Holy Week has begun with the word Hosanna (Save Us). We have entered our holy and busy time liturgically, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

I am very mindful that we are without Bishop Bill as we enter this week, and will have Bishop Danny Meagher celebrate the Chrism Mass with us, and then Archbishop Charles Balvo, the Apostolic Nuncio, will join us at the Cathedral for the Triduum. I hope you are looking forward to your parish celebrations, joining in prayer with your communities, given our lessened COVID restrictions. I note that we had more people than usual come to Mass at the Cathedral on Sunday night. I hope this is indicative of people returning to being part of our worshipping community.

I think the greeting that took place after the singing of Hosanna spoke to me of our journey through Lent and now Holy Week:

Dear brothers and sisters,
since the beginning of Lent until now
we have prepared our hearts by penance and charitable works.
Today we gather together to herald with the whole Church
the beginning of the celebration
of our Lord’s Paschal Mystery,
that is to say, of his Passion and Resurrection.
For it was to accomplish this mystery
that he entered his own city of Jerusalem.
Therefore, with all faith and devotion,
let us commemorate
the Lord’s entry into the city for our salvation,
following in his footsteps,
so that, being made by his grace partakers of the Cross,
we may have a share also in his Resurrection and in his life.

I hope you find these words as reassuring as I did when I heard them on Palm Sunday night at Mass.

It is hard to imagine that Jesus enters Jerusalem with shouts of praise and promise and then within a seemingly short period of time he is arrested, tried, scourged, crucified and put to death on a cross, and we hear all of that on Palm Sunday.

During the week, I read ‘The 38th Archbishop Daniel Mannix Lecture’, given in Melbourne on 23 March by Tanya Plibersek MP, Shadow Minister for Education. It provided a backdrop to the lives and values of both Tanya Plibersek and Daniel Mannyx. Tanya reflected on her childhood and the values her Catholic background instilled in her. She said:

Good political leadership requires making your values clear, as much as it requires laying out your plans for practical action.

It’s about answering the ‘why’ as well as the ‘how’ of what you’re fighting for.

…..In the modern world our values come from many different places.

There’s no longer a single pulpit or a universal source of truth.

Secular philosophy and religious faith live side by side, largely in peace.

But it’s clear to me that, even in our fractured world, the timeless lessons of Christ continue to inform progressive politics today.

Love thy neighbour.

Turn the other cheek.

The first will be last and the last will be first.

The meek shall inherit the earth.

But that shouldn’t hide just how radical they are.

It we take it seriousl, Jesus’ message was incredibly demanding…….

The call to universal love will always be profoundly difficult, whoever we are.

……As politicians, too often we seek to be understood, rather than to understand.

To be seen, rather than to see.

These words resonated with me particularly on Thursday and Friday, as I formed part of the Hunter Community Alliance training team. A significant part of our training is inviting people to engage with their story and to share with others the purpose behind why they do what they do, and what they are hoping to gain from being part of this Alliance, in which we work to collectively grow a stronger civil society for the common good. We trained a diverse group of people from various community groups. It is wonderful to be with people who are passionate about, and engaged with, trying to make the planet and communities, better places for the environment and for all creatures great and small.

In the words of Tanya Plibersek, “The role of leaders in Australia should be to strengthen what binds us as a nation.

I think our own diocesan synod processes and the work of groups like the Hunter Community Alliance are to deeply explore our ‘why’. In the worlds of Tanya:

But the truth is, people make sense of the world through values and through stories, before they ever get their heads around plans or policy detail….Our instinct should be to always start with why.

Daniel Mannix (1864-1963) was Archbishop of Melbourne for 46 years and was one of the most influential public figures in 20th-century Australia. He was motivated by changing the circumstances of people who lived in poverty and despair. Injustices were not to be accepted – they made him angry, and they made him act. His faith and his values were bound up in his fight for a better world. His spiritual and practical missions were connected. I wonder what motivates you to do what you do?

In the training we undertake with the Hunter Community Alliance, we look at the emerging history of civil society, the government sector and the market. Presently, it appears that the market is the dominant lens through which the world and its inhabitants are viewed. As part of her speech, Tanya says the following:

According to Catholic social teaching, human individuals are sacred, made in the image of God, so we owe them the freedom, the resources, the opportunities they need to be their true self.

Which means we can’t let economic life resemble anarchy; we need to do better than the survival of the fittest….

The marketplace, by itself, cannot resolve every problem, however much we are asked to believe this dogma of neoliberal faith. (quoting Pope Francis)

So, as we enter this Holy Week, let’s ponder the sort of society Jesus invites us to live, a society he lived and died for. I look forward to sitting in the Cathedral, next Saturday night, listening to the many readings which take us through the formative stories of both the Hebrew and Christian people. These have helped form me and my values, and those of my ancestors before me. I have also just read the following words written by Kirsty Robertson the CEO of Caritas Australia:

The Pope’s Lenten message this year reminded us “Let us not grow tired of doing good” - it is a message written for all those women, for all who work for justice and all who work for Caritas. We must never lose hope that our actions do have an impact. We must never grow tired of doing good.

May this week serve to remind us of the good we do individually and collectively because of our ‘why’.

Easter blessings to you and your loved ones.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.