By Deacon Joe Welter
For The Catholic Messenger
We lost our 6-year-old son at a Wisconsin Dells resort this past summer. The whole incident lasted maybe five to 10 minutes. We spread out looking for him in every direction. A young woman who worked at the resort noticed him. My son remembered where we were heading — the mini golf and go-cart track. The resort worker listened to him, brought him there and we were all reunited. I remember the look on his face. He did not need to say anything. His whole being spoke volumes: fear, sadness, joy and relief.
As the events of Holy Week unfold, think about the range of emotions Jesus went through. As the second person of God, he knew what was to happen. We can see this through the instructions to the apostles on obtaining the colt for his entrance into Jerusalem. He told them where to go, what they would find and what to say. Despite his knowledge, Jesus was fully human. He felt what we feel. He would have experienced the excitement of the crowds and atmosphere at his entrance into the Holy City. He must have been filled with anticipation for the Passover supper with his closest friends. Did he experience grief and loss at a friend’s betrayal when Judas kissed him? Was he sad when Peter denied him? Certainly, he must have felt anger and sadness at his rejection by the crowds calling for his death. Was he angry, afraid and disgusted at the physical and verbal abuse he endured? He shared his sadness with the women who followed him on the road to Golgotha. Finally, he must have had some tranquility at knowing his mission was completed as he commended his soul into his Father’s hands.
What range of emotions have you experienced recently? Maybe this Lent? Maybe this past year? Quite possibly you are dealing with events that happened long ago.
After our reunion and the initial emotions had passed, my son, my wife and I shared the joy and peace of being together again. It was an emotional reaction, which comes with loving someone completely. Like our reunion, Jesus’ nonverbal communication, his body language, probably spoke one thing throughout his Passion — how much he loved them all: those who betrayed him; those that fled and ran away; those that denounced him; those who cried out for his death sentence; those who mocked him; those who beat him; those who wept for him; those who shared his death sentence; and those who stayed with him until the end. His face must have said it all. He was doing this for love.
Despite all of the emotions he experienced, I imagine Jesus’ face showed love and concern.
It should be comforting to know that Jesus must have felt the full range of emotions over the events of Holy Week. We are not alone in the human experience.
The one who has the name, which is above every other name, shares this experience with us. When we are excited, joyful, happy, Jesus is there. When we are feeling alone, dejected, betrayed, bullied, beaten and at our lowest, Jesus is there. Jesus is there because he has been there. This is not figuratively speaking. No, he who was in the form of God, equal with God, has been there and experienced what being human means. It was for this purpose that God became one of us — incarnated into our very being. Jesus shares our human experience. Yet, with love Jesus emptied himself so completely in his Passion that all that remained was love. It is this love that we celebrate and remember during Holy Week as well as at every Mass.
Jesus emptied himself completely for all. What would it mean for us to do likewise? As we reflect upon this coming Holy Week on Palm Sunday, let us use Jesus as the example of how we should journey through the human experience. We should always love. To empty ourselves so completely that all that remains is love.
(Deacon Joe Welter is a deacon at St. Mary of the Visitation Parish and Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa City.)