Holy Week and the New Evangelization
By Fr. Tim Peters
Mission Basilica, San Juan Capistrano
March 24 2013
This is the most important week of all-time and the most important week of our lives. During Holy Week we must allow the Church like a mother and a teacher to take us each by the hand and to guide us through the most important events in salvation history. The Church wants us to personally walk with Jesus to the Upper Room where the first Eucharist was celebrated and then to the Cross where the innocent Son of God suffered and died for us so as to discover that on behalf of God’s mercy we have become the sons and daughters of the Living God. We cannot understand the glory and victory of the Resurrection unless we have a true life-changing encounter with the innocent Son of God who suffered for our own guilt on the cross. Jesus’ cross must become a real part of our lives, so much so, that it transforms the way that we see the world. The Church doesn’t want us to just think about the cross and the empty tomb, instead it wants us to walk through Holy Week, living every moment as fully as the disciples of Jesus did 2000 years ago. This week must become our own “real” journey to the cross and to the empty tomb. Christ wishes to speak to us through Word and Sacrament and teach us how The Father from all of eternity chose to reveal the gift of His salvation through His Son’s death and resurrection.
Below are a few reflections on some important words and phrases in Luke’s Narrative of the Passion. This year I am inviting each person to meditate on the passion of Christ and to slowly read through each of the four passion accounts found in the last four chapters of each Gospel. These narratives are filled with so much and our meditation on them will prepare for the work of evangelization enabling us to more easily converse with others about the death and resurrection of Christ.
The term Hosanna is a petition for salvation. Christians use this term frequently but many don’t know what it means. The Hebrew –Hoshiah-na is in the imperative and is often interpreted “bring salvation!” or “save us” (Psalm 118:25).In short, the people are proclaiming to Jesus, “You are the king of Israel, save us now-Hosanna, save us from our enemies!” Christ has come for this very reason, not to conquer the Romans or any worldly power, but to conquer the greatest enemies, Satan and death itself. Christ allows the people to publicly hail him as King. This is an awesome feat in itself if you consider that the Israelites had not had an autonomous king in the Kingdom of Judah since it fell to the Babylonians in 587BC. For six centuries they had been under foreign control and in Christ they saw a potential liberator. They certainly had misconceptions about Christ as a king. His battle was first and foremost spiritual. In the Mass the same cry of Hosanna is fittingly proclaimed moments before the consecration of Eucharist.
I want to recommend that we spend some time meditating on Psalm 118. This psalm was extremely important in the early church and is referred to several times in the New Testament.
The Eighth Day
In six days God created the heavens and the earth revealing His love and glory through the creation. God rested on the seventh day, the Sabbath, but humans fell into sin and lost the joy of their original innocence. However, in Holy Week Christ revealed to all of humanity His definitive work of salvation, rising from the dead on the third day which is also the eight day and the first day of the new week. The risen and glorified Christ is then the first fruit of the new creation (1Cor 15:20-23). As we make the journey through Holy Week let us also reflect on the promise of the new creation.
In the Passion Narrative we encounter two crowds, one that rejoices with Christ and another that condemns Him to death crying out “Crucify Him!” To which crowd do you belong? Even today there are many opposing voices in our own public square. The Church must often walk against the popular currents of this world and it is often ridiculed by the influential voices of our society for remaining faithful to Christ. Never forget that we serve a crucified savior who has risen from the dead. The message of Christ crucified has been accepted with hostility from the beginning (1 Cor 1:18). It is important to teach our youth that following the crowd can often lead to an untold amount of spiritual problems. A true friend will never force you to reject Christ or to do something which is against God’s will. The only crowd which we want to follow is the one composed of the faithful who love and serve Christ. Just as the crowds were manipulated and demanded Jesus’ crucifixion so to we must critically examine the currents of our own social culture. It is not an exaggeration to say that the very same thing can happen in our own society. May the Lord give us wisdom and courage so they we can avoid the bad crowds or our own world.
…And the Lord turned and looked at Peter (Luke 22:61)
One of the most fascinating verses in Luke’s Gospel is found in Luke 22:61, right after Peter had denied Christ for the third time. Jesus turned and looked at Peter. What was Jesus thinking? He could not have been surprised, for he had already told Peter that this very thing would happen! This very short note found only in Luke’s Gospel deserves more attention than I can give it in a short reflection. However, we must understand that Christ looked at Peter with love even at the lowest moment of Peter’s life, the moment when he had denied Christ. Christ, spoke about how he had prayed for Peter and that when he had “turned” (an image of repentance), he would then go on to strengthen his brethren. I find this short verse important because during the entire period of Lent each person is called upon to recognize their own sinfulness, in sum, the way that they have denied Christ and at the same time find confidence in God’s desire to forgive the repentant sinner. God want to forgive us of our sins! Let’s share this message with others as we continue to walk with Christ during the Holy Week.