The Passion of the Christ has begun

The week that changed the world and the course of human history forever has begun. The Passion of the Christ has begun to be commemorated and relived across the globe by Christians the world over. Palm Sunday, Passion Sunday has arrived, and Holy Week has begun.

Today’s Mass has set the tone for the rest of the week – for the holiest and most important week of the entire calendar and liturgical year. Much can be pondered from the two long and meaningful Gospel readings proclaimed today – in the Gospel read at the entrance of the church, as we held high our palm branches and saw ourselves in the ass that carried Jesus triumphantly into Jerusalem, and in the Gospel read from the sanctuary, from where we were invited to pronounce –not once, but twice– the most difficult words ever: “Crucify him!”

Much can be pondered today and all week long. I will simply highlight some of the Gospel words that make me think and even tremble in reverent fear of the Lord as I begin to recollect and retreat inwardly for Holy Week:

Gospel at the Procession with Palms – Matthew 21: 1-11

 “Go… find an ass… and a colt… The master has need of them.” A simple ass: just like us.
 “Behold, your king comes to you, meek and riding on an ass…” Meek: so unlike us.
 “The crowds preceding him and those following kept crying out and saying: Hosanna to the Son of David…hosanna in the highest.” Wonder how much of that praise and worship the ass thought was directed at Him… So much like us if we are not careful, extremely careful.
 “The whole city was shaken and asked: Who is this? And the crowds replied: This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.” May we do even better and tell the whole world that He is more than a prophet or a good man: He is the Son of the Living God, the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One, the One who was to come, the Savior of the world!

The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew – 26: 14-27; 66

 “Judas Iscariot… said: What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” How much would you take or give in exchange for Jesus?
 “They paid him thirty pieces of silver…” Thirty pieces of silver is the payment given if a person’s ox gores someone else’s slave (Exodus 21:32). Jesus is treated like a beast of burden by both Judas and the chief priests, though He came so that we may no longer be enslaved!
 “The disciples did as Jesus ordered…” Do we? Always? Where can we do better so as to prepare a feast for Him with our lives?
 “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me. Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, Surely it is not I, Lord?” We should be as quick to feel distress, indeed, horror at the thought that we could ever betray Him; but we should not be so quick to assume it could never happen to us, or we risk falling prey to the sin of presumption, becoming careless in humble self-examination.
 “Take and eat; this is my body… Drink… for this is my blood…” So clear! So simple! So amazingly unexpected and life-giving!
 “This night all of you will have your faith in me shaken…” See. Beware. Be ready. Be not self-assured, self-reliant, or boastful.
 “Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.” Yes, I too, like St. Peter and other saints, would rather die than deny. But it can and does happen. Save us, Lord!
 “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.” A Holy Hour, this week and every week can work wonders – and bring great consolation to the Sacred Heart of the Risen Lord Jesus who still suffers the loss of so many of those he died to redeem.
 “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” That’s the goal of life: to always want and do the Father’s will – no matter the cost!
 “Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Very weak! Pray today! Every “today.”
 “The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him.” With a kiss you betray the Love of the world, Judas…? That’s not what a kiss is for! God forbid we ever do the same! Love the Lord with your whole being and thy neighbor as yourself, as Christ has loved us!
 “…that the writings of the prophets may be fulfilled.” God has a plan – and He might even show you part of it now. But be docile at all times, so that the entire plan may be fulfilled as it’s meant to unfold.
 “I order you to tell us under oath before the living God whether you are the Christ, the Son of God… He has blasphemed!” Some people simply cannot and will not hear and accept Truth. Still, we intercede for all, as Jesus did from the cross.
 “He deserves to die!” Our verdict, our sentence, was pronounced. Good thing Jesus took our place.
 “You too were with Jesus the Galilean… I do not know what you are talking about.” Ouch.
 “This man was with Jesus the Nazorean… I do not know the man!” No! Don’t say that!
 “Surely you too are one of them; even your speech gives you away… I do not know the man!” So sad… Peter said this as he began to swear, having denied it with an oath before. I just wish my speech would always give me away; that others could always recognize me as a disciple of Christ by my words, my actions, my love. St. Peter, pray for us, that we may not fail the test!
 “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood. They said, What is that to us? Look to it yourself.” Yes, that’s what happens when you start sleeping with the devil: he betrays you as soon as he has used and abused you! Be careful who you court and who you allow to court you.
 “Have nothing to do with that righteous man.” But Pilate, who knew that it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over, still ignored his wife’s good counsel and caved in, washing his hands as if free from all responsibility. Do you seek and follow sound advice from the wisest men and women around you – and what do you do to ensure you do not cave in under pressure?
 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Nothing could be further from the truth, but nothing could have felt as real and true for Him who became sin for our sake, as He hung upon the cross dying the most ignominious of all deaths – death on a cross!
 “Truly, this was the Son of God!” Indeed He is! – and the world awaits this Good News which we must proclaim with the same conviction of the centurion and the men whose eyes were unveiled as the sanctuary veil tore and tombs burst open with dead men walking!

“There were many women there… (Joseph) rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb and departed. But Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained sitting there, facing the tomb.” The last shall indeed be the first!  Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were the last and the first back at the tomb, and the madly in love Magdalene was privileged to be the first to see the Risen Lord as He called her by name. Be there when it matters!

I pray you enjoy a very blessed, prayerful, retreat-like Holy Week!

I invite you to read, re-read, and ponder the words of Sacred Scripture, inviting the Lord to transform your life deeply. Participate in as many as possible of the meaningful services of this, the holiest of all weeks! Check various parish bulletins for details on Penance Services; the Chrism Mass with the Archbishop and the Priests of the Archdiocese (Cathedral, Tuesday at 6:30 pm); the Easter Triduum Tenebrae prayer services; the Mass of the Lord’s Last Supper on Holy Thursday and the visit to Seven Churches for Adoration before midnight; Good Friday passion plays (such as the one beginning at Milam Park at 10:00 am, ending at the Cathedral), Via Crucis/Stations of the Cross, Pésames to Our Lady, burial services, The Seven Last Words, the Liturgy of Good Friday, and movies on the passion and death of Our Lord; Holy Saturday prayers services, including Tenebrae, Via Matris, and the feast of all feast: the Easter Vigil, at which catechumens and candidates will receive the Easter Sacraments and be welcomed as members of the Body of Christ, while we renew our baptismal promises. And, yes, celebrate some more on Easter Sunday, and again throughout the 8-day Easter Octave and the 50-day Easter Season!

Make this a prayerful, life-changing week – a Holy Week for you!

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