Archive for the ‘Holy Week’ Category

Good Friday

May 25, 2011

“He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins . . . by His stripes we were healed.”  It was to save us from our sins that Jesus suffered and died.  The Catechism tells us that sin is an offense against God.  God is all-holy; He is all-pure.  We were created in His image and likeness: we were created to reflect God’s love and His holiness.  God created us to love Him and to serve Him and to be united with Him forever.  Our First Parents lost God’s friendship by turning away from God and by disobeying His will.  As a result of the sin of Adam and Eve we have all inherited a fallen human nature.  Because of sin, the Gates of Heaven were closed: sin frustrated our destined union with God.

If Jesus had not become a man and suffered and died to save us from our fallen state, we would be without hope.  But God is love; He did not abandon us, but sent His own Son to pay the price for our sin.  The price that Jesus paid on the Cross was not just for the sin of Adam and Eve: it was for all sin.  He died for you and for me personally: He died to save us from our sins.  Jesus had each one of us in mind while He hung upon the Cross.  On this day Our Lord died to save you and to save me from our sins.  Jesus’ death and Resurrection opened the Gates the Heaven for us that we might be united with Him forever in Heaven as we were created to be.

Jesus Christ poured out His blood and died that we might have life: through His death we have access to life in abundance: because Jesus died for us, we are able to do more than merely survive in this world: through Jesus Christ we have access to the Father.  Through our Baptism into Christ’s death we have become sons and daughters of God.  Because Christ died for us, we are able to have that friendship with God: because of His death it is possible for us to attain the union with God for which we were created.  But we have to respond to what Jesus did for us.  We have to accept that abundant life that He offers to us.  Jesus said that if we would be His disciples, we have to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him.  We have to imitate Our Crucified Lord.  The Cross is the sign of our salvation.  On the Cross our Lord laid down His life for us: and we are also called to lay down our lives.

What does it mean to lay down our lives?  It means rejecting sin.  It means loving God more than I love myself.  Sin offends God and Jesus died to make reparation for our sins, but that does not give us license to go on sinning.  Jesus died out of love for us and calls us to respond to His love: He calls us to turn away from sin and love as we were created to love.  We reject sin not only to avoid the negative consequences of sin or out of fear of Hell; we reject sin out of love for Him Who first loved us and died for us.  If we truly love God, we want to avoid offending Him.  Laying down our lives means putting our fallen, selfish human nature to death and putting God first in our hearts and putting others ahead of ourselves.  Jesus said that if we love Him, we will follow His commandments and His command to us is to love.  We are to love as He loves us.

Today’s liturgy is meant to help us to enter into the Sacrifice that Our Lord made of Himself on the Cross.  Good Friday is the only day of the entire year that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not offered.  This absence of the offering of the Mass recalls to our minds the day that the Lord died and was buried.  May this solemn liturgy inspire our hearts with gratitude for all that Our Lord did this day to save us.  May our veneration of the Lord’s Cross inspire our hearts with greater love for Our Lord and strengthen our resolve to reject sin and follow Him ever more faithfully.

Palm Sunday

May 25, 2011

Palm Sunday is the beginning of the holiest week of the entire year. This week we walk with Our Lord as He underwent His Passion: these days of Holy Week connect us to those historical events in Our Lord’s life by which our redemption was achieved. Holy Week is not just a time to remember and meditate upon all that Our Lord suffered for Our salvation: it is a time for us to enter into it and really walk with Jesus as He suffered, as He journeyed to Calvary, as He was laid in the Tomb and Rose victoriously on Easter Sunday.

There are two extremes that we experience in this first liturgy of Holy Week: joy and sorrow. Today we began with the account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The palm branches were blessed and they will be distributed at the end of Mass. These blessed palm branches are to remind us of Our Lord’s victory. The palm branch is shaped like a “v” and it is a symbol of victory. In Catholic art the martyrs are often depicted with palm branches to signify their victory over sin and death by laying down their lives rather than reject their Faith. The palm branches that we will receive today are to remind us that Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death.

Our Lord entered Jerusalem in a triumphant procession to shouts of “Hosanna in the highest.” This phrase was the acknowledgement that Jesus was, in fact, the long-awaited Messiah: the One Who came to set us free. We sing the same refrain at every Mass just before Our Lord descends upon our altar at the Consecration: when the bread and wine are transformed into His very Body and Blood. The Church puts these words on our lips at every Mass to remind us that at the Consecration we truly welcome Our Lord and Our King into our midst.

