No, no, not the customs that you go through when entering a country (and that brings back memories of trips to Canada for dancing and gambling). Rather the customs of our prayer life, our faith, our families. Our traditions (small t, not big T!).
On the Monday of Holy Week I was able to attend one of the youth groups I’m an adult leader at (it’s my every other week group). We were talking in small groups about our Lents and how they had gone. One of the adult leaders mentioned asking Christ to point something out in the passion narrative to us, something to think about, ponder, meditate on. Well, for me, that had already happened on Palm Sunday! I had such a tough time with Grace during that mass. We had been late, I never heard a word of the first two readings and during the gospel she decided it was time to nurse. And the cry room was full, so I was nursing her right in the pew. Goodness! In the midst of all that chaos a few simple words jumped out at me. (From Luke’s gospel:)
Then going out, he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.
Wait! As was his custom? You mean, this is Jesus’s “Thing to Do”? He did this a lot? Hmmm, interesting.
On Good Friday we hear John’s version of the this.
Judas his betrayer also knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.
Now this puts it into a bit more context. Jesus went to his favorite hang out while in Jeruselem, and then one of his friends betrays him there. It’s like when you have your secret club house with your friends and one of your friends goes and tells your mom and she comes to get you cause you didn’t wash the dishes (or some other punishment). Course, you’re not getting led off to bear the sins of the world and die a horrible death, but if you’re at the age of secret club houses it probably feels that way.
Matthew and Mark don’t put in this qualifier about it being the hang out spot, but there are occasions in both of their gospels where Jesus is telling VIT’s (Very Important Things) to his closest disciples there. It’s a special place for them to pray, to discourse, to fellowship.
So as I meditated on this for the past week, I started thinking about my own customs. Where do I pray? Where do I fellowship? What are my customs?
Jesus was fully human. He got distracted, I’m sure. But when it was time for serious discussion with his friends, when it was time to tell them important things or when it was time to have some serious one on one time with his Abba, he withdrew to a special place. And this wasn’t a rare thing or something surprising to his disciples. It was his custom. His tradition.
We are to follow Christ in all things, be imitators of him. So how can I imitate him in this? I know there are times when I should be praying. But do I make the effort to withdraw from my daily life to do so? No, I sit at my computer to read the prayers while eating my breakfast. Forever stuck in the society of multitasking, we do not recognize the value of stopping everything and withdrawing.
I read somewhere that we should be working on new things in the Easter season. This is the time of “new”: new life has come with the resurrection. So I’m going to be working on new customs. Finding a place, a specific place, to withdraw to. It doesn’t need to be daily, after all, Jesus wasn’t in Jerusalem the whole time. But I’m going to work on this.
What are your customs? Do you need to discover new ones?