But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation. — Micah 7:7
Today, we wait. Today, the silence is deafening. Today, we stand stranded between dark and Light. And so we wait. But it is within such dark moments, when fear and hiding are our temptations, that we must recall relentless hope and enduring life.
Holy Saturday is a solemn day for mourning. We are asked to consider what it would have been like if we were close friends of Jesus when his life was taken. How would we have spent this day? Would we, like the disciples, have given up hope? Would we have found ourselves hiding in an upper room?
Our world today is not so different. It kind of feels like we have been in a period of spiritual silence for over a year, locked in our homes for fear of the world. Holy Saturday offers a remedy. “The entire Christian message stands as a countercultural emblem that shouts out to a suffering world that hope truly does reign. Hope is not blind trust nor a mental exercise in spiritual roulette that an outcome will turn out exactly as we desire. Hope is a condition in friendship when you know your friend is with you, even when he is not physically next to you. Hope is the capacity to see that we are never truly alone and that God can overcome any obstacle, even death.” 
Passion Week is not an easy week to sail through. If you really stop to ponder each day, it can feel like roller coaster, full of ups and downs. And then you have to face Holy Saturday and the silence that darkness brings. But silence offers a chance to ponder. Would we have left Christ all alone in his suffering? How are we being asked to journey with others in their suffering today?
The day in between Jesus’ death and resurrection stands at a pivotal juncture between despair and hope, fear and courage, death and new life. Holy Saturday was a real point in time, but it also symbolizes the current state of our world.
We are in time and place between darkness and light, destruction and renewal. We are in desperate need of looking toward brighter days for our country, politics, church, and world.
When intense, widespread suffering strikes again — and it will — we should not turn to the fear that evil wins. Instead, when the Holy Saturdays enter our lives, we must remember there is hope in the waiting. Trials and darkness never last forever. The tomb always turns up empty and our lives always recover if we hold fast to the Hope only found in Jesus Christ.
Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present. — Luke 22:3-6
Every day of Holy Week is marked with special events of Jesus’ life, and Holy Wednesday is no different. After Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, his cursing of the fig tree on Holy Monday, and his Olivet Discourse on Holy Tuesday comes Holy Wednesday.
“ONE OF THE TWELVE, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What will you give me if I deliver him to you?’ And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him”(Mt 26:14-16).
Judas Iscariot had been personally chosen by Christ. Alongside Jesus, he could have been as joyful as the others, and become one of the pillars of the Church. However, he chose to sell, at the price of a slave, the one who gave him everything. And it was God’s will that Holy Scripture should not silence this fact.
The tragic outcome takes place at the Last Supper, when Jesus is assailed by the anguish of the approaching Passion and the heartbreak of abandonment by those he loved. When they were at supper, he said, “Truly I say to you, one of you will betray me” (Mt 26:21). The other eleven apostles, with experience of their own failings and great trust in Christ’s words, exclaimed in surprise: “‘Is it I, Lord?’ He answered, ‘He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.’ Judas, who betrayed him, said, ‘Is it I, Master?’ He said to him, ‘You have said so’” (Mt 26:22-25).
We do not know what Judas must have felt when he looked into Jesus’ eyes again. He would have discovered no anger there. Jesus was still looking at him with the same love with which he had called him a few years earlier to be an disciple. “What can we do before a God who served us even when he experienced betrayal and abandonment? We cannot betray what we were created for, not abandon what really matters. We are in the world to love him and others. The rest passes away, love remains.”
JUDAS’S BETRAYAL began much earlier. First, Judas criticized Mary of Bethany’s apparent waste in anointing Jesus with precious ointment, a few days before the Passover.
But here’s the grace of God: Nothing we do nor any human weakness, is strong enough to overcome the love of a God who calls each person constantly and who always awaits our return. Saint Josemaría saw in God’s way of being, so full of mercy, our true armor: “We all have shortcomings. But these defects of ours should never lead us to turn our back on God’s call, but to take refuge in it, to clothe ourselves in this divine goodness, as the warriors of old clothed themselves in their suit of armor.”
