With a congregation of Catholics holding individual palms, Bishop Richard J. Malone officially opened Holy Week in the Diocese of Buffalo with Palm Sunday Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Buffalo April 8.
"We took palms today," Bishop Malone said. "That has to mean our loyalty to Jesus Christ and our willingness to march with him wherever he leads us, not only in triumph but also in suffering and in agony. From my own experience, it's easy to praise God and stay loyal to him when all is going well. It's not always so easy when we feel burdened, discouraged by failure or sickness. That's when we really participate in the Passion of Christ, because He knew all of those emotions."
Palm Sunday begins Holy Week in the Catholic Church. It specifically reflects the day that Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem, as the cheering people of Bethphage laid cloaks and tree branches before Him in admiration. Today, Palm Sunday is reflected with a blessing of palm branches, which are then given to the people in the congregation.
Following the reading of the Passion Play with the congregation, Bishop Malone began his homily preaching about the longetivity of the text, developed in 1634 by the villagers of Oberammergau, Germany. It's been read every year, except in cases of war.
"While our liturgy today does not have the same magnitude and prestige as Oberammergau's Passion Play, what we are doing here and in churches around the world on Palm Sunday is of far greater degree magnitude, significance and power than any Passion Play could ever be," the bishop said. "For what we do today and this coming week is the drama that affected our salvation. Nothing less than that."
Bishop Malone called on Catholics to be participants, not spectators, during Holy Week as the Church prepares to celebrate Easter Sunday.
"Passion Sunday is not the last word of the Jesus story," the bishop said. "Passion Sunday is just the first act of a Holy Week that will reach its climax on Easter, because the final word is not, 'Crucify Him.' The final word is 'He is not here. He is risen!' It all leads us past what we sometimes think is the last word on something, to the promise of victory that we have yet to know. To that ultimate victory, which can be ours in eternal life, then one day if only we stay faithful to Jesus now and ask forgiveness for our unfaithfulness, then one day we will march again into the heavenly city of Jerusalem where the Risen Lord sits triumphant at the right hand of the Father."