As Holy Week approaches, it may be useful to focus on one Gospel verse that can serve as your guide through these holy days. This time of year, there is so much going on personally and spiritually – having a theme or focus may help you “get it together” so you can walk with both serenity and purpose alongside Christ as he enters Jerusalem and embraces his fate on your behalf.
You may already have a favorite verse that can give you focus during these last weeks of Lent. Write it on a card or sticky note and place it somewhere you will see it at least a few times a day – near your computer or in your prayer book. Passages such as John 14-16, Philippians 2 or even Isaiah 53 offer a treasure-trove of possibilities.
Another favorite of mine – and one I offer you here – is found within the very poignant depiction of Jesus’ last meal with his disciples as found in Luke’s Gospel (Lk. 22:14-38). Here we witness an intimate scene between Jesus and his closest companions. The disciples – who have failed Jesus in the past and will fail him again in the very near future – are the objects of Jesus’ love and affection. Jesus tells them how eagerly he has desired to share this meal with them (22:15), how his blood is poured out for them (22:20), and – even when they begin to argue over which of them is the greatest (note that this conversation takes place immediately after receiving the bread and wine given and poured out for them!) – even when they again show their human frailty – Jesus patiently points them back toward humility (22:27) and then promises them the future bounty of his Kingdom (22:30). One might see in this passage – punctuated by the betrayal of Judas and the impending denials of Peter – a portrait of Jesus’ undying love for sinners.
In the midst of this communion, Jesus says to his disciples: “You have stayed with me through all my trials” (22:28). It is bittersweet to know that these friends of Jesus will soon abandon him – first by sleeping and then by fleeing, leaving Jesus alone to face the brutality of his captors and a lonely death. But we cannot judge them. We also sleep and flee; we leave him alone on a regular basis.
For these next few weeks, we can meditate on these gentle words of Jesus and the trusting expectation they hold: “You have stayed with me through all my trials.” We often talk of trusting Jesus – but it seems he also trusts us – to stay with him, to be faithful, not to scatter. Perhaps our hearts must change if we wish to never betray this enormous, divine trust. But isn’t that what Lent is all about?
Lord Jesus Christ, give me the strength and serenity, the focus and purpose, to stay with you. You believe in me and my love for you. I do not want to fail you. I do not want to sleep through this time. I do not want to abandon you for the cares of the world. Change my heart so I may love you more than I love myself. Change my heart so I do not turn away from your Cross. Change my heart Lord, and this time, I will stay with you through all your trials.