Holy Week   Rev. David C. Kelly, MM, Ph.D., Professor of Moral Theology

By: Fr. David Kelly

Let us suppose that we are looking at the meaning of Holy Week as part of my search for God. What would I see?

Let’s put the matter in terms of this phrase from St. John, the beloved disciple: “We have come to know and believe in the love God has for us…” 1 John 4, 16.    

In my search I see the cross, the chalice and the lamb. The cross on which Christ was crucified on Good Friday speaks of the betrayal of Peter and Judas as well as the violent death according to Roman practice. The chalice reminds me of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday eve, when Jesus gives his  Body and Blood to the Apostles and washes their feet; even as He knows of the betrayal that is to come.  The figure of the Paschal Lamb reminds me of the victory over sin and death brought about by the Resurrection on Easter Sunday, as well as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, whom John the Baptist pointed out at  the start of Christ’s public life.

In my search I am seeing a mosaic that portrays an abundance   of  messages about God. These realities come pouring into my life with the message that God is love. My knowledge is insufficient to grasp the whole and my idea of love as self-satisfaction is deeply embarrassed and questioned.

Holy Week is not just a flat, unmoving object to attract the casual visitor. It is offered as a gift, the gift of great price: God is love.

As I see the procession, or rather the waiting line of people standing in line on Good Friday to venerate the cross of Christ, each one personally. I know them. Some of them, anyway. Mary who has just been diagnosed with incurable cancer,  Mrs. Judd who has just lost her husband of forty years. And there waits Jack whose alcoholism has  caused  him a separation from  family and friends. Little Michael whose grandmother just passed away. They  have come to see the God of love, their Shepherd, who will not abandon them nor let them be left aside by the broken systems of  current ideologies. There is something about all  this that goes beyond the official text of  the news and the curiosity of the internet’s surface knowledge. It demands a faith not decided by myself but rather an answer or response from my heart, a response that searches further for that reality of which St. John speaks: “We have come to know and believe in the love God has for us.”


About the Author: Fr. David Kelly

Rev. David C. Kelly, MM, ordained a priest in Boston in 1957, is a Maryknoll missionary who has worked in Guatemala, El Salvador and Peru. He holds licentiate and doctoral degrees in moral theology from Louvain University in Belgium. He has taught at the Archdiocesan seminary in San Salvador, El Salvador and at Maryknoll Seminary in Ossining N.Y.

His interests are in moral theology as it relates to cultural values and conduct, as well as the connection between evangelization, moral theology and contemporary cultural challenges. He is especially interested in the changes happening in American cultural patterns as they impact on the American Catholic Church.

In his missionary work he was always challenged by the different ways in which people understood the world around them and the need they always had of moral education and correct formation of the conscience. He came to see, in his missionary work, how knowing and living the truths taught by the Catholic Church the people’s faith and human dignity were strengthened and freed up to grow.

He enjoys teaching in the seminary because it provides him an opportunity to share his pastoral theological experiences in other cultures and the challenge of mission as it impacts on theology and evangelization. He also learns a lot from the faculty and students.


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