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Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

March 24, 2024
At the Procession with the Psalms Mk 11:1-10
At the Mass MK 14:1–15-47

On Palm Sunday, the paradox of triumph and betrayal unfolded as we joyfully welcome Jesus with shouts of ‘Hosanna’ (Mk 11:1-10), only to later confront the poignant reality of His impending sacrifice and the shadows of betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mk 14:1-15-47).

In his homily for the Celebration of Palm Sunday Pope Benedict XVI asked, “Who is Jesus of Nazareth for us? What idea do we have of the Messiah, what idea do we have of God?  It is a crucial question, one we cannot avoid, not least because during this very week we are called to follow our King who chooses the Cross as his throne. We are called to follow a Messiah who promises us, not a facile earthly happiness, but the happiness of heaven, divine beatitude.”

During Holy Week, we will walk with Jesus through the betrayals, the sorrow, and the surrender. We are aware of how this journey ends – with His ultimate victory over sin and death. Yet, in the days leading up to Easter, we are gently reminded of our own need for salvation from our sins. May this reflection inspire a sense of mercy within us, compelling us to share the Good News with those who may not yet know Jesus. 

Monday of Holy Week

March 25, 2024
Jn 12:1-11

Do you ever wonder why Jesus kept Judas around? 

In today’s Gospel reading, Judas shows his true colors–criticizing Mary for her extravagant gesture of love and gratitude toward Jesus, complaining that the money used for the expensive oil could have been given to the poor. But John revealed Judas’ motives: keep the money in the kitty, and there would be more for him to steal. He was not interested in celebrating Lazarus’ rising from the dead, so it’s doubtful that Judas even made the connection with Jesus’ comment about the day of his burial. If he did, it didn’t matter. Soon, he would hand Jesus over, which is his part to play in our salvation. 

As we make our way through Holy Week, we can spend some time with these readings, looking at each disciple and asking ourselves honestly if we can identify with them. Jesus chose them, after all. Can we admit that, at times, we are less than charitable and more selfish? How can that move us toward a sincere outpouring of gratitude for what Christ has done for us?

Tuesday of Holy Week

March 26, 2024
Jn 13:21-33, 36-38

Most of us have been betrayed at one time or another. Whether as a child, in our youth, or as an adult, we’ve probably experienced the pain of betrayal. Being betrayed evokes profound emotional distress because it shatters trust, disrupts the foundation of our relationships, and challenges the core of our beliefs about the reliability and integrity of those we considered close.

Today’s Gospel begins with Jesus showing us his human heart again, as he was deeply troubled and told the disciples at dinner that one of them would betray him. He chose them. He taught them. He sent them out. He loved them—even Judas.

I try to imagine the eye contact between Jesus and Judas when Jesus handed him the morsel, typically a sign of honor and friendship. Perhaps Jesus was offering Judas one last chance to change his mind. Judas’ look probably said it all, and Jesus told him to just get it over with. 

Jesus doesn’t stop loving those who betrayed him. The rest would scatter, and even Peter would deny him three times. When we turn away, he doesn’t stop loving us either. He gave us the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a way back to him, so, like Peter, we can tell him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Wednesday of Holy Week

March 27, 2024
Mt 26:14-25

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus confronts Judas as his betrayer. But it must have been done discretely because Judas’ plan went forward with no resistance from Jesus or the other disciples. The deal had already been made. He was paid in advance for his treason.

And what was the enormous sum he was given? Thirty pieces of silver.

In Bringing the Gospel of Matthew to Life, scripture scholar George Martin explains, “It is hard to pin down the worth of thirty pieces of silver because silver coins were minted in various monetary values. Thirty silver coins would probably have amounted to a few month’s wages for an ordinary worker–not a large sum. The Old Testament background also suggests that Judas’ pay was modest. The owner of a slave who had been gored by a bull was to receive thirty shekels of silver as recompense (Exodus 21:32); Jesus’ life is valued as that of a slave.”

Reflecting on this today, I am asking myself–have I ever traded something of spiritual value for a meager worldly payoff? Do I prioritize prayer, or do I sometimes slack in favor of a few more minutes on social media? Can I be more considerate toward my family and friends, or do I demand my own way? 

Thursday of Holy Week Chrism Mass

March 28, 2024
Lk 4:16-21

The Gospel for Thursday of Holy Week takes us back to the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. In this reading, Jesus had gone to the synagogue on the Sabbath “according to his custom.” He was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah, found a specific passage, and read it aloud. It was likely well-known by his listeners, but in this episode, Jesus was essentially reading aloud his mission on earth: to bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to captives, set the oppressed free, give sight to the blind, and “to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” 

When he said, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing,” it was probably shocking to his listeners, as he was declaring his divine identity and the unfolding of God’s plan for salvation.

As we reflect on this passage, we might consider the implications for our own lives. How can we align ourselves with Jesus’ mission to bring good news, freedom, and liberation to those in need? This passage invites believers to renew their commitment to the Gospel values of compassion, justice, and mercy, especially during the solemn days of Holy Week.

Good Friday of the Lord's Passion

March 29, 2024
Jn 18:1-19:42

At the liturgy on Good Friday, when we venerate the cross at our parish, it is profoundly moving to see our fellow parishioners of all ages approach the large wooden cross set down the center aisle. We line up on either side of the cross, silent and somber. Everyone has their own way of adoring the cross; some simply bow, some genuflect, some kneel and touch it, some kiss it. The little children follow suit with their families. It’s a beautiful moment that nearly always brings tears to my eyes. Because this wooden cross, probably built by our parish priest (a carpenter), symbolizes the very cross on which Jesus died–for me.

It is love “to the end” that confers on Christ’s sacrifice its value as redemption and reparation, as atonement and satisfaction. He knew and loved us all when he offered his life. Now “the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.” No man, not even the holiest, was ever able to take on himself the sins of all men and offer himself as a sacrifice for all. the existence in Christ of the divine person of the Son, who at once surpasses and embraces all human persons, and constitutes himself as the Head of all mankind, makes possible his redemptive sacrifice for all.

The Council of Trent emphasizes the unique character of Christ’s sacrifice as “the source of eternal salvation” and teaches that “his most holy Passion on the wood of the cross merited justification for us.” and the Church venerates his cross as she sings: “Hail, O Cross, our only hope.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church (616-617)

Holy Saturday

March 30, 2024
Mk 16:1-7

“Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.”

The Gospel says the women were “utterly amazed,” which is described as having “connotations of awed and agitated, terrified and distressed.” I can only imagine. They were going to the tomb to anoint the dead body of their Lord, wondering how they would roll away the stone, then finding the tomb already open. Even with the tomb open they would be expecting to find a corpse, not an angel. So yes, amazed, awed, agitated and distressed all seem like pretty normal reactions. I could add stunned, shocked, overwhelmed, or as we might say: freaked out. 

But the angel tells them to not be amazed: in other words, to be unsurprised. Jesus had, after all, told them he would be raised.

We have spent all of Lent contemplating Jesus’ identity as the Son of God and the second person of the Trinity, his authority over sin and evil, and his divine mission to save us from death. And yet, like the women in today’s Gospel, we go into the tomb at Easter with our own expectations and preconceived notions. We are expecting a corpse. 

To find the tomb empty means that what he said he would do he actually did–even if it seemed impossible. To find the tomb empty means that our own death has been conquered–despite our sinfulness and stubbornness. To find the tomb empty requires a response. Are we ready?

Let’s go tell the others.