My friends, we gather today on this Passion or Palm Sunday, to mark and celebrate the beginning of the holiest week in the Christian calendar. I have often said that ‘to remember is to make present.’ And, to remember within the symbolic richness of our liturgical tradition, we indeed ‘make present’ the saving mystery of the Lord’s presence for the life of the world.
What we do today and especially during the heart of this week, the Paschal Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the glorious Easter Vigil – is no play acting. This is not a time for creative parish liturgical committees to conscript donkeys for Palm Sunday, reenact Last Suppers or nail people to crosses! No, what we do this week is far more important, exquisitely more eventful than relegate these days to an extended Passion play.
As Catholic Christians, we firmly believe that when we enter the graced moments of our liturgical celebrations, Christ is truly present in a ‘sacramental’ way. That term, ‘sacrament’ is multi-dimensional in meaning but at its core, it is the profound belief that through the ‘sign-language’ of these celebrations, the Holy and Divine, touches our lives, inviting us to be transformed and made new by the power of that presence.
And so, the ‘grammar’ of this week of weeks is taken up with palms held high in celebration, bread and wine, feet lovingly washed and caressed, wood venerated and kissed, fire blazing in the night and water and oil generously poured and the sound of our voices raised in both lament and exultation as we journey with Christ through life, death and resurrection.
As our Lenten itinerary of conversion reaches its culmination, our guide, as always, will be the living word of God in the Scriptures. That word, today, speaks of the fickleness of human nature that one moment can cry, “hosanna” and the next, “crucify him, crucify him” to the one whom Isaiah points to as the ‘suffering servant.’
Both the darkness and glory of these days are so often mirrored in our own lives that are called to be constantly turning ever more closely to the Lord of our lives in conversion and renewal.
May this week and the liturgies that ‘make present’ Jesus, dying and rising, be opportunities for each one of us to ‘die and rise’ with him and so, be transfigured by the grace of these days.