Finding Calm in the Midst of a Storm
In my first few years of motherhood, I’ve learned that one of the most important things you can do during a child’s meltdown is remain calm. Little kids have a hard time expressing their big feelings, and they often simply don’t understand the range of emotions that they can experience on a daily basis. When a trusted adult stays steady in the midst of the turbulent winds of an emotional storm, that angry, hungry, frustrated, tired, sad, or anxious child can “borrow” some of that calmness and find a way out.
Every year, Holy Week feels like an emotional hurricane to me. There’s the hopeful admiration at the beginning of Palm Sunday as we welcome Jesus to Jerusalem, the somber foreboding as the disciples share a final meal with Jesus on Holy Thursday, the shocking pain as Jesus hangs on the cross and dies on Good Friday, the silent desperation as the disciples grieve on Holy Saturday, and the exuberant, incredible joy as they discover the surprise of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Palm Sunday itself feels like an overture to all of this: at the beginning of Mass, we shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” and just a few minutes later, we cry, “Crucify him!” How can we manage our big feelings as we journey through the holiest days of the year?
We look to Jesus. There he is, in the center of it all, a steady, calm presence amid a constantly shifting storm.
In today’s reading from Isaiah, I am struck by the way the prophet describes the suffering servant: he does not rebel or turn back, he gives his body to those who hurt him, and he sets his “face like flint.” He can do this because he knows “The Lord GOD is my help” and he “shall not be put to shame.” He is steady and calm as he relies with great confidence on God’s faithfulness to bring him through the suffering he endures. Later, in the passion narrative, we watch and listen as Jesus brings this prophecy to life: even though Jesus begs God to let “this cup pass,” he accepts his fate with dignity and grace, never denying the truth of who he is or the mission he was sent to complete.
The prophet also praises God for giving him “a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.” At the end of Lent, I know I am weary. The next few days might be turbulent and filled with big feelings. Now more than ever, I need to listen to Jesus’s words. I am praying for the grace to borrow Jesus’ steady calmness as I trust in God’s mercy and love and seek Easter joy.
Catherine Sullivan is a Catholic writer, reader, and teacher. She writes about the Catholic imagination in her monthly newsletter Wonder & Awe and on Instagram @catherinesullivanwrites.