By Fr. John Anglin, OFM
A number of years ago, at one of the rare times in which Holy Week and Passover did not come together, I had the privilege of being invited to share one of the nights of Passover in a Jewish home. To say the least it was quite an honor for me and they likewise were delighted to have a Catholic priest at their table. One of the key moments of the night comes when the youngest child asks the oldest family member, in the case the grandfather, “Why is this night different from any other night?” I was told that often the answer is read from a script, but with this family the grandfather gave an impassioned and heartfelt rendition of the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt and into freedom. He then explained that this is a time to remember that great event, not to remember in the sense of looking back, but to remember in the sense of allowing the freedom given to his people by God back then to come alive in their hearts today. He said that the Passover was not just an event that took place thousands of years ago, but one that continually takes place today.
I went home after that wonderful evening and pondered the meaning of what I had just experienced in terms of our Christian Passover, the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus, our Passover from death to life. Jesus, of course, was celebrating the Seder, Passover, with his disciples on Holy Thursday evening. On that special night He gave new meaning to Passover and gave us the gift of the Eucharist. “Do this in memory of Me,” he said after offering the bread and wine as His Body and Blood. Memory. He did not mean to think back to the Last Supper and recall what He did, as many Christians unfortunately see this event, rather he meant that what He did on that night and the Redemption He gained for us on the next few days should come alive in us every time we celebrate the Eucharist. That is the fuller meaning of our belief in the Real Presence. Not only is Jesus truly present, we are also drawn into the whole reality of His saving death and resurrection. It comes alive in us again.
As we go into Holy Week I would suggest that the entire week is a time of remembrance, not just of recollection, but of allowing those great saving events of love and forgiveness to some alive anew in us today. Part of that special remembering is the discipline of allowing each movement from Palm Sunday to Easter to come alive. Such remembrance is a challenge. It means not only do we allow ourselves to experience the faith and love of those who stayed with Jesus at the foot of the cross, but also to admit that there is a bit of Peter’s denial and Judas’ betrayal in all of us. Only in that way can we experience the love that Jesus showed when He washed the disciples feet and appeared to them after He rose from the dead.
A Blessed Holy Week to everyone and may the joy of the Paschal Mystery come alive in your hearts.
Fr. John is co-director of the HNP Ministry of the Word. The above reflection, dated April 9, 2014, is taken from his blog, The Wandering Friar.