Jesus shows us how to embrace the enduring themes of Holy Week
by Sister Jane Riha
We begin Holy Week with the commemoration of the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem or Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion. The readings for this beautiful day are compelling and filled with the tension of joy and the impending suffering awaiting Jesus. Jesus riding on a donkey is a peasant’s procession on a pathway strewn with branches and cloaks. The procession of a humble man. According to some commentaries, Pontius Pilate was having his own elegant procession on the other side of Jerusalem.
The joyous processional reading with the blessing of palms at the beginning of the liturgy shifts to the Suffering Servant reading from Isaiah, prophetically foretelling the suffering of Christ. St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians refers to Christ Jesus who emptied himself, who humbled himself, to the point of death on a cross. What follows is the reading of the Passion from the Gospel of Luke.
The liturgy of Sunday sets the tone for all the days to follow which reveal God’s abundant, overflowing love for each of us. It is the paschal mystery of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. The world in which Jesus lived was in constant tension. The Jewish people at that time lived in territory occupied by the Roman Empire. Jesus experienced this during his life and ministry. Does this not resonate with our current world situation?
Holy Week needs to connect to our lives in a real way and with all of humanity. Jesus is present in our world today in the suffering, humble people we meet. Jesus is present in the suffering and dying people of Ukraine. The strength and interior courage of Jesus is present in leaders who face horrific obstacles while striving for peace.
As we pray these days, may our hearts be open to see the face of the suffering Jesus as well as the joyful Risen Jesus in those who come into lives.