For a closer union with Jesus in his humility, in his suffering

Holy Week: The First Four Days

We enter into a week made “holy” forever by the self surrendering love of Jesus - for us all. 

All week, we remember how he loved us.  Whatever we do, no matter how busy or “distracted” we might be, we can let the power of this week be in the background of our daily reflections.  He entered into our life - with its profound joys and its punishing evils - that we might never experience those struggles alone.  So no matter what we experience this week, we can let it become a “holy” week, letting it all be touched by the graces of this week.  From the humble, yet triumphant, entry into Jerusalem, to our standing together at the foot of his cross, this can be a week which helps us bring all of the elements of our lives, all our experiences of sin and death, into the font of his redeeming, liberating death resurrection.

We begin our celebration 
with an invitation to remember 
what happened on this very special day.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, since the beginning of Lent until now we have prepared our hearts by penance and charitable works. Today we gather together to herald with the whole Church the beginning of the celebration of our Lord's Paschal Mystery, that is to say, of his Passion and Resurrection. For it was to accomplish this mystery that he entered his own city of Jerusalem. Therefore, with all faith and devotion, let us commemorate the Lord's entry into the city for our salvation, following in his footsteps, so that, being made by his grace partakers of the cross, we may have a share also in his Resurrection and in his life.

The Blessing of Palms

Almighty and ever-living God, sanctify these branches with your blessing, that we, who follow Christ the King in exultation, may reach the eternal Jerusalem through him. Who lives and reigns for ever and ever. 
or

Increase the faith of those who place their hope in you, O God, and graciously hear the prayers of those who call on you, that we, who today hold high these branches to hail Christ in his triumph, may bear fruit for you by good works accomplished in him. 
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Almighty ever-living God,
who as an example of humility for the human race to follow
caused our savior to take flesh and submit to the Cross,
graciously grant that we may head his lesson of patient suffering and so merit a share in his Resurrection.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. 

Today's Reading

Daily Meditation: 

For a closer union with Jesus in his humility, in his suffering.

This Sunday we hold palm branches in our hands, 
and wave them to greet our Lord's entry into the city of our salvation. 
Last year's palms were burned to form the ashes 
that marked our foreheads to begin this Lenten journey. 
We can place these palm branches - perhaps from each member of the family - 
in a special place in our home 
(maybe cutting a small piece and putting it some place where I work).

Each day this week they can represent our celebration of his love for me. 
That symbol can say so many words - 
all that I am about to celebrate and accept as love for me, 
and all the entry into Jerusalem experiences in my life.

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of Hosts, 
Heaven and earth are full of your glory! 
Hosanna in the highest! 
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 
Hosanna in the highest!

Intercessions: 

As Christ entered Jerusalem he was greeted as King and Messiah, 
Let us adore him, and joyfully praise him: 
 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna to you, Son of David, King of the ages,
-
Hosanna to you, victor over death and the powers of darkness.
You went up to Jerusalem to suffer and so enter into your glory, 
-lead your Church into the paschal feast of heaven.
You made your cross the tree of life, 
- give its fruit to those reborn in baptism. 
Savior of mankind, you came to save sinners,
- bring into your kingdom all who have faith, hope, and love.

Closing Prayer: 

Loving God, 
I am just beginning to realize how much you love me. 
Your son, Jesus was humble and obedient. 
He fulfilled your will for him by becoming human and suffering with us. 
I ask you for the desire to become more humble 
so that my own life might also bear witness to you. 
I want to use the small sufferings I have in this world to give you glory.

Please, Lord, guide my mind with your truth. 
Strengthen my life by the example of Jesus. 
Help me to be with Jesus in this week 
as he demonstrates again his total love for me. 
He died so that I would no longer be separated from you. 
Help me to feel how close you are and to live in union with you.

May the Lord bless us, 
protect us from all evil 
and bring us to everlasting life. 
Amen.

Daily Reflection
Of Creighton University's Online Ministries

Passion Sunday is full of doorways to grace. I can feel it in me and in the community gathering, with palms in our hands. There's something special to this first day of a holy week.

