Now they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid. Then He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the things that would happen to Him: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.”(Mark 10:32-34)
This is from the gospel reading for the Sunday of Mary of Egypt. How can we not identify with these verses? Just as the apostles approached Jerusalem with fear, so we are approaching Holy Week with fear and anxiety concerning the changes this virus has brought to our lives. We don’t know how this is going to play out, and with this uncertainty, being anxious and afraid is surely understandable.
We also heard the gospel reading at Matins from John where Jesus announces numerous times as he greets his disciples “Peace be to you.” We also remembered Mary of Egypt on this Sunday. In her life story she is told by the Holy Theotokos in a vision, “If you cross the Jordan you will find peace (or rest).” To acquire the peace of the Lord is not something that you gain instantly. Another way to deal with our anxieties is we can eat them away. We get the instant gratification of being satisfied but it doesn’t last long and nothing changes for the better. We only become more enslaved to the passion for food.
With Mary of Egypt, after crossing the Jordan, she did battle in the desert with the consequences of her previous life as a prostitute for 17 years. It took close to 17 years for her acquire peace in the desert. It was this very peace that drove her finally to face the demons that kept her away from God. She became free!
We are now in a similar position. We face Holy Week with many freedoms and other things taken away from us; things we have taken for granted. We can’t see each other, can’t go shopping like we used to, can’t assemble at school or at church like we used to. We are basically cooped up in our homes with much time on our hands that was once filled with busy activity. Now that we don’t have that activity, what do we do with our time? Many of us are aware of these wonderful verses from Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)
Again we hear of the peace of God. (By the way this is from the Epistle reading for Palm Sunday.) I shared this reading last Thursday at our Web meeting with our youth. I am sharing it again as it provides the basic theme for how we address our current anxieties and fear: we take them to the Lord in prayer. But there is battle going on. Will we turn to the Lord in prayer and persevere, or will we yearn like the Israelites who complained to Moses with their newfound freedom to return to where they came from?
There will be another Zoom meeting with our kids on Tuesday April 7th at 4 pm central time to address this issue of how we manage our time. Resources will be made available to help families keep Holy Week during this very abnormal time we find ourselves living in. May the Lord bless you and keep you.
With love in Christ,
the unworthy +Paul