Ready or not, Holy Week is here. I especially want to welcome all of our visitors and guests who are with us this weekend. Whether you come to us from across the street or from across the country, we are honored that you have chosen to spend part of your Palm/Passion Sunday with us.
Holy Week is a time of once-a-year prayer services and rituals that celebrate the deepest mysteries of our faith. Holy Week is a time to turn inward, to prayerfully recount the passion and death of Christ, and to look forward to the glory of Easter when we, like Jesus, are transformed into a new creation.
We enter into this week today with our observance of Palm/Passion Sunday. While we first commemorate Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem with palms and rejoicing, the tone quickly changes as we hear the Passion according to Matthew. The shadow of the cross is cast over our prayers and liturgies for the rest of the week.
Willing or not, each of us will have to share in the Lord’s Cross at the moment of our death. Whenever that comes, we believe that God will transform our death into life, just as God did for his Son. But there are also those moments throughout our lives when we participate in the transforming power of the Cross long before our individual deaths. Each one of us experiences “mini-deaths” from time to time as we journey through life. And each experience holds the possibility of being transformed into life by God. Perhaps a few examples might help….
Whenever something we hoped for and longed for didn’t turn out as we desired, a part of us died. We experienced a “mini-death.” When we broke up with our high school sweet heart, or someone we were sure was “the one,” a part of us died. The same is true when our “secure” job evaporated in the face of downsizing, bankruptcy, scandal or an unexpected transfer, or when the 401(k) intended for our retirement vanished by a half or the security of our home was placed in jeopardy. We experience a “mini-death” when someone we trusted let us down or betrayed a confidence. A broken dream or promise, the loss of separation or grief, an untimely injury or sickness, missed opportunities or lost youth, a rejection or failed relationship, or our children take a wrong turn in life – these and many more are “mini-deaths” in our lives. We all experience death to one degree or another throughout our lives, as also did God’s own Son.
Whatever form death takes in our lives, the mystery of the Cross gives us hope. As God transformed Jesus’ death into life, so too will God transform our many experiences of death into life as well.
Our belief in the transforming power of the Lord’s Cross can give us a very practical way to live this Holy Week of 2017. As we participate in all of the different services of this week and the Liturgy of the Easter Triduum, we can gather all of the experiences of death in our lives and bring them to the Cross. Each one of them – from our minor disappointments to the present day fears we face to the deaths of those we deeply love – can be fixed to the Cross. And as the Lord Jesus squarely faced death so as to be raised to new life, so too can God raise all of our experiences of death to new life. The mystery of the Cross was not meant for Jesus alone – it is hope for all of us.
As we look towards next weekend, we have cause for great joy. This Saturday as we celebrate the Easter Vigil, we will be able to welcome our Elect who will be baptized and our already baptized candidates who will join them for Confirmation and then share the Eucharist with us for the first time. Please join us in welcoming them as new members of our community at the Easter Vigil – Saturday evening, beginning at 7:30pm (we need to wait for sundown before we begin). Anticipate the Easter Vigil to last approximately 2¼ hours (about the length of a feature film). It is the first Mass of Easter and the best Easter celebration of all.
Our schedule for Holy Week and Easter Triduum services is printed elsewhere in this weekend’s bulletin. It is also posted on our parish website and is printed in the “Lent, Holy Week, and Easter Liturgies and Events 2017” flier that is still available at the Hospitality Desk. Additional times for the Sacrament of Reconciliation have been scheduled from 12:30-1:30pm on Tuesday and Wednesday, as well as from 5:00-7:00pm on Tuesday. After our mild but long winter, we truly need our celebration of Easter this year. Please try to make this week holy by taking part in these wonderful once-a-year liturgies.
Looking ahead towards the Easter Season, we have copies of the “Little White Book” available for our daily prayer during this season. The “Little White Book” begins on April 17th, Easter Monday, and provides us with six-minute daily reflections on the Resurrection narrative of Mark. They are available in the Narthex of the Church and are an excellent guide for us “to spend some quite time with the Lord.”
As we conclude our observance of Lent this Thursday and enter into the Easter Triduum, let us continue to pray for and support each other. Know that you have a place in our prayer each day. May God continue to bless us with everything that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy