Andy Hawes is Warden of
Edenham Regional Retreat House
This Easter will see the first anniversary of the death of a friend and parishioner; a mum in her forties with two teenage girls. It was the end of a very long battle against cancer. Sadly I was minutes late when she died but when I arrived her whole family were gathered around the bed. Her husband said to their daughters, ‘What we must believe is that she is now in the care of one who loves her more than we do.’ Death does bring ‘troubled hearts’ as Jesus predicted, but it also brings its clarity. God loves us more than we can begin to imagine or think.
This is what John meant when he wrote of Jesus’ actions on Maundy Thursday: ‘now he was to show them the full extent of his love.’ To be consoled and encouraged by the revelation of love is the whole purpose of our keeping Holy Week and Easter. If we ask the Lord to show us the full extent of his love for us through our involvement in the liturgy and in our own prayer and reflection he surely will. The focus for our prayer and adoration should be an earnest quest for this revelation of love.
There are many huge questions that circle the mind and heart in Holy Week. Many questions are asked: ‘who is it that will betray you?’ ‘Is it I?’ ‘What is truth?’ ‘Would you betray the son of man with a kiss?’ ‘Where do you come from?’ ‘You Lord washing my feet?’ ‘Where are you going?’ ‘Can you not watch one hour?’ All these and many more penetrate the heart of our relationship with the Lord. It is not unusual to feel a sense of inner turmoil at the constant battering on our attitudes of mind and heart.
There is nothing wrong with being shaken and stirred; sometimes we have to be asked the right questions to open up the interior doors of our spiritual life. But this should not be an end in itself. We must always go the next step and ask, ‘What does this reveal to me about God’s love, and how does it help me respond in a more loving way to the call of Christ?’ If any spiritual exercise does not help us to receive the ‘greatest gift’, we should begin to wonder, ‘Why do I bother?’
If we fast-forward to the resurrection appearances of the Lord, we see that there are fewer questions and much more silent listening. When the Lord asks the question of Peter on the beach at dawn it is repeated three times, a litany of beseeching, and the question is very simple: ‘Do you love me?’ That is the question the Lord asks each one of us again this Holy Week and Easter. For as Mother Julian of knowledge learnt from a lifetime of contemplating the crucifixion of Our Lord, ‘love was his meaning’.