My brain felt as though it was swimming through Jell-O as I pulled my car up to the stop light. No sooner had the light change registered than the driver behind me leaned on the horn — long and loud. A few blocks later, the road split and the driver behind me pulled around, coming to a stop beside my vehicle. She had dark glasses and a sour expression as she cautiously peered at me out of the corner of her eye.
Rather than do something to incite additional road rage, I smiled and waved in my friendliest fashion, as though greeting a long-lost friend. Then I rolled down my window and motioned her to do the same. Reluctantly, she did.
“Hello! I’m so sorry about the light,” I began. “I was just at a funeral, and I guess it shook me more than I realized.”
The woman’s shoulders sagged visibly. “I’m sorry for beeping,” she said. “My brother died yesterday, and I’m not myself. I’m sorry for your loss.”
The light changed, and our cars pulled away from one another. Each of us still carried a burden of grief – but thanks to our exchange, the added burden of anger was gone.
As we enter Holy Week, the thrill of Palm Sunday gives way to the sober dread of Good Friday. The cross must have loomed larger than life as Jesus anticipated the physical and emotional torture that was in store for Him. On a purely human level, it would have been impossible not to be petrified, offering context for His agonized plea in the Garden: “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.”
But the cup did not pass. His was the unhappy lot to drain every last distasteful drop, to fulfill the role that He had willingly taken up, at His Father’s bequest: to become the Lamb of God.
All along that Via Dolorosa, whispers of grace were sent with momentary consolations: the Cyrene who shouldered His burden to spare Him the weight upon His wounded shoulders, the woman (whose deeds are not recounted explicitly in Scripture) who wiped His face of blood and sweat, the sight of the disciple He loved best tending to the needs of the Blessed Mother, the Woman He loved most.
Even so, the Lord’s brain must have felt Jell-O-like, barely able to take in what was going on around Him. Each step required His full attention, each word spoken with the economy of suffering as His mind struggled to make sense of it all.
Finally, at the last, He clung to a final bedrock truth: “Into Your hands I commit my spirit.” At the last, He did not turn away from the One He knew could be trusted, in spite of it all. He did not spit out His life in bitterness, but submitted Himself to the mystery of what His Father had promised.
And so, dear readers, must we. This week I’ve been walking alongside a couple of friends trudging along a Via Dolorosa of their own. As much as I want to lift their burdens from them, in the end I can only minister a temporary balm, like Veronica and Simon. The path itself is theirs to walk.
There is no choice in the matter. We must get through this, one agonized step at a time. For, in the words of a wise deacon friend of mine, “Without Good Friday, there is no Easter joy.”
Have a blessed Holy Week!
[Looking for a memorable First Communion gift? Heidi’s latest book, My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories, is available through her website. Just click here.]