Holy Week is unlike any other week in the Church's year. It begins with what seems like a triumph on Palm Sunday. Jesus is hailed as a celebrity in Jerusalem. But we know it doesn’t last long. By Thursday of the week he is betrayed by one of his own. He makes his farewells at his Last Supper on the same day. He leaves his last command, that we love one another. Which is just what the world does not do for him.
The week then proceeds to the humiliation, torture and death on Good Friday. And then finally to the victory over death on Resurrection Morning. Nearly every human life will include some of those experiences.
We can identify with the Lord each step of the way: from the Mount of Olives, the garden where he prays and is arrested; to Golgotha, the place of the skull, where he is crucified. When it comes to the resurrection, the mind boggles, yet it is the centre of our faith.
For a Christian, the week is like our family photo album. When we look at old family photos, we see where we have come from, we see faces we love, we see a story of which we are a part. The same is true of Holy Week. God was on to something when he had Moses bring in the Passover meal as a way of remembering. He gave the Jewish people a story, and then he said, become a part of the story through re-enacting it every year. This is just like our Eucharist, which began as a Passover meal for Jesus and his disciples. We remember Jesus by re-enacting his Last Supper in every Eucharist.
We are like God’s honorary Jews, we have been grafted into the vine that is Israel. We are re-entering the story of the Passover, the escape from slavery in Egypt by the Hebrew tribes. The Christian addition to that story says, hold on a minute, there is an escape from slavery that applies to each one of us today. That happened for us in Jesus’ death.
That was long ago; but we are re-entering that story right now. God freely gives us again all the benefits of freedom from the slavery of the way we used to live. We re-enter Jesus’ story and receive his freedom and new life again. But as though for the first time. Jesus’ story becomes our story, we live in him and he in us.
Facts matter; but facts are not everything. Invitation is what matters, to you, to me. We have been invited, not left out – all of Holy Week is a work of the Holy Spirit saying ‘Come,’ the call of God’s love.
There is something special about the community feel after having shared a meal together, like Christmas lunch or today’s fish and chips – as St Paul says, we recognise the body, the body of Jesus, and we also recognise the body corporate, each other, in whom the Spirit of Jesus is pleased to dwell. So it is very right that we should begin this week with a special meal. And it is extra special that we can share it with our friends from Opal.
This week may help each of us to pray, ‘Lord, teach me to love my face and my body, my temple of the Holy Spirit, this person you have made me. It will grow old and die with me, but that is not the end. My body is sacred: and Easter opens a window for it and me onto a mysterious but endless vista.’