I am not one to watch much television with the exception of the evening news. Yet, even I am aware of the tremendous popularity that reality TV is experiencing in our society today. Viewers are being drawn into live experiences with shows like “Dancing with the Stars” or “Survivor,” “The Apprentice” or “American Idol.”
In today’s liturgy and those that follow during this Holy Week, we are called to participate in the church’s liturgy in a way that is every bit as intense as our commitment to reality TV, and every bit as “real” as the participants in these popular shows.
We need to be drawn into this drama, the drama of our salvation. We must consider ourselves active participants in the drama of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. We enter into the Passion of Jesus in such a way as to be moved toward genuine conversion and transformation.
On Palm Sunday, for example, we should not be merely listening passively to the account of Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem. Rather, we should see ourselves standing on the Mount of Olives, waving a palm branch in our hand as we watch Jesus pass by.
On Thursday of next week, we should find ourselves seated next to Judas at the Last Supper, watching intently as Jesus takes bread, blesses and distributes it saying, “Take and eat, this is my Body.” And then the cup, “Take and drink, this is my Blood.”
Or later on Holy Thursday night before the Altar of Repose, we should see ourselves trying to stay awake with Peter, James and John as Jesus prays, “Father, let this cup pass by me. Still, let it be as you would have it, not as I.”
And on Good Friday, we should envision ourselves standing at the foot of the cross with St. John, our Blessed Lady and the holy women, listening to Jesus cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” As we hear those words ring in our ears, the mystery of the crucifixion and death of Christ ought to resonate in our hearts as well.
Next comes the eerie silence of Holy Saturday until, at last, the blessing of the new fire, the lighting of the Paschal Candle and the joyful strains of the Exsultet.
In the Easter Vigil, we recall from Scripture the highlights of God’s interventions with our forebearers, culminating in the baptismal call of our catechumens and the confirmation of our candidates preparing for full initiation into the church.
Here, like that holy morning some 2,000 years ago, we discover anew the mystery of new life offered in Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
In Sunday’s second reading, St. Paul will tell us., “Your attitude must be that of Christ’s.” But the question we might ask ourselves is, “How can we have that attitude if we have not experienced what Christ experienced, by walking with him along the Way of the Cross?”
Holy Week is that invitation, extended to each of us, to know more deeply how Jesus was betrayed, beaten, denied, stripped of his clothes and placed upon a cross in order to free us from our sins so that we might live in his love. We are invited, in short, to walk with him as he shows us the way of love, the path to our salvation.
My dear brothers and sisters, as we begin this Holy Week, you and I will come forward to receive the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in Holy Communion. That, too, is an invitation not only to reverence the body of Christ, but in fact, to be the body of Christ to the poor, to the sick, to the stranger, and in fact, to everyone whom we meet in our daily routines.
Yes, the drama of this Holy Week is very much like reality TV. Let us allow ourselves to be drawn in and get personally involved.