Something is different today. We have finally arrive at the holiest of weeks for Christians throughout the world; one we are very likely familiar with and yet something seems different. We have spent the past 40 days of Lent, as we have in past years, striving to prepare for this Holy Week, yearning to enter into the upcoming days of the Sacred Paschal Triduum with greater humility, as if on a divine air of grace given us by GOD in response to our humble concerted efforts to live intentional penitential sacrifices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Even if our best efforts in these Lenten practices lagged in some way we will not be denied the life changing graces he wills for us if we now seek them with a sincere heart.
As we enter our parish church this Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, we will be handed a strand or two of palms - as we were in years past - and we may find the pews slightly more fuller. The ever familiar church statues, images, icons and even Stations of the Cross will be hidden by purple cloths, though parishes may have chosen to begin this custom last Sunday. Yet something is different. It’s as if this year we are ever more aware of the suffering of the Body of Christ throughout the world and we can already imagine the very streets of Jerusalem Christ stumbled upon bearing his Holy Cross.
Every Holy Week seems much the same, and we might be lulled into thinking it will be this year, yet we are different this year, the world is different, even the Church seems different. When we hear the account of the Lord’s Passion today we will listen once again to a familiar story and yet we are hearing it afresh no matter if we are 16 or 66 years of age. As each Palm Sunday does, Mass will begin with a flurry of Hosannas but they will soon give way to the most striking words in all the Holy Scriptures: “Crucify him! Crucify him!” It seems as if this is being lived out this year in a much more profound way: “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
As we begin this holiest of weeks, we will be invited to live it differently than in past years: more solemnly, more intentionally, more intensely. The Gospel verses we hear today will be impressed upon our minds and hearts, and remain with us throughout the coming days: “This is my body, which will be given up for you; do this in memory of me.” “Woman, I do not know him.” “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
No, we cannot live these holiest days the same as last year. We must be changed, we must seek to be more holy, we must become vulnerable to what Christ wants to do in us. We must ultimately say with Him, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” It is then that we begin to experience what these impending days recall and celebrate, “by dying he destroyed our death, and by rising he has restored our life.” Then the difference will begin to take hold of us, change us, and form us into true disciples awaiting the fulfillment of the Sacred Paschal Triduum’s Easter proclamation: “He is Risen.” So much do we, does the world, need to hear this Good News.
Here at Saint John’s Seminary, we too will ‘hit pause’ for much that is ordinary and seek to enter into the extraordinary days of the Sacred Paschal Triduum. Our classes and all other activities will be suspended (likely not a pleasure you can enjoy) so to ensure there is quiet time to reflect more deeply upon this week’s great events. We invite you, if at possible, to join us for one, two or all of our beautiful celebrations beginning with Holy Thursday’s The Lord’s Supper. (Please see our website for times.) Together, we will sit and stand reverently, recite and sing solemnly, and rest and ponder deeply why what Christ accomplished 2,000 years ago is a living reality today, and remains the only true response to all that is happening within us, within the Church, and within the world.
After all, every soul yearns to hear these most precious words, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
By: Fr. Edward Riley, Dean of Men