Within the space of these seven days we move from triumph to triumph: Jesus’ triumphant welcome to Jerusalem, and his resurrection, interspersed by the commissioning of his disciples, the institution of the Eucharistic sacrifice, his betrayal, torture and death on the cross.
Across our diocese our schools will take time during Holy Week to enact liturgically the various aspects of the life of Jesus during this tumultuous week.
Holy Week commenced over the weekend with the celebration of Palm Sunday within our parishes and the annual Way of the Cross at St Joseph’s Parish, Toronto, in the grounds of the parish complex at Kilaben Bay. Students from our schools along with members of the diocesan youth ministry enacted the 14 Stations of the Cross as Bishop Bill, members of the clergy, parishioners, students, staff of our schools and CSO walked the Way of the Cross.
Palm Sunday is also marked as World Youth Day around the world and many young people gathered at Kilaben Bay for the annual Diocesan Council for Ministry with Young People (DCMYP) retreat, "Be, Grow, Show". I was able to join them for Mass and dinner on Saturday evening and then accompany them to the home of a refugee family, where we listened to the story of the family’s harrowing experience of living in a refugee camp for almost 20 years. The young people brought gifts, food and clothing with them to share with the family, Mum and Dad and 10 children. Then, on Sunday, the members of DCMYP led the congregation on a contemplative journey around the Stations of the Cross with special focus on the Year of Mercy and contemporary issues that challenge us to respond in a Christ-like manner.
This Tuesday night the diocesan community will gather for the annual Chrism Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral when Bishop Bill will bless the various oils used in the celebration of the sacraments and where the priests of the diocese will renew the vows they made at their ordination. It is a special celebration in the Church’s year as the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of Chrism, used for Baptism, Confirmation and Ordination, and the Oil of the Sick are blessed by Bishop Bill and sent out to the various parishes through their representatives.
The Mass of the Chrism reminds us that we are anointed, set apart in a special way, part of the Body of Christ in the world, and are sacred persons called to live out the message of Jesus.
On Holy Thursday we celebrate the Mass of the Last Supper recalling the time when Jesus gathered with his disciples for the celebration of the Passover, introduced us to the Eucharist and called us to be servants to one another. The call by Jesus to his disciples to “do this in memory of me” has resonated throughout the world for 2000 years and is enacted every day whenever Mass is celebrated.
The washing of the feet of the disciples gathered with him is such a powerful symbol of the fundamental need for the Church to be one of service and outreach to the poor and marginalised. This has been reinforced by Pope Francis reaching out to those in prison and washing their feet.
Good Friday sees us celebrating in sombre tones the crucifixion and death of Jesus on Calvary. Throughout our churches the Passion will be read and the Stations of the Cross will be reflected upon as this central part of our faith story is lived out.
Finally, we gather on Holy Saturday night and Easter Sunday, in a joy-filled celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and his appearance over the ensuing weeks to his disciples and followers, commissioning them to spread the Word of God throughout the world.
It is a wonderful part of our Church life and I hope that each of us will take time during Holy Week to be part of the celebrations of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus in our various parishes.