Pope Francis celebrated all of the many liturgies of Holy Week this year in a Rome which was already preparing for the two canonizations which would be held on April 27. Francis held his weekly general audience on the Wednesday of Holy Week, called “Spy Wednesday” in some parts of the English-speaking world.
At this very center of Holy Week, the Gospel reading of the day recounts Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, which sets in motion the events of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. In his catechetical remarks to pilgrims and tourists gathered in St. Peter’s Square under a brilliant blue April sky, with a crisp spring breeze blowing through the city, Pope Francis spoke of Christ’s free embrace of suffering and death, which he took on for our sake.
“Out of love for us,” said Pope Francis, “Jesus freely walked the path of humiliation and self-abandonment for our salvation.” As St. Paul says, the Pope continued, “he emptied himself… and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:7-8).
“As we contemplate Jesus in his passion, we see reflected the sufferings of all humanity and we discover God’s answer to the mystery of evil, suffering and death. He gives us his Son, who dies humiliated, betrayed, abandoned and reviled. Yet God’s victory shines forth in what appears, in human terms, to be failure and defeat.”
The Holy Father went on to say that Jesus’ passion is the culmination of his revelation of the Father’s infinite love and his summons to faith in his word: “Christ takes upon himself the power of evil in order to set us free: ‘by his wounds we have been healed’ (cf. 1 Pet 2:24). This week, as we follow Jesus along the way of the cross, may we imitate his loving obedience to the will of the Father, especially in times of difficulty and humiliation, and open our hearts to his gifts of reconciliation, redemption and new life.”
Pope Francis went on to lead the traditional Holy Week liturgies and devotions in Rome, including a Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday morning; the Missa in coena Domini at the Centro Santa Maria della Provvidenza – “Our Lady of Providence” — home for the elderly and disabled on Thursday evening; the Passion service with the veneration of the Cross on Good Friday afternoon; and the Way of the Cross (“Via Crucis”) on Good Friday evening at the Coliseum in Rome, followed by the culminating celebration of the Sacred Triduum — the Easter Vigil Mass — in St. Peter’s Basilica, on the night between Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday morning, and then the concluding Easter Sunday Mass on Easter Sunday morning, when he also gave the traditional “Urbi et Orbi” (“To the City and the World”) blessing following Mass.