More than pancakes and Easter eggs. An amazing walk to Easter!

Today's the day for pancakes back home - Pancake Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday; the day before Lent begins. I loved pancakes as a child; Lent not so much, since giving up chocolate always seemed like more than I could do. I saved myself from too serious a commitment though, reminding myself that it would be "unkind" to refuse gifts of comfort food from my non-Catholic relatives. And now, here I am, a mongrel Christian indeed... and here's pancake Tuesday with me wondering if I can make gluten-free pancakes (they never quite work)... and here's Karen May with a fantastic book for Lent, Holy Week and Easter, for Catholics, Protestants and Mongrel Christians, and for anyone else wondering what the whole Lent and Easter thing is all about. Thank you for this great excerpt from your book Karen!

Chapter 3: Good Friday Part I: Walking the Road to the Cross

  How meaningful it must have been for the followers of Jesus to stand in the places that were significant in His life. It’s no surprise, then, that it wasn’t long before pilgrims started retracing Jesus’ steps as He approached the cross. There is evidence that this tradition was in practice as early as the fourth century, with people visiting several sites in Jerusalem. Eventually, the tradition was made available to those who could not travel to Jerusalem as Franciscan monks erected shrines to commemorate the stops on the Via Dolorosa, or Way of Sorrows. By the 1800s, the Stations of the Cross developed into the form that we use today with fourteen stations depicting Jesus’ journey from the sentence of death to burial in the tomb. An optional fifteenth station can also be added to include the Resurrection, but we will leave that out here.

  The Stations of the Cross are traditionally celebrated during the Lenten season, and during Holy Week, the Stations of the Cross are celebrated in a special way – usually at noon and three o-clock on Good Friday ­– to commemorate the hour Jesus was placed on the cross, and the hour that He died. In this chapter, we will proceed differently from the others. Each station will consist of the topic, a related scripture, and a reflection. Sit for a moment with each station, meditating on the reality of what was done on the way to the cross. As we are doing in the rest of the Masses of Holy Week, allow yourself to enter into this story. See Jesus looking at you as He walks the Way of the Cross. Be a part of the crowd as you watch Him pass by, and look upon Him as He hangs on the cross. As we begin the events of Good Friday, we move away from the joy of Palm Sunday, with palms and songs of praise, and the light of Holy Thursday, with the joy of the gift of the Eucharist. We come to a very dark place, but one that is filled with hidden promises. Easter is coming, but for now, the price for our sin must be paid. Let us enter in.

The First Station: Jesus is Condemned to Death

Matthew 27:22-26
Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus called Messiah?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” But he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” They only shouted the louder, “Let him be crucified!” When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. Look to it yourselves.” And the whole people said in reply, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” Then he released Barabbas to them, but after he had Jesus scourged, he handed him over to be crucified.

When Pilate is interrogating Jesus in the Gospel of John, he tells Jesus that he has the power to release Him or to crucify Him. Jesus answers, “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above.” (John 19:11a) When we look at the passage above, we can clearly see that, although Pilate was in a position of power over the Jews, he was powerless to stop the events leading to Jesus’ death. Pilate saw the truth. Jesus was an innocent man, and there was no justification for condemning Him to death.

He tries to convince the crowds, declaring that he could find no wrongdoing, and even asking what Jesus had done to deserve such an outcry. Finally, he offers to free a prisoner, as he had traditionally done in honor of the Passover that they were about to celebrate. He offers two choices, thinking that surely this would help the crowds to see the lunacy of their demands. On the one hand is Jesus, this prophet who supposedly claims to be king of the Jews. On the other hand is Barabbas, a murderer who is responsible for rebellion and uprisings.[1] The choice should be simple.

  It is simple. The crowds call for Barabbas, and the power that Pilate thought he had to release or crucify Jesus is clearly shown to be an illusion.

  All power comes from God, whether we see it or not. Our part is to act in it or not. To be grateful for it or not. To cooperate with it or not.

