A familiar story stretches out before us today. The inevitability of the events might cause us to skim the passage. But the belabored details call us to pay attention to the agony of each moment, to notice the standstill of time in each conversation, to watch Peter’s impulsive actions as if they are in slow motion, to feel the disciples holding their breath through it all.
Notice how the flickering light of torches distorts the beauty of the garden. Consider why Peter attacks the man enslaved to the high priest—and how futile it is for Peter, overwhelmed and helpless, to injure Malchus, who is equally disempowered.
Feel time stretch out across the three trials of Jesus: the religious trial, the civic trial, and then the public trial. Recall your own experience of an insult or injustice that repeated itself as though it were unashamed to so blatantly cause you pain.
Pay attention to the complications of each relationship. One of the disciples knows the high priest and is waved through to his courtyard. Peter, by contrast, is stopped until the other disciple vouches for him; once inside, the two mingle in different crowds, with Peter warming himself alongside slaves and police.
Each scene yawns like the mouth of a roaring lion. Each breath catches with fresh rejection. Each wound seems to be its own timeless horror. Each expression of love becomes an anchor against the tidal wave of pain and death.
The Gospel writer doesn’t attempt to give meaning to the terrible events. Meaning is usually hard to find (and inappropriate to assign) in the midst of overwhelming pain. The writer only asserts parenthetically: “This is true” (AP).
My God, my God, we are stretched out in pain, weary from groaning. Discouraged, our hearts melt. Ensnared, our words escape us. You who know these heartaches acutely, do not abandon us to our agony, we pray. Amen.
This week’s readings take us through the depths but then into the eternal light. We walk each step with Jesus, who suffers betrayal, abandonment, and death. But it is more than that. In his suffering, Jesus also enters into the brokenness of our human condition and feels our pain, such that on the Cross he even feels abandonment by God. He walks through the valley of the shadow of death because of God’s amazing, reckless love for us. This is the power of Holy Week. But that is not the end of the story. Jesus’ steps do not end at the Cross, for he walks out of the tomb! Now we can follow in his steps and participate in his new life. He is risen indeed!
Read Isaiah 42:1-9. How is God calling you to be a light? How does God empower you to follow God’s call to you?
Read Psalm 70. What is prompting you to reach out for God’s help today? In what ways do you ask for that help?
Read John 13:1-17, 31b-35. What acts of service does Jesus’ example in this reading move you to perform? Choose one act you will do today in remembrance of Jesus’ humility.
Read John 20:1-18. When have you, in the light of God’s love, let go of the way you thought your life would be in order to live a different reality that God intended for you?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.