As we Catholics prepare to mark the Passover with the celebration of Holy Week, our Jewish brothers and sisters will celebrate the Passover with Seder meals in their homes. At this meal families will use ritual and symbolic food to re-tell the story of how God liberated the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt.
A central purpose of the Seder meal is to teach the children about this most sacred event in the history of the Jewish people. As you can imagine, it can be difficult to keep young children engaged and interested throughout the lengthy meal and ritual.
To help, some retailers, such as "Bed Bath & Beyond" and "Party City," have begun offering ten-plague finger-puppets to help the children learn about the ten plagues of the exodus. These are the plagues through which God persuaded Pharaoh to let the people go. Some candy makers too offer ten-plague chocolates to help to teach the lesson to the children.
It may strike some as disturbing to give a child a puppet of a drop of blood to represent a plague that inflicted misery on so many – or a piece of chocolate in the shape of a locust or, maybe worse, in the shape of a boil or lice to symbolize such horrendous scourges.
Yet, somehow, it is fitting. The mystery of the Passover, and this entire Holy Week, beautifully holds everything together -- the bitter and the sweet, the innocent and the wicked, great love and great betrayal.
We will see it this week at Nativity of Mary too. I am always moved in a conflicted sort of way to see young children come forward on Good Friday to venerate the cross. What madness is it to have a child so young come forward to kiss an instrument of torture and death?
One mother explained it well. She said, "I have a highly sensitive child. She has nightmares about characters on cereal boxes. Yet she is not even remotely afraid of the crucifix. I think she sees that the Passion of Jesus is a story of love – powerful, consoling, beautiful love."
Enter into Holy Week with Jesus. Bring it all – the bitter, the sweet, the full contents of your hearts and lives. You will see that the only force that can hold it all together and bring glory from it all is the great love of our Lord.