This week, the most sacred time of the Church’s year begins with Palm Sunday and culminates in the Triduum (“three days”) of the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection. The schedule for these liturgies is elsewhere in the bulletin and in the letter mailed to your homes. We are grateful as ever to the priests who regularly help us and lead our worship of God together. And thank you for the many generous and faith-filled ways you have pursued a “Lent of Presence” in our ACC. We invite you most warmly to join us for the greatest of all our liturgies this week, to be present with Jesus and one another at this source of all our hopes. We begin by commemorating the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem six days before His Passion and Death, retold in Matthew’s powerful Passion account. In this liturgy, we are drawn into both the joy of that entrance, filled with hopes in Jesus as the Messiah, and the sorrow of the mystery of the Cross. Jesus was not who the crowds expected, a disappointment to their dreams of liberation from the Roman occupation. As Pope Benedict put it so clearly, the choice was placed before them: Barabbas, the revolutionary, who promised worldly victory by human means, even including force; and Jesus, the rabbi, who promised the Kingdom of heaven by love and sacrifice. Still today, that choice remains for each disciple.
We move through the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday. This sacred meal for Jesus and the Twelve is linked to the Passover and the sacrifice of the lamb whose blood was a protection for God’s people. As he said, Jesus comes not to abolish but to fulfill; and so this Last Supper becomes the first Eucharist. This Mass reminds us powerfully that we are called to serve one another in imitation of Christ, who came not to be served but to serve, who washed his disciples’ feet as a gesture of that humble service, and gave the Church the gift of the priesthood. During the Eucharistic revival, we are particularly in awe of the saving Presence of Jesus, who protects and liberates us from hopelessness and fear.
We experience the profound sorrow and awe of Good Friday and the death of our Lord, the only day in the Church’s year in which Mass is not celebrated because we remember what it is like to know that our great High Priest has died. This is a day of fast and abstinence, uniting us to the sorrow and emptiness Mary and the first disciples experienced. I often think that Mary’s words must have echoed in her heart as she kept vigil by her Son’s cross: “How can this be? … let it be done according to your word.” This is a mystery of saving love that we can never fully comprehend, but which we share through faith and trust like hers.
We wait with Mary and the Apostles by the tomb in the
tense anticipation of Holy Saturday. Did not Jesus promise something for the third day? Did they dare to hope in the words he said, which defied all logic: “On the third day, the Son of Man will rise”? And, we celebrate the victory of Jesus over the power of sin and death at the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday Masses. Our gratitude and awe at the Resurrection is linked to how deeply we have prepared during Lent to enter his Passion.
Pray often and in silence in these days. Slow down the usual routines that fill our lives, and spend some time remembering and thanking Jesus for His sacrifice that continues to bring us life, peace, mercy, and hope. In the Passion narrative in the Gospels, Jesus tells his disciples: “The Teacher says, ‘My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover.’”Across the ages of the Church, this remains true: Christ wishes to celebrate his passage from death to life in our lives, within us. As those who share the Lord’s Passion in faith, we too pray: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”