By: Fr. James Gross
“Christ Jesus…emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.” St. Paul uses this statement as the lens through which he views everything we just heard. The reading from which it comes is one of the most powerful and beautiful writings to come from his hand.
I’ve heard a number of Church history scholars speculate that the text of today’s second reading was actually a hymn that some Christians used in worship. In other words, St. Paul may not have composed these words, but adopted them as something already in the public domain, as it were, sung during Eucharist or other times of communal prayer. What we heard was a song of praise, rejoicing in the fact that Jesus was willing to set aside the appearance of His divine nature in order to redeem us.
Never does Christ profess his love for us and solidarity for us more than during the sufferings of His Passion. While we join in with the crowds in Jerusalem giving Jesus a hero’s welcome, it’s far more important to stay with the Lord Jesus as He submits to ridicule, scourging, and execution. The Palm Sunday Liturgy shows us that, even though we may prefer to celebrate Christ our King and wave branches along the road, we cannot stop there and go back to our routine. We have to return to Calvary, remaining with the King even when those whom he loved condemned Him to die.
There’s nothing magic about Holy Week. The next few days will be an enriching, spiritual time for you only if you make them so. How can we do this? One way is to make the effort on Good Friday to forgive someone who has wronged you or to ask forgiveness of someone you have hurt. Another is to curb your consumption of TV, movies, or smartphone usage during what we call the “Paschal Fast,” from Holy Thursday evening until the Easter Mass.
Lastly, and most obviously, take advantage of these beautiful celebrations the next few days. Say to yourself, “I need to put some other things on hold for a little while and give God a higher place. I’m not going to rush into church breathlessly at the last moment, as if I were fulfilling a requirement. Instead, I will take my time and let God’s messages soak in. I’ll return to God the gift of time that He has given to me.” The Lord waits for you to bring you true peace.