Making Holy Week real holy
Inspired & Blessed

Making Holy Week real holy

Mar 23, 2024, 2:52 AM
Bob Acebedo

Bob Acebedo


Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, and whence we’re into the middle of observing the most sacrosanct time of the year or, so to speak, the “holiness” of Holy Week.

While multitudes of Catholics – no doubt about it – are wont to spend the Holy Week through an out-of-town getaway, frolicking into the beaches and countryside resorts, I can’t avoid re-asking once again: Why do we celebrate the Holy Week? What sense or significance, if at all, can we derive from it? What makes Holy Week really holy?

And again, for me, there’s a need re-telling the answer: Holy Week remembers and celebrates the final week of Jesus’ life on earth, beginning on Palm Sunday, which marks his entry into Jerusalem; then the celebration of his Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday; his passion and death on Good Friday; and finally, his resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday.

But yet, we ask deeper: Why was it necessary for Christ to die on the cross for our sins? Why couldn’t just God be merciful and simply forgive our sins without Jesus enduring such a cruel and brutal death?

Is the cross a necessary pre-requisite to our redemption? How could we imagine the implications of a “Crossless Christ?” Or of a “Christless Cross?”

Let me attempt my two cents worth. A “Christ without a cross,” or if he didn’t suffer and die on the cross, would imply that there was no redemption – or that perhaps God would have devised other means of saving us. But again, it begs the question: Why precisely did God choose the “cross” for his son to save us? On the other hand, a “cross without a Christ” would but remain to symbolize as a pagan tradition of capital punishment for hardened criminals.

But, why is the cross or why was Christ’s passion necessary?

The apostle Peter, in Acts 2:23, explains to the Jews of Jerusalem in his first sermon on Pentecost: “This Jesus was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) # 601 avers that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures:

“The Scriptures had foretold this divine plan of salvation through the putting to death of ‘the righteous one, my Servant’ as a mystery of universal redemption, that is, as the ransom that would free men from the slavery of sin (Is. 53:11-12; John 8:34-36; Acts 3:14). Citing a confession of faith that he himself had ‘received’, St. Paul professes that ‘Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures’ (1 Cor. 14:3; Acts 3:18, 7:52, 13:29, 26:22-23). In particular, Jesus’ redemptive death fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering Servant (Is. 53:7-8). Indeed, Jesus himself explained the meaning of his life and death in the light of God’s suffering Servant (Mt. 20:28). After his Resurrection, he gave this interpretation of the Scriptures to the disciples at Emmaus, and then to the apostles (Lk. 24:25-27, 44-45).”

Furthermore, Christ’s death is “unique”: it completes and surpasses all other sacrifices (CCC #614). Hebrews 10:10 rightly says: “Now, by this will of God, we are sanctified at once by the sacrifice of the body of Christ Jesus.”

But still, from our ordinary understanding, what sense does it make for a loving and merciful God to will or allow a brutal and torturous death of his son in order to save us?

The answer lies in the two attributes of God as both “loving” and “just.” God is perfectly loving, and he is also perfectly just. God’s love requires his justice, and so also the other way around.

God’s overwhelming love (John 3:16) is manifested in his encompassing desire or plan to save us and be with him in heaven. On the other hand, God’s justice requires that due reparation is made in order for us to be saved. But we will never fully feel the love of God unless we realize the seriousness of our sins and justice of the punishment we are due. 

If God was not just, there would be no need for his son to suffer and die. If God was not loving, there would be no willingness for his son to suffer and die. But God is both just and loving – and therefore his love is willing to satisfy the needs of his justice.

Fittingly, therefore, because God is both loving and just, Christ paid the highest price possible to give us the greatest gift possible, that is eternal life. 

Now, what about those Holy Week traditions – do they ever make us holier than not?

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas, in his social media post, has this profound take:

“Holy Week is not what men and women do to make these days holy. It is not about what Catholics must do, nor is it about religious traditions and pious practices done to “feel good” after.

“Fasting is good, but without malasakit (concern) for others, it is nothing. Prayer is good, but without remembering others and laying aside personal comfort, it is just an ego trip. Helping the poor and giving alms are good, but if you do it for show or to get a “feel good” reward later, it is just a noisy bell.

“Holy Week practices evolve with time. For 2,000 years now, only one tradition has remained – the Christian tradition of Love. It is really not just about tradition. The first Christians were known to be the most loving of all. Love is our identity. This week is holy because of LOVE. Love alone can make us holy.”

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