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Palm Sunday at Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian, Washington DC

Almost 40 days ago we began our Lenten pilgrimage toward the great feast of Easter. We began with the dust and ash of Ash Wednesday, and we shall end with the living water and rebirth of Easter Sunday. This is a journey from death to life; from slavery to sin to true freedom in the perpetual light and beatitude—blessedness—of the heavenly kingdom. In walking this way we have followed the example of the Israelite people, who travelled for forty years through the desert from slavery to the Egyptians in a foreign land, to liberation in the Promised Land. Our journey does not take us from physical place to physical place, but it does bring us out from exile to the true Promised Land—our native land; the kingdom of heaven.

This journey toward heaven is emphasised once more in the ceremonies of Palm Sunday. In the procession we make into the church building, at once we recall the entrance of Christ into Jerusalem, our own entrance by baptism into the holy city that is the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, and our longed-for entrance into the New Jerusalem of heaven. In that simple movement from outside to in the Sacred Liturgy summarises for us the first moment of Christ’s saving passion, and also the fruit of that action: that is our own salvation, assured us by our union with him in this life.

Yet the drama of Palm Sunday is only the very beginning of this story. The layers of this narrative are only partially revealed in the liturgical action of this day. We have begun our journey to the cross and the Lord’s resurrection, but in the coming days we will trace in much more detail the glories of Christ’s victory of death. We will, with him, receive the gift of the Most Holy Eucharist on Maundy Thursday, witness the sacrifice undertaken for our sakes on Good Friday, and come to the empty tomb to rejoice at his rising from the dead in the Vigil of the Holy Night of Easter.

This week is called “holy,” and rightly so. It is the most sacred time of the liturgical year. It is the centre of lives as Catholics, as a parish, and as the Mystical Body of Christ spread throughout place and time. This is the week of weeks, and the wealth of the Church’s liturgical rites during these days demands a true and actual participation of each of us. If we are baptised, then it is our duty to understand more and more what that baptism means. It is in the rites and ceremonies of Holy Week—Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter especially—that we are taught exactly that.

As many of you know, this parish has not celebrated Holy Week together in a single place for over a decade. This year we are blessed to be here for it all, and to have the opportunity to enter into the mystery of the Lord’s passion and death in a new and renewed way. I want to invite you—to encourage you, and to challenge you—to come and journey this way of the cross this week. Come and attend the moving events of Maundy Thursday evening—the washing of feet, the watch at the altar of repose until midnight, and the stripping of the sacred altars. Come and see the stark splendour of Good Friday—the chanting of the Passion of the Lord, the kissing of the wood of the cross, and the desolation of the empty tabernacle. And come and hear again the story of salvation in the readings and psalms of the Easter Vigil—the earthiness of the blessing of the new fire, the chanting of the great hymn of the Exsultet, the blessing of the new font, and the first Mass of Easter. Do not starve yourself of this opportunity for grace, and for growth in the of Jesus Christ. If you are here with us at Jerusalem today, stay to see not just how the story ends, but how it offers each of us—you and me alike—a new and living way to happiness, joy, and peace.

May this Holy Week be a time of renewal and grace for each of us, for our parish, and for the entire Church throughout the world. And may we all be part of what is about to unfold.