Today we begin what I think is the best week in the whole liturgical year. Centuries ago it was called the “Great Week”. Nowadays we call it “Holy Week” and we begin with Palm Sunday. This year we stop to think again about what Holy Week means to us as individual people as a community and we also stop and think about Pope Francis apostolic letter The Joy of the Gospel and how it impacts the way we celebrate Palm Sunday and Holy Week and how we celebrate our liturgy and our lives in general. In many ways the two main themes of today are happiness and sorrow, and these themes also come into play on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
On ash Wednesday we placed the ashes on our foreheads as a sign of our humility as we began our Lenten Journey and now six weeks later on Palm Sunday we remember Jesus entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey as the people raised their voices in joyful acclamation as they sang hosanna to the Son of David, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. The Passion narrative of Matthew emphasizes the great humility of Jesus, the King.
It’s the only Gospel to tell us in detail of what happened in Jerusalem at the hour Jesus gave up His Spirit — the sanctuary veil torn in two, the earth quaking, rocks split, dead saints rising from their graves and entering Jerusalem. It’s the fulfillment of all the prophecies of thousands of years before. It also tells us more fully of the betrayal by Judas, the denial of Peter, the hearings before Caiaphas and Pilate — the awful scourging by the Roman soldiers, the thorny crown jammed upon His weary head, the whip cutting slashes into His flesh, the blood running down His shoulders and back, the cursing by the crowd, the nails tearing through His hands, the thud of the cross into the ground. As He hangs on the Cross, He cries, “I thirst!” How that cry echoes down the centuries as a reminder of His search for our love. But what does Palm Sunday really mean to you and me? What does it mean to us as Christians in the year 2014, a big question indeed with no small answers.
Lent Palm, Sunday and Holy week taken as a whole give us the opportunity to look hard at ourselves and see exactly where we are going and perhaps were we should be going. We have always to remember that Jesus came to take away our sins and to point us in the right direction that is towards our father in heaven and all that is good. We need to remember that Christ came to serve and give his life as a ransom for many as a result of this he points us in the right direction.
Christ took our sinful ways on himself because of his love for us It is important that we who say we are Christians accept the truth about ourselves that truth may not always be good and then in our acceptance of the truth we will be able to look at the Cross and recognise the love of God our Father in the man on the cross.
Let us remember that Pope Francis tells us that in his letter that The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew… The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.
Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”. How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost!… God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. Christ, who told us to forgive one another “seventy times seven” (Mt 18,2) has given us his example… Time and time again he bears us on his shoulders (Lk 15,5). No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew. This week and indeed throughout the whole of our Lenten Journey that will soon finish we have been given the opportunity to renew ourselves in heart, mind, body and soul and see where we should be going.May the passion story that we hear on Palm Sunday and again on Good Friday inspire all of us to try to imitate in some small way the all loving all forgiving Jesus who went through betrayal to death and finally to resurrection for us so that we will have life and have it to the full.
Over the next few days may we prepare with greater intensity for the Easter Triduum Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday and then we will really be able to enjoy the Easter feast which we have been preparing for since Ash Wednesday.