And as Palm Sunday dawns, back by popular demand, music for this day's Great Entrance, taken from Psalm 147....
Let us resolve to make this week holy by claiming Christ’s redemptive grace and by living holy lives....and in these days ahead, church, may we bring that prayer into being.
The Word became flesh and redeemed us by his holy life and holy death. This week especially, let us accept redemption by living grateful, faithful, prayerful, generous, just and holy lives.
Let us resolve to make this week holy by reading and meditating Holy Scripture.
So often, we get caught up in the hurry of daily living. As individuals and as families, reserve prime time to be with Jesus, to hear the cries of the children waving palm branches, to see the Son of Man riding on an ass' colt, to feel the press of the crowd, to be caught up in the "Hosannas” and to realize how the cries of acclamation will yield to the garden of suffering, to be there and watch as Jesus is sentenced by Pilate to Calvary, to see him rejected, mocked, spat upon, beaten and forced to carry a heavy cross, to hear the echo of the hammer, to feel the agony of the torn flesh and strained muscles, to know Mary’s anguish as he hung three hours before he died.
We recoil before the atrocities of war, gang crime, domestic violence and catastrophic illness. Unless we personally and immediately are touched by suffering, it is easy to read Scripture and to walk away without contacting the redemptive suffering that makes us holy. The reality of the Word falls on deaf ears.
Let us take time this week to be present to someone who suffers. Sharing the pain of a fellow human will enliven Scripture and help us enter into the holy mystery of the redemptive suffering of Christ.
Let us resolve to make this week holy by participating in the Holy Week services of the church, not just by attending, but also by preparing, by studying the readings, entering into the spirit, offering our services as ministers of the Word or Eucharist, decorating the church or preparing the environment for worship.
Let us sing, "Lord, have mercy," and "Hosanna." Let us praise the Lord with our whole heart and soul and mind and strength, uniting with the suffering church throughout the world -- in Rome and Ireland, in Syria and Lebanon, in South Africa and Angola, India and China, Nicaragua and El Salvador, in Washington, D.C., and Jackson, Mississippi.
Let us break bread together; let us relive the holy and redemptive mystery. Let us do it in memory of him, acknowledging in faith his real presence upon our altars.
Let us resolve to make this week holy by sharing holy peace and joy within our families, sharing family prayer on a regular basis, making every meal a holy meal where loving conversations bond family members in unity, sharing family work without grumbling, making love not war, asking forgiveness for past hurts and forgiving one another from the heart, seeking to go all the way for love as Jesus went all the way for love.
Let us resolve to make this week holy by sharing holy peace and joy with the needy, the alienated, the lonely, the sick and afflicted, the untouchable.
Let us unite our sufferings, inconveniences and annoyances with the suffering of Jesus. Let us stretch ourselves, going beyond our comfort zones to unite ourselves with Christ's redemptive work.
We unite ourselves with Christ's redemptive work when we reconcile, when we make peace, when we share the good news that God is in our lives, when we reflect to our brothers and sisters God's healing, God's forgiveness, God's unconditional love.
Let us be practical, reaching out across the boundaries of race and class and status to help somebody, to encourage and affirm somebody, offering to the young an incentive to learn and grow, offering to the downtrodden resources to help themselves.
May our fasting be the kind that saves and shares with the poor, that actually contacts the needy, that gives heart to heart, that touches and nourishes and heals.
During this Holy Week when Jesus gave his life for love, let us truly love one another.
“Saint Augustine reminds us that the City of Man and the City of God intermingle. We have obligations to each. But our final home and our real citizenship are not in this world. Politics is important, but it’s never the main focus or purpose of a Christian life. If we do not know and love Jesus Christ, and commit our lives to him, and act on what we claim to believe, everything else is empty. But if we do, so much else is possible—including the conversion of the world around us. The only question that finally matters to any of us is the one Jesus posed to his apostles: “Who do you say I am?” (Mk 8:29). Everything depends on the answer. Faith leads in one direction, the lack of it in another. But the issue is faith—always and everywhere, whether we’re scholars or doctors or priests or lawyers or mechanics. Do we really believe in Jesus Christ, or don’t we? And if we do, what are we going to do about it?
