Unite Ourselves with Jesus on the Cross

04-08-2022Letters From Fr. BrianRev. Brian F. Manning

This weekend at Mass we begin “the holist week of the year” with the Celebration of Palm Sunday. This trium- phant and noisy event stands in stark contrast to the sacred events we celebrate later this week in the Sacred Trid- uum (the Three Days) which mark the Last Supper, the Institution of the Eucharist and Priesthood on Holy Thursday, the death of Jesus on the Cross on Good Friday and then on Saturday evening into Sunday morning the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. We all shout “Hosanna” on this Palm Sunday even though we know of the events later in the week. It is also from this additional knowledge that we know Jesus rose from the dead and from that truth our Palm Sunday takes its final meaning and shape.

Unlike the apostles and disciples of the past, we have millennia of reflection to know and understand in many ways the events of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Our Holy Week reflects the long-lived faith and experiences of many millions of believers who have gone before us. In the cathedrals of our Catholic church throughout the world the Feast of Palm Sunday is celebrated in large and dramatic style by the bishop. Parishes are a more modest and humble expression of this liturgical celebration. The bishop is continuing a tradition that is rooted in the fourth century of the church, although through the centu- ries the shape and style of this celebration has waxed and waned. What is actually important is that this feast Day inaugurates Holy Week and that we now commemorate in liturgical and formal fashion the sacred events which express our belief in salvation in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.

On Palm Sunday our first two readings are always the same ones read each year. We leave behind the pattern of the three year cycle and read only these passages because they help us to place the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ in focus and context. Notice how our first reading from Isaiah identifies specifically the sufferings of one servant who bears the burden of pain for others. We know from scripture study that the Book of Isaiah contains four so-called Songs of the Suffering Servant. On Palm Sunday we read a section of the third “song”. This pas- sage makes very clear to us the connection between this song and the story of Jesus’ life. These words appear to be always in the mind of Jesus and are often indirectly used in his ministry of compassion. This passage helps us to understand better the Passion of Our Lord Jesus. The letter to the Philippians written by Paul contains the pas- sage we read today. It is a poetic hymn to help balance our first reading. This hymn beautifully speaks of the Life and Death of Jesus, but also of the Resurrection and Exaltation of the Lord. This hymn helps lift us up as we re- call the events of Good Friday.

The four Gospels each reveal differing and similar facets of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus. We discover in the writing of Luke that the cross itself is the cause of our conversion and that is why he has the long story of “the way of the cross” across Jerusalem all the way to the foot of the cross on Golgotha. It is the story of many and different people who gather along the way and of one who is pressed into service to help carry the cross, namely Simon of distant Cyrene. We listen to Jesus as he speaks to the women who weep for Him. We hear of the good unnamed thief and finally of the centurion who proclaims the innocence of Jesus. And we learn that Joseph of Arimathea offers a tomb for Jesus to the women followers of Jesus. So many people along the route of Jesus and also at Golgotha! Some helping, some watching, some jeering and some weeping.

In our hearing and reading of the story of Jesus as he is led to Golgotha and to his death on the cross, we are asked to meditate upon its meaning for us. We are invited to unite ourselves with Jesus on the cross so that we will be united with Him in the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.