"Big Four" Highlights


Before the Curtain Closes

A Holy Week reflection

By Brian Caulfield, FFG Editor

As we leave our Lenten journey behind and enter into the deep mystery of Holy Week, the Church places us in the camp of sinners, and we do well to acknowledge our role. On Palm Sunday, when so many occasional Catholics stream into church to receive the fresh fronds, we are thrust into an ancient narrative that never grows old because it plumbs the depths of the heart – both ours and God’s.

“Hosanna!” we say to welcome the king in the opening procession, palms in hand. We are good and righteous and part of the celebrating crowd. Then, suddenly, the background scenery changes, a chill wind seeps from below, and shadows hover, as we take our place opposite the Just One to play the anonymous “Crowd.” Repeating the most offending words spat out during the Passion, we are sneaky, jealous, insincere, mocking, cruel, accusing, self-righteous, and (perhaps worst of all) silent as mankind passes judgment on its God. Finally, as a release for our accumulated sins, with our heart cast about in its cage, we are filled with rage at the man who would not be king of our dreams, or God on our terms.

“Crucify him!”

What has happened? We know a mob is easily led, and that evil lurks in every human person, but this is something deeper. This reading of the Passion is not a morality play about ordinary good and evil. It is a profound sounding of the human heart when it is found beating in the chest of God himself. It is a deep meditation on what it means for God to love his people more than they love themselves, and the extent – the length, height and breadth of the cross – he will go to gain us for himself.

We sense the depth of the occasion, and are not surprised to find ourselves with the sinners, mockingly screaming, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.”

Even in anger, we demand to “see and believe” with a last spark of hope, but choose to destroy that hope lest disappointment crush us.

Yet when God himself – who came not as heaven’s thunderer, but as a humble man, reviled, betrayed and abandoned – carries his cross among us, we instinctively know our place. We know in our depths that we are complicit in his death through our lack of faith, hope and charity, and know too that we must accuse ourselves with our words this week in order to be part of his salvation. Before the curtain closes, let us acknowledge with the centurion, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”