Saint Augustine, specifically referring to Judas Iscariot, said: “After he betrayed Him, and repented of it, if he prayed through Christ, he would ask for pardon; if he asked for pardon, he would have hope; if he had hope, he would hope for mercy.”
Our Lord didn’t want Judas to perish, just as he does not want anyone to perish. Even in his own arrest he tries to bring him to his senses, calling him “friend” and accepting the disciple’s kiss.
Commenting on this Gospel passage, Saint Josemaría said: “Look how great the virtue of hope is! Judas recognized Christ’s sanctity, and repented of the crime he had committed. So much so that he took the money that was the price for his treason and threw it down in front of those who had given it to him as his reward for his betrayal. But he lacked hope, which is the virtue needed to return to God. If he had had hope, he still could have been a great apostle. In any case, we don’t know what took place in the heart of that man, whether he responded to God’s grace in the last moment. Only God knows what happened in his heart. So never lose hope, never despair, even though you have done the most foolish thing possible. All you have to do is speak out, repent, and let yourself be led by the hand, and everything will be put right.”
I would venture to say we have all had moments where we questioned our salvation. At times, perhaps you’ve wondered if your offenses were simply too great for God’s forgiveness. Hear these words. No matter how great our offenses, God’s mercy is always greater. “Fear and shame, which stop us from being sincere, are the greatest enemies of our perseverance. We are made of clay; but if we speak clearly, the clay acquires the strength of bronze.”
The shadow of the cross grows darker as we draw closer. His sacrifice is the complete culmination of our faith. Yes, this week continues to get darker but the Hope of the world is about to prove once and for all that Light still shines!
 Francis, Homily, 5 April 2020.
 Saint Josemaría, Letters 2, no. 47a.
 Saint Augustine, Commentary on Psalm 108, no. 9.
 Saint Josemaría, Notes from his preaching, 8 December 1968.
And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. —Mark 14:66-72
Why did Peter deny Jesus? He was the rock, the first to follow Jesus, leaving so much behind to walk the uncertain road of discipleship. He had witnessed incredible miracles as his Master healed the sick, cast out demons, and even raised the dead. Peter had a front row seat to the miracle of the transfiguration. And he had even walked on water. So why did Peter deny Jesus?
Fear is the four-letter word that causes us to lock our doors. It’s why we keep a light on in the middle of the night. It prevents us from reaching for our dreams or from reaching out to others in love. Fear cripples our souls and binds our hearts. It locks us in prison and throws away the key. In fearful moments, all we think of is how to protect ourselves, perhaps at any cost.
Peter was no different than we are when faced with fear. All that he had hoped seemed to be crumbling before him. The one he believed to be the Messiah, the Savior of Israel, was now arrested. Jesus’ death seemed certain, and with his death the end of Peter’s reason for living.
Add to that the overwhelming sense of seeing his powerful Teacher so helpless must have confused Peter. Why didn’t Jesus just call down a legion of angels? Why did the one with the power to still the storm not use that power now? And if Jesus was helpless to defend himself, what did that mean for Peter? How could he escape a fate like that of Jesus…arrest, abuse, execution?
In fear, Peter did what he swore he would never do. He denied Jesus Christ, not once, but three times, just as Jesus had promised. Fear had overtaken Peter.
Though you may say you would never deny Jesus, I would challenge you to examine yourself. Truth be told, I think we’ve all denied Jesus for the simple reason of fear.
Have you felt like you were supposed to do something, but then you chickened out because you were afraid? Have you known what it’s like to downplay the significance of your faith in some conversation because your were afraid of offending someone?
What is the antidote to such fear? Trusting God. It’s believing the Word of Christ. It’s experiencing the perfect love of God that casts out fear. In today’s world, Christians must battle against fear faithfully. We must learn to fully trust God and not the world. Jesus spent Holy Tuesday avoiding traps and teaching. The priests set four traps for Jesus, the first questioning His authority, to which He answered with a question and then taught three parables: The Parable of the Two Sons, The Parable of the Tenants, and The Parable of the Wedding Banquet. The second trap challenged Jesus’ allegiance, the third trap attempted to ridicule Jesus’ belief in resurrection, and the fourth Jesus answered by claiming God’s greatest command to be “Love.”
