March 16, 2016
Let’s talk about Holy Week today. This is a good time to prepare ourselves for a successful Holy Week spiritually.
That first Holy Week began with Jesus and his apostles coming to Jerusalem to celebrate the Hebrew feast of the Passover. That day – a day that we celebrate on our Palm Sunday – was filled with joy, singing and joyful crowds of people. Everything seemed to be going so well. That would change very quickly.
This year our Holy Week comes as we are celebrating a Jubilee Year of Mercy. Holy Week will be a perfect time for us to recognize God’s great Mercy for us all. This mercy and love is demonstrated to us by Jesus’ suffering, his Passion and Death.
We are saved though God’s great love and mercy. Jesus leads our Exodus. That brings to mind the Exodus of the Old Testament when Moses rescues the Hebrew people, taking them from the slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land.
Our Exodus is led by Our Savior, Jesus Christ, who rescues us from the slavery of sin to the joy of being the children of God. Jesus shows us that God’s great love brings us forgiveness and Mercy.
On Holy Thursday, we celebrate God’s great gift to us of the Blessed Eucharist as we join Jesus and the apostles at the Last Supper. Each pastor is reminded of our call to be dedicated to the needs of his parishioners, especially the poor, by imitating Jesus in washing the feet of some parishioners. It is such a humble moment yet, such a powerful reminder to each priest, to kneel before a parishioner and wash his or her feet.
Good Friday – such a strange title. What makes it good is the love of Jesus. Jesus often told us, “Greater love no man has than to lay down his life for his friends.” This is a call for all of us to follow Jesus in “laying down our lives, by dying and living for another. Jesus’ suffering would have been wasted if he had not endured it with love. It was not Jesus’ suffering that saved the world but his love. Anyone who pretends to love suffering is crazy yet, we are glad to suffer for someone we love. Our love gives a meaning to our suffering.
Spiritual writers speak of Holy Week as a victory for Jesus. Good Friday is a triumph of good over evil, of love over hate, of life over death. That victory became evident in Jesus’ Resurrection to new life, a resurrection that we all hope to share in; one day Jesus will lead us to that new life.
I want to share with you one more event of our celebration of Holy Week in our day. That is the Chrism Mass. (Although in recent times, the Chrism Mass is celebrated the week before Holy Week so that more priests can attend.) The Chrism Mass is celebrated by the Bishop at the Cathedral Church. At this Mass, the Bishop consecrates and blesses the holy oils that will be sent out to each parish for the celebration of the sacraments during the next year. There are three sacred oils – the Sacred Chrism used in the conferral of Confirmation and Ordination. In addition, there is the Oil of the Sick and the Oil of the Catechumens.
The priests of the diocese all attend this Mass of the Chrism; they come to the Cathedral to receive the oils for their parish. In addition, this is the time in which all the priests are called to renew publicly their priestly promises.
I would like to share with you the words of these promises that we, priests, renew at each Chrism Mass: “I am resolved to be more united with the Lord Jesus and more closely conformed to him, denying myself and confirming these promises about towards Christ’s Church which, prompted by love of him, I willingly and joyfully pledged on the day of my priestly ordination. I am resolved to be a faithful steward of the mysteries of God in the Holy Eucharist and the other liturgical rites and to discharge faithfully the sacred office of teaching, following Christ, the Head and Shepherd, not seeking any gain, but moved only by zeal for souls.”
Then, the Bishop turns to the congregation seeking prays for all priests so that the Lord may pour out his gifts abundantly upon them and keep them faithful as ministers of Christ, so that they may lead people to the Lord Jesus. I also ask you to pray for all priests and to pray for an increase in vacations to the priesthood.