Holy Week – Wash, Rinse & Iron

ImageHoly Thursday
“Wash, Rinse, Iron” is these three days – Thursday, Friday, Saturday.  We “wash” on Holy Thursday, “rinse” on Good Friday and on Holy Saturday we “iron.”
I know it may sound disrespectful or ordinary but it is the ordinary that I want to point out.  These are just ordinary days for Jesus and the times in which he lived.  And these are just ordinary days in the time in which we live.  It’s just another day.
“Wash, Rinse, Iron.”  Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Throughout the centuries we’ve embellished the stories about Jesus, don’t you think?  It’s not all as historical as it’s presented to be.  We did so (and do so) to make it important and very special to our Christian faith.  In other words, we’re trying to make “extra” what is really ordinary.
Monday was wash day for our family.  It was the day after the weekend that all our dirty laundry had to be presented to my mother.  (Boy, she must have so looked forward to Mondays.)  Gathered together, it was her tireless job to trapes down to our dark, dank basement to perform her weekly ritual.  Washing.  Lots of washing for a family of five not counting my parents.  That’s seven loads that needed unloading.
It’s such a simple human act that none of us look forward to it but feel it is imminent when we’re done to our last pair of underwear or socks.  There’s a hopeless feeling when the important wearings begin to smell.
Jesus gathered to observe a yearly ritual with his friends.  Just another year and just another ritual to complete.
Yet that night long ago, Jesus not only performed the weekly duty of washing clothes (or yearly ritual) but he changed it by personalizing it.  He gives the bread that all presiders gave that night but instead he called it himself.  He then shared wine with friends but insisted on calling it his blood. And both times we announced to those present that this food was offered for them.  Not for himself but for them.
When mom begrudgingly performs her Monday morning duty it is truly perceived as a duty if the emphasis is on her.  If she is able to turn it into a giving to others then it no longer is a duty, it then becomes a privilege, a sacrifice – if you will.
That’s washing.  That’s Holy Thursday.  If you want to harbor on sin tonight that’s fine but I prefer making an act of service to someone where the emphasis is on the other person and not yourself.
That’s Holy Thursday and that’s “Washing.”

Good Friday
“Wash, Rinse, Iron” is these three days – Thursday, Friday, Saturday.  We “wash” on Holy Thursday, “rinse” on Good Friday and on Holy Saturday we “iron.”
The odds are unlikely that we will be crucified so we can best identify with Our Lord through the ordinary, everyday lives we live; everyday.
Why “rinse” on this most graphic of the three days?  Of the three days, this is most attended by Catholic folks.  Why?  Well, it’s like that second look at the car accident intersection where the police car lights are blinking and the paramedics are loading up the wounded.  We can’t seem to resist slowing down and that second look.
This Good Friday we can bloody up all we want about what happened that day but it only best applies to us during the “rinse” cycle.
It can be called the “rinse cycle of sacrifices.”  Moms know what I’m talking about.  Life’s entry can be painful and likened to a “rinse cycle” – “just get this kid out of me!” says the distraught mother-to-be after 18 hours of labor.

Our family washing machine swirled and churned clothes clean, often moving itself off base as though it was alive until it was time for the “ringers.”  Aptly named, the ringer pulled the clothes through it until they fell into the first water basin.  Then the ringer was pulled over to rinse off the first rinsing.  The second water basin was the final cleaning until the clothes were ringed free of suds once and for all.  And then the clothes were placed in the dryer.
The sacrifice of Jesus was once and for all; a mother’s sacrifice can take up to 18 or more years.

“Lacerated flesh?”  Just look at that “boo-boo” scratch that has your little son screaming as he looks to you for salvation and redemption or at the very least some Mercurochrome and a kiss on the wound.  A band aid, a hug and a kind word assured your son that it was not cancer and would truly not grow into something bigger nor deform him for life.

The proverbial “crown of thrones” are the times when a mother says to her teenage daughter, “I think you could do better with boys. Do you really need to see that one boy again?” while the daughter yells back, “Why are you trying to wreck me life?”

“Nailed to the cross.”  This is an easy one to apply to our “rinse cycle” in life.  In early adult life, mother is blamed (or nailed) for everything from late homework assignments to facial acne to anything you’ve done but are not responsible for.  It is so simple and easy – it is always mother’s fault.  We will hold on to that for as many years as it takes until we slowly realize the responsibility resides within us and our total involvement in life’s involvement.
The sacrifices moms and dads make for their children is the sacrifice we honor this day, each in our own way.

“Wash, rinse, iron.”  Those are the motherly chores witnessed by our Savior, Jesus Christ.

I read a credible book about all of this and it said that crucifixions were so common each day, each week that Jesus’ would have gone unnoticed, just as the others did.  He would never have met the Roman governor Pilate and had that significant verbal exchange.  There was no Anthony Quinn nor Veronica and her cloth in spite of what we may think or wish.  It was just another day of needless deaths at the hands of Roman persecutors, not Jewish folks for whom we’ve blamed for centuries.