Jesus knew what was coming but he didn’t walk through Holy Week in fear. His life was in God’s hands. That was all he needed to know.
The next day when they came out from Bethany, He was hungry. After seeing in the distance a fig tree with leaves, He went to find out if there was anything on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples heard it. Early in the morning, as they were passing by, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. Then Peter remembered and said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that You cursed is withered.” Jesus replied to them, “Have faith in God. 23 I assure you: If anyone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, all the things you pray and ask for—believe that you have received them, and you will have them. 25 And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your wrongdoing. [26 But if you don’t forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your wrongdoing.]” — Mark 11:12-14,20-26
Holy Monday is the second day of Holy Week, right after Palm Sunday. It is often forgotten but incredibly important.
While walking from Bethany to Jerusalem, Jesus saw a fig tree with no fruit. He cursed the fig tree, which immediately withered. Jesus told the disciples that if they had enough faith, they could not only tell a fig tree to wither, they could tell mountains to move.
Jesus also showed his righteous anger when he entered into the temple and found it being used for things which did not honor God.
There are many important things to observe about Holy Monday, but two are particularly important.
First, Holy Monday set up the events which happened on Maundy Thursday. By clearing the temple, Jesus criticized the leaders who allowed and promoted the deeds happening in the temple. The religious leaders had been concerned about Jesus before this, but his actions on Holy Monday and Holy Tuesday clinched it: they wanted him dead.
Second, Jesus describes these teachings and parables as being about the kingdom of God. God will offer the kingdom to unexpected people, and when the kingdom arrives in full there will be judgment.
The parable of the two sons, the evil farm tenants, and the great feast all deal with God offering the kingdom to people and varying responses, which results in God offering it to others. The son who initially does not obey the father is ultimately honored for doing what he’s asked in the end, and Jesus ends it by telling the religious leaders, “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of Heaven before you do”.
Jesus wasted no time on that Monday telling those around him that things were about to change. He knew that his entrance into Jerusalem was noticed but now he was targeted. But his mission was clear. Prepare humankind for the kingdom of God.
And the mission remains the same today. We cannot be prepared for the coming kingdom if we don’t put our full self into the hands of God by way of Jesus Christ.
Jesus knew the cross was looming. And even in his final days, his entire focus was saving you from eternal death. Isn’t it time you said yes to Jesus? He has made the way clear for you.
And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. And they laid hands on him and seized him. But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” And they all left him and fled. And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked. — Mark 14:43-52
It was just a few days before He would be crucified, and Jesus had just entered Jerusalem. You can picture it, can’t you? The crowd was waving palm branches and shouting hallelujahs. But many in the crowd where wondering what was happening.
When [Jesus] had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, ‘Who is this?’
This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee. — Matthew 21:10-11
Not a wrong answer. He really was the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee. But it was only a half correct answer. He was more than the crowds understood or even his very own disciples understood. Not only a prophet, he was the focal point and fulfillment of all the prophecies.
And I would offer that Jesus is still not known today. Instead of being known as the Son of God, our Redeemer and Savior, Jesus is only known half-way. He is known with half-truths, bringing a half-salvation, applying a half-remedy to the magnitude of our needs — and it is easy to settle for that. Too many Christians settle for a meek, passive Jesus who is not reflected in the Biblical text. But then we wonder why it isn’t working for us. Why do we still feel so empty and lost and without hope? It’s because the Jesus we have come to know is not the authentic Jesus who died for your sins. The real Jesus, the whole Jesus, is better than we know. But we CAN know him if we ask, “Who is this?”, and then really listen for God’s answer!
When He entered Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken, saying, “Who is this?”
The whole city was shaken! Oh to see my whole city shaken over Jesus. I would love to see just our churches shaken. Our homes and our schools. Just to have people so moved by his presence is something I have longed for and continue to do so. What about you? Have you been shaken by Jesus Christ? Perhaps you have asked, “Who is this?” Who is this who put your life back together from the ashes? Who is this who redeemed you? Who is this who healed your broken heart? Who is this?
