PALM SUNDAY article see below

More on Holy Week

Many people who no longer visit their churches, will always remember Holy Week because of the emotions evoked when reading the Gospels and other readings. Catholics who are no longer active for one reason or another won't easily forget their church experiences when they were younger. Palm Sunday is still part of Lent, but the Seasonal color scheme (Vestments and wall hangings) go from Purple to Red. The people spread palm fronds before Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. They cried "Hosanna!" There was great happiness, even though five days later, the people would demand He be Crucified! What changed in so short a time?


To answer that question, we need to examine Holy Scripture (Bible, specifically, the New Testament). In an old homily given by Pope St. John Paul II, he cites an antiphon that we sing in the solemn procession as we carry our branches of olive and palm on this Sunday, called Palm or Passion Sunday.


1. "Pueri Hebraeorum, portantes ramos olivarum.... The Jewish children went to meet the Lord waving olive branches".


"We have relived what took place on that day: in the midst of the crowd rejoicing around Jesus who entered Jerusalem riding a donkey there were crowds of children. Some Pharisees would have wanted Jesus to have them keep quiet, but he answered that if they would have been silent, even the stones would have cried out (cf. Lk 19:39-40).

"Even today, thanks be to God, there is a multitude of young people here in St Peter's Square†. The "children of Jerusalem" have become young men and women of every nation, language and culture. Welcome, dear friends! I warmly greet each one of you! Today's gathering directs us toward the coming World Youth Day, that will take place in Toronto, Canada, one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. The World Youth Day Cross is already there. Last year on Palm Sunday, Italian young people entrusted it to their Canadian peers.


2. "The Cross is the focus of the liturgy today.


Dear young people, with your attentive and enthusiastic participation in this solemn celebration, you show that you are not ashamed of the Cross. You do not fear the Cross of Christ. Indeed, you love and venerate it because it is the sign of the Redeemer who died and rose again for us. Those who believe in Jesus, crucified and risen, carry the Cross in triumph as an indisputable proof that God is love. With the total gift of himself on the Cross, our Saviour decisively conquered sin and death. Therefore we joyfully proclaim: "Glory and praise to you, O Christ who has redeemed the world with your Cross".


3. "Christ became obedient for us even to death, death on the Cross. Therefore God raised him on high and gave him a name above every other name" (Gospel acclamation).


We have used these words of the Apostle Paul, just heard in the Second Reading, as our acclamation before we begin the reading of the Passion. They express our faith: the faith of the Church.


"However, faith in Christ can never be taken for granted. The reading of his Passion sets us before Christ, living in his Church. The Easter Mystery that we will relive during the days of Holy Week is always present. Today we are contemporaries of the Lord and, like the multitude in Jerusalem, like the disciples and the women, we are called to decide if we are to be with him, or flee, or just be spectators at his death.


"Every year in Holy Week the curtain rises once again on the great scene in which the definitive drama is decided, not only for one generation, but for all humanity and for each one.


4. "The Passion narrative points out the fidelity of Christ, contrasted with human infidelity. In the hour of his trial, while the disciples and even Peter abandon Jesus (cf. Mt 26,56), He remains faithful, willing to pour out his blood to bring to fulfilment the mission the Father has entrusted to him. Beside him is Mary, silent and suffering.


"Dear young people! Learn from Jesus and from his and our Mother. The real strength of a man lies in the fidelity of his witness to the truth and in his resisting flattery, threats, misunderstandings, blackmail, even harsh and relentless persecution. This is the path on which our Redeemer calls us to follow him.

"Only if you are ready to do this, will you become what Jesus expects of you, that is, "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world" (Mt 5,13-14). As you know, this is the theme for the coming World Youth Day. The image of salt "reminds us that, through Baptism, our whole being has been profoundly changed, because it has been "seasoned' with the new life which comes from Christ (cf. Rom 6,4)" (Message for the 17th World Youth Day, n. 2).

"Dear young people, do not lose your flavour as Christians, the flavour of the Gospel! Keep it alive by meditating constantly on the Easter Mystery: may the Cross be your school of wisdom. Boast of nothing else save this sublime throne of truth and love.


5. "The liturgy invites us to climb towards Jerusalem with Jesus, hailed by the young Jews. In a little while he "will have to suffer and on the third day rise from the dead" (Lk 24,46).


St Paul has reminded us that Jesus "emptied himself, taking the form of a servant" (Phil 2,7) to obtain for us the grace of divine sonship. From him springs the true spring of peace and joy for each one of us! Here is the secret of the Easter joy that is born from the hardship of the Passion.


"I hope that each one of you will share in this joy, dear young friends. The One you have chosen as Teacher is not a merchant of deceptions, not a powerful one of this world, not a ready and skilled debater. You know who it is you have chosen to follow: the Crucified is risen! The Crucified is risen! Christ died for you, Christ rose for you.


