Today we worship God through attentively hearing the Gospel according to St. Luke read on Passion (popularly called Palm) Sunday. The drama of God acting for us in Christ, and humanity suffering in and with Jesus, is presented by the convert, St. Luke, a master story teller. The conniving, power-loving rulers of this world have their day, and deliver Jesus over to have the flesh torn off his body (scourging), and then spikes driven through his wrists and feet, until he bleeds to death or suffocates. We know the truth of Christ, and yet must witness how our Lord is tortured, and how much he bears willingly for each of us, and for all. The story is agonizing for those who love Christ—and it is liberating for the faithful. Jesus offers himself on behalf of all—not just “for many”—even for his torturers, and for the Roman and religious leaders who conspired to have him brutally murdered. For you. For us.
Holy Thursday, the Mass of the Last Supper, allows us to hear and to see acted out Christ’s own interpretation of his suffering and death. By the Eucharistic meal and by the Lord washing his disciples’ feet, we see God giving himself to us in Christ. We see what true faithfulness looks like: not ideologically loaded teaching, not digressions on social problems, but direct speech to your heart: “This is my body, for you.” Here Christ interprets for us what he achieves on the cross: he brings us into the covenant God made with the Chosen People through Moses, now deepened and broadened as every human being is invited to “come to the feast,” to “enter into the joy of the LORD.” On Good Friday no Mass is celebrated in honor of the death of Jesus. Instead, we listen to the reading of St. John’s Passion, we show our gratitude for Christ as we venerate the cross, and we receive the sign and instrument of Christ’s all inclusive, eternal covenant through holy communion.
The Easter Vigil is truly the climax of the Church year, the single most significant celebration in the Catholic Church. We begin in darkness outside, reminding us of the spiritual darkness in the human soul without the light of Christ—a human being trapped in sin and death. The Easter candle is lit, Jesus is proclaimed as “Christ our Light,” and the faithful process into the church to proclaim the Resurrection of Christ from the dead. For us. For all. Adult converts are received into the Church on this night. We renew our vows to be faithful to Christ unto death, and receive His promise for each of us to share eternally in His love and life. What more, or what better, could be offered to us in life? “Apart from You I want nothing at all; God is my hope and my joy.”
The Easter celebration continues on Sunday, then through the entire Easter season, and indeed, on every Sunday of the year. “Christ is Risen from the dead. Alleluia, Alleluia.” That means, “Praise the LORD!” “O give thanks to the LORD for He is good; for his mercy endures forever.” For you. For me. For all.
Our common reading assignment for this Holy Week will be to read slowly, in quiet at home, the Passion narrative in the Gospel of St. John, chapters 18:1-20:31, which includes a brief account of resurrection experiences. For as we hear at the Easter Vigil, “if Christ had not been raised, what good would life be?”
“May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your heart and mind in union with Christ Jesus our LORD.” Amen.