As we make the final steps to the cross, we must do so through what is known as Passion Week, the week of suffering. But to really understand what this week is about you need to know what passion really means. Passion originally meant, “A willingness to suffer for what you love.” Did you hear that? A willingness to suffer for what you love. The Passion of Christ is the unfailing, everlasting love of the Almighty Triune God, miraculously confined in a human body, suffering of His own volition for His beloved creation. So, who is this? Well, let me tell you.
“God is love.” 1 John 4:8
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.” John 3:16
“No one shows greater love than when he lays down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
“And the angel answering, said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore also the Holy One being born will be called the Son of God.’” Luke 1:35
“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).” Matthew 1:22-23
The Passion of Christ is unconditional love on display in living color. Who is this? He’s the savior of the world.
Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him. And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” — Mark 14:10-21
We are quite close to the beginning of Holy Week. A lot happened during that week. It went from joy to tragedy to triumph. We should all be feeling the coming anticipation. I hope as the week draws near, you are feeling closer to Jesus, perhaps more than ever before.
Hesed is found some 250 times in the Old Testament. Many biblical words such as mercy, compassion, love, grace, and faithfulness relate to the Hebrew word hesed (חֶסֶד), but none of these completely summarize the concept. Hesed is not merely an emotion or feeling but involves action on behalf of someone who is in need. Hesed describes a sense of love and loyalty that inspires merciful and compassionate behavior toward another person. Hesed surpasses ordinary kindness and friendship. It is the inclination of the heart to show “amazing grace” to the one who is loved. Hesed runs deeper than social expectations, responsibilities, fluctuating emotions, or what is deserved or earned by the recipient. Hesed finds its home in committed, familial love, and it comes to life in actions. The message of the gospel—God’s act of forgiveness and salvation in Jesus—is rooted in hesed.
The deepest longing of our soul is the all-satisfying hesed of God—not in the abstract, but first-hand knowledge and experience, a tasting of God’s hesed. Have you been delivered by the hand of God, tasted his mercy, seen his power, heard his word, felt his presence? The degree to which we have known the presence and power of God is the degree to which we get a sense for what it meant that Jesus was the Son of God, and how devastating it must have been to bear the judgment of God against sin. All lament leads us to Jesus, in whom our sorrow and pain finds ultimate identification and hope. The culmination of good and evil came down to Jesus was on the cross. The physical pain was excruciating, yet it was nothing compared to the shock and horror of being forsaken by the Father. You see, the wrath of God was poured out on Jesus, the whole weight of the world’s guilt bearing down on his shoulders. This is the wrath we should have experienced. This is the pain we should have felt. But Jesus felt the pain and he internalized our shame. He, who knew no sin, became sin (2 Corinthians 5:17).
In that moment, he took up the lament of King David: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). When he said this he not only took our sin upon himself, but also voiced all our laments. For underlying all our laments are two questions: “God, where are you?” and, “God, if you love me, then why?” For the first time in all of eternity, Jesus felt the absence of the Father’s presence and the uncertainty of his love. God could not look upon the sin that Jesus became.
Why did it have to be this way? If Jesus was God’s answer to ages of laments, how did he end up in the most lamentable position of all? One approach to the question is to consider why so many ultimately rejected him, even his own people. The disciples, too, regularly stumbled over their expectations. They hoped the Messiah would conquer the Romans and vindicate Israel. Instead, he predicted the destruction of the temple and died for the Romans. They wanted the Messiah to give them answers. Jesus gave himself. He predicted his own destruction, and then endured it in order to conquer our real enemies: Satan, sin, and death. Jesus did not take away lamenting. He took it up. Having endured the cross, he secured for us the one thing we need more than solutions: the presence of God. “Lament is the path that takes us to the place where we discover that there is no complete answer to pain and suffering, only Presence” (Michael Card).
We are hungry, so we eat. We are tired, so we sleep. We answer when our name is called. There are emails and phone calls requesting a reply. There are schedules to be readjusted in light of unexpected events. There is so much to respond to that we often have to prioritize what is worthy of a response.
When the magi in the gospel of Matthew saw an unusual star that aligned with an Old Testament prophecy about the coming of the king, they prioritized their response (Num. 24:17). They cleared their schedules, packed their bags, and set out to find the child. It is unclear how much the magi really knew about who this baby was that they found in Bethlehem, but when they saw him, they bowed down and worshiped him. Their action tells us that they believed this child was one worthy of their praise. Their worship was a reaction for beholding God’s perfect self-revelation, Jesus Christ. He was worthy of their worship.
