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HOLY WEEK:

 

Saint Andrew of Crete writes, ‘in his humility Christ entered the dark regions of our fallen world and he is glad that he became humble for our sake, glad that he came and lived among us and shared in our nature in order to raise us up again to himself. So let us spread before his feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves, clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in him. We who have been baptized into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before him.’

Holy Week begins with the Palm Sunday and ends with Holy Saturday. It precedes the feast of Easter. Holy Week commemorates the apprehension, sufferings and death of Jesus. On Palm Sunday we recall the triumphant entry of Jesus to Jerusalem. This is to accomplish His paschal mystery. On Holy Thursday also called Maundy Thursday is celebration the Chrism Mass. The Bishop in communion with his priests celebrates and blesses oils for confirmation and for the anointing of the sick. Holy Thursday is also the start of the Easter Triduum. The Mass of the Lord’s Supper is celebrated in the evening. On Good Friday we commemorate the passion and death of Jesus. There is no Holy Mass during Good Friday. But the celebration of Good Friday consists of the liturgy of the Word, veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion.

Reflecting from the gospel readings of the Holy Week celebration there are for me three movements for our Lenten spiritual journey. These are choice, cleansing and communion, companionship.

Palm Sunday recalls the joyful aspects, the memorable events, or high moments of our faith. Palm Sunday describes the grand moments of our baptism, of our ordinations or weddings, of even our first communion or first profession. In those moments, we celebrate. We are grateful. We are happy. We are proud of those sacraments, of those occasions. We shout ‘hosanna!’ But when our faith is tested and we are asked to carry our crosses, we stop shouting ‘hosanna.’ We become sad. We backtracked. We rebelled. When our faith and our sacraments demand from us that we must serve, we must suffer, and we must stoop down, we complain. We shouted back. We cried out, ‘crucify him.’

The gospel reading of Palm Sunday is presenting us a ‘choice.’ Either we say hosanna or shout crucify him. Either we agree and say amen or we reply enough. Either we give our service to Jesus or we surrender to our selfish personal interests. Jesus predicted to the Twelve, ‘amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me’ (Matthew 26, 21). He said to Peter, ‘amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times’ (John 13, 38). God is always giving us chances. There are always fresh opportunities from God. He equips us with enormous resources. Thus, let us not waste His gifts and His trust. Let us always choose Him and choose what is good, what is pleasing to Him. God respects our freedom. He does not force us. He lets us decide for ourselves. He wants us to decide freely and commit ourselves to Him unconditionally. Let us always choose Him. And let us also make a choice in His favors, at the side of God and on behalf of God.

Let us always remember that the choice we make will either make us blessed or broken. It is either to build us up or to tear us down. It is either for Him or offensive to Him. It is either fiat or non serviam. So we must serious and solid with our choice, with our decision too. And when we choose Him there is no turning back. There is no if. There is no but. Our choice for Him must be firm and faithful. Our choice for Him must be issued with love, with dedication, full of commitment. Jesus said, ‘no one who sets a hand to the plow and looks back to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God’ (Luke 9, 61). When we choose Jesus we don’t tell Him to wait for us. We don’t set standards, limits or conditions. When we make our choice and have chosen Him it is permanent, constant and we are consistent. So we are decisive with our choice. We must not procrastinate. And we must put our whole heart and whole life to our choice of serving God, following Him and living our lives for Him.

Holy Thursday is the institution of the sacraments of holy order and holy Eucharist. Holy Thursday also describes two essential human actions. These are washing and partaking of meal. Washing here was not only cleaning. Aside from being an act of service there is also an aspect of cleansing. There is a rite of purification, making one to be worthy. Washing is to be pleasing, to be presentable especially when they will partake not just an ordinary meal. Partaking meal here or the last Supper is not only sharing. Aside from being an act of giving or being hospitable, there is also an aspect of giving sustenance, there is self-offering. There is giving of life. Partaking of meal is to be nourished, to be satisfied and to maintain life. What Jesus showed during Holy Thursday is to serve and to offer us life. What Jesus did during Holy Thursday is to give us new life. And this life giving of Jesus continues in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Through the Holy Eucharist we are made clean. We are cleansed from sins. And we have to cleaned and cleansed before we partake the Holy Eucharist. Through the Holy Eucharist we are in communion with Jesus. We become with Him. We are consecrated to Him. We become worthy and pleasing to Him. And we have to see to it that we continue to be worthy and pleasing whenever we approach the Holy Eucharist. Saint Augustine says, ‘accordingly, he affected a wonderful exchange with us, through mutual sharing: we gave him the power to die, he will give us the power to live. The death of the Lord our God should be a cause of shame for us; rather, it should be our greatest hope, our greatest glory. In taking upon himself the death that he found in us, he has faithfully promised to give us life in him, such as we cannot have of ourselves.’

Good Friday was the fulfillment of God’s plan. Jesus submitted Himself to His adversaries and accepted His cross, even death on the dross. Jesus was faithful to His promised to save us. Jesus was faithful to the will of the Father no matter what it cost Him and wherever it led him. Good Friday portrays two essential human sentiments. And these are fidelity and love. Fidelity is being true to one’s calling. It is being loyal to one’s mission. Fidelity is to live up to one’s promise. Jesus did what He was about to do. He did what the Father wanted. On the other hand the chief priests and Pharisees were unfaithful to their functions. They fabricated and spread lies about Jesus. They instigated people to make unjust and hostile decisions against Jesus. They led people away from God. And they handed Jesus to death. Pilate too was faithful to his public duty. He was carried by public opinion and public sentiments. He allowed himself be used by the chief priests and Pharisees. He was afraid to lose his position and titles. The Jews were also unfaithful as they betrayed their covenant with God. They rejected His kingship. They did not accept Him as the promised Messiah. They chose Caesar rather God Himself. They clamored for Barabbas instead of Jesus. They cried out for His crucifixion. Amidst suffering and death, there is till love. In spite of the rejection and imminent death, Jesus showed His love. And His love is unconditional, total and complete. His love is forgiving and life-giving. Jesus extremely loved us to the point of shedding His own blood and life for our redemption.

With this kind of love and knowing His last breath Jesus gave to us whom He loved so much. And she is our Mother Mary. Because of His selfless love Jesus entrusted to us someone who will surely love us the way He has loved us. She is our Mother Mary. There at the foot of the cross it was moment of companionship and commitment. Jesus consigned to us His Mother Mary to be our mother too. She is there for us to accompany us in our earthly pilgrimage. He gave us His Mother to watch over us, guide and assist us to her Son Jesus. Mother Mary was given to us to love, to cherish and to honor as Jesus used to do.

Mother Mary is now companion in life, in our earthly journey towards heaven. She is our consolation in this valley of tears. Thus in this life we are not let alone. We are not abandoned. Mother Mary is with us. She was entrusted to us. She journeys with us. She welcomes us and takes good care of us as she accepted and cared of her Son Jesus. At the foot of the cross Jesus committed Himself to the Father. He said, ‘Father, into your hand I commend my spirit’ (Luke 23, 46). Jesus committed us to His Mother Mary to take us under her maternal guidance and protection. Jesus confided her Mother Mary to our affection and respect. He said, ‘woman, there is your son. Then he said to his disciples, there is your mother’ (John 19, 26-27).

Good Friday is a call to fidelity and to love. With our fidelity to Jesus and to His Mother Mary, we show our love to Him and to whom He loves --- Mother Mary and others.

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Diocese of Balanga
(Bataan, Philippines)