About three weeks before her passing in March, 1990, Sister Thea Bowman, a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, wrote a meditation for Holy Week as part of a Mississippi Catholic Lenten series. This was likely her last public writing and was published posthumously ahead of Palm Sunday that year. In place of my own words this Palm Sunday, I wish to share with you the words I’ve returned to as part of my own Holy Week meditation each year since the late 90’s, as Sister Thea describes for us how we can make Holy Week holy:
“Let us resolve to make this week holy by claiming Christ’s redemptive grace and by living holy lives. The Word became flesh and redeemed us by his holy life and holy death. This week especially, let us accept redemption by living grateful, faithful, prayerful, generous, just and holy lives. Let us resolve to make this week holy by reading and meditating holy scriptures.
So often, we get caught up in the hurry of daily living. As individuals and as families, reserve prime-time to be with Jesus, to hear the cries of the children waving palm branches, to see the Son of Man riding on an ass’ colt, to feel the press of the crowd, to be caught up in the “Hosannas” and to realize how the cries of acclamation will yield to the garden of suffering, to be there and watch as Jesus is sentenced by Pilate to Calvary, to see him rejected, mocked, spat upon, beaten and forced to carry a heavy cross, to hear the echo of the hammer, to feel the agony of torn flesh and strained muscles, to know Mary’s anguish as he hung three hours before he died.
We recoil before the atrocities of war, gang crime, domestic violence and catastrophic illness. Unless we personally and immediately are touched by suffering, it is easy to read scripture and to walk away without contacting the redemptive suffering that makes us holy. The reality of the Word falls on deaf ears.
Let us take time this week to be present to someone who suffers. Sharing the pain of a fellow human will enliven scripture and help us enter into the holy mystery of the redemptive suffering of Christ.
Let us resolve to make this week holy by participating in the preparing, by studying the reading, entering into the spirit, offering our services as ministers of the Word or Eucharist, decorating the church or preparing the environment for worship. Let us sing, “Lord, have mercy,” and “Hosanna.”
“Let us resolve to make this week holy by sharing holy peace and joy within our families, sharing family prayer on a regular basis, making every meal a holy meal where loving conversations bond family members in unity, sharing family work without grumbling, making love not war, asking forgiveness for past hurts and forgiving one another from the heart, seeking to go all the way for love as Jesus went all the way for love.
Let us resolve to make this week holy by sharing holy peace and joy with the needy, the alienated, the lonely, the sick and afflicted, the untouchable. Let us unite our sufferings, inconveniences and annoyances with the suffering of Jesus. Let us stretch ourselves, going beyond our comfort zones to unite ourselves with Christ’s redemptive work.
We unite ourselves with Christ’s redemptive work when we reconcile, when we make peace, when we share the good news that God is in our lives, when we reflect to our brothers and sisters God’s healing, God’s forgiveness, God’s unconditional love.”
As we prepare for the Holy Week, I invite all of you to take some quiet time, focusing on the Passion, and how you might enter into it. I also invite you to participate with us during the Triduum celebrations.
Wishing you a holy Holy Week
– Fr. Mike