Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Today we stand at the gates of Jerusalem, or if you prefer, at the entrance of our Holy Week. For us as Catholics, it really is one and the same because each and every year we get to relive the events that welcomed Jesus to the City of David as well as the quick sequence of events that lead to his death on a cross: first welcomed as a king and the son of David, and then second to be lifted up onto the cross as a prelude to his rising as Christ the King of the Universe. What happened to Jesus in the course of a single week happened a little over two thousand years ago. But when we come to understand that our own individual sins contributed to the weight of the cross since Jesus died for all people of all times, then we realize that in a very real way, we are reliving events in which we had a significant part.
Each and every year the passion of our Lord is read twice during Holy Week. On Passion Sunday we hear from one of the synoptic gospels - this year from Saint Mark. On Good Friday we always hear the passion according to Saint John. Yet regardless of which of the four gospel accounts we hear, we are reminded of the horror that Jesus willingly accepted so that we might have entrance one day into the kingdom of heaven. But while the events that took place two thousand years ago are familiar to us, we must never allow them to become simply a tale of times past. Because our own sin contributed to the passion of Our Lord, our voices are in fact one with the voices that called out for Jesus to be crucified.
The first gospel of Passion Sunday recounts the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem amidst the cry of Hosanna to the son of David. It’s certainly a far different cry from the one just five days later that calls for Jesus’ death. The stark contrast of human voices on those two days give testimony to the fickleness of human nature which if we’re honest, is our own nature. We want to do good, but sometimes are quickly and easily seduced to sin which calls for Christ to be condemned - condemned by our lack of prayerfulness, our lack of kindness, our lack of compassion, our lack of generosity, our lack of hospitality - all the sins that plague and tempt each and every human man, woman and child. And what are a lack of prayerfulness, kindness, compassion, generosity, and hospitality? They are simply lacks of love, and for good or for bad, none of us is capable of loving perfectly or at every moment of our lives … if only!
A couple of weekends ago, the gospel retold of Jesus chasing the money changers from the temple. That passage ended with the evangelist writing that no one had to tell Jesus about human nature. He himself understood it well. The fact that he did and continues to understand human nature well is both a blessing and a curse for disciples. It is a curse because we know that Jesus is completely aware of our sinfulness. He is well aware of how our lack of love throughout our lives contributed to the sufferings that he endured. The blessing on the other hand is that despite Jesus’ awareness of our individual wickedness, he nonetheless, as Son of God, loves us perfectly and forgives our sin.
Because we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are in fact his disciples. That is why our observance of Holy Week, which we begin today, becomes a week that calls us to serious reflection and meditation. We should meditate on the sufferings that he endured for our sake. We should meditate on how we have contributed, through our individual weaknesses, to his passion and death. We should meditate on how we might, through conscious effort, become more loving of God and others. We should meditate on the tomb in which we helped to place the Lord. We are culpable and bear responsibility. Meditating on the events of the week will, please God, help us to cry “crucify him” less, and “hosanna to the son of David” more! Hopefully, we all have a holy week, joined together in prayer!