The Holiest of Weeks Approaches: Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest

Jesus the Good Shepherd

Every week is holy for every moment we live is a gift from God and life is most sacred and holy. Yet,this is an especially holy time of year for people of faith. On Thursday the 6th of April the Jewish Community celebrates Passover. (The same holy day that Jesus celebrated on the eve of Holy Thursday this week). Meanwhile the Muslims are already fasting and praying through the month of Ramadan culminating in the happy day of Eid.

In Christendom, this is the holiest of weeks where Jesus, the Good Shepherd of all of us, lays down his life for His beloved sheep. This is the the week where he is brutally crucified, is dead and buried, and, oh thank God, on the third day after rises from the dead, soon appearing to Mary of Magdala, his other disciples and many others. We long to be there with Him and accompany Him through this awful week. Easter and rising from the dead will come- but we cannot rush through our sufferings and trials to get there…with God’s help we go through our sufferings to our own rising again- just as Jesus did. This week we can bring our sufferings and trials before God in a special way, united with those of Jesus. Yet, moving away from ourselves too and focusing only on Jesus.

This is the week when we focus on the passion of Jesus, as after a triumphant ride through the city on the back of a donkey (Palm Sunday- Matthew 21:1-11) he is arrested and faces his ridiculers and accusers and is tortured and hung on the cross to die. This is the week we see the greatest expression of God’s love as Jesus washes the disciples’ feet ( John 13: 1-17) and celebrates Passover with them on Thursday even as he institutes the Eucharistic celebration, in the midst of their holy communion. When holding up the bread he gives thanks and says:” Take eat, this is my body given up for you”, and holding up the chalice of wine he says: “drink from it all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant which is poured out for you….” (Mark14:22-24; Matthew 26: 26-27; and Luke 22: 14-20). After this Jesus said echoing the prophet Zechariah (Zech 13:7) ” This very night you will all fall away, for it is written: “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the of the flock will be scattered”. The disciples (not fully understanding or heeding his forewarnings) were enjoying a happy Passover, a good meal with Jesus and their loved ones but Jesus is preparing them for what lies ahead. He is preparing them again for what Christians call Good Friday- the day of the Crucifixion. Indeed they are challenged to stay with him through what will come, and they mostly flee.

Can we stay with Jesus through this week?

Following the Gospel of Matthew is one way to stay with Jesus the Christ through this week of pain and suffering:

PALM SUNDAY Matthew Chapter 21- Triumphal entry to Jerusalem–for this special Sunday (April 2nd) first appreciate the joy of the moment of triumph. Later review what will come in the week ahead-the Passion of Christ.

MONDAY Matthew Chapter 22- Questions from Opponents

TUESDAY Matthew Chapter 23 – Final woes and warnings-and Jesus’ wish to gather us in

WEDNESDAY Matthew Chapters 24 and 25 Jesus’ final teaching to his disciples- serve the least of these..

HOLY THURSDAY Matthew Chapter 26 The Last Supper and trial

GOOD FRIDAY Matthew Chapter 27 The Roman Trial and Crucifixion

HOLY SATURDAY/ EASTER SUNDAY Matthew 28 The Resurrection and commission

Can we stay with Jesus in this week of all weeks? Can we take time to read the Scriptures, and pray, and give to the least of these God’s children?

Can we feel what Jesus went through that we may live now and forever?

Pope Francis said this in his Palm Sunday Homily of 2014 and it applies for this week’s journey:

“This week continues in the mystery of Jesus’ death and his resurrection. We have listened to the Passion of our Lord. We might well ask ourselves just one question: Who am I? Who am I before my Lord? Who am I, before Jesus who enters Jerusalem amid the enthusiasm of the crowd? Am I ready to express my joy, to praise him? Or do I stand back? Who am I, before the suffering Jesus: Am I like Pilate? when I see that the situation is difficult, do I wash my hands and dodge my responsibility, allowing people to be condemned–or condemning them myself: Am I like that crowd….. Where is my heart: Which of these persons am I like? May this question remain with us throughout the entire week.”

Whether or not we stay by his side, he stays by ours.

Pope Francis also said in his Angelus, January 2, 2022: “….If we are not ready and willing to receive him, he prefers to come anyway. And if we close the door in his face, he waits. He is truly the Good Shepherd. And the most beautiful image of the Good Shepherd? The Word that becomes flesh to share in our life. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who comes to seek us right now where we are: In our problems, in our suffering..He comes there. ”

May God bless you as you go through this Holy Week with Jesus who goes through life with you.

Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP

Rev. Dr. Judith Lee

Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers, Florida

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