This weekend, the Church begins a very solemn commemoration of our Lord’s passion, suffering, and death. It almost has nothing to do with the palm branches that so many of us eagerly look forward to receiving as part of today’s ceremony; unless, of course, the branches truly express a deep authentic acknowledgement that Jesus is the Christ, the Lord of our lives. 

     So often we can be swept up in the cultural excitement and annual routine of such special days in our liturgical calendar, and simultaneously miss the whole point of why we commemorate these events of our salvation with such solemnity and devotion. Even this year, without the formal observances available, we must still do some soul-searching. Do we really acclaim Christ throughout the whole year round? Is the enthusiasm of our ordinary religious observance connected with our daily witness to the faith, with a consistent and vibrant sacramental life, and with a commitment to stand up for Christ and his Gospel agenda in the work we do in his name?

     The many “characters” in our long Gospel reading this weekend demonstrate a wide variety of responses to the meaning of Jesus. There were those who were his closest friends, who observed his deeds in person, who heard his words, who dined with him, and were challenged by him to carry on his work. There were those among his followers (and one in particular) whose insecurities and greed got the best of them, leading them to betray Jesus, whether selling him out, or shouting “crucify him!” There were those who were caught up in the fervor of the crowd. They may have just wanted to be where the action was at, regardless of who Jesus was. They probably missed the whole point! There were those who never knew Jesus, and yet were drawn into the moment by circumstance or providence, encountering Jesus in his darkest hour. There were those who received forgiveness from Christ, as he hung upon the cross. There also were those who received his last will and testament, being covered in the blood of the Lamb, and forming the nascent Church, the mystical body of Christ.

     The haunting question for all of us today is: where do we stand? What say we about the Christ? With whom do we align ourselves most closely in this Gospel? And, what does this story say about our own lives? Let’s be careful! We can certainly get and wave the palm branches, and miss the whole point.

     I invite you to make a conscious decision to enter into the events that surrounded the last days of the life of Jesus. In any way you can this year, I invite you to whole-heartedly enter into the prayers, songs, and gestures that make up the experience of Holy Week. The entrance into Jerusalem leads to the Last Supper, which leads to Calvary, which leads to Easter Sunday, and the mystery of new and eternal life. We wouldn’t even be talking about all of this had these events not sent shock waves throughout the known world. Our Church came into existence because of these events. Our culture has been shaped by these events. Our family trees have been impacted by these events. Our very life’s purpose finds its ultimate meaning in the significance of these events. Let’s not miss the point. 

     Pray, while you may. Offer a spiritual sacrifice of praise, of spiritual communion, and of heart-felt gratitude for all that the Lord has done for us. Praised be Jesus Christ!                            

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St. Gregory the Great

Catholic Church and School

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