 Food for Thought
We think that we have power and control over our lives. Have you had a moment when you realized that wasn’t true? How have you seen God’s control in your life recently?

The Second Station: Jesus Carries His Cross
John 19:16b-17
So they took Jesus, and carrying the cross himself, he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha.

At this point in the story, there is an interesting parallel that comes from the Old Testament. Abraham waits many years to have a son, and he finally receives his promised heir in the birth of Isaac. In Genesis 22:1-13, Abraham is told in a vision to take his son, now much older, to a place three days away and offer him as a sacrifice to God. As they arrive at the mountain, Isaac unknowingly carries the wood for his own sacrifice. He looks around and asks his father about the sheep that they are to sacrifice, since he sees none in the vicinity. Abraham answers, “God himself will provide the sheep.” We know the rest of the story. Isaac is saved at the last minute by an angel stopping the hand of Abraham as he starts to sacrifice his son. This will not be required of him, and a ram, caught in a thicket by the horns, is offered in Isaac’s place.

In our Gospel scene, as Jesus carries His own cross, the wood needed for his sacrifice, we are reminded of Abraham’s sacrifice. In Abraham’s case, God did not require the life of his only, beloved son. Knowing that he would offer it was enough. We, on the other hand, demand that the sacrifice be completed. It is not enough to know that God would offer His only, beloved Son, we need to see it through. The lamb has been provided, and His head was surrounded by a crown of thorns, just as the lamb was provided to Abraham and Isaac with its head tangled in the thorns of a thicket. The story of Isaac is not one of a demanding and unreasonable God, but a peek into the plans in the far distant future of a demanding and unreasonable people, and a God who loves them enough to give them what they need.

Food for Thought
Abraham had faith that God would provide what was needed at the time that it was needed. When has God provided for you at just the right time?

The Third Station: Jesus Falls for the First Time
Isaiah 53:4-6
Yet it was our pain that he bore, our sufferings he endured.
We thought of him as stricken, struck down by God and afflicted,
But he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity.
He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed.
We had all gone astray like sheep, all following our own way;
But the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all.

At this point in the story, Jesus has been scourged in the hopes of satisfying the bloodlust of the crowds. Scourging was not a minor beating, but a severe form of punishment. The whip was made of several straps fastened to a handle and could include pieces of metal or bone to inflict more damage with each stroke. After such a beating, the pain of a cross placed on the wounds inflicted by the whip must have been immense. Falling down was not surprising. It's the getting backup that was unbelievable.

  However, staying down was not an option. As long as Jesus had the strength, He would continue on.

   As a parent, I understand this on a very small level. Many years ago, my 7-year-old daughter developed an auto-immune disease which, among other symptoms, causes the small blood vessels in your stomach to burst. As you might imagine, open wounds in your stomach are incredibly painful. Since it is a rare disease, it took us a while to get a diagnosis and proper treatment. As her mother, I was by her side helping her deal with the pain, going to doctor after doctor, going in and out of the hospital, and searching for an answer to what was happening with her body. At the same time, I was in the early stages of pregnancy with my fourth child. The exhaustion that comes with that stage is immense. There were times I could hardly stand on my feet. But every time she suffered, I pushed through and pushed off sleep for another time. There was no way I would leave her alone in this. Ever.

If there was something I could do that would take away suffering for my children, I would do it in a heartbeat. No matter how hard it was, if I knew that my sacrifice would alleviate the suffering of my child, I would get up every time I stumbled. As long as I had an ounce of strength left in my body, I would struggle to my feet and persevere. Most of us don’t have the opportunity to do such a thing, but here, Jesus did. He knew without doubt that this would change the world forever, and He got back up.
 Food for Thought
Have you had a time when you struggled to help someone? What gave you the strength to continue on? How does this help you appreciate Jesus’ struggle while carrying the cross?

I've just read the book and I love it. Click here to find my review of Walking Through Holy Week

[1] It is interesting here to note that the name Barabbas means “son of the father.” The choice given to the crowds was between a son of a father, and the son of the father. It’s close, but not nearly the same.


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