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Layers of the Passion

My dear spiritual family,

Today is a unique day. We begin with Palms and we end with the Passion. A whole week compacted into one liturgy. We will spend more time with the Passion on Good Friday, but for those unable to attend the Good Friday liturgy (at 3pm), today is the only Sunday to spend with the Passion of Our Lord. Next Sunday, Easter, already finds us keeping vigil at the empty tomb. Today we keep vigil at the foot of the Cross. But today also finds us welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem as the Son of David.  “Hosanna! .... Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mk 11:10). From palms to passion in one day.

This complex liturgical reality helps us to notice that in reality, many layers of the Passion exist in our Faith. Every Friday is a day of penance. Before 1966 it was universal practice for Catholics to abstain from meat on Fridays throughout the year, a type of little Good Friday. In 1966, Saint Pope Paul VI permitted other forms of penance on Fridays. It seems most people heard: “Oh, now we can eat meat on Fridays!” Well… yes. Lobster, crabs, scallops, mussels, and fish on Fridays is hardly a penance, at least for me! But Fridays are still a day of penance, a day to be united to the sufferings of the Lord in order to be united with him in the Resurrection, celebrated each Sunday! That is one layer.

In Lent, we witness another layer. Penitence is expected throughout the year. God expects his faithful to do penance, to deny ourselves, in order to take up our crosses with Christ (see Mt 16:24) daily and so be united to him. (See Pope Paul VI article - a very good read!) In Lent, we put it in high gear. Catholics are required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, while also abstaining from meat on Fridays in Lent. The mandate is limited by age and overall health. Yet while not mandated, a perfectly healthy 85 year old could happily fast, if and as her health permitted it. Also on Fridays in Lent, Stations of the Cross are a long-standing custom. Unfortunately no longer popular in our parish, I hope and pray they make a comeback. Accompanying Jesus in his final hours with prayer and meditation is a much more fruitful way of uniting our minds and hearts to Him, as compared with sticking to mac'n'cheese.

During Holy Week we are invited to live our Faith even more intensely. Holy Week is a time to practice penance everyday, even to add an additional penance, while also walking step-by-step to Calvary with the Lord. Above all, these are days to meditate on the Gospels that pertain to the Passion.

The reason for these layers is that as Christians we seek to be ever more one with the Lord. In prayer and self-examination we admit a distance between our lives and our ideal life, and we strive with God’s grace to bring the reality into line with the ideal. In Christ, the promise of the Father is ultimately fulfilled! Through the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of his Son, the new and eternal covenant is cut. So we seek to be one with Jesus in his dying so as to be one with him in his rising.

Enjoy Holy Week,

Fr. Wilson