I deeply appreciate Holy Week. I don’t think it would sound quite right to say I “love” it or that it’s my favorite part of the Christian liturgical cycle, but I appreciate it. We spend the season of Lent preparing for Holy Week, stripping away those things that distract us and separate us from God and our neighbor. During Holy Week we are faced with dealing with the deep realities of our lives and our world. No longer are we focused on giving up coffee, or social media, or taking on a new spiritual practice, we are pushed to go deeper than that: we must deal with injustice, suffering and death.
The story of Palm Sunday, Jesus’ “grand” entrance into Jerusalem is the beginning of the Holy Week narrative. Jesus’ followers and those who lined the streets for what actually wasn’t such a grand entrance, believed this was a new beginning. And it was a new beginning, however, it was a beginning to a story that had a different ending from the one they expected.
We spend so much time in our lives trying to attain that prominence and power, looking to find the next best thing, upgrading, getting a promotion or that big break. The more status we attain, the more stuff we get, the happier we will be; that’s what the world tells us, anyway. However, Jesus’ processional reminds us that it’s not about how flashy our stuff is, but it’s about the values we carry with us.
I’ve been intrigued lately by stories of people and businesses who are moving away from a “profits first, ask questions later” model and are working to build companies and products and cultures that benefit our lives and our world. There’s this story of an entrepreneur and millionaire who, after selling two luxury residences, now lives in a 420 square foot studio apartment because he found it was love, not stuff, that made him happy. Or this story about companies who intentionally pass up higher profits because people and the environment are just as important as making money. These stories are only possible because people were willing to ask the hard the questions and make meaningful changes. Sometimes, you have to walk through the darkness to find the light.
The Holy Week narrative will continue, recounting what happens when love goes up against violence and injustice. Initially love will not win and there will be intense suffering and darkness. There will be questions of God’s justice and goodness. There will be grieving and hope will be a far off fantasy. The Christian story would not be compelling if it ended there because all too often we hear that story, we live that story, where darkness crushes the light, where hate wins out over love.