Passion Sunday March 20, 2016: Archbishop O’Brien

Today, we begin Holy Week with the celebration of what is now officially called Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. The Liturgy may seem to be a bit of a jumble as we move from shouts of joy to cries of “Crucify him!”. But, in fact, this helps us to keep in mind the whole picture of what we celebrate during Holy Week.

The triumphant entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem anticipates the great victory of the Resurrection which we celebrate at Easter. It reminds us who Jesus is – that he is King, the one who will triumph in the resurrection. However, as the Passion Narrative reminds us, there is a very painful road that must first be trod – one that involves excruciating physical pain, betrayal, and abandonment.

One of the questions we might want to look at is: what are we doing when we recall the death and resurrection of Christ during Holy Week? Certainly it is more than simply staging a pageant that recalls some long past event. When we remember the saving events of Christ’s life, it is much more self-involving than that. By our baptism, we are connected to these events. This is what has made possible who we are and who we will be – people “saved by the blood of the cross and destined for eternal life”.

Each time that we participate in the Eucharist, these events of the death and resurrection of Christ are entered into sacramentally in the Sacrifice of the Mass, as we acknowledge when we say those words, “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.”

I think that it is important for us to recall that celebrating Holy Week involves much more than a look back in time to the days of Jesus. It is a look into those events which have the power to help us and impact us now. The key to having an overall picture of what we are celebrating this week is contained in the second reading from St. Paul to the Philippians, where St. Paul tells us how: “The Son of God from all eternity became one of us, stepping down from glory to assume our human condition in the incarnation.” That Son, Jesus, obeyed the will of the Father even though this meant accepting death on the cross. The Father then raises Jesus, God made man, to new life and glory. Because of his death and resurrection, He, who has taken on our humanity, is able to bestow on us a share in his new and risen existence. For those who accept him in faith, He is Lord and Saviour.

In the introduction to this second chapter of Philippians, just before the passage that was our second reading, Paul makes the entreaty, “Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” This means, like Christ, striving to be attentive to what Father wants of me, and seeking to imitate Christ in his self-giving for others.
As one author puts it:
“As we go through … this week, let us look very carefully at Jesus our Saviour. We watch not just to admire, but also to learn, to penetrate the mind, the thinking, the attitudes and the values of Jesus, so that we, in the very different circumstances of our own life, may walk in his footsteps.”

May our celebration of Holy Week lead us to an ever more authentic following of Christ, living our own sufferings in a spirit of faith and hope, and helping others to cope with the things that make their lives problematic. A very practical way of doing this is by carrying out one or other of the spiritual or corporal works of mercy this Holy Week.