This is part of a syndicated series for Lent 2019 with Harvard’s Christian Journal Ichthus. Visit Ichthus at http://www.harvardichthus.org
By John Daoud, Pauli Murray College ‘21.
Glory be unto God, for it is unto Him we give thanks for having brought us to this blessed Holy Week, in which we commemorate the Passion of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. What follows are just a few short reflections I have on the orders of the week, per the tradition of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The translation used is NRSV.
Monday: Expelling the Lenders/Money Changers
The Gospel of John tells us today, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.”
“Zeal for your house will consume me”, says Psalm 69, but does it consume us? Are we filled with passion for the house of the Lord? Our churches, our communities, and ourselves; God is everywhere and in everything. So, I ask myself, do I have that zeal for God in everything?
Tuesday: Serve the Lord
The Gospel of Matthew tells us, in two consecutive passages, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master,’ from the parable of the talents and, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
It is not a coincidence that these passages are both in the same reading, as far as the church is concerned, and that they follow one another in the gospel. Christ’s point is not vague; to serve him is to serve others. Full stop. It’s not even about being “salt” and “light,” it’s about the image and likeness of God in every, EVERY, person on earth. Are we faithful stewards of what we’ve been given? I go to X School, I have Y career/internship, I can expect Z salary, so what? Am I using my talents/privileges/opportunities/Harvard/Yale to be a good and faithful servant? Am I reaching out to all people? Not to convert them, Not to show that I am a “good person,” but because they are also God’s?
Wednesday: Day of Betrayal
The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Judas asked the Pharisees, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?’ They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.”
When I read this, I see two things. The first a little less obvious and it’s the words “from that moment.” Judas isn’t waiting to betray Jesus. Judas isn’t saying “Maybe I should see what these people are all about.” No! Judas is ready to give up someone with whom he’s lived for THREE YEARS, just like that (picture a snap). And, obviously, no one gets to this point in a day. Judas has to have had some long-building resentment and anger that has been allowed to fester. So, am I willing to examine my anger? Am I ready to see the tiny things where I say, “No big deal, it’s okay, no sweat” both in my human relationships and with God? Am I ready to bring them to the light? To the Light?
And the second thing I see, it’s pretty obvious, but it’s that he’s betraying Christ for 30 pieces of silver. What’s my price? Can I confidently say that if I was promised my deepest desire, I wouldn’t betray God? We move into the crux of the Passion Week following this day and these are the questions to which we must have an answer.
Thursday: Washing the Feet
The Gospel of John tells us, “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” And then it tells the story of the washing of the feet of the disciples. This is a great act of love and it models real service for us.
We must also be willing to lower ourselves. I actually remember that, as a young kid, one of the sisters at my church’s summer camp insisted that we pair up, get down, and wash each other’s feet. It was absolutely disgusting. But the lesson that followed on service and our posture towards others as we serve them is unforgettable.
But, back to the verse at hand. There is a real power in those words. Repeat it over once or twice, but instead of “his own” or “them,” say “me.” Having loved me who is in the world, he loved me to the end. This gospel is written after the fact, John knows what comes next. He’s trying instead to send us the message that everything that we know happens on Friday, happens because He loves us.
Isaiah tells us “But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.” And even more so, one Coptic prayer that sticks with me says, “My sins, O my God, are the thorns that pierce your holy head.” Do I live as though someone has suffered and died for me?
The Gospel of John tells us, “Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor. Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.”
No king but the emperor, it’s an outright rejection of God. There is a power present in those words, or rather, running from the true power. We praise God as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but now Caesar is king and what is God? And so, as we head into the joy of Resurrection we must ask ourselves: Who is my king? Do I have no king but God?