With the liturgy of Passion Sunday, we enter into the most sacred time of the year: Holy Week. The solemn liturgies of yesterday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter celebrate those events through which Christ brought salvation to the world, by which he gave to all people the hope of eternal life. They reveal that, contrary to the distortions offered by the chief priests and Pharisees at the end of St. Matthew’s passion narrative, Jesus is no deception. He is truth. The wondrous events of Holy Week reveal that he is, truly, the Saviour of the world. At the end of the week, at Easter Mass, we shall be invited to renew, in solemn fashion, our baptismal promises and thus recommit ourselves to following Jesus as his disciples. To borrow words from the beginning of yesterday’s Mass, we shall be invited to dedicate ourselves once more to follow the Lord with “a lively faith”. This means with complete devotion and full understanding.
The question that thus poses itself at the beginning of this week is: on what understanding of Christ do I base my decision to follow him? The people we recalled in yesterday’s Scripture passages underline the importance of this question, because their decision to follow Jesus was founded upon a misunderstanding of who he is. The crowd of jubilant supporters, who welcomed him to Jerusalem and placed palm branches before him, thought that he, the Messiah, had come to liberate them from political oppression and tyranny by displays of power and might. Jesus is, indeed, the Messiah. But he came to liberate them and all people from the tyranny of sin; he would do so by handing himself over to death. In fact, he had forewarned his closest disciples that the Messiah was to suffer and die before rising from the dead.
As the events foretold by Jesus came to pass, the truth that he was no political liberator dawned on the people. Suddenly, those who had followed Jesus into the city were nowhere to be seen. The jubilant crowds were replaced by multitudes who called for his crucifixion. Even among his apostles, his closest friends, there was Judas who betrayed him with a kiss, and Peter who denied him. Indeed, they all fled from him and abandoned him to his fate. It became clear that to follow Jesus would mean following him to the Cross. At that time even the apostles were unwilling to do that. But that willingness did come later, when, in the power of the Holy Spirit, the apostles came to know the full truth of Jesus and boldly proclaimed to the world the power of his death and resurrection. That proclamation did, indeed, take them to the cross as they were martyred for their faith in Christ.
We are the recipients of their apostolic message. Therefore, we enter Holy Week in the full knowledge of our call to follow the Lord to the cross. This means imitating in our lives the pattern of his. As St. Paul exhorts us, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” He was humble and obedient to the will of the Father. He gave his life, that all might have life. We who follow him are to do the same.
Throughout this week, as we commemorate with gratitude and joy the death and resurrection of Christ, let us pray that we become ever more faithful disciples of the Lord. Throughout the week let us prepare to commit ourselves anew to follow Him all the way to the Cross, by living each day the pattern of Christ’s life.