Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week – the summit of Lent. On this week, we remember the greatest expression of God’s love for us – Jesus dying on the cross for us, because of our sinfulness and unfaithfulness.
To meaningfully commemorate the Holy Week and gain profit from this weeklong celebration, may I propose the following things:
1. Today, dispose yourself to the weeklong celebration. Ask for the grace to accompany Jesus in his suffering on the cross. Be personally involved in recalling the passion and death of Jesus. Feel the suffering of Jesus. Feel his pain.
2. Be more conscious of SILENCE. Take a reflective mode this week. Have at least two thirty-minute prayer periods daily this week. If possible, visit the Blessed Sacrament everyday. Just stay there in silence. Listen to God.
3. If possible, go to CONFESSION. Ask God’s pardon for all your faults, limitations and shortcomings. Beg God to give you freedom from your inordinate attachments and favourite sins.
4. Minimize watching TV, movie or going to mall this week. Be more attentive to the movement of Spirit. Dispose yourself to God’s message. He wants to converse with you.
5. For this week, attend the daily mass with great devotion. Fully participate in the liturgies. Visit the Blessed Sacrament and spend quality time with Jesus. Meditate on the daily readings.
6. Fasting and Abstinence. Fast and abstain not only on food. Abstain this week from judging others, telling lies, bad words, bad thoughts and others. Be more forgiving and sensitive to others. But not only this week, why not do it for the rest of our life?
7. GRACE TO ASK: Pray for the grace of openness, sensitivity and humility as you go through the Holy Week liturgies. Accompany Jesus in his court trial, carrying of cross and dying.
First, bear in mind that Jesus died on the cross for you. In meditating the Passion of Jesus, St Ignatius of Loyola suggested: “Ask for sorrow and regret, because the Lord is going to his Passion for your sins. Ask for an interior suffering because of the great suffering he is to endure for you.”
Second, through his passion and death, Jesus is giving us an example to follow on how to carry our daily cross. On how to face our adversaries. On how to handle contempt, insult, betrayal, hate, anger, loneliness and hopelessness.
8. READ THE GOSPEL READING:
Matthew 26: 14 – 27:66 – Passion and Death of Jesus
Read the daily Gospel readings prayerfully. Meditate or contemplate the Gospel readings. St Ignatius of Loyola even suggested to use our five senses in our contemplation: See, hear, taste, feel and smell the scenes. Be one of the bible characters or be yourself. Interact with the characters in the gospel story. Be involved. Be aware of your feelings. Take note of your insights as you meditate the Gospel. What struck you most? Why?
9. WEAR EIGHT CLOTHES THIS HOLY WEEK
For us to gain more profit from the Holy Week celebration, we need to wear appropriate “spiritual clothes” or “spiritual disposition.” I highly suggest the following dispositions:
A. CLOTHES OF HUMILITY. With humble and contrite spirit, accept that we are sinners. We transgressed God. We need Him to save us from our confusion, hopelessness and death. Whisper to Him: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). For without humility, conversion and transformation of our souls will never come.
B. CLOTHES OF SORROW. Feel the inner wounds of Jesus as He carries his cross. Feel his wounded heart after the people he loved denied, rejected, betrayed and hated him. Feel his loneliness, his fear and the insults thrown to him. Enter to his heart. Listen to Jesus: “How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:2).
C. CLOTHES OF PAIN. Feel the physical pain of Jesus as he carries his cross. Feel the pain of the nails on his hands and feet. Feel the painful wounds caused by the crown of thorns on his head. Listen to Jesus whisper: ““Don’t let my enemies gloat over me or rejoice at my downfall.” (Psalm 38:18).
D. CLOTHES OF REPENTANCE. It was our faults that nailed and crucified Jesus on the cross. But because of his great love, he chose to die for us. May this truth brings us to our senses, repent our sins and return to the Father. We deserve to be crucified, and not Jesus. We beg for God’s forgiveness.
E. CLOTHES OF GRATITUDE. As we accompany Jesus on his way to the calvary, be reminded that God is doing all these sacrifices for you. In the midst of this cruel fate of Jesus, be grateful that God is doing it for you.
F. CLOTHES OF CHALLENGE. See how Jesus lovingly embraced all the insults, contempts, wounds, pain, rejection, loneliness and betrayal. Admire his bravery and commitment in all his suffering. May his suffering on the cross challenge you to carry your daily cross with such bravery and commitment. “We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.” (2 Corinthians 1:5-6)
G. CLOTHES OF COMMITMENT. Perfect love is not based on feelings and good results, but on a decision to persevere and not to give up. This week, let’s look at how Jesus showed his great love for us through his perseverance and decision not to give up. In spite of the seemingly impeding failure on the cross and humiliation, in spite of being ridiculed, hated and betrayed, he remained faithful to us and to the will of the Father. Fear and hopelessness did not stop him from fulfilling the will of the Father. He said, “Not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42).
H. CLOTHES OF HOPE. Accompanying Jesus on his passion and death may bring sadness, regrets and hopelessness to us – for we don’t want to see a defeated God. But let’s look at the crucifixion with a different lens: The cross is not a symbol of defeat. It is a symbol of love – A DECISION TO COMMIT, A DECISION TO HOPE IN THE MIDST OF HOPELESSNESS AND DARKNESS … for he promised, HE WILL RISE ON THE THIRD DAY.
With these eight dispositions, it will help us to dispose ourselves in entering the spirit of Holy Week celebration. Be more faithful in your prayer, fasting and self-giving this Holy Week.
As we commemorate the Paschal Mystery, may it lead us to an overwhelming gratitude that Jesus died for us, so “that we may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).