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.
Today the whole Church once again begins the journey from Palm Sunday and its proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah-king to the greatest events of human history, the Sacrifice of the Cross and 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 redemption of the human race was accomplished by Jesus our Lord and 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 in Him is also ours.
During this same Holy Week in history, Jesus the Lord of Glory gathered his new Church together in the upper room and there established the permanent memorial of His sacrifice, the sacrifice through which He merited for us the forgiveness of our sins and the new supernatural life of Baptism. In that upper room, suggestively designated, for the first time Jesus fed His Church with the life-giving, supernaturally nourishing gift of his body and blood, again a gift that will remain to the end of time.
Then, having established this most holy sacrament, Jesus stunned his Apostles by rising from the table and then kneeling to wash their feet, and thusly teaching them and the Church thereafter the way we must live from the Eucharist, a constant reminder to His Church that it must be and live like Himself, Who was sent to serve and to give Himself for the salvation of mankind.
After establishing this sacred memorial of His Sacrifice and teaching its implications for the Church, Jesus went out into the night to begin his Passion. On Calvary Jesus would complete His saving passion by offering Himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins, washing away the sins of the whole world in His own blood. We will continue to follow Him spiritually in this journey and watch in awe before his tomb, as the whole Christian world experiences a silence the world cannot understand because it does not believe in the terrible human loss it has suffered in his death no more than in the incomparable gain that it has been offered by that same death and the Resurrection soon to follow.
This Holy Week, then, should be for us a true spiritual journey of faith and a moment of tremendous grace if only we are faithful to the end. The Church will, as a mystical bride, follow her bridegroom faithfully to Easter, and many of her children will do the same, and they will blessed beyond their understanding. We should be among those faithful friends of the bride and bridegroom.
We are just beginning the first stage of that journey of faith today by celebrating Palm Sunday and once more professing our faith in Jesus as the Messiah-king. We greet Him with the palms that represent ourselves laid before Him, just as when He entered Jerusalem to the shouts of men and women, many of whom, unfortunately for themselves, would abandon Him and call for his death in just a few short days. We must stay with Him till the end.
We must also joyfully commemorate with Him the institution of His Holy Sacrifice and the gift of the Bread of Angels, which is our heavenly food. We must stand by His cross faithfully, as did Mary, the holy women and John the beloved, and we must savor all his words, especially “Father, forgive them, for they no know what they do.”
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, and we will know the incomparable joy of Easter that no one can take from us so long as our faith and charity remain secure.
Like the Apostles who were dejected and filled with fear those three days, we, who are perhaps often dejected today by the events of this world, will be filled with joy, celebrating the victory of Christ on Easter Sunday morn.
Holy week, thus, is a great human spiritual pilgrimage from a very high joy on palm Sunday and Holy Thursday through the depths of sorrow and anguish on Good Friday and then onward in hope 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 our effort, 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.