By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published April 16, 2014 | En Español
Holy Week once again begins with our youngsters! Pope John Paul II formally established the tradition of notably highlighting the youth of the Church on Palm Sunday, and that tradition has endured and indeed has strengthened.
Yet even the ancient readings and the very popular songs that introduce this week had long ago also placed young people in a leading role on Palm Sunday. Young people perhaps did form a sizable portion of the crowds that welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem. Psalm 24 that figures so notably in today’s liturgy mentions the children of the Hebrews and the famous hymn for Palm Sunday references young people with the stanzas of “All Glory, Laud and Honor”: “All glory, laud and honor, to thee, Redeemer, King, to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.”
Last Saturday, I celebrated our Scouting Mass and awards ceremony, which focused on the successful involvement of our youngsters in the Scouting programs here in the Archdiocese. Fittingly, it was a nice prelude to Holy Week and the newness of life that we all anticipate. Those fine young men and women were just brimming with joy as they posed for photos with the Archbishop, and a few of them even took “selfies” with me.
Holy Week is the high point of the Christian year. It celebrates the heart of our faith in the Passion, death, and resurrection of the Lord. We welcome our newest brothers and sisters into the Church at the Easter Vigil, and we all are renewed through those actions. The Church regains her youth during this week, and therefore it is fitting that our youngsters play such a pivotal role as we begin this wondrous spiritual transformation.
The Cathedral plaza was electric with little ones who were fascinated by the live donkey who led the Palm Sunday procession around the Cathedral plant. Most of them were too young to see or understand the donkey as a modern symbol of the one that Christ rode into Jerusalem. They were just wide-eyed with wonder at the presence of a real live donkey at the Cathedral. They were more interested in petting the donkey than recalling the Lord who rode one into Jerusalem where He would suffer, die and rise for all of us—including these children.
The Mystery that we celebrate this week is no childish dream or fantasy. We will marvel that Jesus Christ has willingly laid down His life for us who are very sinful people. We will stand in awe at Jesus’ humble and meek acceptance of a criminal’s death. We will once again go to the tomb with heavy but hopeful hearts as we await His Resurrection. And on Easter Sunday we will be made new—and young of heart—at the fulfillment of the Father’s love for His Son and for all of us. Kids may begin this week, but we are all restored to the youthfulness and energy of our faith at week’s end.
Our Jewish neighbors began the feast of Passover on Monday at sunset this week as they recalled the covenant that God established with them. They also bring their children into the very heart of their ritual celebrations, hoping to remind them of their religious and cultural heritage.
May all of us Christians and Jews, who pause this week to praise and honor God once again, find hope in the promises that God makes and always fulfills for each generation.
A Blessed Triduum and Easter season to all of you, your children and your loved ones.