TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Our Journey to Jerusalem

I am just home from our annual Ecumenical Way of the Cross at St Joseph’s Parish, Toronto, having walked with over one hundred people, through the wonderful bush setting of that parish and its fourteen station crosses.

I love that there are diverse groups of people from across all generations who walk this Way of the Cross. It was also good to walk this with our new bishop, Michael Kennedy and with Bishop Sonia Roulston from the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle.

This year we listened to the voice of Mary at each Station, spoken through the lens of fourteen women. Their reflections, words and emotions gave us a glimpse into the person of Mary, who walked beside her son, Jesus, as he was crucified, died and was buried. At some of the Stations, the pain of the women as they spoke was palpable, because it reflected their story, their truth about being a woman and a mother.

As we approach Palm Sunday and Holy Week, let us place ourselves into the experience of the story of the journey to Jerusalem, not only for Jesus but for ourselves.

In this weekend’s readings we get a foretaste of life and death in all of our readings. We have that wonderful reading from the prophet Ezekiel (37:12-14) about putting breath and life into dry bones. We then hear in the Second Reading from St Paul to the Romans (8:8-11) about what it means to be spiritual:

Unless you possessed the Spirit of Christ you would not belong to him. Though your body may be dead it is because of sin, but if Christ is in you then your spirit is life itself….

And then we moved onto that great reading about the story of Mary, Martha, Lazarus and Jesus, at Bethany (John 11:1-45). As I listened to this being proclaimed on Saturday night, I was drawn to focussing on the two women, Mary and Martha, as disciples of Jesus. I already knew of our focus on Mary for the Way of the Cross, and our invitation for fourteen women to break open each Station as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Clearly, Mary and Martha were disciples of Jesus because of the way they spoke to him, and the way he spoke to them. Martha, through her conversation with Jesus, draws from him not only his humanity but also his divinity:

‘I am the resurrection and the life.
If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live,
and whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.
Do you believe this?’

She then makes the great proclamation:

Yes, Lord,’ she said, ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.’

It is recorded, that upon meeting Mary in her grief, not only did Jesus weep, but he also had a sigh that came straight from the heart. This is the One who journeys with us in our hopes, joys, anxieties and fears.

Both Martha and Mary had come to realise that Jesus was the Messiah, the one, the light in the darkness who was to save humanity.

I wonder how many of us feel the discouragement of Martha and Mary with our own lives, or the lives of our families, the lives of our parishes, the situation facing our environment, the struggles facing our brothers and sisters here in Australia, and the atrocities facing people around our globe. Even as disciples of Jesus Christ, we can feel despondent as we face a culture of complacency, mediocrity, and minimalism. We can lose sight of the vision that God gave each of us when we were called to be his disciples. I wonder how many of us feel like ‘dry bones.’

I share with you this paragraph from Fr James Mallon’s book Divine Renovation – From a Maintenance to a Missional Parish (page 285)

God does indeed know. Dry bones can live because it is the Lord’s desire to breathe new life into his people, into his Church! There is only one person who is able to put the fire back into our bones: the One who came as tongues of fire on the day of Pentecost. Only when we experience the absolute dryness of our bones can we cry, ‘Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15) It is not we who change anything – the world, our diocese, our parish or even ourselves. It is God’s Spirit who renews the face of the earth, who first birthed the Church and continues to bring her to new birth. It is the Holy Spirit of God who brings us to embrace our true identity as a missional Church. It is God’s Spirit, poured out in a New Pentecost, who gives us the ability to bring about a New Evangelisation.

So, for those of us who gathered at Toronto on Sunday, there was a sense of the breath of God, as we walked through the trees, on this sacred ground, singing:

There is a strength beyond all reason
Mary’s strength grows out of faith along
To trust in God’s will above her own
This is the strength we know.

The biblical quote chosen by Pope Francis as the motto for World Youth Day 2023, ‘Mary arose and went with haste’ (Luke 1:39), serves as a reminder for the Feast of the Annunciation which we celebrated on Saturday, 25 March. When she visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is also with child, Mary exclaims, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord.’

Let us walk the Way, with Mary as our lens, our magnifier, our way to experience life as disciples of Jesus. Our faith gives us a strength beyond our imagination.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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