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This is the favorite week for retreats and recollections. Our nuns at Villa San Miguel are all out of town for their annual Holy Week retreat. We do have recollections during the Advent season, but more people make their retreats during Holy Week. On television and over the radio, we hear commentaries on the mysteries of the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross. Recollections and retreats have become high-tech too. We can have recollections through VHS tapes, audio cassettes, and by radio and TV. It is considered a spiritual duty to reflect and self-introspect, to soul-search and to meditate during those days. It is our custom to fast and make sacrifices during these days and keep our commitment to discipline our bodies and to control our desires.

All of these are praiseworthy and noble. But they are not enough. The spirit of Holy Week must be less and less of self-introspection but more and more of reaching out. At the end of Holy Week, the question that will be asked of us will not be, “How are you, and how is your self-discipline?” The question rather will be, “How is your neighbor, and what have you done for him?”

The air of Holy Week is so conducive to prayer and recollection. Pray. Indeed, we must pray because prayer is the soul of our Christian lives. But if we are really to pray on the life of Christ, then we must follow His example. His life was a life of service, service without measure, love beyond measure.

Holy Week is not so much for self-introspection and self-discipline as much as for living for others and reaching out in service. What is the meaning of our fasting if it does not lead us to be kinder to the helpers and drivers at home? What use is it to skip smoking and eating sweets when we become uncharitable or arrogant because we miss these pleasures a lot?

Remember that the holiness of this week does not lie in the pains and sacrifices that Christ endured. Throughout human history, there have been hundreds of peoples who have endured what Christ endured. What makes this week “holy” is the love that Christ poured into these days. Courage and self-discipline are admirable, but only love redeems. Only love can make this week holy. Forget yourself, including your sins. God is merciful.

But do not forget to serve, to love, and to reach out. You cannot be holy without giving. By refusing to share and to give, we will not automatically become richer. We will perish and die. Givers gain. Givers live forever. Hoarders perish, and they are forgotten.

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