A time of joyful hope and public witness

POST BY DRobinson

On Palm Sunday 2005, in one of his last public appearances, St John Paul II addressed his beloved young people gathered to celebrate International World Youth Day.  He invited them to respond to a very high calling, namely to joyfully embrace the cross.  “Dear young people”, he said, “I realize more and more how providential and prophetic it was that this very day, Palm Sunday and the Passion of the Lord, should have become your Day. This feast possesses a special grace, that of joy united to the Cross, which in itself sums up the Christian mystery.” 

Rejoicing in the cross, in the passion and death of Our Lord, is what we are all called to do as we recall His triumphant entry into Jerusalem this day.  As we enter this most sacred week of the year we are called to rejoice in what is about to happen.  That seems strange as this is a tragic story in itself. But we celebrate it with the benefit of hindsight.  Indeed with the gift of faith.  As we now journey to Gethsemane, the Last Supper, Calvary and to the Sepulchre we do so as joyful pilgrims celebrating the most sacred of all mysteries of the Christian faith we know gives real meaning to our lives. 

Celebrating Holy Week, however, is not just an act of personal devotion or one which is confined to our own parish community or where we worship.  Rather, giving joyful witness to our faith as Christians together in Holy Week and Easter has real value for our society.  That’s why the increasing number of Good Friday processions of witness and passion plays around our city is such a heartening development.  In witnessing publicly to our faith in the cross we proclaim our faith in a God of hope who is for all people.  A God who challenges us to love and serve more generously and to be reconciled to our enemies.  In an increasingly fractious, fearful,  multireligious and multicultural society, public witness to our faith on the streets of London is more and more vital.  But we are invited to reflect on why.  Not to glory in our distinctiveness as Christians but to witness to a faith which can build bridges in our society. Not to separate but to unite.  Not to condemn but to be reconciled. 

Holy Week, then, is a wonderful week to engage in what the Church calls the ‘new evangelisation’, simply by making our faith known in the workplace, among our friends, with those we meet of whatever religion or none.  We can do this by being upfront about how special this week is for us and for our world; and why.  Why we bother to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament on Holy Thursday to ‘watch’ with Christ in Gethsemane; why on Good Friday we fast and take part in public witness on our streets and worship the cross with joy; why we spend Holy Saturday in quiet expectation as we sit at the tomb.  Why the resurrection is the heart of our faith and gives us true hope.  There is so much we can share to witness to what Christianity is really about. 

As we raise our palms this weekend to welcome the Lord into Jerusalem let us commit ourselves to following him closely this Holy Week by finding the space to give witness to the greatest mysteries of our faith in a world yearning for the new life they bring.

Dominic Robinson SJ

Originally written for the Farm st parish newsletter