Who are the people we ordinarily associate with the Passion of Christ? Each year we hear about the Apostles, Mary and the women of Jerusalem; we hear about the scribes and the Pharisees, Pilate and the Romans, and a host of other characters.
But in St. Mark’s introduction to the Passion of Christ we are introduced to a person we do not usually think of when we reflect upon the suffering and death of Jesus: the woman with the alabaster jar of precious ointment. St. Mark recalls how she breaks open that jar and pours out its expensive contents in an expression of extravagant—even provocative—love.
Although we may not often consider her to be an important part of Jesus’ Passion and death, Christ Himself declares of her, and her alone:
Wherever the Gospel is proclaimed to the whole world,
what she has done will be told in memory of her.
As we meditate on Christ’s Passion this coming week, we are called to do more than simply tell her story; in a certain sense, we are called to enter into her story; and not her story only, but the story and the very life of Christ Himself.
This is Holy Week, the singular most significant week in the Church’s liturgical year. It is the week that we focus, in a particular way, on the most central mysteries of our salvation:
On Holy Thursday of this week, we gather to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. We remember that Christ, on the night before He died, gave over His body and poured out His blood in the Eucharist for the life and sustenance of the Church.
On Good Friday we gather as God’s people to remember and celebrate the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, that glorious death which purchased for us salvation and the forgiveness of our sins.
Finally, at the Easter Vigil, we assemble once again as Church on Holy Saturday evening, our souls and our sanctuary filled with light, and celebrate with great joy the resurrection of Christ.
This is indeed Holy Week, and God calls each of us to enter into it with joyful expectation and hopeful anticipation as the day of Easter draws near. We are called to celebrate not only these solemn feasts, but to truly open our hearts to God in all the areas of our lives: in our homes and families, in our relationships, and in the work place.
Might we break open what is most precious within each one of us this Holy Week, pouring out upon Christ and His Body, the Church, our faith, our devotion, our passion for His Passion. And might our hearts be opened more completely this year to receive the Easter message of Christ’s resurrection with joy.