Holy Saturday 2019 Meditation
Holy Saturday 2019
Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment. (Luke 23:50-56)
I remember when my father died. It was a Saturday in April, 31 years ago, but I feel it still. When the word of his death reached me, I felt as if someone had punched me in the stomach. I couldn’t breathe. I felt disoriented as the pain of loss began to fill all my senses. My father was 61 years old! It didn’t make any sense. He died in an automobile accident just a few miles away from home, helping a friend who was having trouble with his pick-up truck. I remember waking up on the day I turned 61 and thinking 61 was how old my father was when he died, feeling the sorrow all over again. The pain of his death and absence lingers within me to this day. Death is cruel, however and whenever it comes.
Jesus’ first disciples must have felt this way, their pain and grief overcoming them as he died on a cross. I was far away when my father died, but those disciples were right there anticipating Jesus’ death as Pontius Pilate interrogated him, as the crowds shouted, Crucify him, crucify him, crucify him!
They were in the crowds who journeyed with Jesus as he carried his own cross, all the way to Golgotha, the place of the skull, the hill of execution just outside the walls of Jerusalem – the end of the road for Jesus. They heard the gruesome and inhumane sounds as Jesus was nailed to the cross and watched as the cross was lifted with Jesus hanging on it, exposed for all to see and be discouraged to continue believing in him. And no one did anything. In Jesus’ last hours before his death, even Peter betrayed him, just as Jesus had said he would. Fear and guilt must have been at the core of the disciples’ grief.
We are spared the immediacy of the crucifixion and death of Jesus. As I have attended Holy Week services with you this week, I have seen how hard our pastors work to help our congregations experience what happened on that first Holy Week. They do so not
so that we would go through momentary fear, guilt, or grief, but so that we might reflect on what it means that God gave his Son for our redemption, and what it means to now be disciples of Jesus. Holy Saturday in its silence gives us an opportunity to prayerfully consider all of this.
You may remember that I grew up next to a cemetery. At that cemetery I came to know a silence quite different from any other silence I have ever experienced. It is the silence of those who are no longer among us. The silence of the words left unspoken with those we have buried. The silence of finality. On the anniversary of my father’s death I always think about what I would have wanted to say to him before he died, and in my mind and with all my heart, I share those words with him. On this day in which Jesus lay in a tomb, what would we want to say to him?
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño