In Love in Holy Week

As you can probably tell from my lack of posts, this Lenten season has not been a particularly devout one for me. The week before Lent was a blur after Molly’s surgery and Ash Wednesday coincided with her re-admittance to the hospital. The day made no impression on me until late that evening when a hospital chaplain stopped by and offered to pray with us and offer us ashes. Tim and I accepted gratefully, but when Molly indicated she wanted them, I almost knocked the bowl from the chaplain’s hands. Something deep inside me was repulsed by the thought of marking the body of my suffering child with a sign of her mortality. It seemed morbid and inappropriate, but I let it pass and it did Molly no harm. Still, it wasn’t an auspicious beginning to the season.

The next day, however, something my former pastor Nancy Corran preached to our community came back to me. She said, “If your life is a Lent this year, if you are suffering in a desert already – physically, mentally, emotionally, financially – whatever it is, don’t feel like you have to pile more on. Let your life be your Lent and let God Love you through it.” Those were some of the most profound and compassionate words I had ever heard a priest say, but the privilege of my life had always precluded me from taking her up on her offer. This year, however, I decided it was time. My life was Lent enough.

But Holy Week is here and Molly is back at school. She hardly needs any medication and can manage most things on her own. If you weren’t watching closely, you’d never know she was six weeks out from surgery. And so I began to wonder what I had learned during my “life as Lent” experiment. Jesus’ forty days in the desert showed us that a Lenten practice isn’t about a transaction to be completed, but a transformation to be undergone. He went in to the desert a newly baptized man, but emerged a man on a mission. What about me?

While there were no great changes of heart, my sense of mission has deepened this Lent. More than ever, Love is the ground from which I want to ”live and move and have my being.”

Last night, I read the Passion account from the Gospel of Mark and I was struck by the fact that the word “Love” is never mentioned. 1 John 16 may remind us that “God so Loved the world…” but in the eye witness accounts, Love fades away. Instead, fear, betrayal, pain, cruelty, guilt, and abandonment each take their starring turn. Love may be the motivation for Jesus’ actions, but it’s never explicitly stated and if there is one thing I have learned from all my years of study, it’s that we can’t see what we aren’t told to look for and through it all, Love is what we should be looking for. Any time I see a story about Jesus where Love is not mentioned, I know it’s not the whole story and I have to look again. God is Love and so for Jesus to be unloving, or unmotivated by Love was not possible.

Love is what sent Jesus out of the desert ready to serve humanity: Love of God, Love of self, Love of neighbor. They were all one in his heart and mind and it is that Love, that deep internal knowing of perfect relationship that allowed him to walk through the desperate time we call Holy Week. Jesus’ Love is what makes it holy, because he was wholly committed to Loving us and showing us what Divine Love looks like.

This week, it’s so easy to fall into the pattern of worshipping Jesus, for who he was and what he did. But he didn’t ask us to worship him; he asked us to follow him. He didn’t want admirers; he wanted disciples, women and men who were willing to do what he did, however imperfectly, (because that’s the only way we do can anything). Perfection is the enemy of the good and that was never something Jesus wanted to get in our way. We just have to read the post-Resurrection accounts to see that’s true.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t tell the painful and tragic story of Jesus’ death on the cross. I’m not saying we shouldn’t acknowledge our own culpability in his death and ask for forgiveness. I am saying that maybe we could use this Holy Week to try to Love as Jesus did.

On Holy Thursday, how can we humble ourselves before our friends and family as a sign of our Love for them?

On Good Friday, how can we allow ourselves to not need to be right, or defend our positions and reputations?

On Holy Saturday, how can we rest and just let things be as they imperfectly are, instead of rushing to make everything all right already?

On Easter Sunday and every day after, how can we celebrate the truth that death is not the end of the story and that Love conquers all?

Today, I’ll be washing feet. Tomorrow, I’ll be shutting up. Saturday, I’ll be unproductive and Sunday, I will be smiling and singing Alleluia. I hope you’ll join me.


Here are some of the other posts I’ve written about Lent and Holy Week in year’s past.

“So Long Sad Lent”

“Rethinking Lent”

“The Day Before the Bad Day” 

“It’s Holy Week in Belgium” 



Leave a Comment

  1. Thank you for this line: “we can’t see what we aren’t told to look for and through it all, Love is what we should be looking for.” It really spoke to me…much to ponder here…. Thank you!


    • So glad you found something new to think about Shirin. You are such a thoughtful spiritual writer yourself, I always feel probably inordinately pleased if I can write something that finds a way to your heart.


  2. So glad your daughter is better. As always, thank you for this inspiring insight into Lent. Your questions for these last few days are ones I will ask myself every day. I just completed my first online course, Immortal Diamond, with R. Rohr. Thank you so much for steering me to him. It has transformed my spiritual life. Happy Easter!


    • I am so glad this resonated with you Lynne and I am happy you have found Richard Rohr after all these years in a Franciscan parish! It’s funny how things work out as they are supposed to, not at random times!


  3. What you said about Jesus not wanting us to worship him but follow him instead, is something I preached last Sunday in a series of 3 reflections on Palm/Passion Sunday (some of us protestants combine the two because few congregants make it to Holy Thursday or Good Friday observances, leaving no mention of the sacrifice between!). It seems to me that worship is easier than following; it’s kind of like the mistake I made in early romances when worship was one thing, but living with the real person was another! Maybe this isn’t a good comparison??


    • Cheryl! Thanks for letting me know it was you! And I agree. Worshipping is easier than following in many ways! It primarily asks for a bended knee, as opposed to dirty hands and a broken heart and a thousand other injuries that could come from doing what he did. I also like your analogy of love with a partner. Worshipping is what happens during infatuation, but following connotes the long, hard journey of commitment, of going where he or she leads you during your life together. Obviously, you take turns leading and following, or even just journeying together, but it is certainly and more honest and authentic (and painful) relationship!


  4. Alison, thank you for your thoughtfilled prayers of Lent. Am assuming when you call Jesus, Love that your journey with major concerns about your daughter. Your pastor had the best words ever.
    Happy Easter! “He has risen as he said!”


  5. I just sat down, this Holy Saturday, to treat myself to your blog as part of a very rare meditation moment these days. And you mentioned me! An honor you remembered that homily, and a greater honor for it to be here. I (unwittingly) followed my own encouragement for Lent this year too… but I’m not sure it “counts” if I did that unintentionally! Anyway, I love what you reflected upon in response to Cheryl’s comment (hi Cheryl if you see this!): the important move from admiration/adoration to being followers: The “broken heart” and “dirty hands” of the faith that you talk about. Truest thing. Just at those times we perhaps feel the least connected… Thanks for bringing that home, especially for me this holy night. I found your observation about the lack of (the word) “love” in the Mark’s Passion so interesting and compelling! Your thoughts on that (needed food for my heart and mind!) – that God is love, that motivation counts, that the lens we are looking through colors everything – brought to mind a C.S. Lewis quote I hadn’t thought about for years. This is completely out of context (with apologies) and only a paraphrase, but Lewis once mentioned how odd it would be for a fish to comment on the wetness of water. Perhaps the lack of mention of love (in Mark’s Passion narrative), as you conclude, is precisely the fullness of it.
    Missing you and your dynamite fam. LOVE, Nancy


I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please share your comments here.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s