Gospel MT 26:14-27:66
We hear the Passion account from St. Matthew as we begin this Holy Week. His account of the Passion emphasizes how Jesus was obedient to the will of the Father, even to point of accepting death on the cross. Jesus speaks of this several times from the Last Supper, to Gethsemane where He prays, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass for me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” Throughout his arrest, trial, passion and death, Jesus stands firm in following the will of the Father. As we follow Jesus through his passion it becomes more evident that he is more than a zealous man willing to die for a personal cause; rather he is part of the Divine plan for our redemption in which the Son of is sacrificed for our sake. All of history has longed for and awaited this moment of redemption. As he is being led to calvary the annual sacrifice of the paschal lambs as expiation for sins is taking place in the temple. This is now replaced by the one sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for the sins of the world.
As we enter Holy Week it would benefit us to connect what we hear on Palm Sunday with what we heard in Matthew’s Gospel on Ash Wednesday, and what we will hear and experience during the Sacred Triduum. On Ash Wednesday we heard Jesus teach us; “ When you give alms…, when you pray…., when you fast… “ Jesus didn’t suggest or give an invitation to give alms, pray and fast, he speaks under the assumption that his followers are doing these and gives an instruction on how to do so with sincerity and devotion. Let us pause and examine how we have been at living our Lenten resolutions of almsgiving, prayer and fasting. In the Passion account Jesus does not merely remind us, he shows us how to sincerely offer ourselves in obedience to the Father. This holiest of weeks gives us time to regroup and make a final solid Lenten effort at sacrifice.
Looking ahead to the Triduum we see that Jesus gave the ultimate alms when he gave himself completely to death on the cross. He gave all that he had without holding back anything. A very basic question for us is do we give alms merely from our surplus or is it sacrificial in that it results in giving up doing or buying something that we really had our hearts set on. The prayers of Jesus are all rich and challenging. Jesus prays the most difficult prayer that any of us can pray in Gethsemane when he says; “not as I will, but as you will.” The “Thy will be done,” that we pray so often in the Lord’s prayer is not just a nice phrase, it is the way Jesus prayed and lived. We are gifted with a free will and when we freely surrender our will to the will of the Father we find that we will be both challenged to let go and enriched by a new sense of freedom that comes in trusting God. The last point is fasting. Fasting is very often directly connected to repentance. Jesus, himself, has no need to repent for he is without sin. Rather he takes on our sins and accepts the punishment for our sins so that we might truly experience the forgiveness of sins in our lives, and ultimately be happy with him forever in heaven.
May this final week of Lent truly be a holy week for us in which we grow in personal holiness as we continue to follow Jesus with our almsgiving, prayers and fasting.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.