved Christ. We can enter into his passion. We can hold him on the cross and let his wounds bleed into ours. We can let the death of a lot of things that matter to us be what bonds us to him more and more and then rise with him too with a heart full of triumphant graces for celebrating life.
God may not have needs and feel pain, but Jesus needed food, water, clothing, shelter. God with skin on definitely did. Paul said that we “Make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ” which makes little sense to so many. If Jesus is God, how could anything be lacking? But he had one human body. And we have more; the Church is called “the Body of Christ.” So we unite with him and unite our sufferings too.
We don’t make ourselves suffer except to responsibly fast, but the world gives us trials and we can use them for good. This year, we’ve been handed a unique circumstance. Though sickness is not a good, aspects of this are a gift, and we have been exhorted not to waste it. Let it bring us closer to Jesus, Yeshua, God incarnate, The Christ. One with him, amazing things await. We love him. Let us not distract ourselves but enter into Ephraim. This year, the road is easy to find.