My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,1
Today we enter into this holiest of weeks, the week of salvation, this week of love.
Jesus enters Jerusalem in this Holy Week, to reveal that he is the Messiah, the Christ, the One sent to save us.
And our long Gospel passage today shows us all the ways that the people do not recognize him.
It was not only the crowd and the soldiers, the priests and the scribes, Pilate and Herod.
Even his own disciples did not understand — we hear them fighting among themselves about which one is the “greatest.”
I was thinking that it seems like such a silly argument. Until we think about all the times we let jealousy and competition get in the way of following Jesus and doing what we know he wants us to do.
Peter denies Jesus three times. And yes, we also can think of all the times in our life when we have kept silent, not wanting others to know what we believe, not defending our faith or living it when it really matters.
Jesus forgives us all, he loves us to the end. He dies, as we just heard, with a prayer on his lips: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
So Holy Week is the week of love, the week of salvation!
And my dear brothers and sisters, we know that we need love, that we all need salvation. Each and every one of us. The whole human race needs love, all humanity needs salvation.
God understands that. But too often, we do not.
At the foot of the cross, the soldiers and rulers laugh at salvation, they mock the gift that Jesus comes to bring to us: “He saved others, let him save himself.”
That is a temptation that we all have. We either think we don’t need salvation, or we think we can save ourselves. This is, actually, the temptation of the modern world — we think we can get along without God, that we can make ourselves happy by our own inventions.
But we cannot!
The thief on the cross knows this. We heard his prayer today: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus does not promise us the passing pleasures of earth, the material pleasures of entertainment and comfort. He promises us the joy of heaven, blessings and love that will never end.
He tells the good thief today:
Amen, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise.
So today Jesus makes this promise again — to you and to me.
In this Holy Week, let’s allow Jesus look down upon us — upon you from the Cross. Feel his gaze. It is all love, it is all compassion. In his eyes, you — each one of us — we all are precious. He sees who you were supposed to be.
Let’s ask him to show you the truth, the beautiful things that he wants for you. Let yourself be loved by him — he who is on the Cross, giving his life for each one of us. Lift up your heart to the Lord, accept his mercy.
Jesus dies for you on the Cross this week, and he asks you — each one of us again — to live for him.
He asks you to get rid of all the selfishness in your life, all the ways you are not being sincere or true to others. All the ways you are living only for yourself, only to satisfy your needs and your desires.
My dear brothers and sisters, let us live for Jesus. Let us put our trust in Jesus. Let us take his hand and walk with Jesus.
When we walk with Jesus, we walk in freedom. We learn by living in his presence, by watching him, by making his Word and his actions the rule for your life — making his life and his example the standard you use to measure everything.
It is indeed a Holy Week, a beautiful week. So let us ask for the grace to stay close to Jesus this week. Let us open our lives to him just as he opens his heart for you on the Cross. Let’s love him until the end — that is how he loves you, each one of us.
And let us stay close to Mary, our Blessed Mother. She walked with her Son every step of the way.
May she walk with us and guide us along this way that leads from the foot of his Cross to the empty tomb of his Resurrection on Easter morning.
1. Readings: Isa. 50:4-7; Ps. 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24; Phil. 2:6-11; Luke 22:14-23:56.