April 14, 2019

As we enter into this holiest week of the year for us, I hope and pray that we can set our priorities to reflect how special these days are. For us Christians, to celebrate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus is to be plunged into that saving mystery. While what we celebrate this week is rooted in historical events that took place in Palestine in the first third of the first century, we don’t simply re-enact these historical events.

For it is the Risen Christ who gathers us during these days. We don’t pretend that we are magically transported back in time to Jerusalem - to the upper room and Calvary and the Tomb. What we celebrate is how the events that transpired there have saved us once and for all time. What we celebrate is that out of whatever is death-dealing in our lives right now, the Lord can bring life.

Today we hear from Luke’s Gospel and the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. We hear how that triumph quickly turned to apparent defeat in betrayal, condemnation and death. We hear of Jesus’ compassion and mercy from the cross and his assurance that the repentant thief will be with him in paradise. That compassion and mercy is present right now. Christ continues to offer us that saving, reconciling love.

At sundown on Holy Thursday our Lenten journey comes to an end and we enter into the great Three Days of Easter (The Sacred Triduum). We give thanks for the oils blessed by the Archbishop this past Thursday. These oils (of Catechumens, of the Sick, and the Sacred Chrism) will be used throughout the coming year in our sacramental celebrations. At this liturgy we recall Jesus’ gift to us of the priesthood - a priesthood rooted not in lording power over people, but in service. The washing of the feet, with the priest on hands and knees is the proper posture of the servant leader Jesus has designated. The gift of the Eucharist, the sustaining and nourishing presence of the Lord, is given special treatment this night. We linger in His presence during the first night of the sacred three days.

On Good Friday we fast and abstain from meat, and we once again hear the story of the passion and death of Jesus, but this time from John’s Gospel. This day the tone is very different from Palm Sunday. John’s account of the Passion shows Jesus triumphant on the cross. The Church has preserved four accounts of the Passion without trying to blend all four together (although we often do that). It is a good exercise to really listen carefully, and to even study beforehand, the two Gospel accounts we hear this week. On this day we give special attention to the Holy Cross and take time to venerate this most sacred sign of how much we are loved by a God willing to die for us so that we might live. This liturgy begins and ends in silence because it is the middle day of the journey. What began on Holy Thursday will not end until the final blessing at our Easter Masses.

On Holy Saturday evening we gather for the Mother of all Feasts in our Church. The Easter Vigil is the highpoint of the whole Church year. We will celebrate the Vigil this year at St. Joseph and St. Thomas. I encourage those who can join us for the Vigil from Our Lady Star of the Sea to make the journey. At this Mass we will bless our Paschal Candle that will be used throughout this year. Its enduring flame will remind us during these days of the Easter Season, and at Baptisms and Funerals throughout the year, of the presence of the Risen Christ among us. We will hear the story of our salvation and make new Christians in the waters of Baptism, and be re-made ourselves through the renewal of our Baptismal promises and the sprinkling with Easter water, and feast on Easter Eucharist.

On Easter Sunday our celebration of this third day of the Triduum continues until the evening. Our celebration on this day extends the celebration from the night before and plunges us into the new life Christ has won for us through his victory over death.

It is that Christ, alive among us right now, who summons us to these celebrations this week. Let us, as much as we possibly can, make these celebrations the center and focus of this most holiest of weeks.

Happy Holy Week!

Fr. Gary Lazzeroni