Jesus does not enter the Holy City to receive the honours reserved to earthly kings, to the powerful, to rulers; he enters to be scourged, insulted and abused, as Isaiah foretold in the First Reading (cf. Is 50:6). He enters to receive a crown of thorns, a staff, a purple robe: his kingship becomes an object of derision. He enters to climb Calvary, carrying his burden of wood. And this brings us to the second word: Cross. Jesus enters Jerusalem in order to die on the Cross. And it is here that his kingship shines forth in godly fashion: his royal throne is the wood of the Cross! I think of what Benedict XVI said to the cardinals: "You are princes but of a Crucified King"that is Christ's throne. Jesus takes it upon himself..why? Why the Cross? Jesus takes upon himself the evil, the filth, the sin of the world, including our own sin, and he cleanses it, he cleanses it with his blood, with the mercy and the love of God. Let us look around: how many wounds are inflicted upon humanity by evil! Wars, violence, economic conflicts that hit the weakest, greed for money, which no-one can bring with him. My grandmother would say to us children, no shroud has pockets! Greed for money, power, corruption, divisions, crimes against human life and against creation! And - each of us knows well - our personal sins: our failures in love and respect towards God, towards our neighbour and towards the whole of creation. Jesus on the Cross feels the whole weight of the evil, and with the force of God’s love he conquers it, he defeats it with his resurrection. This is the good that Christ brings to all of us from the Cross, his throne. Christ’s Cross embraced with love does not lead to sadness, but to joy! The joy of being saved and doing a little bit what he did that day of his death." (Excerpt from Pope Francis Palm Sunday (homily)
Wednesday in the Holy Week
Jesus stood there, His head crowned with thorns, His flesh lacerated by the wipes; the brilliant red of His Blood mingled with the purple of His cloak, that cloak of derision with which the soldiers had clothed their mock king. Christ was offering Himself as a sacrifice for men, shedding His Blood for their salvation, and men were abandoning Him. "I looked about and there was none to help, I sought, and there was none to give aid" (Roman Missal). Where were the sick whom He had cured, the blind, who at the touch of His Hand recovered their sight, the dead who were raised to life, the thousands whom He had miraculously fed with bread in the wilderness, the wretched without number who in countless ways had experienced His goodness? Before Jesus there was only an infuriated mob clamoring: Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Even the Apostles, His most intimate friends, had fled; indeed one of them had betrayed Him: "If he that hated Me had spoken great things against Me, I would perhaps have hidden Myself from him! But thou, a man of one mind, My guide, and My familiar, who didst take sweetmeats together with Me" (Ps 54:13,14). We read these words today, as on all the Wednesdays of the year, in the psalms of Terce. To this text which so deeply expressive of the bitterness Jesus felt when betrayed and abandoned by His own, there is a corresponding response in Matins: "Instead of loving Me, they decried Me, and returned evil for good, and hate in exchange for My love" (Roman Breviary).
Holy Thursday - the Gift of Love
Jesus, I want to tell all little souls of the wonder of your love (St Therese).
Good Friday - The Mystery of the Cross
St John of the Cross says Good Friday is the day which invites us more than any other to 'enter into the thicket of the trials and pains...of the Son of God' (Spiritual Canticle), and not only with the abstract consideration of the mind but with the loving heart and willingness to unite our sufferings with His. Says St John: "the purest suffering brings with it the most intimate and the purest understanding" (Spiritual Canticle). The atrocious martyrdom, which within a few hours will torture His body, has not yet begun, and yet the agony of Jesus in the Garden of Olives marks one of the most sorrowful moments of His Passion, one which best reveals the bitter suffering of His soul. His most sacred soul finds itself immersed in inexpressible anguish; it is extreme abandonment and desolation, without sligthest consolation, either from God or from man.
The Saviour feels the weight of the enormous burden of all the sins of mankind; He the Innocent One, sees Himself covered with the most execrable crimes, and made, as it were, the enemy of God and the target of the infinite justice which will punish all our wickedness in Him. As God, Jesus never ceased, even in the most painful moment of His Passion to be united to His Father; but as man, He felt Himself rejected by Him, "struck by God and afflicted" (Is 53:4). This explains the utter anguish of His spirit, much more sorrowful than the dreadful physical sufferings which await Him, explains the cruel agony which made Him sweat blood; explains His complain, "My soul is sorrowful even unto death" (Mt 26:38). His humanity finds itself facing the hard reality of the fact, deprived of the sensible help of the divinity, which seems not only to withdraw, but even more, to be angry with Him, and Jesus groans: "My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from Me!" But this anguished cry of human nature is immediately lost in that perfect conformity of His will to the Father's: "Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Mt 26:39)
The Agony in the Garden is soon followed by the treacherous kiss of Judas,
the arrest, the night passed in the interrogation by the high priest and insults from the soldiers who strike Jesus, spit on His face and blindfold Him, while in the outer court, Peter is denying Him.
HOLY SATURDAY - THE VICTORY OF THE CROSS
As soon as Jesus expired, "the veil of the Temple was torn in two....the earth quaked, the rocks were rent. And the graves were opened; and many bodies...arose," so that those who were present were seized with a great fear and said: "Indeed this was the Son of God" (Mt 27:51-54). St John of the Cross, describing the agony of Jesus on the Cross, affirms: "He wrought herein the greatest work that He had ever wrought, whether in miracles or in mighty works, during the whole of His life, either upon earth or in Heaven, which was the reconciliation and union of mankind, through grace, with God. And this, as I say, was at the moment and the time when this Lord was most completely annihilated in everything. Annihilated, that is to say, with respect to human reputation; since, when men saw Him die, they mocked Him rather than esteemed Him; and also with respect to nature, since His nature was annihilated when He died; and further with respect to the spiritual consolation and protection of the Father, since at that time He foresook Him...". And he concludes: "Let the truly spiritual man may understand the mystery of the gate and of the way of Christ, and so become united with God, and let him know that, the more completely he is annihilated for God's sake, according to these two parts, the sensual and the spiritual, the more completely he is united to God and the greatest is the work which he accomplishes" (Ascent of Mt Carmel, 2:7,11).