In one of his tweets from the Vatican, Pope Francis expressed: "To experience Holy Week is to enter more and more into God's logic of love and self-giving." Holy Week is upon us and as we enter into the most solemn week of the liturgical year, we truly enter more into God's logic of love and self-giving. As we celebrate Holy Week, those events in the life of the Lord which express the very depth of His giving of Himself are before us and we are awed by the depth of His love which goes beyond all human reason. Holy Week will bring us to the celebration of Easter and our faith community will be quite active and prayerful as we move through this sacred time.
Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, is a celebration of the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. As Christ is welcomed to the city, He is greeted as a king. Palms are waved before Him as before a worldly king. He is enthusiastically greeted as the crowds cry out to Him with acclamations of praise. This enthusiastic welcome of the Lord is far from the logic of God which does not seek recognition in superficial popularity. The conclusion of this week will bring with it the true revelation of God's logic of love as Christ is rejected and crucified with the title of King placed upon His cross in mockery.
Tuesday will bring many of the faithful of our Diocese to St. Ignatius Cathedral in Palm Beach Gardens for the celebration of the Chrism Mass. All are invited to this Mass at 11:00 am. This celebration is especially significant for my brother priests and me as we concelebrate the Mass at which chrism is consecrated and oils are blessed which will be used in sacred celebrations throughout the Diocese in the coming year. This Chrism Mass is an expression of the unity of the priesthood in the sacrifice of Christ and a reflection of the collaboration of all the priests of the Diocese carrying out His ministry.
The Chrism Mass also give the priests of the Diocese the opportunity to renew their commitment to priestly service. Priests are sealed at their ordination in a special way in order to enter more deeply into the logic of God's love. The renewal of their priestly commitment reflects their self-giving to all of God's people as ministers of holiness. We are so blessed in the Diocese of Palm Beach with dedicated and hard-working priests who form a spirited and holy presbyterate. I always look forward to celebrating this Mass with them as a unique sign of our continued ministry to you, God's holy people, in this particular Church of Palm Beach. Two transitory deacons, who will soon be ordained priests, Reverend Mr. Martin Dunne and Reverend Mr. Wisman Simeon, will also be with us. As they are ordained, their hands, which will celebrate the Eucharist, will be sealed with chrism consecrated at this Mass. All are also invited to their ordination at the Cathedral on Saturday, May 6th at 11:00 am.
The Chrism Mass gives all of us the opportunity to celebrate the priesthood we share as the people of God. We were sealed with chrism at our Baptism as well as at our Confirmation when we were given the gift of the Holy Spirit and fully incorporated as members of the Church. Some of our young people who will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation will join us for the Chrism Mass. It is always a joy for me to be with the young people and their families at the celebrations of Confirmation and also to be with the faith filled parishes of our Diocese for these occasions.
Holy Thursday celebrates God's logic of love and self-giving through the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper as well as of the priesthood through which our Lord continues to carry out His sacrifice among us. The Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper embraces so many moving moments which remind us of Christ’s gift of Himself in the Eucharist. From the symbolic washing of the feet by the priest in imitation of the Lord’ action at the Last Supper to the procession through the church with the Blessed Sacrament, we enter into that evening before Christ’s death on the Cross when He gave us the Sacrament of Sacraments.
On Holy Thursday we are reminded in a special way that every time we celebrate the Eucharist, Christ offers Himself to the Father and gives us His very self under the appearance of bread and wine. As Christ sat with His apostles in the Upper Room at Jerusalem for the Last Supper, he enjoined them to "Do this in memory of me." The Church is most the Church at the Eucharist where we are in communion with Christ and each other through His very Body and Blood. Holy Thursday and the Mass of the Lord's Supper help us to appreciate this great gift which is a living sign of the covenant between Christ and His people.
Good Friday enters more somberly into God's logic of love and self-giving into which we enter more and more during Holy Week. We commemorate in solemn fashion the sacrifice by which Christ achieved our redemption. The Cross, upon which Christ was crucified between two thieves for the fabricated crime of claiming to be a king, is before us. All of the physical suffering, humiliation, and abandonment that the Lord endured, He accepted for us. His sacrifice on the Cross replaces the symbolic lamb of the sacrifice in the Old Testament. The many offerings of the past give way to the single sacrifice of Christ. By His suffering and death, the depth of God's logic of love and self-giving is revealed for each and every one of us. It is the Cross which is the baffling sign of this love. No words can express the love of God for us revealed in the sign of the Cross. On Good Friday, we venerate that sacred Cross on which hung the Savior of the world. While we celebrate the Lord's Passion in a communal liturgical act which includes the reception of Holy Communion, there is no celebration of the Mass on this day.
Holy Saturday is unique day. It is silent. There is no public liturgical celebration in our churches and tabernacles are empty. Holy Saturday recalls the reality that Christ truly died and entered the realm of the dead where, in silence, He called forth those who died to new life. There is a mysterious silence on Holy Saturday as we recall Christ lying in the tomb and among the dead. Holy Saturday truly reveals in the deepest way the logic of God's love and self-giving as Christ, in the words of the Creed, descended into hell for us. Truly the words of St. Paul addressed to us on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, reach their fulfillment: "God made him who did not know sin to be sin in order that we might become the holiness of God" (2 Cor 6:1). It is on this day that we realize the depth of God's logic of love for us which goes beyond any human love we can even begin to imagine. It is in the silence and emptiness of Holy Saturday that there is the expectation of what God's love brings to us.
On the evening of Holy Saturday, we celebrate the most solemn liturgy of the year, the Easter Vigil. On this evening, we will celebrate the new covenant God has entered into with us in the fullness of life and Christ's Resurrection. The forty days of Lent are brought to their culmination as the Eucharist is celebrated and we know that not even death has a hold on us. Christ breaks through the barriers of death, as well as all of time and space, and gives us the true meaning of life. At the Easter Vigil, as new members are brought into the life of the Church, we begin our celebration of the Easter season. The logic of God's love and self-giving is revealed to us in the fullest manner in the Resurrection of Christ.
There will be many happy celebrations in our parishes and in our families on Easter Sunday and during the coming fifty days of the Easter season. No matter who we are, what our background may be, what sins we may have committed, or what difficulties and sufferings we may endure, we celebrate that Christ has been raised from the dead and is with us because He has taken everything of ourselves to Him. Not even sin and death have a hold on us. Last year Pope Francis tweeted on Easter that, "Jesus Christ is Risen! Love has triumphed over hatred, life has conquered death, life has dispelled the darkness!" This is truly the culminating celebration of the logic of God's love and self-giving.
As together we celebrate Holy Week and the Easter season in all of the parishes of our Diocese, may it be a time of grace and renewed insight into the logic of God's love and self-giving. May our celebrations lead to the true Easter joy for each of you and your families. During this time, we will all be united in the deepest way possible – in Christ.
A blessed Holy week! A blessed Easter!
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
April 7, 2017