Sewing Hope Into Broken Hearts
March 20, 2013

A Reflection on Holy Week

Last year on Palm Sunday I attended Mass at my parish, St. Francis de Sales. At that time we had the privilege of having as our Pastor then “Bishop-elect” David Malloy. A few short weeks later, He became the Bishop of Rockford, but on Palm Sunday last year, he was standing in the back of our church blessing the palm branches before the entrance procession wearing a zucchetto and pectoral cross. Certainly, I recognized the symbolism of the zucchetto as the crown of thorns signifying a bishop’s special closeness and participation in the Sacrifice of Christ as a successor of the Apostles. However, it was not His election to the Apostolic ranks or the privilege of seeing a “Bishop-elect” celebrate Mass that stood out the most. After the entrance procession, before the opening collect, Bishop Malloy made a comment that has stuck with me. He said “think about what we have just done, for a moment we gave God perfect and pure praise - God is pleased;” Mass then continued normally with no other earth-shattering revelation.

Somehow that very important message seems to get lost as we begin to change our focus to the suffering and death of Jesus as Mass and Holy Week continue. I’m not saying that we need to stop reflecting upon the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus during Holy Week, the Pascal Mystery is of the utmost importance. I am saying that we also need to remember that God is pleased when we praise Him. On Palm Sunday the people of Jerusalem praised God with such great zeal that the entire city shook and bystanders were left wondering “Who is this (See Matthew 21:10)?” This gospel story reminds us that God deserves our praise and full attention because He is sovereign and He is Lord. So we should seek to shake our homes, communities, cities, and world with a shout of praise that leaves the bystanders in society awestruck.

Publicly confessing Jesus as our Lord and Savior has the power to strengthen our communion with God and aid in the rejuvenation of the universal Church. However, our omniscient God also knows that because of our human frailty and inclination toward sin the lips praising Him today will be calling for his death tomorrow. Despite this knowledge, He does not withhold His grace, but rather showers us with His love, rejoicing with us for praising Him at this moment. God gives us the gift of free will precisely for these occasions. When we choose to freely love Him with our whole heart, laying our palm branch at His feet, He couldn’t be more pleased that we made the choice to love Him back. Nonetheless, our all-knowing God knows we are going to ultimately fumble with the gift of our free will and so He doesn’t hesitate for even a moment along the painful road to Calvary. Jesus sacrifices His life so we can be redeemed for all the times we scream for His death rather than shout His name in praise.

Our human lives reflect this struggle. We have had periods of faithfulness and periods of disloyalty but as we waver our God doesn’t. He remains steadfast, rejoicing with us when we succeed and redeeming us when we fail. The psalmist perhaps understood this best when he penned “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere (Psalm 84:11).” As we approach the most sacred week of our liturgical calendar, let us strive to praise God perfectly even if it is just for a moment.