Holy Week Reflection
Life Beyond Measure
April 19, 2011
For, as Bonhoeffer
observes, it is as he grieves in Gethsemane that Jesus asks us
to “watch with him for one hour”:
the very opposite of what the religious man expects from
God (namely, a supernatural answer to all our problems).
we enter this year’s celebration of Holy Week, followed by
Easter, we hear again the familiar narrative of the Passion and
Death of Jesus. The
words and images are so familiar to us, the product of life-long
and by now embedded interpretations.
Depending on the current form our life has taken, those
interpretations can be consoling or depressing, hopeful or
infuriating. What they
may, unfortunately, have ceased to be is mysterious and
confounding. The power
of the Word, and of the words we read and hear this week that
mediate the Word, is a power to break open our lives and our
consciousness, to lay waste our expectations, and to expand our
worlds and deepen our presence to the Real.
But more often than not, we fall asleep as the Disciples
in Gethsemane, overcome by the drowsiness and common sense of
our embedded understandings and repetitious interpretations.
The Jesus of the Gospels is the Christ, the Messiah of God.
He is, as the Angel tells Joseph, Emmanuel, “God with us”.
Thus, it is God who asks the Disciples to “watch with him for
one hour” and who gives his body and pours out his life blood for
us. The Passion and Death of
Jesus is revelation, not of a God who demands the suffering of a
human being as retribution but rather of One whose life is
constantly being poured out for us.
This means that the God whom Jesus reveals comes to those who
make a space for him. He is
known by the woman who washes his feet and dries them with her hair,
by the sinners and tax collectors, and by the pagans and unbelievers
who suffer their own poverty but who risk trusting in the mercy and
love of the stranger. This
God becomes present and known to those who care for him in his
multiple disguises: as the
sinner, the poor, the hungry, the imprisoned, the victim of robbers,
and the feared and despised stranger.
Too often as we read the accounts of the Passion of Jesus we ask
ourselves, what must we do in order to imitate Jesus and so be
reconciled to God? But, as
Bonhoeffer points out, what Jesus asks of his Disciples is to watch
one hour with him. It is to
stay with him, to open their life for one hour to his life.
It is to recognize and receive the life of God that is being
poured out at this very moment.
Except for a few of the women closest to Jesus, however, the
Disciples for the most part sleep, deny, run away.
The passion and death of Jesus, the refusal of the gift of
God, is a result of the inability of many of the people and the
powers of his time to keep watch and to be hospitable to the Divine
life that comes in the strange, unexpected, and unrecognizable form
of Jesus. Jesus dies not to
make us right with God, but because we are unable to recognize and
receive the gift of God’s ever present, creative, and outpouring
love that he is. As Jesus
says to the Samaritan Woman,
"If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a
drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living
water.” (John 4, 10)
God’s life is always being poured out for us; God’s life
blood is always being given up for us.
This is the meaning of the Passion.
All we need do is ask for it.
So, the Passion of Jesus demonstrates the nature of the love of God,
and thus what is required for us to share that life.
Before proceeding to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus and his
Disciples share a meal. And,
as the Gospel writers present it, the center of that meal involves a
And when He had
taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and
gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do
this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the
cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for
you is the new covenant in My blood.” (Luke 22, 19-20)
This blessing tells us the meaning of all that is to follow.
In the coming day, as throughout his whole life, Jesus is to
give his body and pour out his blood for us.
It is in this full measure of self-giving that he reveals the
true nature of God to us.
God’s love and presence are always coming to us, in everyone we meet
and in everything we undergo.
What is required of us to know this love and to fully
participate in this passionate self-gift is to live in like measure.
Give, and it will be
given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and
running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you
use, it will be measured to you. (Luke
During these holy days, may we recognize the measure of God’s love,
not only where we tend to look for it, but especially in those
situations and toward those persons from whom we ordinarily look to
God to deliver us. Where we
have been measuring meanly, may we let go and offer ourselves
generously. In this way, may
we share in the love that has no bounds, that pours itself out even
unto death for the sake of life.