Joining Catholics around the world who opened Holy Week by commemorating Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem before His passion, death on the cross and resurrection, Cardinal Donald Wuerl celebrated Palm Sunday Mass on March 25 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C.

On that chilly spring morning, a crowd gathered on the steps and sidewalk before the majestic cathedral’s entranceway and held strips of palm branches aloft as the cardinal sprinkled holy water to bless the palms. Moments earlier, St. Matthew’s Schola Cantorum choir, wearing red robes, sang “Hosanna” as a choral prelude while Cardinal Wuerl and the priest concelebrants and deacons walked out the cathedral’s main door to join the faithful assembled outside for the beginning of the Mass.

Nearly 40 days earlier, the cardinal had celebrated Ash Wednesday Mass there to solemnly open the season of Lent. “Since the beginning of Lent until now, we have prepared our hearts by penance and charitable works,” the cardinal said.

Cardinal Wuerl said in that day’s Palm Sunday Mass, Catholics would follow in Christ’s footsteps on a journey that led him ultimately to his passion and resurrection, that they might also share in his new life. After the Gospel reading that recounted Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the crowd solemnly processed into the cathedral, as the choir again sang “Hosanna.”

Following a dramatic reading of Christ’s Passion from the Gospel of Mark, Cardinal Wuerl in his homily said, “Every year, the Church invites us to relive Holy Week. Liturgically and spiritually, we have the opportunity to make our way with Jesus through the events that culminate in our redemption.”

Each day of Holy Week, he added, “is rich in elements which nurture our faith.”

Palm Sunday heralds the beginning of “this week of meditation, reflection and spiritual renewal” in a liturgy marked by the blessing of the palms and the reading of the Passion, he said.

Like those who witnessed Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, people today ask, “Who is Jesus?,” noted Cardinal Wuerl, who added that Jesus’s disciples today, like St. Peter, recognize that he is the Messiah and the Son of God.

“You and I come here today so we can open our hearts… and simply recognize Jesus is God with us, Jesus is our Lord and our Savior,” the cardinal said.

Jesus came to establish his kingdom and to invite us into his kingdom, “not one of politics, economic or spiritual might… (but) a kingdom of the Spirit, a realm of truth, justice, peace and love,” Cardinal Wuerl said.

The journey to seek that kingdom, he added, begins in one’s heart – “It changes us and the world, but from inside.” Washington’s archbishop said that kingdom’s power comes from the strength of Christ’s love, forgiveness, kindness and compassion, and his followers today can build up that kingdom by reflecting those qualities in their lives.

Cardinal Wuerl said that call to share Christ’s love and mercy is a key point made by Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, “The Joy of the Gospel.”

“We must never forget that all of us have the power to make a difference,” the cardinal said.

Cardinal Wuerl said Holy Week offers today’s Christians a reminder that they are called to manifest God’s kingdom “here and now… that’s what our faith is all about.”

The cardinal’s Holy Week schedule at St. Matthew’s Cathedral will continue with a Chrism Mass at 7 p.m. Monday March 26, when joined by the priests of the archdiocese, he will commemorate the founding of the priesthood and bless the oils that will be used at parishes during the year to administer the sacraments.

On Holy Thursday, March 29, Cardinal Wuerl will celebrate a Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 5:30 p.m. at the cathedral, where he will wash the feet of 12 people, just as Christ washed the feet of the apostles at the Last Supper.

On Good Friday, March 30, the cardinal will celebrate a Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion and Veneration of the Cross at St. Matthew’s at 1 p.m.

Cardinal Wuerl will celebrate an Easter Vigil Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on Saturday March 31 at 8 p.m., and people preparing to become Catholic will be baptized and confirmed at the Mass, joining 1,300 adults, teens and children across the archdiocese who will become full members of the Catholic Church at Easter Vigil Masses.

Then on April 1, the cardinal will celebrate Easter Sunday Mass at 10 a.m. at the cathedral and at noon at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The basilica Mass will be broadcast live by EWTN, the Eternal Word Television Network, and the Catholic Channel on Sirius XM satellite radio.