Sunday, March 21, 2021

Reflections for Passion Week and Holy Week 2021

Papa Rutherford on the summit of a
peak in the Alps on the Franco-Italian border
FIRENZE-NUOVA ROMA 21 March 2021 (NRom)

Reflections for Passion Week and Holy Week 2021

Archfather Rutherford

For speaking the truth, they took up stones to cast out our Lord, and thus Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. It is that event that we commemorate and live on Passion Sunday each year in the liturgical calendar. In the introit to the mass this day, we hear from the Psalms “Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy: deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man, for thou art my God and my strength.” Indeed, it is the judgment of God that we must value above all else and which matters infinitely more than the mere judgment of man or even masses of men. How often do we find ourselves in these positions in daily life? The answer is quite frequently, even if more often on a less dramatic, far more simple and subtle scale.

Right is right, even if no one is right. Wrong is wrong, even if everyone is wrong. So easy is it to equivocate, abandon one’s faith and principles, and go along with the crowd or even the urgings of a single person simply to avoid what appears to be immediate trouble. What a pathetic and false logic that is! If someone claims to believe in something and value something, but then when pushed by others is willing to give it up, then one does not believe in or value anything other than one’s own transitory comfort. Indeed, society of today has become weak, soft, and tragically pitiful.

Unfortunately, we are so often taught a mixed message. On one hand we are taught to be strong and do the right thing, with metaphors such as “If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?” On the other hand, we are taught to go along with the crowd, set aside what we believe, and follow the cultural norms. It is no wonder, then, that people are confused and often fail when they are confronted with the choice to do the right thing when it is clearly out of step with cultural norms and contains a social penalty, which most people are not willing to bear. Sometimes doing the right thing, when it is out of step with cultural norms, puts people at risk of financial harm, job loss, and so forth. Usually the fear of such things makes people move backwards when they should move forward. Usually the fear of something is worse than the actual event, and the event quite often does not even happen.

A mountain guide with whom I climbed in the Alps told me that fear when climbing makes climbers often do the opposite of what they should actually do, and that is how so many climbers get into trouble and have accidents. I was a good thing to be reminded of since we were moving along sheer rock walls with foot ledges that were not even big enough for an entire foot in many places – with a 300 metre distance straight down to the ground below. I was never one to be particularly afraid in the mountains or any other dangerous situation, but I found his advice extremely useful. Indeed, any time concern entered my mind, it always suggested the wrong step. The only safe path forward on the mountain was to banish concern and move forward prudently, but without any fear.

The mountains, I have always found, are metaphors for life. Whenever we are confronted with a dangerous situation, we must move forward as Christians, prudently and soberly, yes, but we must also banish the fear. Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather controlling it so that we may do the right thing, take the right step, and follow the correct path.

I always found the mountains exhilarating, particularly where the air was thin. Some of the most beautiful terrain and best views in the world were available to those who paired prudence and caution with nerve, resolve, and the control of fear. All of those things are necessary to succeed. Once again, the mountains are a metaphor for life. We may choose the easy path or the popular path, and that we may survive, we do not really live. It is those fortunate people who dare to brave the rough terrain, the difficult environment, and the challenging conditions, standing against the conventional wisdom of the masses and the ever-changing cultural norms, finding in themselves a courage of the spirit that they did not even necessarily know they had who really and truly live.

As we proceed through Passion Week and then through Holy Week towards the joys of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday, may Almighty God kindle in each of you a desire to find the strength and courage that resides inside you.