I was asked to give a 5 minute homily at my school this week. A little backstory: A forest fire broke out behind our building in the last two weeks, and the flames came within inches of the building. Here’s the homily:
There was a woman who went to my church once who could not handle sadness, pain, or wrongdoing. If you were to tell her, “Our school almost burned down,” she would probably tell you, “At least the flames were a pretty orange and yellow.”
If you were to tell this woman that you’d been beaten up by a gorilla, she’d probably tell you that God uses Gorilla beatings for his glory; which might be true, but it reveals, over time, a lack of ability to feel what’s wrong with the world and with ourselves.
This week is holy week. It’s the week where Jesus started out riding triumphant into Jerusalem, and it’s the week where everyone, including the ones he loved most, abandoned him.
There is a time and place to focus on the future glories foretold of in the Bible. There’s a time and place for all things joyful. The beginning of Holy Week is not that time.
The beginning of holy week is in some ways about entering into the suffering of our Lord Jesus.
There are many ways that our Lord suffered, but today I want to focus on one.
To be holy was in many ways to be lonely. For Christ to be holy was in many ways for Christ to be lonely.
I want you to remember when Christ was 12 years old. His parents went to Jerusalem to celebrate the passover, and when they left, they didn’t realize Jesus stayed behind to learn and to preach at the temple. He stayed because he felt the Father calling him to, however, when his parents arrived they questioned if not scolded him. At first glance you might think this is an every day happening in the life of a family; after all, 6th graders need more scolding and questioning than anybody. However, this event reveals something deeper at play. Even those closest to Jesus misunderstand his actions, his purpose, and his holiness. To be misunderstood from a young age is a lonely reality.
I want you to remember when Christ entered into the desert to fast for 40 days and for 40 nights. He went without water and food, alone, to be viciously tempted. The desert is lonely when the life, pleasures, food, and comforts of the city are far away.
I want you to remember when, during holy week, Christ had just taught his disciples about Holy Communion. Luke tells us that immediately afterwards there arose a dispute among his disciples about who was the greatest. In our modern language, the disciples were so egotistical, so full of themselves that they could not be emotionally present with Christ the night before he was crucified. It’s lonely to be righteous in a room full of sinners.
I want you to remember that later that same evening, as Christ prayed in Gethsemene, all he asked for was some disciples to pray while he prayed. They preferred the sweet, comforting, lures of sleep – so easy to worship. He found them sleeping. It’s lonely to ask friends to be with you during a hard time, when doing the right thing will result in pain and hurt, and they leave you for something they prefer.
This week, I encourage you to enter with Christ into his holiness, and into his loneliness. I ask you to be the lonely one in your class, when others are deriving pleasure from gossip, or anger, or self-righteous condemnation of a teacher. I ask you to be the lonely one when a teacher accidentally misunderstands you, and doesn’t give you a chance to defend yourself. I ask teachers to be the lonely one and get up early to pray for your students. The way of holiness is often lonely, and I pray that we enter with Christ into that loneliness that leads to the cross.