The Way of the Lord


In the New Testament, the title used by the text for the Christian community was “the way,” or “the road.” The term Christian would come later and was first applied to the community as a mocking term by the opponents of the Church. That earliest terminology of “the way” recalled Old Testament and Jewish language where the analogy of walking is applied to the life of faith and the summons to live in accord with the commandments. In the New Testament, where the Lord’s own journey to the cross becomes both the foundation of faith and the model for discipleship, this language of “the way” reflected the Lord’s own command to “take up your cross and follow me.”
The Church’s liturgical and devotional traditions for Lent and Holy Week cite this same imagery, seeing our participation as a kind of journey or pilgrimage of faith. Last week, I wrote about the importance of repentance and seeking the Lord’s grace and mercy through the sacrament of Penance. As we now approach the blessing of Holy Week and its intensified liturgical and devotional practices, permit me to comment on this critical portion of the “way.”
In some ways, Palm Sunday is both an invitation and a test of our fidelity. The feast reminds us of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem and invites us to acclaim him the Lord of Glory. The test involves the truth that many of those in the crowd acclaiming his arrival called for his death a few days later. As we hear the proclamation of the Passion, we are challenged to decide whether to walk with the Lord. Will we be humble and faithful in the face of all of life’s challenges and distractions? Or, will our arrogance and sins wound the Lord. In our fear, will we abandon or deny him?
At the very least, the Church asks all Catholics to participate in the Mass of Palm Sunday and that of Easter. My hope is that each one of us will go beyond that minimum and consider other ways to walk the “way” with our Lord.
There are worthy devotions that assist believers to enter into Holy Week such as the Stations of the Cross, the observance of Tenebrae, the Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the Seven Last Words, and so many others. These are devotions that can be prayed at home or work. Many parishes and schools offer the opportunity to pray such devotions in community. You may wish to consider joining the priests of the diocese in prayer at the Chrism Mass on Tuesday evening of Holy Week. Bishop -elect Ruggieri will be our homilist for the Mass, where priests renew their promises and the holy oils are blessed and consecrated.
If your schedule permits, the Church also offers the beautiful liturgies of the Triduum, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. To participate in all three is to experience a spiritual retreat and renewal. Each draws us to meditation upon key aspects of the paschal mystery.
The summit of all of the prayers and liturgies of Holy Week is the Easter Vigil. I realize that many avoid this liturgy as it is rather lengthy. On the other hand, this is the liturgy when candidates for the Sacraments of Baptism, First Eucharist, and Confirmation will be incorporated into the Church. I have met many of these men and women of deep faith who seek with great excitement to join us in the communion of the faithful. I always find their trusting surrender to the Lord deeply moving and inspiring. Even if you do not personally know a candidate, your presence becomes a witness to them that they are loved and welcome in the heart of the Church. We walk the “way of the Lord” with Jesus and he joins us to one another, a pilgrim people and family and faith.
May your Holy Week be a time of blessing and may your Easter feast be full of love and rejoicing!