Palm Sunday liturgy, among other things, specifically refreshes the concluding events of Jesus’ public ministry. Indeed, it illumines his last public appearance leading to his passion, death and resurrection. Divided into two parts, the red color, the palms, and the procession, accompanied by joyous chants, articulate the humble depiction of Jesus’ royalty, while the long passion narrative reminds the faithful of the unhappy ending. This unusual dialogic passion narrative at the very beginning of the Holy Week can be read as the valedictory speech of Jesus to his disciples. While anticipating his end, Jesus admonished his lieutenants on the Way forward, with emphasis on the necessity to serve others as a true mark of authentic leadership.
Jesus left no stone unturned in the bid to inculcate the relevance of leadership by service, at the dusk of his ministry. He practically reiterated the vital points of his three years mission in words and deeds. If the perplexity of the apostles could be felt, then that of Simon Peter was doubled because of his leadership role among these prospective leaders of the new founded faith. Most outstanding is putting Peter on the spotlight and exposing his weakness (as human), but also encouraging him that in spite of his imperfection, he will be strengthened by God. And when strengthened, he should strengthen his brothers (fellow leaders). Such direct lessons humbled but aided Peter’s repentance (after the triple pre warned shameful denials) and unceasing reliance on the grace of God.
The same farewell speech incorporated several highlights of Jesus’ main teachings. From identifying the Eucharist as his Real Presence meant for unceasing memorials, Jesus demonstrated an amazing tolerance of Judas, the known betrayer, by sharing meals with him. Aware of the dangers ahead, the Master encouraged his disciples to equitably arm themselves in self-defense. Leading by example, he taught them that the foremost defense is persistent prayer expressed in accord with God’s will. In as much as Jesus condemned betrayal (by a deceptive kiss), he as well opposed vengeful retaliation. For example, in the midst of unwarranted torture, he healed the oppressor’s servant, whose ear was chopped off. Overall, his non-violent responses to his oppressors proved his humble submission to the will of the Father, as well as his committed services to others. Such memories stand tall as optimal legacy for his immediate disciples and their successors.
Jesus’ valedictory speech also speaks to us by extension. As individual leaders of our thoughts and actions, or corporate bodies, we are called out today as Jesus did to Simon Peter, to be willfully ready to embrace leadership by service, as designed by the Master. Like St. Paul, awareness of our weakness should translate to our strength in the Lord. For “When am weak, I am strong (in the Lord),” 2 Corinthians 12:10.
God bless you. Fr. Levi
The incomparable joy of Easter is incomplete without the antecedent events of the Triduum. The liturgies of these last 3 days, before Easter, will be traversed for a deeper appreciation of the resurrection story. Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday, together reenact the climax celebration of the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. We are therefore invited to contemplate the significances of each event and stay abreast with their implied challenges.
1. Holy Thursday – The Mass of the Lord’s Supper: Prior to the Lord’s Supper, Chrism Mass is celebrated in the morning or at a more convenient day before. At every Chrism Mass the bishop, in union with all the priests in the diocese, celebrates the Eucharist with the faithful. The peculiarity of this celebration include the renewal of priestly commitments and the blessing of the 3 sacramental oils: Catechumens, the sick, and chrism.
While the morning liturgy recounts the institution of the priesthood, the Lord’s Supper in the evening concentrates on the institution of the Eucharist. In anticipation of his ultimate sacrifice on the cross, Jesus established the sacramental reenactment of his death. Priests and bishops, the successors of the apostles, are called to minister this Eucharistic gift to all the faithful, as commanded in the New Law (“love one another as I love you”). Such model of love (leadership by service) was dramatically expressed when Jesus washed the feet of his apostles. This evening liturgy concludes with adoration in solidarity with Jesus during the late hours of his trials.
2. Good Friday: This afternoon service marks the Lord’s passion and death. On Good Friday, Jesus paid the ultimate price on the cross. Therefore, no Mass (memorial of this sacrifice) is celebrated in the entire Catholic world. Divided into 3 parts: Liturgy of the Word; Veneration of the Cross; and Communion, the service reflects a mournful silence and meditative appreciation of the substitutive sacrifice undertaken for our sake.
3. Holy Saturday – Easter Vigil: Silence beclouds the entire universe as the savior of the world communes with all those who died in friendship with God. At nightfall, the vigil commences with a) the service of the Light, which heralds Christ as the Light of the darkened world. Then follows: b) liturgy of the Word, c) Liturgy of baptism and d) liturgy of the Eucharist. At this lengthiest ceremony, Christ is presented as the only Hope of the world, for eternal salvation. As the Light of the world, the baptized are illumined daily through active participative in the Word and the Eucharist.
Easter Sunday heralds the great news of Christ’s resurrection. Our hope would have been hopeless, if Christ had not risen. Our joy, knows no bounds because Christ is indeed risen; Alleluia. This assured hope manifests in the boldness of the weak Peter, who publicly witnessed to the truth of the victorious Christ over his killers (Acts 10: 34a, 37-43). As children of resurrection, our focus should be on heavenly things as instructed by St. Paul (Col 3: 1-4). When conscious of the heavenly destination, the love of Christ urges us on. In the gospel (John 20: 1-9), Mary Magdalene, drawn by love for Christ dared the fear of darkness or the Jews, and arrived earliest at the tomb. As such she became the first “apostle” of post resurrection. With Magdalene’s alert, Peter and John ran to the tomb. Peter arrived after John partly because of age, but majorly because the beloved, also drawn by love identified with the Master until death. Peter therefore ran with mix feelings due to the remorse from his triple denials. May the Love of Christ’s resurrection Light urges us on.
God bless you, Fr. Levi