This weekend’s palm branch procession and reading of the Passion of Jesus begins our move into Holy Week.
It is most helpful to see these days before Easter as a week of retreat. While we continue our family, school and work routines our focus is guided beyond. In these days let us look together to Jesus.
We remember the last days of Jesus’ life: suffering unjustly and death as a criminal. We recall these events that gave us new life.
When we think of something that happened a long time ago – especially when it happened before we were born, it is easy to slip into an academic recall, or a romantic nostalgia about the past.
In this mode we recall what has happened, knowing that it has already happened. It is over.
While this mode of memory can help us to learn from the mistakes and methods of the past, this is not the memory the church calls us to in Holy Week.
Perhaps it is helpful to consider an example.
From history many of us have learned of the Battle of Waterloo. We know that this event happened. We have no doubt since our knowledge has come to us from many independent sources.
For the families of the (almost) fifty thousand soldiers that died, this event was unforgettable. Now, for the descendants of these families, to have an uncle who died in the fighting has become a badge of family honour.
But the death of Jesus is not such an ‘historical’ memory for the disciple.
The difference is that whereas Napoleon and his soldiers are now dead, Jesus is alive. The blood on the battlefields of Belgium is no longer visible. But the suffering of Jesus continues. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus are not simply moments of history. These events are the present reality of the life of the twenty-first century disciple.
Jesus is alive and present. Napoleon is dead and gone. The community of Jesus is alive and thriving today, not because of our successful pastoral plans, but because Jesus is alive.
I invite you to immerse yourself fully in the events of Holy Week. You have begun by being at this Palm Sunday commemoration of the Passion of Jesus today. You might continue this week by taking the opportunity for the Sacrament of Penance.
If you are apprehensive about this sacrament, or have not been for many years, do not be afraid – just come. Tell the priest that you are not sure what to say and he will guide you.
Tomorrow (Monday) evening join with the bishop and priests of the diocese who gather to celebrate the Mass of Chrism. This will be held at 7.30pm at Christ the King Church, Greers Road, Burnside.
From Thursday we enter the Triduum with the events of Holy Thursday, Good Friday leading us to the resurrection.
As we walk this journey together we do so not as distant spectators or students of history, but as struggling Christians sharing (in our own lives) in the suffering and death of Jesus.
We know the promise too, that those who walk this path, confident in the presence of God, will share in the glory of the resurrection.