"Behold, your King comes to you . . .
meek . . . on a colt,
the foal of a beast of burden."
Philippians 2: 6 - 11
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name,
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that,
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
The Word for Sunday: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040917.cfm
And so this week begins made holy by the outpouring of the sacrifice of Christ on behalf of our salvation. The beautiful reading above is taken from the second reading on this "Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion." It begins in triumph and praise but quickly turns to darkness, betrayal, arrest, blatant injustice, humiliation, suffering and death. Our reading from the Gospel of Matthew, our Lord's Passion, (Mt 26: 14 - 27: 66) is a long and dramatic reading filled with conflict and emotion.
I often let these powerful services speak for themselves. There is little I can add and through their ritual, they inspire and move us to gratitude, repentance and conversion. Holy Thursday calls for some reflection for sure as the gift of the Holy Eucharist, the command to give ourselves to humble service is portrayed through the washing of feet, and the Holy Priesthood is established by our Lord as he extends his authority to his Apostles: "Do this in remembrance of me."
Jesus not only gave his Apostles the authority to pass on this meal as a memorial of his sacrifice but gave the Church as a whole a profound and mysterious gift - his very body and blood offered for us. The Eucharist is not a thing but a person, God himself who took on our sinful nature, whose life was sacrificed for the forgiveness of sin and our eternal salvation.
Then of course the Resurrection of our Lord and the birth of new Christians through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist is cause for great joy and reflection. But I feel this weekend and Good Friday stand on their own with little need for further commentary. The ancient ritual indeed speaks to us.
So, resist the temptation to just show up for another Sunday. Not only do we show up but we fully participate with a full, conscious and active spirit.
The challenge is, of course, to approach these high holy days in the right spirit. The opening prayer of the Mass for this Sunday can be a beautiful personal prayer that can be recited. May the Holy Spirit be our inspiration and open our hearts to the mystery and joy of this week ahead:
Almighty ever-living God,
who as an example of humility for the
human race to follow caused our Savior
to take flesh and submit to the Cross,
graciously grant that we may heed his lesson
of patient suffering and so merit
a share in his Resurrection.
(Collect of Passion Sunday Mass)