ON THIS PALM SUNDAY we must ask ourselves “What makes Holy Week so special?” Indeed, why is Holy Week so unique to we Catholics and Christians — to the followers of Jesus Christ? In these High holy days for all of Christendom, we recall during this week the last days, the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – the Son of God become man, the Messiah, the Word made flesh, Truth incarnate. Not only do we recall, but through these special liturgies, we re-live these events from the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem today on Palm Sunday to His cruel and painful death on Good Friday culminating with the wondrous victory of rising to new life on Easter morning. This journey of Jesus also becomes our journey, because when we immerse ourselves in the scriptures and liturgies of Holy Week we recall and relive these central events with Him, and thus this week is rightly called “Holy Week.”
Always remember that the Holy Week liturgies are not mere play-acting or even the yearly unfolding of the familiar Passion play. For each liturgy makes present for us and with us the actual events of the suffering, dying and rising of Jesus and enables us to experience in our lives here and now what Jesus went through then for you and for me. In other words, the liturgy enables us to be inserted into the mystery of the Lord’s dying and rising and allows our lives, loves, joys, hopes, disappointments and sufferings to be made over by Christ’s experience of these same realities. What we commemorate and relive during this week called “holy” is not just Jesus’ dying and rising, but our dying and rising in Him.
Thus each of us needs to ask ourselves: “Will I bring my real self to Jesus in the Holy Week liturgies, especially today on Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday? Will I really bring all that is in need within myself of forgiveness, healing, reconciliation and redemption? Will I go to Jesus, so that He who suffered horrific pain and death on the cross for my salvation can forgive my sins, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, heal my wounds and reconcile myself again with Him and with one another?” Simple questions, but challenging because of the world we live in. So how will each of us respond?
Blessed John Paul II once noted: “The heavenly Father’s saving plan was completed in the free and total gift to us of the only begotten Son. “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18), Jesus declares, leaving no doubt that he decides to sacrifice His own life for the salvation of the world. In confirmation of so great a gift of love, Jesus our Redeemer goes on: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:13,14).
Each one of us, then, must follow the example of our Savior by freely laying down our lives during the Holy Week liturgies to allow Him to forgive us our sins, heal the wounds in us caused by our sins and the sins of others, transform us more closely into the image and likeness of God and, thereby, live the divine life we received at Baptism.
Again, this is the holiest week of the year for we Catholics and indeed for all Christendom. And yet the world goes on – regular television programs, regular work schedule, people preparing for vacations, and so forth. Despite all of this, I urge you to set aside special time this week in daily prayer to walk the walk with Jesus Christ. This week’s LECTIO DIVINA in our bulletin contains the daily Gospels of Jesus’ walk of humiliation, betrayal and suffering, leading toward Calvary. Read them, meditate on them, pray about them, live the Gospel with Christ. On the opposite page is the Holy Week schedule for our Cathedral parish. I encourage you to set aside time to attend daily Mass, reconcile yourself with God through the Sacrament of Penance, pray the Stations of the Cross, and attend the special Chrism Mass, Holy Thursday Mass, Good Friday Passion liturgy, and if you have never done so before attend the Easter Vigil Mass – the “vigil of all vigil Masses” and welcome the new members of our Catholic faith. In other words, please make Holy Week “holy” in your life and the life of your family and friends, culminating with the joy of Easter. Don’t let this be just another week of the year, or another week in your life – it is not, and it should never be viewed as such.
Folks, we owe so much to Jesus. On the cover of this bulletin is a photograph I took of a substantial outdoor crucifix located on the grounds of the Abbey of Gethsemani, near Bardstown Kentucky. At the bottom of the crucifix is stated: “I suffered this for you, what have you done for me?” It makes you think about all that Jesus has and continues to do for each of us. In turn, what have each of us done for Him? Ask yourself this question. Than after you have answered, ask “Is it enough?” Perhaps our answer lies in how we approach and devote our time and attention during Holy Week.
This one week of the year can become “holy” for each one of us if we actively and consciously take part. As a parish family, let’s support one another united in prayer. Let’s journey together this Holy Week from sin to grace, from darkness to light, from discouragement to hope, from boredom to enthusiasm as we, united with Christ, pass over from death to life — to live in a new way Christ’s Gospel of life and love. May you and your families have a blessed and holy Holy Week.