Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I would like to share with you some Holy Week reflections.
Palm Sunday: “Today we gather to herald with the whole Church the beginning of the celebration of our Lord’s Pascal Mystery, that is to say, of his Passion and Resurrection.” (Introduction to Palm Sunday procession)
As disciples of Jesus, we participate in the announcement of the sacrifice and glory that we have been preparing to celebrate. We announce with the waving of palm branches that this week is not an ordinary week. Uniting ourselves with the whole Church, we herald the mercy and compassion of God that will be shown through the undeterred sacrifice of His son. These palm branches placed in our homes provide a continuous reminder that we are redeemed people that have been given the hope of eternal life. We follow in his footsteps into the city of Jerusalem, and through these sacred days we renew our devotion and faith in these mysteries so that we can go forward to teach all nations about the saving redemption that all people have received.
Chrism Mass: “This Mass, which the Bishop concelebrates with his presbyterate, should be, as it were, a manifestation of the Priests’ communion with their Bishop.” (Instruction #4 of Chrism Mass)
Over the past year we have been challenged as a diocese not only in ministering during this time of a pandemic, but also in ministering through a unique and unanticipated transition of pastoral care. The Chrism Mass is significant in the life of the ordained ministers of our diocese, especially the priests. We, as priests, renew our commitment to serve the people of the Church under the leadership of our Diocesan Bishop. As ordained ministers for the diocese, we are constantly encouraged by the great faith of the people of our parish communities and through other outreach services. The people of this diocese inspire our dedication in our tasks as shepherds of souls. As Bishop Malesic continues to teach, sanctify, and govern our diocese, let us support him with our prayers and our personal response to serve our brothers and sisters.
Holy Thursday: “For he is the true and eternal Priest, who instituted the pattern of an everlasting sacrifice and was the first to offer himself as the saving Victim, commanding us to make this offering as his memorial. As we eat his flesh that was sacrificed for us, we are made strong, and as we drink his Blood that was poured out for us, we are washed clean.” (Holy Thursday Preface)
The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith. Living as Eucharistic people, we come to know how precious this gift is. So many people throughout this pandemic have refrained from receiving the Eucharist due to health concerns, which is understandable. I have encountered an increase from many of these individuals of an awareness of this gift. They have a great renewed appreciation for the Body and Blood of Christ, and they wait patiently with a deep desire for when the time is appropriate for them to participate again. Let us never take the reception of the Eucharist for granted. May our desire mirror that of the many faithful parishioners who have remained in spiritual communion with us each week.
Good Friday: “Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the salvation of the world.” (Antiphon for the veneration of the Cross)
We have many things that decorate the walls of our homes. Special pictures of loved ones, objects that have meaning in our lives, souvenirs that we collect from travels and many other articles that remind us of good times, family and friendships. They are placed in a way that is decorative and pleasing to the eye. But where is your crucifix? Is it in a place of honor? Do you see it often? On Good Friday we reflect on the tree of new life…but shouldn’t this be an everyday encounter? To “behold” is to see a thing or a person, especially an impressive or remarkable one. Through our seeing we encounter the deeper reality that is being offered to us. Crucifixes and crosses come in so many decorative and inspirational forms. Let us not loosen our gaze upon what has provided a backdrop for our salvation. Be countercultural and make sure that your wood of the cross is not hidden, but available for all to see and understand its saving reality.
The Easter Vigil in the Holy Night: “By his holy and glorious wounds may Christ the Lord guard us and protect us.” (Instruction #12)
In the blessing of the new Pascal Candle, we recall that it is through the sacrifice of Jesus that the light of hope breaks through the darkness of sin to guide us to the life of salvation. The Easter Vigil, the most significant liturgical celebration of our Church, recalls how salvation was prefigured in ancient times and is then realized in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This is a stumbling block for many, but if we truly spend some time with this ritual we see how God has worked throughout human history to restore us to His friendship and the hope of eternal paradise. Typically, at the service we don’t read all the readings that are prescribed, but it is a great personal practice to take some quite time to read and reflect upon them. They led us to understand in a prophetic way how God has and still engages His people. Through His wounds we continue spreading His Gospel. He guides and protect those He has chosen for the task of being witnesses to the light of hope so that the darkness cannot prevail.
What an awesome opportunity that we have to deepen our faith. This Holy Week, let us use the many resources that are available to us to nurture our commitment to being Jesus’ disciples. Let us not be afraid to spend time with Jesus at the table, in the garden, in the praetorium, strapped to a pillar, being spat upon, stripped and killed. These and other events that we recall are challenging to engage with but may our willingness to stand by him give us strength when we are being challenged to know that Jesus stands by us.
Special thank you to the many volunteers that will help make our celebrations meaningful. Although they will look different from past years due to Covid-19 restrictions, I am grateful for the cleaning, decorating, ministering, and support of so many. Many have offered donations for the flowers that will be used for Easter in honor of deceased loved one. In gratitude, we remember them and ask them to pray for us.
Holy Week’s Blessings