I hope your Lenten journey has been graceful, effective and fruitful through the discipline of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Lent reminds us of how powerless we are without God but how much wonderful work we can do with His divine grace to help us. We are empowered by God’s Mercy embodied in His Son Jesus Who is the Father’s greatest gift and Who reconciles us to God and each other. It is through the Lord’s Passion, death and resurrection that we are reconciled to God through the power of the Holy Spirit. We have been formed as a noble and priestly people and have been raised to the dignity of being God’s sons and daughters, heirs to the promises of the Father and eternal life in His Son. May our celebration of Holy Week, the climax of Lent and our spiritual lives, bring us greater holiness of life and commitment to our calling in the Lord.
Our liturgy of Palm/Passion Sunday begins this most holy of weeks. We call this week ‘holy’ because in it we celebrate the deepest mysteries of our salvation. These events of this week define our existence as Christians and as children of God. The Paschal Mystery of the Lord’s death and resurrection unfolds this week through the Triduum: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. We enter this week with palms, praising God Who come to us. We show our readiness to walk with Jesus along the path of this holy time. We will not abandon Him as will the fickle crowd shouting so enthusiastically in our Gospel today. We will be His faithful companions sharing His suffering through to His triumph over sin and death at the resurrection. We are not just remembering the past this week. We are reliving, re-enacting the sacred events of our salvation. We are consciously participating with the Lord in everything He underwent to gain our salvation.
The readings today contrast moments of glory and suffering, joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain which are the two extremes of human experience.
In our first reading from Isaiah, we see aspects of Jesus’ life and mission foreshadowed in the Servant Songs, and the Church refers us to them as a solemn meditation in relation to Jesus and His suffering out of love for us.
The second reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians is an ancient and beautiful hymn representing the earliest Christian understanding of Who Jesus is and of how His mission saves us from sin and death. He allows Himself to be humiliated not clinging to His divinity and gladly undergoing suffering for us.
The first part gives us the procession of Jesus described as a royal event admired by many. In St John’s Gospel, Jesus rides on a young donkey, a symbol of peace. Jesus allows this to reveal to the public that He was the awaited Messiah, and 2) to fulfil the prophesies of Zechariah (9:9) and Zephaniah (3:16-19): “Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion..”.
The second part taken from St Mark’s Gospel is the Passion narrative. As it is proclaimed we can be mere bystanders or active participants. We must accept the challenge to examine our lives in the light of some of the characters in the story, like Peter who denied Jesus, Judas who betrayed Jesus, Pilate who knowing the truth acted against his conscience opting for popularity and condemned Jesus, Herod who ridiculed Jesus and the religious leaders who demanded His death to preserve their own power and status. We may see ourselves having common ground with one or other of these actors, we can then take remedial action and allow God’s Spirit to purify, embolden, encourage, and enable us to be more effective witnesses to the great Truth of this week, the Good News of life through faith in the Risen Lord.
I know many of you cannot be with us as we celebrate the Triduum. Nonetheless, I hope you will be able to follow the Sacred Liturgies by using your missals, booklets, Magnificat’s etc. and feel in solidarity with us.
On Maundy Thursday at the Mass of the Lord’s Last Supper, be with us at the Table of the Lord as we celebrate: 1) the gift of the Eucharist, the Lord’s Body and Blood; 2) the gift of the ministerial priesthood to shepherd God’s people that celebrate the Mass and sacraments and to proclaim the Gospel; and 3) the command of fraternal love which we must live and extend to all our relationships.
On Good Friday accompany the Lord through His trial, flogging, crowning with thorns and carrying of the cross. Keep vigil with Mary beside her crucified Son and be within the gaze of the Lord as He looks down for support and solidarity in His hour of need.
On Holy Saturday we will spiritually wait by the Tomb increasingly aware of the process of new and eternal life that will soon roll back the stone. At the Easter Vigil, the most important Liturgy of the year, we will focus on our symbols: The Fire, the Paschal Candle, new Holy Water as a spring of life, renewal of our baptismal vows, and the Eucharist of Easter. Alleluia, alleluia.
It will indeed be a strange Holy Week due to the current restrictions but this does not diminish the power and victory that this holy time celebrates and proclaims. Let us all feel spiritually united with the Lord and each other, especially those who are isolating or housebound. May the Easter Fire burn away all our fear and the Easter Light dispel all darkness.
Fr. Gerard X