Sunday marked the official end of Lent and the beginning of the high holy days of our faith. Holy Week is not just any week of the year: it is the hinge upon which our Christian faith and life hangs. If we wish to benefit spiritually from the week, we must decide to get under the surface of the ceremonies that Church offers for our edification and experience the true meaning of these events. We must commit ourselves to walk through the great mysteries of our salvation with Jesus this week and discover how good God has been to us in calling us out of the darkness of our sin into the light of His Life.
Palm Sunday connects us with the enthusiasm of the people of Israel for their salvation. In Jesus they saw, at least for a moment, their Messiah. They welcomed their humble Savior riding a donkey into Jerusalem but they did not recognize that humility was the only doorway to His Kingdom. We must admit that we are like them: fickle, quick to follow a fad and then just as quick to drop it, shouting praises one week and then murderous threats the next. This is where the journey of Holy Week has to start: we must examine our lack of constancy in the practice of the faith and ask Christ to strengthen us for worship.
On Monday of Holy Week we read in the daily Mass readings that the Pharisees deliberately plot to kill Him. Imagine how this attempt to annihilate their Savior must have pierced the Sacred Heart! On Tuesday, the Church announces the sad reality that members of the Lord's own inner circle betrayed and denied Him; and on Wednesday, Judas is shown negotiating our Blessed Lord's life for a few pieces of rotten silver. If we have the honesty, we will admit that we are no better than these disciples – we can't pass the testing that the devil metes out to us. The only question is whether we will despair of our weaknesses like Judas and die or conquer them like Peter and become holy.
On Holy Thursday two great institutions are commemorated. Let us not overlook Our Lord's firm desire to establish them as perpetual gifts for us: one is the sacred priesthood and the other is the Eucharist. He said that He "greatly desired" to eat that Passover with His disciples and that is because He wanted to entrust to certain unworthy men the awesome task of handing down the memorial of His inestimable Sacrifice "in remembrance of Him" to the end of time. Will we thank Him from the depths of our hearts this week for the infinite richness of His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist and for the blessing of His priest brothers who bring that Gift to us?
As we continue to walk with Him we reach the week's summit on Friday – Calvary – but we notice that He is now accompanied in His suffering by His Mother. She was not at the Last Supper because She was not given the gift of the priesthood, but She walked with Him to another Altar of Sacrifice and stood there in perfect union with His redemptive suffering. Let us walk with the Mother of Sorrows on this sorrowful day to derive the deepest possible graces from the Cross that She so perfectly shared in. Then, when He is put in the tomb, let us stay by Her side on Holy Saturday, in vigil, contemplating, grieving for the sins that put Him there and waiting in "joyful hope" for the Day that will never end.
Easter Sunday dawns with new and radiant meaning when we experience the full richness of the week called Holy. The Church has not given us a week like this to add more activities to our already-busy calendars. Quite the opposite. This week will show us the value of the most important things in our lives — provided we keep our eyes focused on the One who gives meaning to everything.