Holy Week contains within it many promises. For me, as a member of the clergy, I and my colleagues renew our ordination vows every Tuesday of Holy Week. To do so just before the most important days of the Christian calendar, before leading our flocks on the road to the cross with Jesus, to his death, and his Resurrection, helps me feel renewed and ready to begin that holy pilgrimage. I'm tremendously grateful for the opportunity year after year to exercise this ministry and to serve God's people at IHS, fulfilling those promises I made before God and my bishop years ago to be a faithful pastor to all whom I am called to serve, laboring together with them to build
up the family of God.
The situation we're all in this particular Holy Week in 2020 during the novel coronavirus pandemic is tragic in so many ways. It feels selfish to say that it is tragic for me because I lose this Holy Week in its regularity, in the way I normally get to serve: worshiping at the Holy Triduum with my family of faith and celebrating Easter Sunday together. Though the clergy gathered online with the Bishop on Tuesday and did renew those vows, it feels so hard to live them when I cannot be with the family of God I was called to serve.
However there are many more promises contained in this most holy week. There are promises we hear Jesus make to his students, his friends, as they gathered on the last night of his life for their final meal together. We hear those promises in the Gospel according to John, in part on Maundy Thursday, but the book contains chapters of Jesus' final teaching on that night. It was on that night that he promised to "go to prepare a place for you" and to one day "take you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also." It was on that night he promised "whoever has seen me has seen the Father." It was on that night he promised "if in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it." It was on that night that he promised not to leave us orphaned. It was on that night he promised to send us the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Spirit of truth to be with us forever. It was on that night that he promised us peace, his own peace that he gives to us and leaves with us, so that we might not be troubled or afraid.
And there are more promises this week. There are the promises that all of us as Christians made in our baptism, the vows we made to faithfully follow Jesus, that we remember and renew. Now more than ever, perhaps, we are strained by the choice to face what is before us with fear, or to stand firm in the courage of conviction and in the promises of Jesus. His peace is here for us. His faith in the Father is here for us, in us, because we are in him, because we have been reborn into the family of God as co-heirs with him.
Something special happened on Wednesday of Holy Week. I saw a number of people on my Instagram timeline post a very similar picture. They all posted the picture above. This one was taken by my father, but from different angles and in different locations I saw the same rainbow posted on Instagram-feed after Instagram-feed. Though we might no longer believe in the myth of God putting his bow in the sky, the rainbow still speaks powerfully to many of God's promises. Something about the beauty of those colors in the midst of the rain reminds us of God's gifts and protection over us.
The gift that this rainbow gave to me in particular was seeing so many people stop in the middle of the difficulties and challenges of a global pandemic, in the middle of the stress and the anxiety, to post something beautiful that made them first stop in their tracks in awe and wonder. That is another promise that Holy Week gives us. That no matter what we face in this life, the promises of God are always there for us so that we may stop and awe, facing the wonder and majesty that is the Resurrection of our Lord. No matter what is before us, no matter what persecution, or strife, or injustice, oppression, violence, or fear, no matter what human brokenness or evil is before us, as Christians we can always stop in our tracks in wonder and awe at the New Creation, the New Life birthed into the world on Easter morning in the Risen Jesus. In fact, we must live in awe of that New Creation as people of the resurrection, not just at Easter, but always.
This year we may not be gathering together in person to celebrate the Paschal Mystery or the rising of our Lord, but all of us live with his promises wherever we are, whatever we do. We do not lose out on a year to live our most precious vows, the promises we made to be faithful to him. More than ever it is important for us to be faithful, to stand true, to hold fast to the sacred hope of our calling. There is a world out there in desperate need of resurrection, new life, and reconciliation. I pray we all experience these promises anew through our keeping of Holy Week. And when you shout alleluia this year, shout it like never before.