One Hour Retreat for Holy Week: Who Am I? Where Is My Heart?

Pope Francis’ homily from Palm Sunday 2014 has always remained with me. For this year’s “One Hour Retreat for Holy Week,” I recommend that you first go back to the Passion story as told by Matthew, which we read together at Mass on Sunday. Then read Pope Francis’ reflection below, which is structured around a series of questions, each asking us to examine ourselves and our own place in the story of Jesus’ final hours.

Take your time with each question as you ponder the biblical text. Imagine yourself in the story. Be there with Jesus. Be honest with Jesus.

A very blessed Holy Week and a joyous Easter to each of you!


“This week begins with the festive procession with olive branches: the entire populace welcomes Jesus. The children and young people sing, praising Jesus.  But this week continues in the mystery of Jesus’ death and his resurrection. We have just listened to the Passion of our Lord. We might well ask ourselves just one question:  Who am I? Who am I, before my Lord? Who am I, before Jesus who enters Jerusalem amid the enthusiasm of the crowd? Am I ready to express my joy, to praise him? Or do I stand back? Who am I, before the suffering Jesus?

We have just heard many, many names. The group of leaders, some priests, the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, who had decided to kill Jesus. They were waiting for the chance to arrest him. Am I like one of them?

We have also heard another name: Judas. Thirty pieces of silver. Am I like Judas? We have heard other names too: the disciples who understand nothing, who fell asleep while the Lord was suffering. Has my life fallen asleep? Or am I like the disciples, who did not realize what it was to betray Jesus? Or like that other disciple, who wanted to settle everything with a sword? Am I like them? Am I like Judas, who feigns loved and then kisses the Master in order to hand him over, to betray him? Am I a traitor?

Am I like those people in power who hastily summon a tribunal and seek false witnesses: am I like them? And when I do these things, if I do them, do I think that in this way I am saving the people?

Am I like Pilate? When I see that the situation is difficult, do I wash my hands and dodge my responsibility, allowing people to be condemned – or condemning them myself?

Am I like that crowd which was not sure whether they were at a religious meeting, a trial or a circus, and then chose Barabbas? For them it was all the same: it was more entertaining to humiliate Jesus.

Am I like the soldiers who strike the Lord, spit on him, insult him, find entertainment in humiliating him?

Am I like the Cyrenean, who was returning from work, weary, yet was good enough to help the Lord carry his cross?

Am I like those who walked by the cross and mocked Jesus:  “He was so courageous! Let him come down from the cross and then we will believe in him!” Mocking Jesus….

Am I like those fearless women, and like the mother of Jesus, who were there, suffering in silence?

Am I like Joseph [of Arimathea], the hidden disciple, who lovingly carries the body of Jesus to give it burial?

Am I like the two Marys, who remained at the Tomb, weeping and praying?

Am I like those leaders who went the next day to Pilate and said, “Look, this man said that he was going to rise again.  We cannot let another fraud take place!”, and who block life, who block the tomb, in order to maintain doctrine, lest life come forth?

Where is my heart? Which of these persons am I like? May this question remain with us throughout the entire week.”

* * * * *

Homily delivered by Pope Francis from St. Peter’s Square, Vatican, April 13, 2014; to see text on Vatican website, click here.

To see previous years' "One Hour Retreats for Holy Week," click here and here.

Unknown Egyptian artist. Gouache on papyrus. Courtesy  Sacred Art Pilgrim .

Unknown Egyptian artist. Gouache on papyrus. Courtesy Sacred Art Pilgrim.

Family Ain't Easy

The gritty but beautiful words from Pope Francis below remind me of something Mother Teresa used to say – that it’s easier to feed a hungry stranger than to love the hurting person inside your own home.  How we take each other for granted in the family!  How we don’t take the time.  How we mess up.  But how we keep trying!

When I read these words I feel the way I imagine I might have felt if Jesus was preaching to me – upbraided but inspired – put in my place but not ashamed – aware of my shortcomings but excited about changing. 

May God grant us “tired faces from generous giving” in our families!

It is true that living in a family is not always easy, and can often be painful and stressful but, as I have often said referring to the Church, I prefer a wounded family that makes daily efforts to put love into play, to a society that is sick from isolationism and habitually afraid of love. I prefer a family that makes repeated efforts to begin again, to a society that is narcissistic and obsessed with luxury and comfort. I prefer a family with tired faces from generous giving, to faces with makeup that know nothing of tenderness and compassion.
— Pope Francis, Address to Families in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico, Feb. 2016
Pope Francis has his own world-wide family that creates its own challenges.  Remember this little guy?

Pope Francis has his own world-wide family that creates its own challenges.  Remember this little guy?

In Every Life

“I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life. God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else—God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life.”

 -- Pope Francis

Christian Hope Is Not a Ghost

“See, Christian hope is not a ghost and it does not deceive. It is…a gift from God that cannot be reduced to optimism, which is only human. God does not mislead hope; God cannot deny himself. God is all promise.”

-- Pope Francis, Interview with America Magazine, 2013

Photo by Vatican Pool/Getty Images

Photo by Vatican Pool/Getty Images

To Change the World

“An authentic faith – which is never comfortable or completely personal – always involves a deep desire to change the world.”

 -- Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 183

Cardinal Bergoglio changing the world.

Cardinal Bergoglio changing the world.