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What is the point of holy week?
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
Lent came very early this year and I couldn’t imagine that Holy Week is already here. Like many of you, I have been so busy with many things in my life and many personal pursuits that I haven’t really noticed how Lent moved from Ash Wednesday to Laetare Sunday and now, it is Palm Sunday once again.  Another Holy Week is beginning to unravel.
What is the point of celebrating Holy Week each year?  The readings today set the tone for the entire week.  And the readings are one of violence, of sacrifice and rejection, of blood and tears, of pain and death.
The first reading from Isaiah 50 describes the torture, albeit willingly received, inflicted on the suffering servant of Yahweh. “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.”
The second reading from Paul’s letter to the Philippians takes us to the humiliation of the Son of God who, willingly again, emptied himself.  God in himself but now he becomes a slave, so that he may die on the cross; a slave and a criminal for the love of God.
The long Gospel narrates the passion according to Luke and it is not easy to stand before it.  It’s not the length; it’s the what it means that makes us uneasy before its overwhelming message. A man named Jesus suffered for each one of us and his death reveals that truly he is the Son of God.
What does it mean to celebrate Holy Week?  For many people this week signals a long grand vacation from work and school.  For many people this week is a chance to unwind and to gather up lost energy. For many this is the moment to indulge in the traditions of the elders and relive them in our lives.
But if we listen to God’s Word, if we just take a look at what’s happening we will discover the real meaning of Holy Week. It is this challenge to discover the suffering that is prompted by love.
It is not easy to deal with the message of Holy Week.  Many of us rebel at the thought of pain.  And specially, if we realize that the pain is something offered to us, that it is done for us. We are spared because somebody else took all the trouble upon his shoulders and set us free from our just share of suffering.
This is what is difficult because we do not want our conscience pricked. We do not want our guilt revived. We do not want to owe anybody a debt of gratitude.  Admit it or not, when the suffering of Jesus is re-told, if we are open, then we are touched, we are shamed, we are moved to tears. Our pride is challenged.
But this is not the purpose, the heart of Holy Week;  to revisit guilt, to merely wallow in emotions, to be interiorly moved – this is just the beginning. 
Holy Week, this day of Jesus’ Passion, is a revelation of great love.  When was the last time we felt so immensely and sincerely loved?  This is the problem.  because true love is hard to find we think it is impossible to find. Each day we encounter utilitarian love, hypocritical love, pretentious love. But true love? Has it been too long ago when we have experienced and discovered it?
We recall the Passion not to revive guilt or shame.  We enter into the history of the Lord’s Passion because it is the history of the greatest love imaginable.  It is love for the world.  More importantly it is love for you and for me. There is such a thing as sincere and true love; it is God loving you in spite of everything, our sins and weaknesses. 
Though it is not easy to encounter true love, it is equally not hard to identify it when it comes.  You just know it.  You just feel it. You are convinced it has finally come.
This week, can we read again these challenging words from the Bible and appreciate the truth that indeed someone loved us so much he was willing to give all of himself for us?  Can we look at the Cross and see, not a historical figure or a great jewelry design or an empty symbol, but see it for what it was truly intended – the portrayal of the greatest love the world has ever known?
We enter into Holy Week through the door of Jesus’ pain so that walking through it we will be renewed and strengthened by a love that is intended only for us, a love that can make us desire to live again for God and for others.