We hear the word “worship” and probably think of church. But worship is much more than a place on the church bulletin. When we worship God, we are responding to who he is and what he has done for each of us. Worship is like writing a thank you card. We acknowledge the gift that has been received and respond in gratitude to the giver. God has given the ultimate gift, one we could not possibly purchase for ourselves. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God provided a way for us to be restored into relationship with him. God did this because of his love (John 3:16), and we are able to love in response (1 John 4:19). Through Jesus’ faithfulness in completing the work on the cross, we are enabled to live by faith, trusting that he has truly reconciled us with God. He is worthy of our responsive worship. And our worship should be authentic and free.
So think of how you worship God. Do you worship without inhibition or are you reserved? Giving of yourself to God means you give all you are. It’s time for worship to reflect the joy we have in our identity. Would people see your joy in the way you worship?
This morning U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said we are entering into the “hardest and saddest week” of our lives. He was, of course, speaking about the COVID-19 pandemic. But what he didn’t realize is that his words are much more profound than simply a state on the health of Americans. The truth is, we are entering into the saddest week as Christians around the world.
Today is known as Palm Sunday. Others know it as Passion Sunday. Either way, it marks the beginning of Holy Week, the single most important week in a Christian’s life. And it is also the most profound and difficult week we experience. Why? Because Jesus invites us to enter into His passion as he prepares to take upon himself the sins of the entire world.
Palm/Passion Sunday is always a difficult one for me because I feel as if I’m in tandem between hallelujahs and despair. Up to this point in Jesus’s life on earth, he had led thousands to the Kingdom. That was his purpose within each miracle, each sermon, each touch, each word – point the world to the Kingdom of God. People were completely enthralled by Jesus. They were witnessing miracles upon miracles. They were hearing words that no religious leader had ever said. And they were determined to follow him wherever he went. So when the time came for Jesus to enter Jerusalem, the crowds were ecstatic. He was here. Their king was here. He was going to overthrow the brutal rule of the Roman Empire and set up his kingdom. So when he entered into the city, the crowd shouted hosannas and waved palms in adoration of this man they believed would save them.
Unfortunately, they didn’t understand just what kind of saving he would actually do.
In most churches on Palm Sunday there is an excitement. But what is that excitement really about? Is it because we know the ending? Or is because we know that this really fun holiday is the next Sunday? What do we get excited for on Palm Sunday? Are we more like the crowds on that day 2000+ years ago, excited but unaware of who we are really celebrating?
Nearly all the the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, “Hosanna to David’s son!” “Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!” “Hosanna in highest heaven!”
As he made his entrance into Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken. Unnerved, people were asking, “What’s going on here? Who is this?”
And the parade crowd answered, “This is Jesus.” —Matthew 21:7-11a
They knew his name. They knew he was great. But they didn’t know who he was. In fairness, neither did the disciples, not really. They simply couldn’t comprehend the truth even though they had been face to face with the Truth for three years.
So here we are, over 2000 years later and we still struggle with the Truth. We still struggle with the answer to the question, “Who is this?” So we pull out the palm branches and we say, “Hosanna” but we ask in the depth of our soul, “Who is this?”
Yes, this is a tandem moment between joy and sorrow. This is the beginning of the most difficult and painful week of all humanity. This week in 2020 we will experience death. We will experience denial of what’s to come or even of what is happening in this very moment. We will experience anger for what seems so uncontrollable. We will experience loss. The Surgeon General was absolutely right, this is the beginning of the saddest week. But not because of COVID-19. Rather, this is the beginning of the saddest week because we are walking towards Calvary.
Don’t skip over the depth of what this Holy Week means. Don’t jump from the Hosannas to the Hallelujahs without the demands of the crucifixion. His passion is meant for each one of us to embrace, experience, and exhale. A lot will happen in this holiest of weeks, both then and now. May you, too, find yourself in tandem between the joy and sorrow.
We are resurrection people but we can’t have a resurrection without a death. There is no Easter without Good Friday.