Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, April 9, 2017
By Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois
'Therefore, with all faith and devotion, let us commemorate the Lord’s entry into the city of our salvation, following in his footsteps, so that, being made by his grace partakers of the Cross, we may have a share also in his Resurrection and in his life.'These words come from the opening prayer of the Liturgy of Palm Sunday, which is the solemn entrance into Holy Week. Throughout Lent, the faithful have been preparing for the great mystery of Easter. Today they stand at its doorstep, ready to enter the most sacred moment of Jesus’ life. The Church wants its people to do more than “celebrate” these sacred days. Rather, the faithful “follow” in his footsteps, “partake” of the Cross, and “share” in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, as the prayer above states.
Holy Week, which begins with Palm Sunday and includes Holy Thursday and Good Friday, concluding with Easter Sunday, is more than just a study of the life of Jesus from afar. It is not George Washington or Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, days in which Americans celebrate the life of either great president. Americans do not enter the life of Washington or Lincoln on those days. Christian disciples, on the other hand, follow, partake, and share in the final steps of the life of Jesus Christ.
On Palm Sunday, the faithful stand with him as he enters Jerusalem. As he goes into that sacred city to celebrate the Passover, on Holy Thursday the disciples and Jesus gather in the upper room for the Passover; the feast becomes the first Mass. The faithful are sitting at that table with the apostles, eating and drinking the bread and wine that is Jesus’ body and blood. On Good Friday, today’s disciples are standing at the foot of his cross, bringing their own sin, suffering, and death. And, finally, the faithful rise with him on Easter Sunday. Hope has conquered all evil and the human person is redeemed through the blood of Jesus. It is an incredible journey in just a few days! But it is the journey from death to life, from despair to hope. It is the most important journey the faithful will ever take.
Obviously, the faithful today are not attending the events listed above in a physical way. They do so sacramentally and in prayer. Each and every celebration of the Mass makes Calvary present for those participating. During the Penitential Rite in the beginning of Mass, one’s sins, suffering, and baggage are brought to the cross of Jesus Christ. In receiving Holy Communion, each person is at the Mass of Holy Thursday, the foot of the Cross on Good Friday, and the empty tomb of Easter. Christ is present at each Mass, in the person of the priest celebrating and in the assembly, in the opening of the word, and under the appearance of bread and wine. Each and every celebration of the Mass is the faithful Christian’s encounter with Christ, who suffered, died, and rose. This is how the faithful follow, partake, and share in the final moments of Jesus. In the Eucharist, the faithful are one with Jesus.
As you stand at Palm Sunday and contemplate the week ahead, remember that it is your week. You have prepared for this week through works of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving throughout Lent. Bring to the cross your own sin, suffering, and death. What do you want to bring to the cross? In what area of your life do you need Christ’s healing touch?