Cardinal Wuerl Marks the Start of Holy Week with Palm Sunday Mass

March 29, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, marked the start of Holy Week today by blessing palm branches and celebrating Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. Palm Sunday commemorates Christ’s triumphant journey into Jerusalem the week before his death and resurrection.

Cardinal Wuerl began his homily be referencing Pope Francis’ remarks from last December to the members of the Roman Curia where the Holy Father cited “ailments” that affect the Curia. The cardinal said he found one phrase that particularly caught his attention: “Our Holy Father spoke about ‘spiritual Alzheimer’s’ which he defined as the forgetting of that encounter with Jesus that brought us to discipleship and defines us as his followers. What the pope was referring to was the dulling, and even fading from memory and heart, the joy of having encountered the living Christ,” said the cardinal. “As hard as we may try to remain faithful to that powerful realization that the Risen Lord is actually present to us, the experience can grow cold and the memory dim. We may even lose our sensitivity to the overwhelming gift of God’s mercy that is there for you and me every day,” he continued. The cardinal encouraged the faithful to use the moments of prayer and reflection during Holy Week “as if we were blowing on the embers of our encounter with Christ to cause them to flame up, once again, in a way that we experience what the Church calls our ongoing conversion and renewal.”

“In each moment of Holy Week, to the extent that we open our hearts to it, we should feel the love and mercy of God. The Church calls us not just to a commemoration historically of the events of two thousand years ago, as laudable as that might be, but also to enter the mystery itself. We are not bystanders, but rather participants.”

Each of us is on our own personal faith journey, said the cardinal. He pointed out that it is not an easy time to be recognized as someone of faith. “This is a culture where religious faith is increasingly dismissed and people of faith are expected to be less visible. Yet we also know that living our faith and visibly bearing testimony to it can have wonderful effects,” he said, and gave the example of the archdiocese’s Light the City, a one-night evening of prayer where teams of volunteers went out into the streets of downtown Washington after Mass to invite passers-by to come into the cathedral, light a candle and pause for prayer. “This is the time when missionary disciples, as Pope Francis calls us, all of us, are finding in a culture of self-absorption, many who are looking for an encounter with God.”

“Today, in the Liturgy we are reminded of two things: 1). Jesus came to announce and establish a kingdom. The kingdom of God among us is real. It is made up of the presence here and now in this world of God’s realm of truth, justice, peace and love. It is a presence of the Spirit, of grace. It will be completed in its fullness in heaven. But it begins now with us. We see in the Church and in the sacraments, because we see with the eyes of faith, we see Christ continuing to be with us, to touch us, change us, transform us; and 2). We are challenged to help manifest and realize that kingdom. We are not bystanders to an historical event that is unfolding in time as were so many who watched Jesus enter Jerusalem, but participants in an action that we help to realize and manifest. Thus we pray, ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ Our part is not an insignificant aspect of God’s kingdom coming to be.”

“Our annual journey of faith begins today as we: through the eyes of faith try, once again, to stir the embers of our experience of Jesus into a flame of awareness of the presence of the Risen Lord in our lives, in our hearts, in all of our actions,” said Cardinal Wuerl.


The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 95 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C. and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

Chieko Noguchi
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