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We love our palms. We will do everything to obtain palms and have them blessed today. The start of Holy Week is always exciting for us Filipino Catholics, always an emotionally charged moment, always a rich cultural show. We simply love Holy Week.

But why do we love our Holy Week? For a variety of reasons: It is a grand vacation from school and from work. It is a time to go out with friends to the mountain hideouts of Baguio and Tagaytay. It is our chance to return to the province and see old friends and relatives. Those who can afford plan this week to be an intimate relaxation with family at the beach or other resorts. Those who prefer to stay at home see this week as a lazy, luxurious moment to indulge on tv, phone calls or drinking and socializing with friends.

We love Holy Week for every reason we attach to it except the reason the Lord intended for it. This week is not called “vacation week”, “friendship week” or “rest week”. Let us get back to the name Christians have given it for centuries – it is “Holy” Week. Shall we pause awhile and re-discover why our early Christian brethren called it “holy”? Is it still holy for you and me today?

We start this week by proclaiming the long gospel passage that speaks of the Passion of Christ, His suffering, His pain, His death on Calvary. It is the Passion of Christ that makes this week holy. Passion first of all means the suffering Jesus endured 2000 years ago so that 2000 years after, God will still be known and experienced as compassionate Father and Friend of sinners. Passion also means the strong drive, the commitment of Jesus who still pursues us today and offers himself as companion in our every struggle.

Holy Week need not be somber. It need not be a sad occasion when people sit in the dark and flagellate themselves for their sins. It need not bring back the sadistic penances to which some people are still attached. No! It is not the mood that makes Holy Week meaningful. It is rather, the relationship with God who we allow to touch us with his gentle love and lasting peace.

Any other day can be suitable for our various escapades with family and friends. There will be endless occasions to socialize and catch up with each others’ stories. We relax so much already even in our busy schedules. I am afraid that for many people Holy Week will be wasted, that it will not even ring a bell in their hearts – all because we do not understand what it means.

Years ago, a young actor died instantly after a whole day of partying with friends in a remote beach resort…on a Good Friday. It amazes me still that a man can waste a Good Friday like that, not knowing that it would be his last day on earth.

Jesus invites you to return to the heart of the Father. Where will you be in Holy Week? Wherever it is, will you be found in the company of Jesus and in the consolation of his grace? Will you have space in this season to allow the passion of Christ to touch you with mercy and grace?