With the reading of the Passion, we have begun the celebration of the holiest week of the year for Christians, which will culminate this coming weekend with the celebration of the Mass of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, the Sacred Liturgy of Good Friday and the renewal of our Baptismal promises during the Masses of Easter Sunday. These three liturgical celebrations, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday commemorate the most important events in human history, not only in our Christian religion, but in human history. Christian faith holds absolutely that by His personal self-sacrifice on Good Friday, Jesus Christ has redeemed the entire human race by His action, and has all mankind the possibility of personal salvation. We also profess it to be absolutely certain that by His resurrection on Easter Sunday, it has been made possible for all mankind to be raised from the dead incorruptible, and share in the heavenly glory that belongs to God’s only-begotten Son. Christ Our Lord. Finally we also profess that at the last Supper Jesus personally instituted His Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Holy Mass, as the perpetual worship of His Church, perpetually renewing in an unbloody manner His own sacrificial death on Calvary, and perpetually nourishing the members of His Church with the food which brings Eternal Life, His own body and blood. Jesus body and blood is offered for our sins, and His Body and Blood have been raised in glory to be the source of Eternal Life for those who receive them with living faith in their power.
Faith, then is the key to whether or not these sacred events will benefit any of us. Today’s celebration reminds us how shallow and empty can be even the loudest outward professions of faith. How quickly the crowd’s outward, empty gestures of belief turn into just the opposite manifestations of unbelief in Jesus and His saving mission. The crowds lining the road into Jerusalem shouted loud Hosannas and laid palms and cloaks on the path before Jesus, publicly professing their belief that He was the long-awaited messiah; but just a few days later many in these crowds would be shouting “crucify him!” and then mocking him even as he anguished on the Cross, as a blasphemer, a liar and criminal. This is not just mere fickleness of the people, but a shocking revelation that when they greeted him on Palm Sunday, their own professions of faith were just words, not true professions of faith. He had come to die for them, but whether or not this would benefit them in the end would depend on a much deeper “faith” than their mere external shouts on palm Sunday.
The renewal of our Baptismal promises on Easter Sunday reveal what is necessary for Jesus’ death and resurrection to bring us Eternal Life. We must believe in Christ and in the power of these sacred events to save us. But such belief is more than outward show, profession of faith on the lips. Faith in these events means following the path of Jesus, following Him right to Calvary, to the Cross on which he died, and on which our sinful life must be put to death. His death, perpetuated in the holy sacrifice of the Mass, is no longer a spectator event like Palm Sunday, or for most at Calvary, but His death is something we must share in, through the Mass, and through a constant effort to put to death the sins which nailed God’s Son the Cross. If we refuse to die to self, to put to death the sins for which he died, then we do not have a living faith, that is, a faith inwardly transformed by our love for Christ. If we would rise with Him, says St. Paul, then we must also die with him. If we would have the joyful blessing of Easter Sunday, Eternal Life, then we must have the bitter fruit of Good Friday also.
It is so easy for any of us to get caught up in this world this holy week and forget about Eternity. Holy Week is the most powerful reminder of what our life in this world is really all about, why we are Christians, what we hope for as Christians, and how we must act as Christians if our hope is to be realized. We never know which Holy Week will be the final reminder and gift from God for us. This Holy Week may we all approach the liturgies as if they were the last in our lives on earth. Then, it will deepen our faith, deepen our hope and our charity, and draw us nearer this year to our final reward in Heaven. God Bless you.