The Paschal Mystery
Today we begin the Holy Week, the heart of the Christian faith, during which we remember the last week of Jesus’ life. It begins with Palm Sunday and ends with Easter Sunday. Holy Week observances began in Jerusalem in the earliest days of the Church when devout Christians travelled to Jerusalem at Passover to reenact the events leading to the Resurrection. Its purpose is to relive and participate in the passion of the Lord. Our being Christians is, in fact, making a pilgrimage with Christ; to journey towards our own Jerusalem in order to rise with Him.
Jesus began his pilgrimage in Galilee. The last part of the journey was from Jericho to Jerusalem. Geographically, Jericho is 250 meters below sea-level. Literally, the pilgrim makes a difficult ascent of more than 1,000 meters. It is both challenging and tiresome. It becomes an icon of a much arduous spiritual journey in life. As Jesus went forward despite the threats, rejections and sufferings awaiting him, we need to move forward in life accepting and embracing our own crosses. Our Jerusalem is the place where God is calling us to do his will.
Our liturgy combines two contrasting moments in Jesus’ life – praise and passion. The contrast is vividly striking. After the royal welcome and the hosanna of the crowd, the drama of his unjust trial culminates in his crucifixion. We are all invited to relive his Paschal Mystery – his suffering, death and resurrection – all in one continuum. Our life itself is made up of contrasting moments of joy and sorrow, sunshine and rain, light and shadows. Despite the contrast we learn to hope.
The Holy Week shows us the power of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus. There can be no empty tomb without Calvary; there is no Easter joy without the tragedy of the cross. In the end, Jesus showed us that love is mightier than hate; grace is greater than sin and life always triumphs over death. The story of the cross is a perpetual reminder that a selfless life can change the world.