Reflections for Holy Week - written by Fr David
Monday 6th April 2020
Gospel reading: Luke 22:1-23
This passage seemed particularly poignant to me this time. While we are separated from family and friends, we read of Jesus gathering with his friends for the last supper. Ordinarily, for those of us attending a church service on Sunday, we would hear Jesus’ words echoed during the Eucharistic prayer, the prayer of thanksgiving, as part of a Holy Communion service.
“This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me… This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
As things are now, most of us are unable to physically receive the bread or the cup. And yet in a mysterious way we might still benefit from the promises Jesus made.
And yet, although Jesus is with his friends, he knows there is one who will betray him. Another thing we may do during a Sunday service is to offer one another a sign of peace.
It’s ordinarily something we would do that involves physical contact, perhaps a handshake or even a hug. Yet with restrictions for coronavirus we gradually retreated from those physical signs before we came to the social distancing measures now being observed.
One reason for offering a sign of peace during a service is taking account of Jesus words in the Sermon on the Mount:
“So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.” (Matthew 5:23-25)
We cannot now physically offer one another direct contact as a sign of peace. And yet, we can still forgive or leave the matter in peace.
These words of Jesus are now eerily reminiscent of the situation unfolding in our gospel passage. The figure of Satan (Luke 22:3) is also sometimes called the ‘accuser’. Jesus does not exclude Judas from what is happening at the supper. As the complementary account in John 13 tells it, Jesus washes Judas’ feet, directly hands him a piece of bread and tells him “Do quickly what you are going to do” (John 13:27). Those present seemed not to notice any problem between them, perhaps simply believing that Judas was carrying out Jesus’ instructions.
So, even lacking the usual physical elements, it is my hope that we may still receive and share the real benefits of which the handshake, the bread, the wine are effectual signs.
Tuesday 7th April 2020
Gospel reading: Luke 22:24-38
How important to you is the keeping of a promise or keeping your word? What would you be prepared to do for friends or family? How does it feel to have let someone down that you care about?
In these interactions between Jesus and his disciples we see hints of what is to come. Jesus affirms them, telling them “You are the ones who have stood by me in my trials.” (v28). Sometimes we can take words of affirmation from someone we respect to heart. The disciples were no different, and for Peter it seems to have become some of what he defined himself by, his source of self-respect and identity.
Jesus knows Peter better than Peter knows himself. He prays for the weakness he anticipates in him. When Peter tells him “I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”, Jesus predicts the denials to come.
I am sure Peter really believed that he would stand by Jesus in all circumstances. Sometimes, however, others know us better than we know ourselves. And this is certainly the case with Jesus. We have the benefit of hindsight, of probably having heard this before, and we know where this will lead. I don’t think Peter was lying when he told Jesus that he was ready to stand by him. He just hadn’t anticipated how he would react in the circumstances that would lead him to behave differently. What must it have felt like when Peter came to realise how he had let Jesus down though?
Is there a time when you have been surprised, or disappointed, by your own behaviour? Sometimes circumstances arise that test us in ways we are not ready for. Jesus anticipated this. He tells Peter that he has prayed “when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Jesus anticipates not only Peter’s upcoming failure and shame but the chance he will be given to redeem himself.
It is worth remembering that Jesus does not require perfection of us. He may still entrust us with the plans he has for us, even though we may let him and others down. In those circumstances, we must not wallow in the memory of our failures, but trust that he is still willing to entrust us with his plans for us.