To be Catholic means entering into a personal relationship with Christ. It is a matter…
Opening the Word: During Holy Week, simply go to experience Christ’s passion anew
“Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear,” Isaiah wrote (50:4).
Take it as advice to pay attention, to listen and see. That’s the faithful’s simple task during Holy Week — to follow Jesus until the end, for the new beginning. Good Friday and Easter, death and resurrection, such is the mystery to be contemplated, what wisdom attends. It’s what’s announced on Palm Sunday — the paschal mystery of Jesus’s death and resurrection; ours, too.
Really, that’s all that’s asked of us, that we follow and watch. It seems easy. But, of course, ask Peter if it was easy; ask why he wept so bitterly (cf. Lk 22:62). Ask most of the rest of the disciples. Fallen asleep or scattered in fear, the best following safely far behind, it’s not as easy as we think. The invitation, though, is exactly the same for us as it was for them — to follow, to watch, to be faithful.
|April 10 – Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion|
But we fail in our following too, don’t we? For instance, where will you be this week? On Holy Thursday at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper in your parish, where will you be? Does your kid have a game you can’t miss? Somebody’s birthday party? Drinks with the boss? Why won’t you be near the altar? Why won’t you watch? Why won’t you wash feet and pray?
And where will you be on Good Friday for the Liturgy of the Passion? Saving PTO? Will it be too beautiful a day outside to go to church? Too busy? Not important enough? Ashamed of it? Following isn’t so easy, is it?
And it’s simpler for us; the disciples were right to be afraid of Roman soldiers. Yet still, the invitation remains year after year, the invitation to watch, to devote ourselves to this most important thing this Holy Week — to Jesus, the cross and the tomb.
But why? Because, as St. Maximus the Confessor taught, to know the cross and the tomb is to know the “reasons of things.” There is a reason this week — beginning with the reading of Luke’s account of the Passion on Palm Sunday — the Church will rehearse several times the Gospel’s central story, and that’s because to be immersed in Christ’s passion is to find salvation, our death and resurrection in his. But to encounter Christ’s passion genuinely, we must follow him, mystically in the Scripture and in the Eucharist. By following Christ faithfully in Holy Week, we struggle to follow Jesus just as the disciples did, but we learn from them, strengthened by their humble prayers; for they remember how hard it is to follow. They feel for us — knowing the reward of our faith.
And so, my only advice as you stand to hear that long reading of the Gospel is to think of yourself as in that place. Remember, you’re a disciple — just as the first disciples were — and so struggle to follow just as they struggled. Go back to your parish on Holy Thursday; there really is nothing more important. Put yourself mystically in that Upper Room. Allow Christ to wash your feet. On Good Friday, too, go back. Listen to John tell you of Jesus’ trial and death.
Listen, weep, pray for the world.
Again, there really is nothing more important. Simply go, be faithful this week. Because that’s how Easter may finally become something more for you: a resurrection.
Father Joshua J. Whitfield is pastor of St. Rita Catholic Community in Dallas and author of “The Crisis of Bad Preaching” (Ave Maria Press, $17.95) and other books.