Yesterday Pope Francis presided over Palm Sunday festivities at St. Peter’s Basilica, beginning this week’s marathon of papal ceremonies. Among those ceremonies is a visit to a Roman prison on Holy Thursday where he will wash the feet of men and women, as well as a Via Crucis procession around the Coliseum. The papal ceremonies will reach their climax in the pope’s celebration of the Easter Vigil and his Easter day Urbi et Orbi address to the city and the world
Pope Francis’ homily for Palm Sunday focused on the humility of Christ, setting the tone for this week’s ceremonies. Elise Harris over at National Catholic Register had this to say about Pope Francis’ homily: “Pope Francis on Palm Sunday said that imitating the humility of Jesus is what makes Holy Week “holy,” and he encouraged attendees to mimic his attitude of humiliation as the week unfolds.”
Pope Francis’ call to follow Christ’s life of humility extends to us all.
While the liturgical year of the Church begins on the First Sunday of Advent, Holy Week begins the climax of the yearly self-reflection of the Church and her children on their shortcomings and their hope in the Resurrection. The Church and her children come to the foot of the cross carrying many burdens, and at the cross they are called to lay those burdens upon the Lord.
In this holiest of weeks, Pope Francis reminds us that “there can be no humility without humiliation…making room for God by stripping oneself, ‘emptying oneself.’” The process of laying down our burdens is a challenging one. To lay our burdens upon the Lord we must strip ourselves through an attitude of humility.
In his homily, Pope Francis reminds us that for some this figurative “emptying of oneself” is much more literal. Pope Francis called attention to the modern martyrs among us:
We think too of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted because they are Christians, the martyrs of our own time — and there are many. They refuse to deny Jesus and they endure insult and injury with dignity.
As Holy Week begins to unfold, it is my hope that we might imitate the humility of Christ, so that on the day of the Resurrection we too might shine brightly with Christ and all his saints, especially those of our own time who give their lives as a witness to the Gospel.