My goodness, but the devil is getting loud these days. Telling us to confuse life for death, and death for life. Convincing us that to disagree is to hate, that to love is to license, that to kill is to free from slavery. Ramping up tension and anxiety and anger, so that we cannot see ourselves, or our neighbor, or Christ, during this Holy Week.
Make no mistake, there are vital, critical issues at stake in the public sphere. We may all disagree to varying degrees on the correct path forward, on what constitutes Truth and Life, on the meaning of words like love and freedom, life and death, rights and license. Those are important conversations to be had, particularly when they can be had in a mature, adult, intelligent, respectful fashion.
But this week, these are not the most important conversations. The colors, the pictures, the votes, the manifestos, the righteous indignation, the accounts of suffering…they all pale in comparison to the suffering endured by the one who is Truth and Love himself, Jesus Christ.
This suffering was endured for you, oh suffering one. This suffering was endured to take away your suffering. And when you know that, really know it, soak it up for just a few days, it does change your perspective. It doesn’t make the hurts and wrongs and the abuses of this world go away. Not at all, but just for a moment, it can show you the truest, real-est, most hopeful, life-filled thing – person – you will ever encounter.
And the devil knows it. The devil is a jealous and wily one. He/she/it wants you to look anywhere but the cross, anywhere but the crown of thorns, anywhere but the host and chalice, anywhere, ultimately, but the empty tomb. And so the devil ramps up his attacks. What are normally sly little whispers in our ears (…did God really say…..?) become loud shouts, death throes, the anger and screaming of one who might very well win the round, but will always lose the match.
So defy the devil this week, Church. Put down your swords, and take up the Word of God. Put down your pictures and take up an icon, or better yet, your cross. Put down your anger and take up grief. Put down your shouts and take up prayers. Put down your indignation and take up love. Put down your despair and take up hope.
Know that the gates of hell cannot, and will not, prevail – so have a blessed, reverent, and holy, Holy Week.