Welcome to Holy Week everyone! Just a few short weeks ago the Church entered into this time of ‘Lent’ – maybe a little bit rushed, but hey we’ve made it this far. School holidays are half way gone, uni is about to break for a week; I can smell the hot cross buns in the air. We’re nearly there, we’ve nearly made it!
But Lent isn’t over – there is something even greater than holidays and chocolate eggs that is still yet to come. And it is all happening this week.
Holy Week unfolds the final few days in the life of Jesus before his resurrection. Catholics around the world today will with gather with Palm branches, not inside but outside their churches, to hear the story of Jesus’ magnificent entrance into Jerusalem. Crowds of people gathered round to welcome the famous guy from Nazareth – they’d heard about the miracles he’d performed; seen the people he’d healed and felt the hope that spread among those who’d encountered him.
But I’m telling you, this week is a crazy ride, a biblical rollercoaster.
No really, it is an incredible thriller-romance-action story. Hollywood couldn’t make this stuff up. Because only a few days after this open-arms palm-branch waving welcome, the same crowds were calling for Jesus’ death on a cross.
So, a lot happens this week. Churches suddenly get busy with people coming and going all over the place. But what are we actually meant to do during Holy Week? I don't have all the answers, but here are 3 things I plan to do this Holy Week:
1. I'm gonna crack open my Bible.
Personally, the first thing I plan to do each day this week is read the Gospel story of the day. Check out the Catholic daily readings to follow them yourself. One of the cool things is how the different scriptures tie together to make a whole. This week is no exception – each day the Gospel leads us closer to the mystery and wonder of Easter.
2. I'm heading to Mass.
The second thing I’m going to be doing is heading to Mass as often as I can. Catholic churches have a special Mass on Thursday night to honour the Last Supper Jesus had with his disciples, and his washing of their feet. Good Friday is one of the holiest days in the year, and a lot of people head to a Stations of the Cross in the morning and a 3pm Communion Service (the exact time Jesus died).
Finally, we get to celebrate the resurrection with Mass on Sunday (or an epic big one on Saturday night called ‘the Easter Vigil’). This year I don’t want to just ‘head to Mass’ though, but I’m going to bring some friends along. I always get so much more out of things when I have others to share it with, and my faith is no different.
3. I'm chucking on a movie to watch with my friends
The final thing I’m going to do is get my friends around, bust out some popcorn and watch some Jesus movies. Now I need to admit something: I almost exclusively watch movies and read books that end with a happy ending. When they don’t, it pretty much ruins my day. I don’t mind a few twists and turns, but come that final 20 minutes and I’d better see some good guys gaining ground! However, this is the one time of the year when I’m willing to push through some of the sad stuff. For me it is the best combo of ‘holy week and hang time’ with my mates.
If you can handle the MA rated blood and guts kind of stuff, you can’t go past Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ – but it’s definitely not for the faint hearted (or the under-age.) Lots of guys I know like this one. If you want to see a more fun, modern Jesus (with blonde hair and blue eyes) check out the ‘Jesus’ movie starring Jeremy Sisto, and if you’re game for some classics head to Jesus of Nazareth or The Greatest Story Ever Told. One of my new faves is the movie Risen which – spoiler alert – tells the story of a centurion who encounters the risen Christ. Didn’t see that coming, hey?
So, look, you can take these suggestions or leave them. But whatever you do this week, I encourage you to take some time to reflect, to pray and to share your experience of Lent. It’s not over yet. In fact, the good stuff is all just about to begin!