Holy Week: The week of mercy

Given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington.

"Jesus Christ is the Face of the Father's mercy" (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, n.1). By now, most of us are very familiar with this opening sentence of Pope Francis' letter announcing the Jubilee Year of Mercy. I invite you to use this sentence as a prism or lens through which to reflect on, to pray over and to take part in the sacred mysteries of Holy Week, which begins today. Use this prism or lens especially during the Easter Triduum, which begins on Holy Thursday evening and continues through Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and ends on Easter Day. If we let the Holy Spirit accomplish His work in us, we can encounter the Lord Jesus, Who is Mercy made visible, in such a way this week that we shall in fact, be changed, that is, transformed into a clearer image of Jesus. And being changed more into His image, we can become convincing heralds of His mercy to others every day.

Today, we are experiencing a two-fold mystery: Christ's triumphal welcome and acceptance on Palm Sunday and His brutal condemnation and rejection on Good Friday. The Gospel account, proclaimed at the very beginning of our liturgy portrays the crowds praising God with joy and shouting "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord." Yet, shortly thereafter, the remaining Scriptures reflect Christ's rejection with the crowd shouting "Crucify him! Crucify him!"

Notice how Jesus remains steadfastly faithful to what His Father has sent Him to do. He is neither swayed by the seemingly joyous welcome of the Palm Sunday bystanders nor cowed by the murderous shouts of the Good Friday mob. He has come to make the Father's mercy visible and effective. He has come to be Our Redeemer and Lord.

You and I have been in both situations of acceptance and rejection. We have welcomed the Lord into our hearts with such joy and love and yet we have also turned away from Him, rejecting Him by our sinfulness. Nonetheless, He remains steadfastly the same: offering us mercy and forgiveness, calling us to return home to Our Merciful Father.

So, as we begin this Holy Week, let us open our minds and hearts to receive divine mercy. Jesus Christ is the Face of the Father's mercy, and He stands before us, pointing to His Heart, the symbol of infinite love and merciful forgiveness. He stretches out His hand: "Come, experience mercy this week, the mercy that forgives, heals and restores you to real life. Look at Me, I am 'merciful like the Father.'" Brothers and sisters let us make this Holy Week our Week of Mercy!

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016