March 24 is Passion (Palm) Sunday.
This is the greatest week of the Christian calendar. Make the most of it with the Register’s Holy Week Guide. Watch EWTN to see Pope Francis celebrate Holy Thursday Mass and washing of the feet at a juvenile detention center, Good Friday's Via Crucis and the Easter vigil.
Entrance: Luke 19:28-40; Psalms 23, 27. Mass: Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22:8-9, 17-24; Philippians 2:6-11; Luke 22:14-23:56 or 23:1-49
Today at Mass, we celebrate in a special way what we do at every Mass. After all, every Mass “re-presents — makes present — the sacrifice of the cross,” says the Catechism (1366).
So today when we re-enact the greeting of Jesus with palms, we are doing what we do at each Mass: greeting Jesus publicly. And when we hear the Passion reading today, we will be hearing words that are associated with every Mass. Here are just a few of Jesus’ words in today’s Passion reading from Luke and a consideration of what they mean for us each week.
“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”
Jesus says this about the Mass which instituted the Eucharist, but he says it to us today, and each week, as well. He eagerly desires to be one with us in Communion. This is the reason he made us — to be sharers in his life — and it is the reason he became man — that we would accept him back and vice versa. That he took a further step and became the Eucharistic Jesus — God in the appearance of bread — should fill us with awe.
“This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.”
This is the moment that bread becomes Christ. Jesus held himself in his hands, as St. Augustine put it. God had said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Now he says, “This is my body,” and it is. When he says, “Do this in memory of me,” the full force of the meaning is: “Do this to make me present.”
At the same time, he is making present his passion. Pope Francis, when he was a cardinal, said it this way: “The institution of the Eucharist, in effect, anticipated sacramentally the events that would take place later, beginning with the Agony in Gethsemane.”
If he could make those events present sacramentally in the Last Supper, he can make them present at each Mass for us, too.
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.”
Jesus means what he says. He will make a new covenant by dying on the cross for us. The blood that he sheds there won’t be lost in the sands of time. It will be available for us at each Mass.
Here is how the Catechism compares the Mass and the Passion: “The victim is one and the same. ... Only the manner of offering is different. In this Divine Sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner” (1367).
Pope Francis, at his first public Mass as Pope, asked us to remember this reality: “My wish is that all of us, after these days of grace, will have the courage, yes, the courage … to build the Church on the Lord’s blood, which was poured out on the cross.”
This Holy Week is the perfect time to start.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.