Holy week is always a very busy week in our household. Both my husband and myself are involved in ministries that work hard this week – he sings in the schola, I work with the RCIA. Between our ministries being in high gear and trying to make sure the last-minute Easter plans are in place and keeping a large household running, we often feel exhausted before Holy Week even begins.
But at Palm Sunday Mass this week, I received a very special gift. We arrived extra early, anticipating a very full mass. I got the kids settled and then used the spare time to talk to them quietly about what Palm Sunday was about. I told them about how Jesus knew that going to Jerusalem was dangerous, but he knew it was time to take that chance. We talked about how the people were so excited to see him that they reacted as if he were a king, waving and throwing down palm branches.
I told them that the feeling of the mass would change part way through. That we would go from celebrating Jesus coming into Jerusalem to experiencing the sadness and pain that he went through later in that same week, and that all the people who had been so happy to see him changed their minds and called for him to be killed.
Through all this, my 7 year-old daughter’s eyes got wider and wider. She has spent her whole life knowing about Jesus dying on the cross and coming back to life to save us from our sins. She has sat before a crucifix and talked about how badly it must have hurt Jesus to have nails holding him up like that. But this year, she started to see the whole picture. She felt the gravity of the situation.
I helped her to follow the Passion narrative as we read the gospel during mass. It was read in parts, with the Bishop speaking the parts of Jesus, the deacon and an acolyte reading other parts, and with the congregation speaking as the crowd. She physically winced when we had to call out, “Crucify Him!” And when Jesus was condemned to death, she turned to me and simply said, “This is very sad!”
I have such a privilege this year, to experience all of Holy Week and Easter through her eyes. She is seeing something she has grown up knowing as something real and painful and as the meaning-filled act of love that it is. Suddenly my tiredness about the coming week melted away and my excitement grew – to walk through this story with her in a new level of understanding for both of us.