‘Then comes the end.’ (1 Cor. 15:24)
I think it could be said that our Lord’s life was divided into three periods. First, there were the years of preparation at Nazareth, working in Joseph’s shop and learning much from his Mother and foster-father at home. This time culminated in his Baptism by John in the River Jordan and his time of fasting and temptation in the desert, when, so recently affirmed by God the Father, he was seeking his orientation, the way in which he was going to be ‘Son’; and in each of his Temptations, he overcame self and the will to power and pledged to order his life in obedience to the will of his Father. He came out of that time in the wilderness both strong and determined, dedicated and devoted to that one end, the will of the Father, which was shown to him to be the way of holiness, not force or compromise.
Then came the second period, those three years of ministry in Galilee, during which he gathered together many disciples, from whose number he called the Twelve to be apostles. This was a time in which he taught and preached and showed many signs — practical proofs — of the Kingdom he was inaugurating; a kingdom of justice and love, in which God’s will and saving rule is sovereign.
The third period was indeed the shortest in days, but the most telling and most vital, full of pain but deep in spiritual power. In his preaching, Jesus had spoken often of how he had come to do the will of the Father, and in this final period, he showed us what this meant as he made the sacrifice of himself on the Cross. And he did this for us. It was the will of Love that love should go to the uttermost length.
I was once with a long-retired Primary School teacher, when a young woman came up to her and greeted her, saying that although she wouldn’t remember her (she did of course), Mrs. M. had been her teacher some twenty-five or so years before. She admitted that although she wasn’t very assiduous in the practice of the Faith now, she had never forgotten her teacher asking the class: ‘And how much does Jesus love you?’ and then the woman flung her arms out wide; saying, ‘This much!’ adding, ‘I’ve never forgotten that.’
Many of us may find the Holy Week ceremonies, with all the standing and kneeling involved, long and difficult to take, but it is because of the marvellous truth they celebrate — that He loved us ‘This much’ — we have chosen to be there or else to participate via Livestream. To skip from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, without all the drama and discomfort of the Triduum, is rather to miss the point and to lose out on the whole experience of the retelling of the wonderful story of our Redemption. Besides, if we miss out the ‘sad’ events of the story, then surely the impact of the joy of the Resurrection is somewhat lessened for us? So, our Lenten pilgrimage brings us to Holy Week when with a profound sense of gratitude we recall the events of the Passion and death of our Lord who ‘having loved His own in the world, loved them to the end.’ (John 13:1)
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