Holy Week 2013

Monday in Holy Week

Hindsight is a wonderful thing; as we process with the newly lit Paschal Candle on Saturday evening we will say to ourselves, in highly decorous ecclesiastical language, of course: "Job done".

But we must now make an effort of imagination to think of a small, tight knit, Galilean community in hostile Jerusalem facing at best a doubtful future. What did the entry of Jesus on a donkey mean? There was a sense of triumph but also an echo of prophetic humility. Was Jesus to become a whirlwind zealot leader, a spectacularly spiritual Elijah figure or was he simply going to go on healing and teaching in the hope that everything would calm down? Was the story of the murdered son in the vineyard just a parable too far? Was the Lazarus restoration to life only just a bit out of the ordinary? And, that entry on the donkey again, was it just a piece of over-the-top religious theatre? Read one way, all the signs of the certain outcome are there, but read from the standpoint of the participants, the Gospel narratives are full of questions and incidents that flicker with uncertainty and foreboding.

And who were these people, bewildered by their surroundings, sometimes frightened, at other times daring to hope, never more than half understanding what was going on? Were they country people following an old-style wandering teacher, or the inner cabinet of a potentially explosive sect, or simply people who had got out of their depth, not knowing what they were letting themselves in for but incapable of turning around?

We might ask the same questions of ourselves. What sort of enterprise are we engaged in as we keep Jesus company on what we know were his final days as a human being like us? How certain, past the narrative accounts, are we of the outcome? Are we spectators, or perhaps bit-part players, in a piece of religious theatre? Do we really have any sort of clue what it's all about, past the mundane certainties, the motherhood and apple pie, of shallow moralising? Is this tough for us or simply an emotional roller-coaster ride with a happy ending?

Are we any more certain than was Judas as he flitted in the dark between the masters and His Master.