A genuinely Catholic life should feed the soul as well as the mind; should offer a vision of men and women made whole by the love of God, the knowledge of creation, and the reality of things unseen; should enable us to see the beauty of the world in the light of eternity; and should help us recapture the nobility of the human story and the dignity of the human person.
This is the kind of witness that sets fire to the human heart. It starts the only kind of revolution that really changes anything: a revolution of love. Jesus said, I came to cast fire upon the earth, and would that it were already kindled.
Our task is to start that blaze and then help it grow.”
On Monday, March 26, Pope Benedict XVI will land on Cuban soil. The Cuban people, including Cubans from these shores, will receive him with the love and enthusiasm worthy of the one who "comes in the name of the Lord." He comes in his role as universal pastor of the Catholic Church — and since one of the most important responsibilities of the Pope is to confirm Catholics in the faith, the purpose of his visit to Cuba is pastoral: that is, to reaffirm the faith of Catholics on the island and, in turn, to highlight the importance of spiritual values to all Cubans. So, if the Pope is going to Cuba, it is also because he recognizes the valuable work of the Cuban Church — of its bishops, priests, religious and laity — who out of their poverty want to serve their people as a leaven of evangelical hope.PHOTOS: Getty(1)
It is true that Cubans — here and there — want a more political change, but Benedict XVI's visit to Cuba is not expected to have political overtones but rather pastoral ones. Despite a climate of suspicion and mistrust that is often the result of life under totalitarian regimes, the Church in Cuba wants to help the Cuban people to overcome their lack of mutual trust and build unity on the basis of forgiveness and reconciliation. Only by traveling a road inspired by evangelical love, rather than ideological hatred, will the people be able to find secure guidelines to follow to build a future of hope in Cuba. This defines the purpose of the pope’s visit and also defines the mission of the Church in general.
As Oscar Espinosa Chepe, an independent journalist in Cuba, commented in the Miami Herald, March 22, "The Catholic Church has given ample evidence of having been at the side of Cuba’s citizens, without discrimination of any kind. The pressure — offspring of the desperation caused by so many years of suffering and repression — to have it take positions that are biased and divorced from reality, far from helping in the current national context, undermine the work of building consensus for change and the decisive role of the Church as a bridge of communication among all Cubans, including, of course, our compatriots living abroad, who are an inalienable part of our country."
We must recognize how difficult it is to assess from outside the thin line that exists between a cowardly retreat from a prophetic stance and prudence in the face of oppression in order to take advantage of the little space there is. Those who live in a different social context need to avoid committing grave injustices by applying simplistic criteria in their facile condemnations.
We who travel to Cuba from Miami as pilgrims also want to acknowledge the work of the Church in Cuba and to demonstrate our solidarity with her as she celebrates with joy, together with the Holy Father, the 400th anniversary of the finding and presence of the Virgin of Charity in Cuba. The words, "to Jesus through Mary, love unites us,'' also are directed, as affirmed by the Cuban bishops, to the "Cuban brethren living outside of Cuba, because the Virgin of Charity is a symbol of the homeland, of the bond that unites our families, our people and, above all, because she is the Mother of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Savior of all men.''
We go to Cuba because the Cuban Catholic Church is inviting us. And the presence among the pilgrims of a large group of Americans alongside Cuban Americans will highlight the close historic ties that bind Florida to Cuba. Let us remember that this territory, during the years of the Spanish colonization, was part of the then Diocese of Santiago de Cuba.
The visit of John Paul II marked a “before” and “after” among the Cuban people at the level of Church, although, at the time, no major changes were perceived in church-state relations. As a young Cuban priest said recently, "For everyone, those were days of joy on the streets, of energy, of a sense of freedom, it was spectacular; it was another people." Such were the effects of the visit of John Paul and we hope something similar will take place during this visit of Benedict XVI.