This Sunday we ﬁnd ourselves at a crossroads.
As we approach the great mystery of Christ’s Death and Resurrection, we are coming to the end of our Lenten journey. It is a time to both look back and reﬂect, and to look forward and prepare.
Holy Week is a unique time in the Church calendar where we are suddenly walking minute by minute with Jesus as he goes through his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Starting today with Palm Sunday, we enter into Jesus’s life in “real time.” The way God works in time during this week can really help us to enter into friendship with Jesus as we walk with him in his suﬀerings.
In order to stay focused during this week, it may help to ask ourselves, “How can I love God love more during this time?” There are so many Scriptures, so many beautiful traditions, and such deep mysteries surrounding us this week—all gifts that will help us draw closer to the Lord.
First Reading Reflection
This reading comes from one of the four Servant Songs in Isaiah (42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13–53:12). The Suﬀering Servant who speaks these words not only represents the ideal Israel, but also preﬁgures the Suﬀering Messiah to come. First, the Servant explains how the Lord has given him “the tongue of those who are taught,” that is, he is able to speak words of spiritual encouragement to those who are worn out. He receives this word because he listens to the Lord every morning. The servant listens with an open heart and obeys the Lord’s word. In his obedience, he becomes conﬁdent to face the suﬀering that is before him: those who beat him, who pluck his beard, who spit upon him. By relying on the Lord’s help, he is able to face such persecution with conﬁdence, with a “face like ﬂint.”
Indeed, Jesus fulﬁlls these prophecies through his Passion, which begins today. He suﬀered all of these torments and more. Although he underwent the most humiliating of tortures, he can in fact say as the Suﬀering Servant, “I know that I shall not be put to shame” because Holy Week will not ultimately conclude with his humiliation and death. Jesus will triumph over death, and what looks like a defeat on Good Friday will turn to victory on the third day.
Second Reading Reflection
This famous passage from St. Paul describes the journey of the Son from the heights of divine grandeur to the lowliness of humanity through the suﬀering of the Cross and back to glory with the Father. Paul essentially deﬁnes Jesus’s story as “V-shaped”: he begins in glory, descends to humiliation and then ascends back to glory. This is a great mystery of our Faith. Jesus “emptied himself” and became fully human while remaining fully God, becoming truly one of us in order that he might save us. Moreover, he voluntarily underwent death on our behalf, a terrifying, painful death on the Cross. Because he willingly embraced this downward trajectory of pain, suﬀering, and humiliation, God exalted him from the lowest place to the highest place, granting him the highest honor in all the universe. Ultimately, Jesus’s act of self-emptying leads to his gloriﬁcation over all.
In imitation of Christ, who serves as the greatest example for our own behavior, we too are called to humble ourselves in service and love for others. If we imitate Christ in this, we will begin to look more and more like him, and we know that in the end, God will honor us as images of his Son. As Jesus says, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).
On Palm Sunday, we stand for one of the longest Gospel readings of the entire liturgical year. Here we read through two whole chapters of the Gospel of Mark that take us from early in Holy Week all the way to Jesus’s burial. There is really too much to take in here as we contemplate the mystery and meaning of the Redemption. The liturgical practice of hearing this reading read aloud by multiple lectors and participating by giving voice to some of the lines ourselves leads us into the mystery of Christ’s Passion. It is meant to be a powerful and transformative experience that helps us to walk with Jesus in his suffering. Like the Stations of the Cross, in this Gospel we are meant to sit at the Last Supper with the Apostles, weep with Christ in Gethsemane, watch him being tortured, and to stand at the foot of the Cross with Mary. Here our job is not merely to study or think, but to contemplate and stand in awe before the powerful love of our Savior. This long Gospel reading, through which we must stand, also introduces us into the spiritual discipline of Holy Week. Keeping our hearts and minds focused on the long and painful story in the midst of physical discomfort can help us share, even if just in a small way, in the suffering of Jesus.
Watch the short Opening the Word video on FORMED.org.
What are the ways that the Lord has been acting in your life during this Lent? What graces do you think he still has in store for you as you live this Holy Week? How can you enter this week with gratitude to Christ on the Cross whether or not you succeeded in your resolutions?
Are there any barriers in your life that might distract you from Jesus? Are there any ways that you think the Lord is calling you to live your life diﬀerently during this time?
DIGGING DEEPER: The Easter Triduum
The summit of the Liturgical Year is the Easter Triduum. It is one, single liturgy that takes place over the course of three days—the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday, with its high point in the Easter Vigil. This includes the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion, and the Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord. It is so central to our liturgical life that the Catechism says that “gradually, on either side of this source, the year is transﬁgured by the liturgy” (CCC: 1168).
The Church encourages us to participate in this liturgy in its entirety. Going to all three parts helps us to enter in to the mystery and stay close to Jesus in a profound way. Consider going as a group and inviting others to join you.
Good Friday Fast
Good Friday is an obligatory day of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. Except in the case of serious health reasons, Catholics age 18 until age 59 must fast. Catholics age 14 and older must abstain from meat.