The liturgies of Holy Week demand and seek to build in us a response of living faith and of love for the I AM who experienced suffering and death in Jesus. Our task is to continue the incarnation of I AM in humankind. Crowds cheered Jesus when he entered Jerusalem, believing that he was a delivering, conquering messianic hero. They were soon disappointed by Jesus, who was put to death. In the Mass of the LORD’s Supper, we experience the pathos of self-emptying love, of utter humility, by the I AM, the One who is from all eternity: I AM in man washes the disciples’ feet. In meditating on Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane, we can feel nearly torn by the tension of truth: that HE WHO IS was in Jesus enduring torment, torture, desertion, abandonment for us. St. John captures this tension of truth in Gethsemane when Jesus declares, “I AM,” and his fellow Jews fall to the ground, as Moses did at the burning bush; but then a few moments later, the same men arrest the I AM as if He were a criminal.
And then Good Friday. The most painful paradox of all, it seems to me, is that the God-Man Jesus experiences utter God-forsakenness on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The man who embodied the I AM now feels utterly abandoned by God, experiencing in his soul what each human being deserves through rejecting God in sin. In Christ, I AM accepted our humanity, even our sinfulness and rejection of God. And all of us, with our sins, Jesus takes into God. For regardless of being tortured and feeling abandoned, Jesus remained utterly loyal to God, to “my God.” Here we see real love, true love: not sweet feelings and affections, but being faithful to one’s Beloved even when feeling tortured and abandoned.