“The only week of the year described as holy,” Bishop Sullivan’s Holy Week message

CNS Photo Debbie Hill

The dome of the Edicule, the traditional site of Jesus’ burial and resurrection, after the restoration work at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem (March, 2017) CNS Photo Debbie Hill

This year, HOLY WEEK falls between Sunday, April 14, and Saturday, April 20. Holy Week, the week before Easter Sunday, is the only week in the 52 weeks of the calendar year that is called or described as HOLY. It is the week during which we recall and celebrate the saving events of the Passion and Death of Jesus of Nazareth.

Holy Week reaches a climax with the Paschal Triduum, the three days of intense liturgical prayer that recall from the life of Jesus of Nazareth, His Last Supper on Holy Thursday, His Suffering and Death on the Cross on Good Friday and His burial in the tomb on Holy Saturday.

I urge you to participate, as much as you are able, in the liturgies of Holy Week. Do your best to get to church as your schedule permits. Do not allow Holy Week to pass without joining the community of faith in prayer. On each day of the seven days of Holy Week, it is possible for you to encounter the person and teaching of Jesus Christ who is your Savior. There is a unique character to each day of the week which will help you to grow in faith and in love of the Lord. If observing the entire week in church is not possible, then perhaps the Paschal Triduum, or a day or two of the week that we call HOLY is.

Perhaps this may help your prayer this Holy Week:

PALM SUNDAY of the LORD’s PASSION. This is one of the few days in the liturgical year during which two Gospels are proclaimed. The first Gospel relates the journey of Christ into Jerusalem. He is cheered by the crowds who shout HOSANNA and acclaim Him as they wave palm branches. We carry these palm branches to our homes to remind us throughout the year that Christ is our King. Let Him rule your life with His love. Greet Him with faith and follow Him.

The second Gospel, that of Saint Luke, narrates the Passion of the Lord. It can be very powerful to hear Saint Luke’s interpretation of what took place. His unique understanding of the Passion of the Lord includes, for example, the scene between the dying Lord on the Cross and the Good Thief hanging beside Him on another Cross. His words to the Lord are words of comfort, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Pray those words and experience the comfort of faith.

MONDAY of HOLY WEEK. One of the Servant Songs of Isaiah the prophet is read at Mass. Isaiah 42:1-7. The prophet describes the Servant of God as a light for the nations. For us this Servant is the Lord Jesus. He brightens our very dark world with the light of God, whose light and salvation can be yours. Scatter your darkness and let His Light shine.

TUESDAY of HOLY WEEK. In the Gospel of John 13:21-33, 36-38 read at this Mass, we hear about Peter, the Apostle, who promises to follow Jesus. “I will lay down my life for you.” Keeping a promise requires commitment which Peter apparently lacked. Yet, he is the chosen one of God. How are you following Christ this Holy Week?

WEDNESDAY of HOLY WEEK. Traditionally known as SPY WEDNESDAY. The Apostle Judas takes center stage. He is the betrayer of the Lord. One of Jesus’ own betrays Him. Judas is such a tragic figure. His lack of repentance is startling and shocking. Remember, Judas was selected by Jesus and he defected from the company of the Lord’s followers. One so close to the Lord fell away. It still happens, even in our families, and it is terribly sad.

HOLY THURSDAY, the first day of the Paschal Triduum in which is remembered the Supper of the Lord during which He gave us the gift of Himself in the Holy Eucharist and the gift of the priesthood. We recall such inestimable gifts to the Church, to us. His very Body and Blood, the true presence of Christ in Holy Communion. His REAL presence. The ordained priest who, acting in the person of Christ, brings this gift to us. Pray for your priests on this holy day.

GOOD FRIDAY, the second day of the Paschal Triduum. The death of the Lord Jesus is a real human death. His suffering and agony are painfully human. The Lord accepts the sentence of the Cross to repair the sin of Adam and Eve. “We adore You O Christ and we praise You. Because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.” Repeat that prayer as you focus on the Cross of the Lord and its saving power.

HOLY SATURDAY, the third day of the Paschal Triduum. The Church waits in darkness at the tomb of the Son of God who descended into hell. There is silence and there is expectation. We wait with hope for Christ who descended into hell.

Holy Week is our week and it should be lived differently from all the other weeks of the year. Let us enter into it with sincere desire to grow spiritually as followers of Jesus Christ. Perhaps, you would invite someone to accompany you to church. Even better, if whom you invite has not been to church for a while. Your invitation could be the moment of grace your friend needs to get straight with God and with the church.

During Holy Week there are other experiences of prayer offered in your parish, such as THE STATIONS of THE CROSS with their 14 pauses to recall the final passage of Jesus of Nazareth through the streets of Old Jerusalem. There are opportunities for the Sacrament of Penance. To confess your sins, have them pardoned and experience freedom from them. No better way to get ready for the Lord. To start the day, Morning Prayer is available in some parishes and in others the ancient ceremony of Tenebrae is sung.

Whatever you do, do something to mark HOLY WEEK in a special way and you will come to know, love and follow better the Lord Jesus Christ.

Most Reverend Dennis J. Sullivan, D.D.
Bishop of Camden

Read in Catholic Star Herald