Most evenings I am either too busy or too tired to want to watch a TV show. When I am up to it, I would rather watch a movie, and I have a huge queue on Netflix. But when I am at home visiting my parents, I watch some TV with them. At the end of an episode of a program, we usually see ads for future shows. They often say something like, “Next time on CSI…” and run some exciting clips of the program to make you want to watch the show next week too. They never show the ending of the next show, of course; just some of the most dramatic moments to get you interested.
Today’s Palm Sunday Mass is a bit like that. We are beginning Holy Week, which we can think of as a miniseries – the key difference being that, through the power of God acting through the Liturgy and the sacraments, we are not just spectators of a drama: we become truly spiritually present to the events that the liturgy presents to us. Call it spiritual time travel, if you will. If we participate well, the spiritual effect on us can be very profound.
The first Gospel today, and the entrance procession, help us to relive Our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, which is the first episode of “Holy Week: The Miniseries”. We acknowledge Christ as our King, and welcome Him into His Holy City, at the same time as we welcome Him again into our hearts and lives. Then, the readings jump to the Last Supper and the events of Good Friday, and we hear the account of His Passion and Death. Of course, the Resurrection on Easter Sunday is not included, because previews never show plot spoilers. So, the stage is set, the first segment is done, and we have been given an overview of coming events.
It’s a very powerful experience to participate in this liturgical miniseries throughout the week. We don’t have any special liturgies on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, but we can take a few minutes to read through the events in the Gospel between the Lord’s arrival in Jerusalem and the Last Supper. Then, we arrive at the three most important days of the year: the Holy Triduum, which includes Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. On each of these days, the Church offers a full-length liturgical “episode” that really helps us to relive and go deeper into the events that we summarized in today’s Gospel.
On Holy Thursday, we have the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, at 7PM at St. Ann’s. This “episode” is not just the last dinner that Jesus had with His disciples; it includes the moment when Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist, which is the most important sacrament of the Church. To quote the Catechism, “The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’ ‘The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.’”.
The next “episode” is Good Friday. We will commemorate the Passion of the Lord with a liturgy at 3PM at St. Joachim’s and 7PM at St. Ann’s. It might seem redundant, because we heard the reading of the Passion today, but we will use a more detailed account, taken from the Gospel of John, and we will have the Veneration of the Cross. It’s our chance to spiritually accompany Christ from Gethsemane to the tomb, to show our love and gratitude toward Him, while the crowds mock Him and kill Him.
The closing episode is the series of Masses starting with the Easter Vigil on Saturday and ending with the morning Masses on Sunday. If we have really lived Holy Week as best we can (according to our circumstances of work and family), the Mass of the Resurrection is that much more powerful and joyful an experience.
I would like to invite everyone today to live this Holy Week as close to Christ as possible. If you can participate in the liturgies, great! Besides the main services I mentioned, there will also be special opportunities for the sacrament of Reconciliation, and parts of the Liturgy of the Hours prayed at our churches, as explained in the bulletin. Even if you can’t be here at Church until Saturday or Sunday, we can all still take a little extra time to remember each stage of this week leading up to the Resurrection. It would be a pity to miss out on all the blessings God has in store for us throughout Holy Week. May we live this year’s Holy Triduum and Easter as if it were our first, our last, and our only opportunity.