Our 40 day Lenten journey has ended and today we are starting Holy Week with Palm Sunday, called such because of the palms and other branches waived by a big crowd of His followers as He entered the holy city with acclamations of “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” It is also called Passion Sunday because we read and listen to the whole Gospel account of the Passion and death of our Lord.
Holy Week, especially the Triduum, the three days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil are the high points of the great mystery of our redemption.
Holy Week presents to us opportunities to recall and meditate on the events of those three days.
In today's Gospel, we observe something that is very clear and glaring: It is that the very same crowd that waived palm branches and shouted “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday were the very same people that cried out a few days later “Crucify him, crucify him!” and even worse, chose a thief and criminal Barabbas, over Him, over Him who cured their sick, raised some of their dead, gave sight to the blind, made the lame walk, and fed them not only with bread but also revealed to them the path to God’s kingdom.
We also see that even his closest disciples, who were handpicked to be “fishers of men” - privileged to be most intimate with Him, dining with Him, and some chosen to have a glimpse of the glory of His transfiguration on the mountain, privileged to receive their first Holy Communion from His own hands at the first Mass in the Upper Room and their feet washed by their Master who acted like s Servant, also ran away and deserted Him when a mob arrested and took Him away “like a lamb led to the slaughter.”
One of the 12, Judas, betrayed Him and sold Him for the price of a slave.
Even Peter, the only one who recognized and professed Him as the Son of God, and the first among the chosen 12, vehemently denied knowing Him 3 times when he was identified by a mere servant girl as one of His followers while His Master was being put on trial.
And while He was carrying the cross in pain and then brutally nailed to it, not one of them was visible. When He hang there in agony for three hours only one of them was present. All the rest were not there.
My dear brothers and sisters, can we not see ourselves in this fickle crowd and in the chosen 12 disciples that week? Can we not see ourselves somehow in their betrayal, in their denial, in their abandonment, and in their ignoring of the Lord at some moments in our own lives?
Especially in this secular culture where unbelievers, who may be our peers in school or at work, or the media do their utmost to lure us away from Christ? When people of worldly values oppose and ridicule our faith and our love for Christ? When we choose our own selfish pleasures such as drugs or sex outside of marriage, or terminating human life because they inconvenience us?
Scripture is clear on this: It is all our sins, the sins of the world at all times and at all places that nailed the Son of God on the cross. The Lord of Lords assumed all our sins. He became SIN, as it were, in His mangled body, in His bruised head, in His aching heart and in His last words said in extreme agony. A popular song tells us so correctly that “we are the reason that He (Jesus) gave His life. We are the reason that He suffered and died. To a world that was lost, He gave all He could give. To show us the reason to live.”
Therefore, also, when we look at the cross we can see ourselves. We can see our sins there, in the blood, in His wounds, and in His gasping for breath. But more importantly, we can see the love, the forgiving mercy of the infinite God for us.
This most holy week let us pause and reflect more intensely on this great mystery of our salvation. In the midst of our own life situations which sometimes “almost crush us to the ground, our own sufferings and trials, and surrounded by a culture that has ignored and rebelled against the teachings of our beloved Savior, we can look at the Man hanging on the cross. This God-Man deserves our response of loving gratitude. For we are the reason that Jesus came to earth to die and to give us life, and have it more abundantly.
Jesus made us His choice. In our lives do we choose Him above all others?
And just as a popular song says: “It’s in giving every part of my heart to Him in all that I do, every word that I say, I’ll be giving my all, just for Him.”
And so, as we begin this holiest of weeks, let’s keep our hearts and minds open to the transforming love of our incredible God, a God who loves us and cares for us beyond our wildest imagination. And then, let’s ask for the grace to love him more and more deeply in return. If we do this, this Holy Week can be a special, unforgettable experience for us, leading us to the joy of Easter and, in time, the glory of our own resurrection. #