Reflecting on the Pascal Mystery During Holy Week

It’s Palm Sunday and so begins Holy Week.  I have come to appreciate the wisdom of setting aside such a significant period of time to reflect on the great gift of the Paschal Mystery.  It is also fitting that we would mark the beginning of this week with Jesus’s Passion.  It is a rare opportunity to turn inward, to take inventory in our own lives of the ways in which we answer God’s call to us to convert our hearts and turn always toward God’s love.

Holy Week allows us to ready ourselves to receive the gift of Easter.  Even in the midst of our busy lives, even when we have to live up to the demands of our paid responsibilities and our unpaid work, Holy Week can be experienced as a retreat.  Although it’s unlikely many of us will be able to check out of everyday life this week, it’s also unlikely that every one of us can’t live differently for a few days.

One of the strengths of a traditional retreat is that it takes us outside of the ordinary.  There’s a different schedule, a different environment, different people.  New opportunities for prayer, as well as reminders of those forms of pray we used to revere.  Entertain for a few days the willingness to make Holy Week look, sound, and feel different than the 51 other weeks on the calendar.

I offer a few practical, and very doable, suggestions, which I’ve based on my own retreat experiences, as well as the opening prayer for Mass this weekend.

                Almighty ever-living God,

                who as an example of humility for the human race to follow

                caused our Savior to take flesh and submit to the Cross,

                graciously grant that we may heed his lesson of patient suffering

                and so merit a share in his Resurrection.

 Is your time spent differently?

  • Set your alarm for 15 minutes earlier and read your Bible.  Try Matthew 26:14-27:66, John 14, or the daily readings for each day.  Sit quietly with God when you’re finished and listen for what God wants you to hear.
  • Turn off your television or computer for a set period of time each day.  Pick a time when you would typically use it.  Use that time to pray in a new way or a way you haven’t done so in a while.  If you have children, teach them how to do it with you.
  • Every day, find a few minutes to go to a place where you feel close to God.  Is it in a church?  In the woods? On a river bank?
  • Attend all of the Triduum services.  Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil tell our story from creation and Christ’s story through Resurrection and are different than any other Mass you have ever experienced.  If you haven’t given yourself this gift, I encourage you to do so.

 Is your environment different?

  • As you consider how you have decorated for Easter ask yourself if you have included crosses with your Easter eggs.  Can you tell that it’s a special week when you look around your home?  It can be as extravagant as you like, or as simple as a palm places in the most central location of your home.
  • Set up a small prayer area.  If it takes up more room than you really have, that’s okay.  It’s only a week.  If it’s in the way, you’re more likely to be reminded of the importance of prayer.
  • Is your house full of warm clothes you rarely use?  More food than you could possibly eat?  Give it away.  Make room for the Lord in your home at the same time you care for one of God’s beloved children.
  • When you read and watch television this week, think about how what you’re doing is (or isn’t) for the glory of God.

 Are the people around you different?

  • Spend some time in service to people in need.  Bring flowers to a nursing home and find out who never receives visitors.  Spend time listening to their stories.
  • Make time for volunteering for a cause you are passionate about.
  • Sit somewhere new at Mass and introduce yourself to those near you.
  • Spend more time with the people who care about you the most this week.  Do something special for them without getting any recognition for it.
  • Tell just one person in your life what faith in Jesus Christ means to you.  Tell them how it makes you behave differently.  Invite them to come to Mass with you or if that is too intimidating for them, invite them to a social event at church.

We have this beautiful, unique opportunity to spend some meaningful time with the One who loves us beyond all understanding.  Let’s not waste it.  Let’s embrace it.  And when Easter Sunday has come and gone, let’s share the experience of it with one another in true community again, and again, and again.

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