Holy Week: The Sacred Invitation

April 10, 2022
Palm Sunday

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we begin a familiar journey.

palm sunday

In a warring, dystopian world, the rites of Holy Week offer us a reassuring pattern for our prayer. As we begin these rituals, we already know where we will joyfully finish. It is a feeling so opposite from our current global concerns which leave us questioning how peace and joy can be restored to the human family.


Through the solemnities of Holy Week, we are reminded that there is nothing we experience not already patterned in the Paschal Mystery. There is nothing we suffer or hope for not already etched on the heart of Jesus Christ.

These liturgies are an invitation to enter into that Sacred Heart, to place our experiences beside those of Jesus. No matter where we find ourselves on the journey, Jesus is with us:

  • In the confusion of Palm Sunday, tossed between loyalty and betrayal 
  • In the suggestive silence of Holy Monday and Tuesday, when plotters whisper and friends weaken
  • In the discomfort of Spy Wednesday, when we realize suffering is inevitable 
  • In the profound communion of Holy Thursday
  • In the loneliness of a decisive Garden and the angst of a resisted outcome
  • In the inexorable solitude of dying and death
  • In the other-worldly contemplation of a silent Saturday 
  • In the sunrise of a promise, longed for and believed in

These are profound sacred mysteries which invite us to sink into their depths and be renewed. Let’s be intentional about the time and practices we will give to this invitation.

We are invited into the Life and Passion of Jesus Who, in turn, wants to be with us in our experience of this journey. Each day, let us listen – let us become “obedient” (which means “listening”) – for the very personal whisper of grace in our souls. And even though we may pray alone, let us pray for the whole world suffering and rising with our beloved Savior.

phil cantic

I think today’s reading from Philippians is the most beautiful and pregnant passage in all of scripture. May it guide our prayer during this Holy Week when we all so hunger for God’s presence and healing.


Music: Philippians Hymn – John Michael Talbot
(Lyrics below)

And if there be therefore any consolation
And if there be therefore any comfort in his love
And if there be therefore any fellowship in spirit
If any tender mercies and compassion

We will fulfill His joy
And we will be like-minded
We will fulfill His joy
We can dwell in one accord
And nothing will be done
Through striving or vainglory
We will esteem all others better than ourselves

This is the mind of Jesus
This is the mind of Our Lord
And if we follow Him
Then we must be like-minded
In all humility
We will offer up our love

Though in the form of God
He required no reputation
Though in the form of God
He required nothing but to serve
And in the form of God
He required only to be human
And worthy to receive
Required only to give

This is the mind of Jesus
This is the mind of Our Lord
And if we follow Him
Then we must be like-minded
In all humility
We will offer up our love
In all humility
We will offer up our love

Palm Sunday 2021

Today, in Mercy, we enter the sacred embrace of Holy Week.

Last year, about this time, as Jesus began his Paschal journey, we too began a journey whose end we could not foresee. It was a terrible, frightening, and disorienting time. It was also a time of amazing nobility and courage.

Now, this long year later, each one of us has come to a new place, both blessed and tragic. So many have not made it here with us — so many lives lost across the globe, some at our own table. And a way of life, for better or worse, has been left behind forever.

Many of us continued to make this past year’s journey with Jesus, long after Easter had passed. In some ways, all of 2020 was a extended “Passion” with its very real:

Foot Washings

Eucharists

Gethsemanes

Deaths and Burials

As we come to the beginning of
Holy Week 2021,
let us be honest with ourselves
about both our sadness and gratitude.
Let us begin the journey again
asking to share in the courage of Jesus.

Palm Sunday is a feast with two faces.

Jesus rides in triumph into Jerusalem, but his deep heart realizes that the road ultimately leads to his death. Jesus, who once called himself the Vine, knows that the bright green branches waved in adulation will soon be trampled to the ground.

In these final days of Lent, we are faced with the question, “What turns green hope to crumbled brown in us – and how can it be green again?”

Many years ago, I sat in a marbled, flowered funeral home with a bereaved father.

“There are things worse than death,” he said.  After several absent years, his drug-addicted son had been found dead in an alley, under the cardboard box where he lived.  “At least I know where he is now.  Finally, we can all be at peace.”

Jack’s son had been lost to him.  In the stranglehold of heroin, the great hope of his young life had degenerated into profound suffering.  The vigor of his early dreams had withered, like broken tendrils on the once hopeful vine. It was, in every sense, a human tragedy.

Jesus understood such withering.  He prayed for his disciples that they would not suffer it.  He knew what would face him and them in the week following the lifted palms. He knows what will face us as we try to discern the honest path to joy, peace and fulfillment.

The enticements of evil are deceptive.  Greed comes clothed as entitlement. Lust masquerades as passion, addiction as pleasure. They entwine and choke us in a false embrace that whispers, “This is for you.”  Fed by the fear of never having or being enough, we resort to these very catalysts that will destroy us.  Even the voice of love struggles to reach someone locked in this cycle of self-absorption.  Like every barren branch, they wilt and sever themselves from all that could enliven them.

Jesus acknowledges that the choice for life is not always easy.  He tells the disciples that, indeed, they will be pruned.  No life escapes the incisions of hard experience. Like his followers, we too will face loss, pain, frustration and diminishment.  But if our hearts have been fed by his word, we will hold to grace and we will thrive.

Much of the Palm Sunday crowd shifted gears by Friday, becoming a rabble of accusers.  They could not follow Jesus through Calvary to his Resurrection.

