The Road to Jerusalem
- Friday, April 7, 2017
- By Father Robin Ruder-Celiz
This is the time when Jesus enters Jerusalem. He enters at the same time as the Governor of the day, although through a different entrance. The city is in a buzz. Soldiers and people gathering and pushing in to get a better view. Some pushing forward to get close to the governor. Others pushing to get close to Jesus. The tension is almost palpable.
The road to Jerusalem has not been easy. This has been a long journey, one with many twists and turns. This is a journey that started a long time before in a different city at a different time when two parents were on the road and had to find shelter in a manger because there was no room for them in the Inn. Already the shadow of the cross loomed over that manger all those years ago, and it begins to loom a little larger now as Jesus sets his face to Jerusalem one last time.
One of my favorite prayer practices is walking the labyrinth. The labyrinth is a narrow path full of twists and turns like a maze that eventually leads to the center. The path is set in the shape of a circle. The center of the labyrinth is the still point, the focus of the journey. It is a journey inward where we find ourselves being drawn closer to God and the Holy. With each quadrant of the labyrinth and with each passing twist and turn we are drawn at times closer to the center and at other times being pulled away, while always inevitably still making our way to the center; a center that can represent peace, calm and the point where we can hear the voice of God in a different way.
The practice of walking the labyrinth invites participants to stay in the center for as long as needed. Once ready, we make the journey along the same path back to the starting point. Again as with the journey in, with each quadrant and bend in the path we are at times drawn close to the center at others and pulled away while always making our way to the starting point. Walking the labyrinth is prayer. This is a form of prayer that engages not just our mind, but our feet, legs and bodies. Similar in many ways to how people may follow a hiking trail.
The road to Jerusalem is not as straight or direct as we may imagine. It is filled with twists and turns where the road leads close to the city and the foot of the cross, and at other times the road pulls us away to the perimeter again. As with a labyrinth the journey to Jerusalem, to the cross, to God is lined with people and circumstances that will draw us closer to God, while around the next corner will pull us away. There are times when we feel frustrated and anxious and we just want to get to the end. We can find ourselves lamenting and crying out, “Why can’t we just get to the center? Why is God so far from me?”
All the while, despite how many twists and turns there are. Despite how many times we are drawn closer to God or pulled away we do always make it to the center where we are restored, rejuvenated and find ourselves in the loving embrace of God.
When we are ready, we make our journey back, sent by God back into the world where we are called to be the church in the world. Our journey to the center gives us everything we need for the work that God calls us to do.
Richard Rohr notes in one of his books that, “matter matters to God.” Our physical bodies and the stuff in our lives matters to God. Holy Week is a week that focuses on matter, our physical matter. We walk with Jesus to today into Jerusalem and make our way with him through the streets and various interactions with people. On Thursday we will eat with him again and give thanks for the Eucharist, that sacred meal and gift of how Jesus asks us to remember him. We wash feet, a symbol of servant ministry as we remember that we are called as a community to care for one another. Friday, Good Friday, we will stand at the foot of cross and proclaim with the Centurion that “surely this man is the Son of God” as we see and feel the pain of the cross and fulfillment of a promise that today, we will be with God in Paradise. Then, while it was still dark, we gather with Mary by the tomb and witness her, a woman, being the first witness of the resurrection as she runs to tell the others of what she has found.
This is Holy Week, a week that throws us into prayer with our whole bodies and into the matter of our lives. This week, of all weeks, it is impossible to sit idly by and watch the sequence of events unfold untouched and unmoved. We are coerced into engaging with our Lord this week with our whole body, soul and mind as we continue a journey that leads to God and the promise that God has for us that God loves us and believes in us, even when, and especially when, we don’t love or believe in ourselves. God is there at the center, ready to welcome us home.
The journey continues, as we, with Christ, set our faces to Jerusalem and God.