Reflection for Palm Sunday Readings Today marks the beginning of Holy Week—and this year, Holy Week couldn’t have fallen at a more opportune time! We are now in the midst of a full-blown COVID-19 pandemic in this country and much of the world. The pandemic dominates the news cycle 24/7. It has radically altered our daily living and the way we interact with others. It’s preventing us from worshipping as a community of believers and receiving the consolation of the sacraments. It’s affecting our lives on multiple levels: physically, emotionally, psychologically, economically, and perhaps even spiritually. Fortunately, Holy Week offers us an opportunity to sink our roots deeply into the soil of faith and find there all that we need to weather the current storm and emerge from the crisis even stronger spiritually. What we commemorate during Holy Week are the most sacred moments of our salvation through the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. We commemorate Christ’s definitive victory over sin and death. My friends, this is THE EVENT that most impacts our lives—not the current pandemic or any other trial we may undergo! Human life is forever changed for the better because of what the Son of God accomplished through his suffering and death, and the eternal life he won for us. Calling to mind and reflecting on this great gift puts everything else into perspective. As we meditate on the passion of the Lord this Palm Sunday, we come to a better understanding of human suffering from a Christian perspective. In St. Matthew’s account, Jesus makes the point that he could easily extricate himself from the horrific events that are about to unfold. He is not the victim of circumstances beyond his control, rather he is a victim of love by free choice. Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels? But then how would the Scriptures be fulfilled which say that it must come to pass in this way? (Mt 26:53-54) Christ freely chooses to undergo the humiliation, the cruelty, the torture, the complete agony that lies ahead. In doing so, he sanctifies human suffering, giving it meaning and purpose. Because of him, our own suffering can become salvific! Now, it is not in our power to avoid or escape from the sufferings that are part and parcel of human life, since all suffering is the consequence of original sin. But we can “freely choose” the sufferings that come our way in the sense that we can choose to suffer them in union with Christ! When we do so, suffering becomes positively transformative for us and for others. We are brought into deeper communion with the Lord, and we are also given an opportunity to participate in his redemptive work. When we unite our sufferings to his, we help to save others! The Passion is the ultimate proof of Christ’s love for us. Love alone motivated him to freely choose to suffer with us and for us. And while he doesn’t take our sufferings away, the cross is a reminder to us that we never suffer alone—he is with us in all of our sufferings to strengthen and console us. During this Holy Week, then, let us try to turn our focus from the present situation with all that might worry or afflict us. This is a special time of grace to see our trials and sufferings, both those of the present moment and those of our entire lives, in the light of the Cross. If we contemplate Christ Crucified who freely embraced suffering for us, we will find that there is meaning and hope in any trial or suffering we must endure in life. “Jesus, I offer you my sufferings; I unite them to yours on the cross.” This is a prayer that helps us grow in love—love for the Lord who suffered in love for us, love for others whom we can help save eternally in union with Christ. —Fr. John A. Langlois, O.P.