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Why 'Holy Week' is really 'freedom week'

placeholder January 9, 2012   •   VOL. 50, NO. 1   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers
Why 'Holy Week' is really 'freedom week'

I write these words to you on Palm Sunday. We are at the beginning of Holy Week. So, I guess we are supposed to all be about holiness. Right? Surely that is the case, but I am going to push a bit on renaming these holy days and I've decided unofficially to call this time that draws us to the end of Lent and brings us to Easter, "Freedom Week."

The cross in the court at De La Salle High School in Concord wears a purple pall during the Lenten season.
Courtesy photo

Yes, because freedom is really the whole point of becoming holy. This is what Jesus teaches us during these culminating days of His life on earth. Jesus, as He approaches His agony and death, shows us the way of detachment, the path of "letting go," the power of the decision to surrender. To what does Jesus surrender? It's not a "what" at all; the surrender of Jesus is to God, the one He experienced totally as "Abba," His Father (or better translated, His "daddy.") We are asked during "Freedom Week" to take on the mind of Christ and surrender as well. We are asked to surrender to love, to detach from all that is not love, to trust, and, thus, to truly live. Jesus shows us how to live from and for God, and this is His essential stand. He does not "give in" to the forces that want to kill Him. No, he "lets go" of any desire to do life on His terms and surrenders to God, His Father, and His deepest self, so that life on new terms can be His to share with all of us. This is the only defining attachment that the great spiritual writers recommend.

The great spiritual writer, Edward L. Beck, says:

"Detachment requires a non-grasping stance toward life — to be able to behold and revere without having to possess. But how hard is that. In our insecurity and neediness, we think attachment secures our happiness. We want what is ours, and we want it totally and completely. As children we are loath to share, because if we do, we think that somehow we have less, which, of course, we do — physically. But paradoxically, sharing produces its own abundance in magnanimity of spirit that trumps anything our hands can hold. In the end, we have more."

If we can hold on to this insight, then I think we are well on the way to living within the mystery of Easter.

As Jesus surrenders, lets go, trusts His Abba, even within the struggle that has Him sweating blood in the garden, so must we also. Jesus shows the way. He doesn't find His life by holding on to it; He finds it by giving it away. When He gives it away completely on Good Friday, He finds it in a new, unprecedented, and all-defining way. And He is totally free.

When Jesus gives His life away, He finds it. When He gives it away totally in death, He finds it completely. And that leads to the one inescapable reality that is the reason for our Easter joy: He cannot stay dead. The Father raises Him. This becomes our hope for the future. This is the assurance we long for that we are a cherished people who are given the promise that what has happened for Jesus will also happen for us. Indeed, we are cherished and, thus, given the promise of salvation.

The path to freedom we propose to our boys at De La Salle is that life can and should be lived with all this in mind. Life counts, we say, because it is here in this life we share that we learn how to give our life away so that we may find it. So, surrendering to the demands of truth and faith, to the call of justice and service, and to the sacrifices necessary to really love, opens us to the fullness of freedom. And that is where we find God.
May the coming celebration of Easter be a time of realization that our sharing in the new life of Christ can only come about when we imitate His "letting go." May we learn this Holy Week that we find true peace in taking on Christ's foundational desire to have a life in His Father as the only necessary attachment. Finally, may we learn the beauty of giving our life away, as Jesus did, so that we may find it and be free for all eternity.

And that's why I'm happy to call these days, "Freedom Week."

May you and your families be touched by the great grace of our one God, Faithful Father, Risen Son, and always Guiding Holy Spirit, during the Season of Easter.

(Brother Robert J. Wickman FSC, is principal at De La Salle High School, Concord. He wrote this for the April school newsletter, the Spartan Spotlight.)  

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