Walk by faith through Holy Week

In the days ahead we enter into the commemoration and celebration of the Lord’s life-giving death and resurrection. It is Holy Week and on this Palm Sunday weekend we fix our gaze toward Jerusalem with the proclamation of the Passion Narrative from the Gospel of Luke. From the Cross in Luke’s Gospel Jesus forgives those who crucified him, welcomed the repentant thief into paradise, and commended his dying spirit to God his Father in loving submission. The passion of the Lord is an amazing love story. For most of the faithful in the Catholic Church Palm Sunday will culminate with Mass on Easter with the renewal of the promises of Baptism in the light of the Lord’s resurrection.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

Between Palm Sunday and Easter, we walk by faith through the Sacred Triduum, comprised of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, the Commemoration of the Passion on Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday evening celebrating the unabridged Holy Week version of the saving mission of our Lord Jesus Christ. These are royal liturgies that re-present the events of nearly two thousand years ago with the power of the Holy Spirit to transform our lives and conform them to the beloved Son of God in humility, obedience and submission of will. This is the grace and beauty of Holy Week that await us.

Holy Thursday and Good Friday are the fulfillment of the Jewish Passover  when the Suffering Servant poured out his life for the sheep. During the Commemoration of the Passion on Good Friday the prophet Isaiah presents the image of the Suffering Servant as the pattern for the crucifixion. “God desired to afflict him with sufferings, and he offered his life as a sacrifice for sin. For this he will see his descendants in a long line, and the plan of God will prosper in his hands.” (Isaiah 53:10-11) 

Bishop Robert Barron in his recent publication “Eucharist” deftly makes evident the indispensable relationship between sacrifice and genuine community and communion. The latter is not possible without the former. Bishop Baron applies the story of Babette’s Feast to shed light on the necessity of Christ’s death on the cross for the life of the world, and for his  body, the church. The Eucharist flows from the body broken and blood poured out in sacrifice. The Scriptures reflect profoundly on this supreme act of love. “Greater love has no man than this, to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Likewise, at the Last Supper in John’s Gospel the following passage introduces the washing of the apostles’ feet. “When Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (13:1)

St. Paul who was not present at the Last Supper, but experienced the Lord’s undying love as we do, post-resurrection, animates our faith in his letter to the Romans. “If God is for us, who can be against us? God did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, will he not give us all things with him?” (8:31-32) “Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (39) Christ’s obedience and humiliation flowed from an interior disposition and a perfect will to prefer our good to his own, and our life to his own.

Genuine freedom requires sacrifice, and there is no better place to begin and end than “having the same mind that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God, a thing to be grasped.” (Phil 2:5-6) The disciple’s obedience and inner disposition will rest upon the conviction that “unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” (John 12:24) At least as often as not, selflessness, abnegation, and the desire of the good of another are the standards for our lives.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his Cross and follow me.” (Mt 16:24) As we walk by faith through Holy Week to faithfully follow the Good Shepherd to the joy of Easter, may the following prayer of St. Ignatius reveal our inner disposition. “Take, Lord, receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, my whole will, all that I have and all that I possess. You gave it all to me, Lord; I give it all back to you. Do with it as you will, according to your good pleasure. Give me your love and your grace; for with this I have all that I need.”