What does Holy Week celebrate?

Faith-In-Action(4)Palm/Passion Sunday, which we will celebrate on Sunday, begins Holy Week. Palms are its symbol, the leafy branches citizens of Jerusalem broke off trees and waved to welcome Jesus into their city. In its liturgy for Sunday the Church juxtaposes the reading of this peaceful gospel with the passion story. We bless palms and celebrate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem to begin Mass. We read the story of Jesus’ suffering, humiliation, and death as the main gospel of the day. From earliest times Christians remembered Jesus’ last days by visiting the sites and remembering the happenings at them.

Our Holy Week liturgies journey with Jesus through the last events of his life — his last supper with his friends, his passion, death, and resurrection. In worship, the word celebrate means to remember and make present in story, actions, and symbols.

Holy Thursday celebrates Jesus’ last meeting with his friends when they ate together and he washed everyone’s feet.

The Church remembers how Jesus washed his friends’ feet by having the priest wash people’s feet during the liturgy or sometimes having the people of the parish wash one another’s hands or feet.

Holy Thursday liturgy also remembers that Jesus broke bread, blessed it and gave it to his friends and poured a cup of wine, blessed it, and gave it to his friends, asking them to do the same to remember him. Each Eucharist continues this action.

Good Friday remembers Jesus’ passion and death. The Church strips the altar bare and does not celebrate Eucharist on this day. Catholics gather to pray for the needs of the Church and of the people of the world for whom Jesus died. The cross is the central symbol; we kiss the cross or show it reverence in the liturgy.

Holy Saturday is the holiest day of the year. It is the night of Jesus’ resurrection. Light and water are its symbols. The community gathers in darkness to light the Easter candle, symbolizing Jesus’ resurrection. By the light of the candle we read stories of God’s goodness in creating the world, leading Israel out of Egypt, and raising Jesus from the dead. We bless water and baptize new Christians, who believe Jesus will lead them from death to life. We sprinkle the congregation with the same water.

Easter Sunday celebrates Jesus’ resurrection and the new life it promises all who follow him. All the spring signs of new life symbolize Easter.

 

 

Music and the Gospel: “Scandal of Grace,” Hillsong United; Passion/Palm Sunday

Did you catch the small, but central, detail in the gospel from Mark for Palm Sunday? Jesus, the Son of God, is riding into Jerusalem…on a donkey! This was utterly scandalous. After all, if someone were to be considered a “king,” they would be escorted by soldiers and riding royally on a fine steed through the gates. Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem is starkly different: Jesus displays deep humility. He enters the city in peace. As you enter Holy Week, carry this humility with you in your daily life.

Key Lyrics: The cross has taught me to live / And mercy, my heart now to sing / The day and its trouble shall come / I know that your strength is enough / the scandal of grace, you died in my place / So my soul will live

Questions: Reflect on friends and family in your life, calling to mind all who live with a spirit of humility. How have you been taught to live in new ways during Lent? In what ways do you feel called to share in the ultimate hope of Christ?

Music and the Gospel: ” Beyond Me,” TobyMac; 5th Sunday of Lent

It may seem like just yesterday we received ashes on our foreheads. Now we are nearing the end of Lent. We hear Jesus utters the words: “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say, save me from this hour?” Even in this moment of inner turmoil, Jesus understands his clarity of purpose; he prays to glorify God’s name. “Beyond Me” is a song that takes us into the great unknown Jesus faces.

Key Lyrics: You take me to the place where I know I need you / Straight tot he depths that I can’t handle on my own / And the Lord I know, I know I need you / Take me to your great unknown

Questions: How have you felt stretched this Lent to go beyond yourself and glorify God? When have you felt inner turmoil? How has God been present to you in those moments?

Music and the Gospel: “Greater,” MercyMe; 4th Sunday of Lent

One of the most recognizable verses from the Bible is central to Sunday’s gospel. “For God so loved the world that God gave the only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3.16). After this hope-filled declaration, the gospel contrasts light and darkness. The song helps us remember that the journey from darkness to light is not confined to a single moment but rather is an ongoing conversion. Christ, the light of the world, continually calls us into that light.

Key Lyrics: I hear a voice and he calls me redeemed / When others say I’ll never be enough / And greater is the One living inside of me / Then he who is living in the world

Questions: Name a few moments when you witness hope for a world that God dearly loves. Where or in whom do you see Christ’s light? What do you see with the light of Jesus’ love and teaching? What do you see as the purpose in your life?

Music and the Gospel: “Messengers” Lecrae feat. For King & Country; 3rd Sunday of Lent

When we hear about the life and ministry of Jesus, we hear that he healed sick people, spent time with children, and exuded love and mercy toward his disciples. Perhaps that is why the gospel for the third Sunday of Lent is jarring. After all, it shows Jesus denouncing what is unjust and throwing out the money-changers from sacred grounds, the temple. The song asks us what kind of messengers of God’s love we are.

Key Lyrics: Don’t have to wonder your purpose / Or what you’re here for / Reflect his image / And show the world what he cares for

Questions: Call to mind moments this week when you questioned your purpose. How did God speak to you to bring clarity? Brainstorm a few action steps you can take to denounce injustice in your community and announce God’s purpose for us.