If I am alert, I'll remember that the palms from last year were burnt to form the ashes I wore on my forehead, in the form of a cross, to begin this Lent's journey. I usually become aware right away, at the beginning, that there is tremendous irony, and a discomfort, in joining in the waving of palms and singing "Hosanna!" - just like the people in Jerusalem that day. I can become aware that in a brief moment, I'll be in the same crowd, shouting, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"

Passion Sunday always has us reading the Passion story. This year, it is from Luke. But, it is set up by the marvelous reading from Isaiah and from Paul's letter to the Philippians. The passion story is not a tragedy. Jesus accepted his role, his mission. He humbled himself, obediently accepting his life and his death. And, this is all for me, for us all.

It is hard to get deeply moved by a story so familiar. I have to prepare ahead of time to get myself into a space where the reading of the passion, whether I'm reading Jesus' lines, as a presider, or whether I'm in the congregation. I have to prepare to pray through it, in the sense that I'm talking with myself, and with the Lord, during it, just as we are hearing it.

Lord, I'm so familiar with this Last Supper story, but today I want to especially listen so that I'm more deeply grateful at this Eucharist, and can say at a deeper level, "It is right to give him thanks and praise." Dear Lord, how do I thank you for what you did at that supper with your disciples?! Let me feel deeper gratitude as I hear the story again. You are giving us your body and blood as food for our journey, even today at this Mass.

This garden scene moves me. You really did wrestle with this surrender, didn't you, Lord. Thank you so much for saying "yes," for me. The betrayal by Judas is horrible until I remember the many times I betrayed you, while still trying to do what I thought was "good" by some definition. And, even there, being betrayed and arrested, you heal and you turned your disciples' response from violence.

Peter's denial must have stung you, Lord, even though you knew it would happen. It stings me as I think of the times and ways I've refused to stand up to be your disciple.

The trials - back and forth between Pilot and Herod - are so sad and such an indiginity for you, Lord, and for me experiencing it with you, whom I love. I can never say you don't understand the minor indiginties that trouble me so much.

When we, the crowd, shout, "Away with him ..." I feel the sting of it again. How much you have loved me/us in our fickled attachments and infidelities, or wandering loyalties and misplaced kinds of attachments!

Simon carried your cross. Let me carry your cross in the ways you place it on my shoulders, Lord. I so often do it with resentment and with grumbling. I so want to learn to do it with you. I love that you stopped to be with the women, grieving along the way.

In one simple sentence the story says they crucified you. They nailed your wrists and feet to a cross and hoisted you up to hang there until you could no longer lift yourself up for air. You were executed with torture. And, it is for me/us. And, I'm hearing the story and asking you for the grace to let it come into my heart. So that I might be more grateful for the gift of this complete love.

Jesus, how could you have said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do”? How? Oh, how I want to ask you, beg you, to make my heart like yours. Mercy from the cross! Mercy, as you are unjustly condemned, by religious fanatics, to pay the price for my sin! Mercy that challenges every hardness in my heart for everyone that I regard as a sinner, for everyone who drives me crazy, everyone that I judge as not very good. Make my heart like yours, sharing mercy from the cross.

Oh, how I want to be like the good criminal on the cross who asks you to remember him when you come into your kingdom, and to hear you promise me, "You will be with me in Paradise." Please let me desire that communion with you more than anything else that crowds my complicated heart!

In the end you teach me how to surrender: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Let me put my life in your/our Father's hands, Lord, Jesus. Every day. Throughout my day. Even while hanging on the crosses I have to face.

I know that if I prepare to hear this passion this way, or in a similar way, it will move me. And, perhaps this year, I'll do what I've done before: cut a small piece of palm and put it in my pocket and put another small piece near my computer at work, so that I have a reminder with me of what this Palm Sunday of our Lord's Passion meant for me today and for the days ahead.

by Andy Alexander, S.J.
Creighton University's Collaborative Ministry Office
click here for photo and information about the writer

Daily Meditation by(c) 2013 Don Schwager
Bible Story illustrations by publishing.com 

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