We also heard the reading of the Passion in today’s Mass; and this Gospel reminds us that the triumphant entry into Jerusalem was only a precursor to Our Lord’s Passion. Just a few days after the crowd welcomed Jesus as their King, they rejected Him and called for His execution. The Church puts these words onto our lips to remind us that it was for our sins that Jesus died. Our Lord did not die for humanity in general. He died for each and every one of you in particular, and for me. He had you, personally, in mind when He laid down His life on the Cross. He died to save you from your sins. It was not the nails but His love for you that held Him to the Cross.

We have to remember that Our Lord’s Sacrifice of Himself upon the Cross is not merely an historical event. Through the Mass, Calvary is made present to us. The Mass is the un-bloody re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Calvary. At every Mass, on every altar, the same Sacrifice is made to the Father. Let us be clear: Jesus does not die again: He died once and for all on the Cross. The Mass makes that once-and-for-all offering that Jesus made of Himself to the Father present to us. At every Mass, we stand at the foot of Calvary. The Eucharist is the same offering that Jesus made on the Cross: it is the total offering of the Son to the Father. It is the same one that makes the offering at Mass: Jesus acts through the priest to offer Himself. And the Sacrifice has the same effect: through our reception of Holy Communion the victory over sin and death that Our Lord won on the Cross for us is applied to our souls.

In a similar way, all of the liturgies of Holy Week are not just commemoration of historical events. Holy Week is not just a way for us to remember Our Lord’s suffering and death: it is a way for us to enter into the very events that destroyed sin and death and opened for us the Gates of Heaven. Let us enter into the sacred mysteries that we come in contact with during this Holy Week. The more we enter into them, the more fruit they will bear in our hearts and the more joy-filled we will be when we celebrate Our Lord’s victory over sin and death at Easter.

Lord, help us to truly walk with You during this Holy Week. Give us the grace to grow in our appreciation of all that You did for us and all that You continue to do for us. Lord Jesus, You died to set us free: help us to turn away from sin and live in the true freedom of the sons and daughters of God. Draw us, Lord, ever closer to Yourself. Amen.

Maundy Thursday

April 5, 2010

Holy Week is a very special time that the Church gives to us; it is a special week set apart for us that we might spend time with Our Lord, entering into the sorrowful mysteries of His Passion, which won for us our redemption.  Each day of Holy Week brings before our eyes a different phase of the Lord’s Passion in detail.  On Holy Thursday every year, we commemorate in a special way Our Lord’s Last Supper with His Apostles and for that reason, this Mass is known as the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

Jesus Christ did three very significant things at the Last Supper; and each one of those things, in its own way, reveals to us His great love for us.  The first thing that many of us probably think about when we think about the Last Supper is the Eucharist, for at the Last Supper Jesus instituted the Eucharist.  Jesus gave the Apostles, and us through them, the most extraordinary gift imaginable.  At the Last Supper, Jesus gave us the greatest gift that was ever given.  Jesus, Who IS Almighty God, gave us the gift of Himself.  He gave not just a symbol, not just a representation, not just a reminder, but Himself: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.  Jesus promised to remain with us always and He fulfills that promise through being really, truly, wholly, and substantially Present in the Most Holy Eucharist.

Jesus taught us that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for the one you love; not only did He lay His life down for us, He goes even further and gives us Himself as food so as to be united to us.  Love desires union.  Jesus loves each one of us so much that He wants to be united to us.  He gives Himself to you in Holy Communion in order to unite Himself to you.  He thirsts for you; and He thirsts that you would thirst for Him.  He desires that you desire Him.  The Eucharist is the greatest gift that can be imagined: it is the total self-gift of God.

The second thing that Jesus did at the Last Supper, which we commemorate at this Mass, was institute the priesthood.  In the Upper Room, at the Last Supper, Jesus ordained His Apostles as the first priests of the New Covenant: He instituted the ministerial priesthood as the channel through which He was going to give Himself in the Eucharist to the world.  He gave His Apostles the sacred power to make His Body and Blood present; and that sacred power was not given to the Apostles for themselves, it was given to them so that they could give the Lord’s Body and Blood to others.