"The Church assures you that you will not be disillusioned. Indeed, no one else other than he can give you that love, peace, and eternal life for which your heart so deeply yearns. Blessed are you young people if you will be faithful disciples of Christ! Blessed are you who are ready to witness on every occasion that this man is truly the Son of God (cf. Mt 27,39).


"May Mary, Mother of the incarnate Word guide and go with you, ready to intercede for everyone who comes into the world."


(†) Homily of the Holy Father, John Paul II. 24 March 2002. Given on 17th World Youth Day. "You are the salt of the earth... You are the light of the world" (Mt 5,13-14) Source:


I love this particular Homily given to the young men and women who attended that WYD in 2002. Also, most likely, the time you left the church was while you were a teenager or a young person, so put yourself in that frame of mind and listen to Jesus as He speaks to you in your heart. Allow Him to guide you in all that you do, so that you avoid the temptations of the modern world, and re-unite with a church or congregation where you feel comfortable. Sure, I would like you back in the Catholic Church some day, but yours is the final decision where you want to pray as an adult. But do take action, don't let your life languish without purpose. I wish you a very spiritual and thoughtful Holy Week!


Fred S. Schaeffer, OFS
March 30, 2012 rev. 2018


Palm Sunday: according to St. Andrew of Crete


St. Andrew of Crete, an 8th Century theologian and monk, homilized on Palm Sunday. This is what he said:

"Let us go together to meet Christ on the Mount of Olives. Today he returns from Bethany and proceeds of his own free will toward his holy and blessed passion, to consummate the mystery of our salvation....

"Let us run to accompany him as he hastens toward his passion and imitate those who met him then, not by covering his path with garments, olive branches or palms, but by doing all we can to prostrate ourselves before him by being humble and by trying to live as he would wish. Then we shall be able to receive the Word at his coming, and God, whom no limits can contain, will be within us.

"...So let us spread before his feet, not garments or soulless branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in him. We who have been baptized into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before him...Let our souls take the place of the welcoming branches as we join today in the children's holy song: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Blessed is the king of Israel."

Christians, everywhere, re-celebrate and re-experience "Palm Sunday" as the beginning of Holy Week, the one week in the year that is most meaningful in any of the Christian Religions. While some non-Catholics may forget this, Catholics are first, and foremost Christians, because our entire religion is based on Jesus Christ.

The Global Internet reaches all corners of the world. Many people do not believe in Jesus Christ. Generally, those are people who are non-Catholic and non-Christian, and that's OK. However, when we pray for peace in the world, we include everyone in that prayer.

The words of St. Andrew of Crete are inspiring, because he places emphasis on the quality of our praise and admiration of Jesus as He comes into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. To place olive branches on the trail leading to the Jerusalem Gate is nice, but what we're looking for is an adoration that comes from within. So when we say "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, our praise and admiration for Jesus comes from the Heart, and not just from our lips, or hastily placed garments and branches.

Generally, someone we admire is someone we'd like to emulate. We admire him or her so much that we would like to have a quality similar to the one we admire. In case of Jesus Christ, we desire to be as humble as He is, or as peaceful. Wouldn't we want to be as graceful and kind to those we meet everyday? Yes, and much more. So we study Jesus' life, and we may read Scripture passages about Him over and over again, until some can recite them in their sleep. Jesus Christ is our mentor and friend, and most things we do, we do for Him because He is God.

As Holy Week progresses, the Apostles are busy setting up the Last Supper. I've always wondered what happened in those days. Nowadays a meal for so many people would be catered but somehow I doubt there was a catering business in those days. And, by the way, Leonardo Da Vinci painted the scene of the Last Supper in 1498; Da Vinci wasn't at the Last Supper.

The passion account, with its condemnation of Jesus by the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:53,55-65; 15:1a) and sentencing by Pilate (Mark 15:1b-15), is prefaced with the entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-11), ministry and controversies there (Mark 11:15-12:44), Jesus' Last Supper with the disciples (Mark 14:1-26). There is more, of course, but this is the span I'm covering in this Reflection. Not much is said about the preparation for the meal itself.

It is more important what happened at the last Supper, than the Supper itself. At that well-documented meal, Jesus instituted what Catholics now celebrate at every Mass, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. We celebrate Holy Mass so frequently because Jesus told us to do so. Jesus gave us a most precious gift, Himself, in the Holy Eucharist.

Holy Communion (Eucharist) is not only our relationship with Christ in the Eucharist, but also our relationship with each other, specifically with other Catholics who believe, as we do, in the real presence of Christ, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.


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by Fred Schaeffer, OFS 2019

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