The book "Kneeling in Jerusalem" by Ann Weems is on my desk. Although it is closed, I can still see the words I have just read and reread. I keep going back to them.
The author begins by musing on the idea that she would rather stay in Bethlehem, in joy and celebration, than set out for Jerusalem. Then she writes:
I'm not sure I can stand
the stress and pain;
I have enough of those already.
Besides, I've found the lighting
on the road to Jerusalem
is very poor.
This time around, there is no Star...
When an author says something so right, I first have a stab of jealousy that others can write like that, and then, envy departed, I hold the idea for reflection.
By now, we are all deep into Lent, and, yes, we have all discovered that this isn't like preparing for Christmas. This is harder work, asking more of us than that December journey in faith guided by a star with companions like the exotic Magi. Who wouldn't want to travel with them?
In addition, we know that the end of that journey is angel song and a tiny Child and reverent shepherds and loving parents. Those are all such happy things.
The end of this journey to Jerusalem? That is where we Christians are challenged. For so many among us, it is Good Friday, with all the abandonment and darkness at midday and death on Calvary. But that isn't truly the end, is it? We are not called to be Good Friday Christians.
We have to push through to Easter morning. That is where this journey to Jerusalem will end at an empty tomb with different angels and trembling hearers of the words: "He is not here. He is risen as he said."
Lent is hard work. Ann Weems is right. We alone decide how we travel to Jerusalem. We cannot ignore Calvary, but that is not our final stop. Now, part way through the journey, we renew our spiritual energies. We have to reach that tomb to hear the Good News ourselves, but there are no shortcuts -- just the steady pace of Christian hearts pushing onwards together.