Acts of love, not pain, make this week holy
Take it from the bishops: Self-inflicted pain and public devotion don’t make Lenten days holy; acts of love do.
“What makes these days holy? Not self-inflicted pain. Not publicized pious devotion. Not daydreaming meditation. What makes this week holy is the immeasurable, unequaled love that Christ poured into these days,” said Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas in his message to the Catholic faithful for today’s Palm Sunday.
Catholics are expected to troop to the church today to have their palm fronds blessed in observance of Palm Sunday, the last Sunday of Lent and the start of the most solemn period of Holy Week.
Also called Passion Sunday, today recalls Jesus Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, where he was welcomed like a king by a crowd who laid palm leaves on his path while singing “Hosanna,” a Hebrew word that means “praise” or “joy.”
Burned into ashes
The palm fronds blessed today are kept until the following year when they are burned into ashes that will be used to mark crosses on the forehead of the faithful on the next Ash Wednesday.
Villegas’ message was apparently addressed to devotees who perform conspicuous forms of religious penance such as self-flagellation and real-life reenactments of crucifixion during the Lenten season.
“If you want to truly make a good Holy Week, love much. Love more,” the CBCP official said. “Give to the poor. Visit jails. Visit hospital wards. This pilgrimage to the poor will add to the holiness of our times,” he added.
“Acts of love that make these days holy” also include giving to the poor, Villegas said. “Check your closets. The clothes you don’t wear and shoes you keep stacked are the shoes and clothes of the poor. Give to the poor the meat you will not eat. Give a kind word to the repugnant coworker or family member.”
Hope amid chaos
Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the CBCP public affairs committee, said as much: “The celebration of Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem is about welcoming Him with deep joy and hope amid the chaos, poverty, restlessness and moral crisis besetting our nation. In a world of growing pessimism and hopelessness, we are reminded that Jesus is more than capable [of] defeating the evils afflicting our society.”
He added: “Just as the Israelites gloriously proclaimed Jesus as king, we ought to joyfully let God’s reign permeate our lives and not allow personal interests or selfish motives to flourish.”
Secillano also likened Palm Sunday to human relationships. “It’s a story of friendship when you have something to offer other people. At the same time, it’s a story of betrayal when you cannot offer them anything anymore,” he said, adding that similarly, “Christ was triumphantly and victoriously welcomed by the Israelite people. They believed him [and showed that they] appreciated him by waving all these palm branches. But these were the same people who [demanded] to crucify him.”
This being election season, Fr. Francis Lucas of Catholic Media Network warned the public against flattery and “human praises.”
“Beware of human praises,” Lucas warned. “Remember, Jesus was proclaimed king, but a few days later, due to incestuous whispers and viral attacks on his person, those who praised Jesus also clamored for him to be crucified. Sin blinds the will [and] debases the integrity and morality of persons.”
Palm Sunday should instead remind the faithful of how a benevolent God has blessed them in many ways, he added.
“People today ask is there a ‘forever’? The answer is, yes there is … God’s love is forever. He is the king of peace and love,” Lucas said.
The Catholic priest said the Palm Sunday celebration should lead people to other events of the Holy Week, which signals the last days of the yearly 40-day Lenten season.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.