After Jesus ordained the Apostles, He gave them an example of what priesthood was about: service.  The third thing that Jesus did in the Upper Room was to give an example of how we are to love.  At that first Holy Thursday, Jesus, Who is Almighty God, knelt down before the Apostles and washed their feet.  He, Who created the universe and everything in it, humbly performed a service that was ordinarily reserved for slaves.  Then He commanded the Apostles to love one another as He has loved them.

This commandment to love one another in loving service is the New Law which Jesus not only commanded, but also taught by His own example.  In order to fulfill this new law we need to die to ourselves.  Our weak, fallen human nature is inclined towards sin.  Because of our fallen nature, we have a tendency to be proud and self-reliant and seek our own selfish interests and put ourselves ahead of others.  Jesus establishes a new order: which is, in reality, a return to the order which God established in the beginning: the order of love.  Jesus calls us to love others as He loves them, but in order to do that we have to put our pride to death and serve others in true love and humility.  True love puts others ahead of self; true love seeks the good of the other; true love is willing to serve the other; true love sacrifices itself for the beloved: just as Jesus did for us.  We were made for this kind of love.  Sin is really a failure to love as we were created to.

These three things that Our Lord did at the Last Supper, reveal the great love that God has for us and they also demonstrate the love that we are to have for others.  During the foot washing ceremony, I encourage you to meditate upon the amazing humility and the immense love that our God has for us.  Let us pray that we may imitate Our Lord in loving service of others.  Lord Jesus Christ, help us to live the love that you call us to.  Help us to love you above all things and help us to love others as You love them.  Amen.

Palm Sunday

March 29, 2010

This is the first day of Holy Week.  The entire liturgical year is meant to help us to walk with Our Lord in all the major events in His life.  Throughout Lent we have been meditating upon Our Lord’s passion.  This week, we concentrate in a particular way on each one of the last days of the Lord’s life and upon His death.  Holy Week is a time for all of us to really focus upon all that Our Lord suffered in order to save us.

Today we begin Holy Week and many of the Liturgies of Holy Week look a bit different from what we are used to.  Today, there was an extra Gospel reading at the beginning of Mass, for example.  The Gospel at the beginning of the Mass reminded us of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, which Jesus made just a short time before He was put to death.  The crowd on that occasion was crying out and saluting Jesus as a King, as the Messiah who had been promised from the beginning of the world: “Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord!”  We distribute palms on this day to remind us of how the crowds had palm branches and laid them before Jesus as He entered the city of Jerusalem.

The Gospel during the Mass reminds us of how quickly the crowds turned on Our Lord.  On one day they cried out in joy and exultation at Jesus’ arrival and yet within a very short time, the same crowds were stirred up against Our Lord.  Just a few days after the crowd had shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David” they again cried out, but this time they to shouted something different: “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”

We take palm branches today, in order to remind ourselves that we, too, are quick to rejoice at the arrival of our King; we take palm branches today to remind ourselves that we who rejoice at the coming of Our Lord are the same ones who betray Our Lord whenever we sin.  Throughout the year, the palm branches that we take home will remind us of Our Lord’s victory over sin and death.

Palm branches are often used in Church art as a symbol for martyrs.  The palm branch is shaped like a “v” indicating victory, and martyrs have done just that: they achieved victory over sin and death by shedding their blood rather than turn away from God in sin.  The palm branches that we take home today, are to remind us that Jesus died for us and by dying, He won for us the ultimate victory.  Our palm branches also remind us of the fact that we are called to take up our cross daily and follow after Him.  We, too, are to be victorious over sin by rooting it out of our lives.

The whole purpose of Lent is to root sin out of our hearts and out of our lives: that is the reason for the tradition of giving things up for Lent.  Hopefully, Lent has helped all of us to grow in our self-discipline.  Hopefully, our Lenten sacrifices have helped us to make progress in overcoming sin.  If we have let our Lenten practices slip a bit, this week is the time to redouble our efforts.  Let us do our best to enter into this Holy Week.  Like everything else in the spiritual life: the more we put into it, the more we will get out of it.

Let us use this Holy Week in a particular way to meditate everyday this week on the Passion of Our Lord.  Realize that what He suffered, He suffered for each one of you and for me.  Our Lord did not suffer and die for humanity in general.  He had each one of us in His mind as He underwent His Passion.  It was His love for you and for me that motivated Him to willingly undergo His Passion.  The thought that Jesus Christ willingly suffered so much for each one of us should inspire within us a great hatred for our sins, but also a great trust and confidence in His mercy.  Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us sinners.  Amen.