Everyone loves a good story. They are often told over and over again. One will go back and reread a good book finding something new in the pages that was missed at the first read. A good movie is seen a number of times rediscovering the emotions in the story’s depiction. A Shakespeare play is transcribed into different venues maintaining the power of the author’s message no matter what the setting. If the story happens to be a family story, there may be a demand for it at a family gathering, a birthday, anniversary or reunion, so that everyone can enjoy the “remember when” aspect of family history.

This last Sunday was Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. It begins the most sacred time in the liturgical life of the Church. The Gospel depicts the story of the suffering, crucifixion, death of Jesus Christ. It is the story that we have heard over and over again, but it is a story that contains the act of redemption for the entire world. Every time the Gospel is proclaimed, we hear anew the message and it speaks to our hearts and the experiences of our lives. In the reading of the Passion, I always seem to discover something that I hadn’t considered in past years. It is also our family story for we are all connected to the one who hangs on the cross bound together by his blood.

I often refer to Palm Sunday as the celebration of “contrast”. We begin with the triumphant procession of Christ into Jerusalem. There is a reverence for his position within the community. In the Liturgy, we process as a mark of our acceptance of Christ who is our King. “The very large crowd spread their cloaks in the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road. The crowds preceding him and those following kept crying out saying: Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.” It’s ironic that the same individuals who were cheering His entry to Jerusalem would be the crowd that was calling for his crucifixion. “Pilate said to them what shall I do with Jesus called Christ. They all said, “Let him be crucified.” In our own lives we can be so supportive of Christ and his church and yet we can also remain silent or even attack the very church which forms the body of Christ on earth. I know that as we left Palm Sunday service we were carrying our palms, but we must be prepared to trade the palms for the crosses which we will be challenged to carry for Christ in our society.

On Thursday we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. The stage will be set for the greatest drama that human beings have ever been privileged to proclaim. This will begin the three days that will forever change the world. In this liturgy, we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist, the Priesthood and the commandment of fraternal charity. This liturgy is rich in understanding Jesus’ love and service. It is in the second reading from Corinthians that St. Paul commemorates the words of consecration at the Last Supper. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” St. John’s Gospel concentrates on the action of the washing of the feet. I believe that John, who was present, wanted to emphasize that the Eucharist, which is this great act of love, is reflected in Jesus giving himself in service for others so we, too, are called to serve others. The priest symbolically washes the feet of individuals. His service at the table must reflect the fact that he as priest “in persona Christi” must join his life to that of Christ in service of others.

The liturgy ends with the transfer of the Blessed Sacrament. Additional Eucharist is consecrated for the celebration the next day, which is the only day throughout the entire year that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not celebrated. The altar is stripped and emptied of the eucharistic presence and the whole community feels the emptiness, which is symbolic of the suffering and death the Lord has undergone for our sake. Leaving the service we should be drawn to appreciate the intensity of Christ’s sacrifice and our willingness to be fed by him so that we might feed others.

On Good Friday, we enter the Church to commemorate the crucifixion of the Lord. The Passion is read once again, telling the story of abandonment, sacrifice and love. Our veneration of the Cross is always such as powerful action as the congregation approaches the cross and touches, kisses, bows or kneels before this symbol of Christ’s sacrifice. Often the hymn is sung “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” as people pass the cross. I have wondered how many times, I have ignored the crucified Lord within my community. The Eucharist consecrated the evening before is distributed to those who are participating in the service. The Lord once again, in his moment of sacrifice, reaches out by offering his body and blood to us.

Holy Saturday, the longest of the three Triduum services, gives us an opportunity to celebrate the fulfillment of the promise. “Destroy this temple and in three days I shall rebuild it.” Light, word and water represent the symbols of “life”. As a community we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. The Easter candle enters the church piercing the darkened building and the light grows as the various individual candles held by the congregants are lit. Jesus “the light of the world” makes us aware of his presence among us. A number of Scripture readings are proclaimed tracing salvation history leading us to the Son of God who fulfills the promise. The waters of baptism are poured over the heads of those desiring to become Christians. As the waters flow it reminds all of us present of the great gift we have received in our own Baptism, which joined us to Jesus Christ. In the waters of baptism we die to ourselves so that we might live anew in Christ. His Resurrection is the great gift of a God who loves us beyond the trials of this world. You are loved and heaven awaits you. Please take the time out of your busy schedules to participate in the services of Holy Week and thank God for his Love.