Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,* and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of* the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
3Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners,* so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.
Perseverance is the word as we head toward the most intense leg of the Great Race we call Holy Week. I take great comfort and strength in the promise of being surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses. In the rush to be “relevant” and “innovative” many church leaders see the ancient rituals and traditions of the church part of the weight to be thrown aside. Of course we don’t worship exactly the way they did twenty five years ago, much less two thousand years ago. Even the pipe organ was an innovation at one time! Everybody’s favorite hymn was a new one at one time.
But there is an ancient rhythm and logic to the traditions of Holy Week and the Triduum –the Great Three Days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter morning. The saints before us gathered on Holy Thursday to hear absolution of their sins, to remember Jesus’ last meal with his disciples and be fed by his own Body and Blood, to see the altar stripped of it’s glory the way Jesus was stripped of his dignity as he was arrested and brought to trial….to hear again the Passion of Our Lord from the Gospel of John which emphasizes the victory of his death on the cross and to pray the great Bidding Prayer which includes all people for whom Jesus died. I could not imagine singing Alleluia on Easter until I have followed Jesus through his Passion. That is what it means to look to Jesus “who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross”
We all have a path and a race to run and we must constantly lay aside the burdens that cling to us and slow us down. Sometimes we run freely and enthusiastically. Sometimes it’s just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. But we do not run this race alone. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who had their own weights and sins to deal with but who finished the race with perseverance and cheer us on. And we have Christ who has cleared the path for us and taken on those burdens and sins so that they can be layed aside. This week we consider both the saints and Christ so that we may not grow weary or lose heart.