Holy Week - An tSeachtain Mhóir 2021

During Holy Week, Christians are invited to enter into both a prayerful and reflective mood as we relive once more the events concerning Jesus of Nazareth - the week he was publicly executed by the authorities in Jerusalem. The unfolding events during the week are well known to us, but there is a dimension to the seven days that places them in a different category to that of just the retelling of a story. We are encouraged to personally immerse ourselves into the mystery of what occurred, for as believers we have already entrusted ourselves to God’s ‘redeeming embrace’. We will publicly acknowledge this commitment as a community, sadly via the internet, when during the Easter Vigil next Saturday night, we bless ourselves with the ‘Easter Water’, Light a candle from the Easter Candle and Renew our Baptismal Promises.

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As I mentioned last week: Holy Week is a mirror-image of the struggle between goodness and evil locked in combat for possession of one’s soul. The events and people mentioned in the Passion Story provides a glimpse into the best and worst in human nature, as is evidenced for example in the contrast between the joyous and enthusiastic welcoming of Jesus as he entered Jerusalem on the Sunday and the mob calling for his death a few days later. The same can be said about the sinister and devious plotting of the authorities resulting in soldiers carrying out their orders and cruelly executing a ‘good man’. Contrast this atrocity with the shock, horror and fear endured by the followers of the Nazarene, as they witness their leader, teacher, and companion judged without a fair trial, scourged, mocked and finally executed as a criminal. The few references to the kindness of friend and stranger on the Calvary Way, provides some relief in the midst of cruel deeds- the agonising encounter between mother and son, the women of Jerusalem who shed tears, the lady who wipes his brow with a cloth, the ‘good thief’ who engages with the Christ during his final hour. All these engagements are a reminder of the hurt endured as a result of mans inhumanity to man.

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What makes this week ‘Holy’ or ‘Sacred’ and deserving of the Gaelic title ‘an tSeachtain Mhóir’ is the spirit and power of Christ to touch the hearts of people both while alive and spiritually after his death. He intentionally allowed himself to be exposed to the wrath of others during his mission. He was highly critical of the social injustices imposed on people by religious and civil authorities at the time. He fearlessly spoke out against hypocrisy, and brought healing and words of comfort where required. He was well aware of the threat to his life and yet his gift to humanity was - trusting that goodness and right would not be vanquished by evil deed. That realisation did not slowly begin to dawn on his followers until after Easter Morning, the ‘First Day of the Week’. Mt 28:1   Mk 16:2   Lk 24:1   Jn 20:1

So, it’s in and through the conflicting strands within Holy Week that signs of Hope are to be gleaned. The events of the week are a reminder of the stark reality of suffering, hardship and death in our world and in our lives, as a result of ill- health, stress, and worry at a personal level. Suffering and hardship is also brought about through injustice, violence, oppression, poverty. At this present time, we only know too well that something as minute and sinister as a virus can shake society to its very core. All of these examples are very real, they constitute a form of Crucifixion.

 The important consideration is how do we cope when we are burdened with the cross. Where is the light to be found in the midst of the darkness? To my mind the most effective response comes in the guise of justice, reconciliation and healing support. The determination for all these responses come though people imbued with a spirit of love, goodness, compassion patience, fortitude, and service.

Holy Week, therefore, is the most appropriate time for Christians and people of good will to recommit ourselves to values and lifestyles that are lifegiving, and life supporting.

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