Wednesday of Holy Week
Oftentimes I focus on the wrong elements in the narratives of Sacred Scripture. Take the parable of the Sower and the Seed, for example. It’s easy for this preacher to thrash the congregation for being the kind of seed that is choked by thorns, burnt by the sun, or eaten by birds. It is much more difficult to speak of our God, who lavishes us with love the way the sower in Jean Millet’s painting, spreads seed… extravagantly, unconditionally, even wastefully. Or we sermonize about the profligate son or self-righteous older brother, and often ignore the compassionate and caring "prodigal father" who seems to waste his love on two self-absorbed, self-indulgent sons.
When I was a kid we called today "Spy Wednesday" because of Judas’ role in the passion and death of Jesus. A better focus might be to call this day "Reassurance Wednesday" because of how Jesus ministers to those around him. Refocus. In today’s first reading the words of Isaiah, words of self-assurance and encouragement for the suffering servant, almost sound like we are trying to encourage Jesus as he begins his darkest hours of Passion. But Jesus is the one who, in the midst of excruciating emotional and physical pain, will be healing others – the centurion’s ear after Peter severed it. This Jesus speaks kindly to the grieving women instructing them to weep for themselves and their families. And it is Jesus who forgives his executioners from the cross, and informs a thief that he will share paradise with him. Blessed assurance.
As we conclude Lent this year and begin our Triduum journey, Pope Francis motivates me to follow this Jesus of reassurance. Our new pope declines places of honor and prays with Pope Emeritus Benedict in the same pew, or he waits for blessings of other Cardinals and then kisses their rings, and he will wash the feet of young inmates at Rome’s Casal del Marmo Jail.
Perhaps I could drop a note to someone who is enduring a difficult protocol of chemotherapy and encourage them, someone who struggles through the first weeks of widowhood, or divorce. May you have a really good Reassurance Wednesday!
Fr. Jack Conley, C.P. is the director of the Office of Mission Effectiveness. He is a member of the Passionist formation community at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.