Mary Hepburn rsm
It’s Holy Week this week and the people of Guatemala will be making their usual large processions. Figures of Christ or Mary are carried on large platforms through the streets carpeted with flowers and coloured sawdust. Crowds of people process or watch the events, which are also a great tourist draw card.
I remember a Palm Sunday I celebrated in Colonia Lim√¢ÀÜ≈°√É¬µn, Guatemala City, where I was living and working with a Honduran Mercy community in 1990. In our parish, we had only one liturgy on Palm Sunday. The Liturgy of the Word lasted several hours. Through the streets of the three colonias in the parish, up and down hills, we made the Stations of the Cross. Each station, prepared by a different group in the parish, focused on one current issue – such as the current civil war in Guatemala, ethnic marginalisation, or one of the many faces of poverty and violence that were part of the people’s own experience – in the light of the Scriptures. Late afternoon, we gathered in the Church for the Liturgy of the Eucharist, a simple and extremely powerful celebration of community commitment, struggles, and hopes.
What is Palm Sunday for us today in Aotearoa New Zealand?
The scripture readings challenge us to journey in a new way.
We begin the week’s journey with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, when the people shouted ‘Hosanna’, which originally meant ‘Save us’ and ‘Give us freedom!’. We use palms – symbols of liberation from Egypt and an expression of the people’s desire for political freedom. Isaiah plants the seed of an alternative way of re-imagining reality. The psalmist yearns for change, and images a world that is organised differently. In the Passion according to Mark, the unnamed woman who anoints Jesus admired him for who he was and prepared him for death – her attitude of giving and being present contrasting with the trading mentality of the onlookers. It is Jesus the prophet who abandons himself to death, free, misunderstood, and full of integrity.
Holy Week begins. How can we make it holy here in Aotearoa New Zealand? What kind of world do we imagine? What powers oppress and exploit people and creation in our country? How can we stand up and join the liberating power that is justice and peace?
Let us make this week holy. Let us spend time with the Word, and be attentive to what is really happening about us.
It is not suffering that makes this week holy. It is love that empowers, changes and transforms.