Cardinal Wuerl Celebrates Palm Sunday Mass, Marking the Start of Holy Week

“We retrace the steps of Jesus and the story of his Passion, death and Resurrection so that we might renew our faith in order that we can enter spiritually and sacramentally the mystery of redemption.”

March 24, 2013

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, marked the start of Holy Week by blessing palm branches on Palm Sunday in memory of Christ’s triumphant journey into Jerusalem. The Cardinal celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle following the blessing of the palms.

This was the first Mass that Cardinal Wuerl celebrated at the cathedral upon his return to Washington from Rome where he had participated in the conclave that elected Pope Francis and also in the inaugural Mass of the new Pope. Cardinal Wuerl began his homily with a reflection on the scene that the world watched on television. Between the time that the white smoke emerged from the Sistine Chapel chimney and the new Pope emerged on the balcony, a large crowd had gathered in St. Peter’s Square, said Cardinal Wuerl. “… there were roars of ‘Viva il Papa’ – ‘Long live the Pope.’ Without even knowing who was chosen to be the new Pope, the crowd estimated at about 100,000 people, were already wishing him well. This scene said something quite profound. We wish well the Pope whoever he is – because he is the Pope – the Successor to Peter.”

The Cardinal then provided brief catechesis on the role of the Pope. “The Pope – every Pope – succeeds to the role of Peter and the awesome responsibility of teaching the faith and providing pastoral leadership for the Church Universal,” he said. In the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, hundreds of feet above the place where tradition and excavation tell us Peter is buried, is the Latin inscription from the Gospel of Saint Matthew: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (16:18), said the Cardinal. “The shepherding role conferred on Peter is that of leading and guiding the Church. It is always to Peter as head of the College of Apostles and to his Successor as Head of the College of Bishops that the Church looks for guidance, instruction, teaching and leadership. Today, then, our hearts are filled with both faith and love. We renew our faith in the continuing presence of Christ our Lord and teacher in the teaching office embodied in the Successor to Peter. We also have hearts filled with love for the person who now carries out that Petrine ministry – Pope Francis.”

Turning the focus towards Palm Sunday, Cardinal Wuerl said we acclaim Jesus as Messiah, waving palms of jubilation. “However, we are invited to do more than just follow the story of the life and death of Jesus. We are called to renew our faith that these actions are the work of God bringing about our salvation, our new life,” he said. “We retrace the steps of Jesus and the story of his Passion, death and Resurrection so that we might renew our faith in order that we can enter spiritually and sacramentally the mystery of redemption…we are reminded that Jesus proclaims a kingdom that will never end and of which he is Lord. But we also learn that his kingdom is of the Spirit. His realm is a spiritual one, not a temporal, political one. He has come to fashion a new creation that is formed in faith and resides, first, in the hearts of his followers.

To be a Catholic is to recognize and become a part of this spiritual kingdom, coming to be first on earth now and later in its fullness in heaven. It is for this reason that we freely give our spiritual allegiance to God’s Word, Christ’s Gospel and his Church.”

The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 97 Catholic schools, located in Washington, DC, and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

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