By Father Woods
The season of Lent is moving by very quickly. On Thursday it will be a month since Ash Wednesday. This Sunday is known as Laetare Sunday – the first words of the Entrance Antiphon of the Mass that call us to rejoice. Next Sunday begins the part of Lent formerly known as Passiontide when the statues are covered and our thoughts turn to the events of the Lord’s suffering and death. Quickly we will find ourselves at Palm Sunday and Holy Week.
Everything about Lent directs us to Holy Week. Our fasting, prayer and almsgiving are like exercises for an athlete in training. We are in training so we will be strong and wide awake to enter into the events of the holiest week of the year. Keeping Lent without entering into the days of Holy Week makes no sense at all. Perhaps we need to review what Holy Week is all about:
- Holy Week commemorates the events of Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection
- Palm Sunday remembers Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, where the events of His Passion, Death and Resurrection take place. In the Mass for that day the Passion narrative is read as the Gospel.
- Holy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper at which Jesus gave us the gift of the Holy Eucharist, the Priesthood and the commandment to love. The Church keeps vigil with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament throughout the evening.
- Good Friday is the day Jesus died on the Cross. No Mass is celebrated anywhere in the world. The liturgy for this day contains the reading of the Passion according to St. John, the Veneration of the Cross and the distribution of Holy Communion. It is a solemn day of fast and abstinence throughout the world.
- Holy Saturday is a day of waiting while Jesus is in the tomb. Only after sunset can the Church gather in anticipation of the Resurrection for the solemn Easter Vigil. In this Mass the readings associated with salvation are proclaimed, those seeking Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion are admitted into the Church, and the Eucharist is celebrated.
- Easter Sunday is the joyful beginning of a fifty day celebration of Jesus‘ bodily resurrection from the dead.
- When Adam and Eve committed the first sin in the Garden of Eden, humanity was unable to enter Heaven – the gates of Heaven were closed. Only Jesus’ perfect obedience on the Cross restores God’s faith in humanity and allows the gates of Heaven to be opened.
Simply put: we could not go to Heaven if Jesus had not suffered, died and risen.
- Christ died for us while we were sinners. We did not deserve this generous act of the Son of God. Humanity is forever in God’s debt. God sent His only-begotten Son to save us when He was born on Christmas night. Human beings, however, crucified God‘s Son to our great shame. Yet, God still loves and redeems us. From the Cross Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.”
- Holy Week is an opportunity to participate in the Church‘s liturgy that makes these events present again. Catholics belong in Church during Holy Week. We have a responsibility to take our place with the faithful in praising God and offering prayers.
- Holy Week changes people. Hearts are moved so that people want to go to Confession. They want to spend time with Jesus in prayer. People who are not Catholic have asked to become members of the Church.