Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, … he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. … so at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, … and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Dear brothers and sisters, today we once again begin the journey from Palm Sunday, and the proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah-king, to the greatest event of human history, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. This week is rightly called by Christians Holy Week, for during one week two thousand years ago the salvation of the human race was accomplished by our holy Savior, the God-man, the One who emptied himself of His heavenly glory to become one of us, who died for us, and who rose again for us on Easter Sunday in a new and glorified humanity that is ours.
During this same Holy Week of history, Jesus the Lord of glory gathered his new Church in the upper room and there established the memorial of His sacrifice, through which He merited the forgiveness of our sins and the new life of Baptism, and there for the first time He fed His Church with the gift of his body and blood, which nourishes that new life to the end of time. Then having established this most holy sacrament, he rose from the table and showed the Church the way she must live from the Eucharist, as he, the Lord of History, the Son of God, washed the feet of his disciples, as a constant reminder to them that the Church like Himself has been sent to serve and to give herself for the salvation of mankind.
On the next day, Jesus would offer the perfect sacrifice commemorated in the Eucharist he had established. On Friday of Holy Week, He would undergo his terrible passion, all for us, and offer his bloody sacrificial death for us, to redeem all of us and the whole fallen world. Then he would be buried and the world would know a silence that it had never known till then, right up to the culmination of this week when in the twilight of a new dawn for the human race, he would rise from the dead and offer a whole new life to the mankind he had redeemed by His passion.
This week is for us a true journey of faith, and it is an offer of tremendous grace for those who choose to spend this week in communion with the Lord and His Church. We have begun the first stage of that journey of faith today by celebrating Palm Sunday where we profess our faith in Jesus as the Messiah-king, greeting Him with the palms that were laid before Him as He entered Jerusalem to the shouts of men and women, many of whom would abandon Him and call for his death in just a few short days.
On Holy Thursday, we Catholics will commemorate the night on which Jesus gave us the memorial of his sacrifice to be offered for our sins and the sins of the whole world till the end of time. Then we will recall His institution of the Most Holy Sacrament of His Body and blood, the new Manna that feeds us with eternal life, with His life, till the end of ours, the Holy Eucharist.
On Good Friday, the Church will gather to commemorate that event which simultaneously involves the most horrific crime in human history and at the same time the most sublime act of love in human history. We know that by our sins we caused his passion and death, even if the execution was carried out by the representative leaders of the gentile and the Jews. But we also know that he forgave us, and we will hear those consoling words from Jesus from the Cross, “Father, forgive them, for they no know what they do.” His death becomes for all of us the possibility of a new and unending life, for the crime is transformed by His love into a sacrifice for the sins of all, and there is no greater love than this.
Then, finally, on Easter Sunday, our sorrow and the Church’s vigil at the tomb of Jesus will be broken by the glorious event of Jesus’ resurrection, the joy of Easter that no one can take from us so long as our faith and charity remain secure. This is the greatest news ever proclaimed for mankind. Jesus, who died for our sins, is now risen from the dead. So now life in this world is not ended by death in this world! Death is not the final world; Life is, the Life that arose from that tomb on Easter Sunday and is given to us at our Baptism.
Like the Apostles who were dejected and filled with fear those three days, we, who are often dejected by the events of this world, are filled with joy whenever we recall the victory of Christ on Easter Sunday morn. Holy week is like a journey from one very high joy on palm Sunday and Holy Thursday through the depths of sorrow and anguish on Good Friday and then to the explosion of a much, much greater and more lasting joy on Easter Sunday, a joy that no one can take from us, so long as our faith, hope and charity are strong and secure. It’s a journey truly worth making, and pray God that each of us will have the wisdom and faith to make it once again this Holy Week. May Jesus Christ be praised, now and forever, Amen.