Holy Week = Unholy Behavior

Here we are friends with another Holy Week upon us and the Gospel readings at Mass are filled with the events leading up to the Passion of Jesus Christ.  I am struck by the many men whom we hear at Mass, starting with the Passion Reading on Palm Sunday, who are behaving in the most awful of ways.

Here’s a summary review of the behavior we heard about on Sunday:

In the Passion of Jesus according to Mark (14:1-15:47), we hear about the chief priests and scribes plotting the murder of Jesus .  We see a very judgmental and self righteous side of the disciples of Jesus who are infuriated by Mary Magdalen’s display of kindness to Jesus by anointing his head with oil.  We see in Judas Iscariot, a man consumed by his own wants and desires for the Messiah, the terrible scheming to betray his friend Jesus.  Peter declares publicly, and quite pridefully, his devotion to Jesus and elevates himself from the other disciples by vehemently stating his faith would not be shaken while theirs would.  The Rock of our Church then proceeds to fall asleep in prayer despite Christ’s stern warning to watch and pray so that his faith may not be tested.  James and John also ignored the warnings of their Master.  Judas betrays Jesus with a more than insulting kiss of friendship.  Peter violently assaults and cuts the ear off the priest’s servants.  None of Jesus’s band of brothers defend Jesus, but all cowardly run off in fear.  The chief priests, scribes and elders commit perjury and lie about Jesus in their kangaroo court proceeding.  These same men and the guards despicably spit on Jesus and shamefully blindfold and punch him in the face.  Peter, hiding in the shadows, publicly and cowardly denies his relationship with Jesus not once, but three times as Christ predicted.  The whole Sanhedrin falsely accuses Jesus before the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate.  Pilate cowardly condemns an innocent man and sets free a convicted murderer named Barabbas. The soldiers mock Jesus as King with a crown of thorns and continue to brutally beat and spit on him.  The ultimate humiliation of the cross and crucifixion of Jesus is placed on the shoulders of all of us as sinners, but especially those who carried out the unthinkable act of deicide.  Even after the the crucifixion was carried out, the mockery continued from the chief priests and scribes along with the two crucified next to him.  Although, one of which redeems his behavior through an eleventh hour act of repentance.

The readings from the remaining Gospel passages during Holy Week are filled with more murderous plots and scheming, demonic possession, blood money, betrayal, prophesy, lies, physical beatings, and greed.

What an extremely dreadful display of manhood during this week leading up to Christ’s death and Resurrection.  The King’s Men mission emphasizes the call of all men to be leaders, protectors and providers.  There is no witness of this during Holy Week except in the perfect example of Christ.  Peter comes close with his willingness to defend Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  While his intentions are motivated to protect Christ; his actions are condemned by Christ.  Really, I find no redeeming man in the lot.  St John has the fortunate blessing of being at the foot of the cross and the good thief with final perseverance, but in totality, there is no man worthy of the label a King’s Man.

These facts of Christ’s last hours give me great hope for my manhood.  I fail repeatedly in living out my mission as a leader, protector and provider.  I “talk the talk”, but sadly do not often “walk the walk” as the saying goes.  I would like to think that I would not have fled as the apostles did or betrayed my Lord.  But I cannot say for sure that I wouldn’t be warming myself and licking my bruised ego like Peter did in the courtyard.  I would like to think that I would be at the foot of the cross like John, but in truth fear might have likely kept me away.  I am humbled by the poor behavior of these men whom we call, most of which, saints today.  It gives me great hope for my future and my journey.  Although I fail, I must continue to move forward.  I must look to the new day and the next opportunity to serve my family, my church and my Lord.

Holy Week is a great time to reflect on our selfish and judgmental tendencies and compare ourselves to the behavior of the chief priests and scribes.  It is a time to see our own abilities to betray trust and become like another Judas.  I especially can see myself in this light on the sad old days when I used to leave Mass after communion.  I see my vain and prideful self in the mold of Peter.  I believe myself to be better than others at times and yet I fall from grace in very shameful and embarrassing ways.  I see myself in Pilate probably the most.  A man who knows the truth, but out of fear, or more my case, failing to live up to others expectations, thereby getting crushed under the pressure to conform. Thankfully, I do see myself in the eyes of St. Dismas, the good thief, who sees the fallout of his decisions and asks Jesus to forgive him.

Thank you Jesus for being so patient with me and my unholy behavior. Help me to persevere amidst my own sinfulness and come to may aid as I try to love you better than I do today.

Have a blessed Triduum!

Mark Houck

Founder, The King’s Men, Inc.