But there is no true life apart from God.  There is no path to perfection and joy but through God’s Will.  The Passion and Death of Jesus have already set our roots in this blessed soil.  May we cling by grace to that treasured Vine.

Music: J.S. Bach – Cantata; Himmelskönig, sei willkommen / King of Heaven, be Thou welcome – BWV 182

Palm Sunday: We begin the journey

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

April 5, 2020

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we begin a familiar journey.

palm sunday

In these times that feel so unfamiliar, so surreal, the rites of Holy Week offer us a reassuring pattern for our prayer. As we begin these rituals, we already know where we will joyfully finish. It is a feeling so opposite from our current global concerns which leave us questioning how this nightmare will ever end.

Through the solemnities of Holy Week, we are reminded that there is nothing we experience not already patterned in the Paschal Mystery. There is nothing we suffer or hope for not already etched on the heart of Jesus Christ.

These liturgies are an invitation to enter into that Sacred Heart, to place our experiences beside those of Jesus. No matter where we find ourselves on the journey, Jesus is with us:

  • In the confusion of Palm Sunday, tossed between loyalty and betrayal 
  • In the suggestive silence of Holy Monday and Tuesday, when plotters whisper and friends weaken
  • In the discomfort of Spy Wednesday, when we realize suffering is inevitable 
  • In the profound communion of Holy Thursday
  • In the loneliness of a decisive Garden and the angst of a resisted outcome
  • In the inexorable solitude of dying and death
  • In the other-worldly contemplation of a silent Saturday 
  • In the sunrise of a promise, longed for and believed in

Even though we cannot attend services in community, let us not allow this pandemic to isolate us from the blessings of this sacred week. Let’s be intentional about the time and practices we will give to these mysteries.

We are invited into the Life and Passion of Jesus Who, in turn, wants to be with us in our experience of this journey. Each day, let us listen – let us become “obedient” (which means “listening”) – for the very personal whisper of grace in our souls. And even though we may pray alone, let us pray for the whole world suffering and rising with our beloved Savior.

phil cantic

I think today’s reading from Philippians is the most beautiful and pregnant passage in all of scripture. May it guide our prayer during this unique Holy Week when we all so hunger for God’s presence and healing.

Music: Philippians Hymn – John Michael Talbot
(Lyrics below)

And if there be therefore any consolation
And if there be therefore any comfort in his love
And if there be therefore any fellowship in spirit
If any tender mercies and compassion

We will fulfill His joy
And we will be like-minded
We will fulfill His joy
We can dwell in one accord
And nothing will be done
Through striving or vainglory
We will esteem all others better than ourselves

This is the mind of Jesus
This is the mind of Our Lord
And if we follow Him
Then we must be like-minded
In all humility
We will offer up our love

Though in the form of God
He required no reputation
Though in the form of God
He required nothing but to serve
And in the form of God
He required only to be human
And worthy to receive
Required only to give

This is the mind of Jesus
This is the mind of Our Lord
And if we follow Him
Then we must be like-minded
In all humility
We will offer up our love
In all humility
We will offer up our love

Every Broken Branch

( I wrote this reflection for the Sisters of Mercy. It will be available on that blog as well. You may be interested in some of the other excellent articles to be found there.
Click here for Sisters of Mercy blog.)

Today, in Mercy, we enter the sacred embrace of Holy Week.

Palm Sunday is a feast with two faces.

Jesus rides in triumph into Jerusalem, but his deep heart realizes that the road ultimately leads to his death. Jesus, who once called himself the Vine, knows that the bright green branches waved in adulation will soon be trampled to the ground.

Phil2_palm sunday

In these final days of Lent, we are faced with the question, “What turns green hope to crumbled brown in us – and how can it be green again?”

Many years ago, I sat in a marbled, flowered funeral home with a bereaved father.

“There are things worse than death,” he said.  After several absent years, his drug-addicted son had been found dead in an alley, under the cardboard box where he lived.  “At least I know where he is now.  Finally, we can all be at peace.”

Jack’s son had been lost to him.  In the stranglehold of heroin, the great hope of his young life had degenerated into profound suffering.  The vigor of his early dreams had withered, like broken tendrils on the once hopeful vine. It was, in every sense, a human tragedy.

Jesus understood such withering.  He prayed for his disciples that they would not suffer it.  He knew what would face him and them in the week following the lifted palms. He knows what will face us as we try to discern the honest path to joy, peace and fulfillment.

The enticements of evil are deceptive.  Greed comes clothed as entitlement. Lust masquerades as passion, addiction as pleasure. They entwine and choke us in a false embrace that whispers, “This is for you.”  Fed by the fear of never having or being enough, we resort to these very catalysts that will destroy us.  Even the voice of love struggles to reach someone locked in this cycle of self-absorption.  Like every barren branch, they wilt and sever themselves from all that could enliven them.

Jesus acknowledges that the choice for life is not always easy.  He tells the disciples that, indeed, they will be pruned.  No life escapes the incisions of hard experience. Like his followers, we too will face loss, pain, frustration and diminishment.  But if our hearts have been fed by his word, we will hold to grace and we will thrive.

Much of the Palm Sunday crowd shifted gears by Friday, becoming a rabble of accusers.  They could not follow Jesus through Calvary to his Resurrection.

But there is no true life apart from God.  There is no path to perfection and joy but through God’s Will.  The Passion and Death of Jesus have already set our roots in this blessed soil.  May we cling by grace to that treasured Vine.

Music: J.S. Bach – Cantata; Himmelskönig, sei willkommen / King of Heaven, be Thou welcome – BWV 182