That’s remarkable to me in its un-remarkable quality.  We’ve made such an event of the last journey of Jesus that it’s lost its ordinariness.  “Just another Jew” crucified because of his blasphemy – which was not a difficult crime to commit in those days.  That it gains the crucifixion power for me – it was just another death in the midst of so many.  Today it is simply the “rinsing” cycle.  It’s what a mother days once a week, if not more.  Rinsing away whatever keeps us from the cleanliness of God.

What makes today memorable is tomorrow.  Tomorrow marks is its excellence and proves its worth.  Tomorrow is “ironing.”  Today, well, it is just another day of a needless death of another Jew who claimed to be what he was not.

Holy Saturday
“Wash, Rinse, Iron” is these three days – Thursday, Friday, Saturday.  We “wash” on Holy Thursday, “rinse” on Good Friday and on Holy Saturday we “iron.”
And tonight it is all about the smell.  It is the smells that fills the air and hopefully tired hearts.  Smell.  Often the forgotten scent but the one that is always working, even when we’re not aware of it.  There is nothing like it.  Crisp, even, and smooth – the smells last, at least for a while.
And if your method of creating good smells is God’s sun first then you’re all set for Christ’s ironing.  I’m telling you, it’s the smell.  It is the smell as your head hits the sun-dried cotton fabric and iron pressed that soothes yourself into night time slumber.
I’m telling you.  We think it is the big stuff of life that makes life big.  It’s not.  It is the small life-stuffs that makes the life that Christ won for us divine.  It is what this night is all about.
Jesus completes his Father’s plan and raises himself into a new, eternal life to become the Christ.  It is as though he was able to “iron out” all of our life’s difficulties and come out “smelling,” as the saying goes, “like a rose”.  You know we say “Jesus Christ” as though Christ is his last name.  It’s not, as we know.  But it does tell us that before this day he was just Jesus in all his budding glory.  But tonight he is Christ, the risen – washed, rinsed and ironed for us, for the salvation of the world.
Does that mean that life was easy or simple for him, his thinking that he is the Son of God and all that?  No.  It’s not.  It means that he was able to take apart seemingly complex situations and piece them back together in an orderly, faithful fashion.  Fractured, separate or divided lives are made whole again.  Jesus was able to assemble and then reassemble, reassemble once more and then reassemble yet again into what this human journey is all about.
So many times in life we get caught.  We get caught up in things and circumstances that seem to freeze us into either easy, absolute decisions or unable to know our left from our right hand.
Jesus took on love as his beginning and made it his end.  During the middle of his life, he just “ironed out” the differences.  That’s what makes his last name “Christ.”
You know I have to iron my shirts.  I don’t like doing it but it has to be done unless I pay a dry cleaner to do it for me and I’m too cheap.  So, Sunday afternoons I’ll Manhattan myself up and iron my newly washed and rinsed shirts and I begin to watch the wrinkles and creases disappear as the iron does its magic.  (Wrinkles and creases in a retirement home are not the most appropriate images but it’s true.)  And magic slowly burns itself into those wrinkly but now ironed shirts.  How often we think that it is not possible in real life when, indeed, it is.
All of the stuff that holds us back from being closer to each other (which means being close to God) can be eliminated with a warm iron (and don’t forget to add water).  How many frenzied or useless conversations, hurtful thoughts, selfish dwellings, poisonous harborings, sheltering nasty and mean feelings or holding onto brash judgements that need to “ironed,” to Christ-themselves out of us and into a spirituality that is healthy and life giving not only for ourselves but for those we encounter.

How long the Catholic Church and other religions have thrived by holding us down as sinful, unworthy, woeful people.  Sin and a perception of undeserving, I guess, keeps us filling the pews.  I would not call that a “healthy spirituality.”

Go ahead, try to add an adjective to your spirituality and see what happens?  Give your spiritual life an adjective and see how it measures up to the “Christ” we honor tonight.  Add the word “healthy,” for example and see how your prayer life may change and how your final days lived fully in this Easter hope, this newly ironed “Christ.”  A “healthy spirituality,” one that this enriching, life-giving and geared toward service to others in the name of the man whom we now called “Christ.”

Tonight is about “ironing” things out.  Our Christ ironed out the stuff of this world giving each of us a blueprint, a method by which to live.  It is one that is heated, filled with water and you can slowly watch the life’s wrinkles and creases erase and something new, fresh (an smells good) replace it.

What remains after this ironing?  That’s easy.  It is the sun-dried smell of God’s-dried cotton pillow cases, ironed – and a place for a weary head to rest after a day of giving glory and praise to God.

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). www.Salvatorians.com. Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on Amazon.com.
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