Holy Week is upon us. It is a time when we fast with joy, submitting ourselves to spiritual struggles in preparation for the sorrowful passion and joyful resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus told us, "unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit. The man who loves his life loses it, while the man who hates his life in this world preserves it to eternal life" (John 12:24). Similarly, unless we do penance and die to our earthly ways we cannot enter into heaven.
We often hear from the pulpit today that material things offer no barrier to salvation as long as we do not hold an inordinate desire for them. Usually this is said in a way so as not to offend or disturb the wealthy. But Jesus tells us in all clarity: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God" (Matt 19:24).
What is demanded of all Christians at this time is fasting, abstinence, restriction of personal desires and pleasures, intense prayer, confession and similar ascetic elements.
Holy Week is a sacred time of divine grace, which seeks to detach us from things material, lowly and corrupt in order to attract us toward things superior, wholesome and spiritual. It is a unique opportunity to remove from the soul every inordinate passion so as to make room for the immense rejoicing and gladness of Easter.
Limiting ourselves to what is absolutely essential and necessary in an attitude of dignified, deliberate simplicity is a formula for patience and tolerance; it is an opportunity to acknowledge and emphasize our need for God's assistance and mercy, placing our complete trust in His affectionate providence; it is a prescription for salvation.