Holy Week and Holiness

Palm Sunday 2015

With the reading of the Passion, we have now begun the celebration of the holiest week of the year for Christians, which will culminate this coming weekend with the celebration of the Mass of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, the Sacred Liturgy of the Passion on Good Friday and the renewal of our Baptismal promises during the Masses of Easter Sunday. These three liturgical celebrations, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday commemorate the truly most important events in human history, not only in our Christian religion, but in all of human history.
Christian faith holds absolutely that by His personal self-sacrifice on the Cross on Good Friday, Jesus Christ has redeemed the entire human race, and He has given Himself so that all of mankind would have the possibility of personal salvation. What that salvation involves for us we celebrate on Good Friday, the remission of our sins, and on Easter Sunday, the resurrection of our glorified bodies by virtue of His own resurrection which we profess with certain faith and irrepressible joy. By His resurrection the power of God has been unleashed on this world, making it truly possible for all who are united by faith and grace to the risen Lord to be raised from the dead incorruptible, and share in His heavenly glory who is God’s only-begotten Son.
We continually celebrate and participate in these saving mysteries of our Savior most wonderfully every time we participate with faith in the Holy Mass which was instituted by Jesus the Lord at the last Supper. In this perpetually renewed sacrifice and holy communion, the Church offers in Him and through Him the true and perpetual worship of God. The Lord has given to His Church this divine service, perpetually renewing in an unbloody manner His own sacrificial death on Calvary, and perpetually nourishing the members of His Church with the food which brings Eternal Life, His own life giving body and blood. Jesus’ body and blood was offered once for our sins on Calvary, and His Body and Blood have been raised in glory to be the source of Eternal Life for those who receive them with living faith in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.
Living faith, then is the key to whether or not these sacred events will benefit any of us. Today’s celebration of the events of Palm Sunday reminds us of just how shallow and empty even the loudest outward professions of faith can be. How quickly the crowd’s outward, empty gestures of belief in Him on Sunday, turn into just the opposite manifestations of unbelief in Jesus and His saving mission on Friday. The crowds lining the road into Jerusalem shouted loud Hosannas and laid palms and cloaks on the path before Jesus, publicly professing their belief that He truly is the long-awaited messiah. Then, just a few days later many in these crowds would be shouting “crucify him!” and would turn to mocking him even as he anguished on the Cross, calling Him a blasphemer, a liar and a criminal.
This great betrayal is not just mere fickleness on the part of the people present then, but a shocking revelation of just how wounded mankind is when we can praise him one day, as they did on Palm Sunday, and mock Him by our sinful lives on the next day, as did the crowd on Calvary. Their betrayal reveals how desperately in need all of us are, desperately in need of precisely what He has come to offer us by His death and resurrection. He had come to die for them, for us, but whether or not His sacrifice would benefit them or us, will depend, in the end, on our having a much deeper “faith” than what their mere external shouts on palm Sunday, or our own, might shallowly suggest.
The renewal of our Baptismal promises on Easter Sunday actually reveals what is necessary for Jesus’ death and resurrection to bring us to Eternal Life. We must have a living faith in Christ and in the power of these sacred events to save us. But such living faith is much more than mere outward show, mere profession of faith on the lips. Faith in these events means following the same path of Jesus, following Him right to Calvary, to the Cross on which he died, and on which our sinful life must be put to death. His death, perpetuated in the holy sacrifice of the Mass, cannot be seen as a spectator event like Palm Sunday, or for most present at Calvary. No, His death is something we must share in, perpetually through the Mass, and through a constant effort to put to death the sins which nailed God’s Son to the Cross. If we refuse to die to self, to put to death the sins for which He gave Himself up to death, then we do not have a living faith, that is, a faith inwardly transformed by our love for Christ. If we would rise with Him, says St. Paul, then we must also die with him. If we would have the joyful blessing of Easter Sunday, Eternal Life, then we must have in our daily life the bitter fruit of Good Friday also.
It is so easy for any of us to get caught up in this world this holy week and forget about Eternity. Holy Week is truly the most powerful reminder of what our life in this world is really all about, why we are Christians, what we hope for as Christians, and how we must act as Christians if that hope is to be realized for us. We never know which Holy Week will be the final reminder and special gift from God to us. This Holy Week may we all approach the sacred liturgies as if they were the last in our lives on earth. Then, they will deepen our faith, deepen our hope and our charity, and draw us nearer this year to our final reward in Heaven. Then it will have been a true holy week and abundantly fruitful.

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Categories: Homilies

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