With the observance of Palm Sunday this weekend, Catholics around the world will enter Holy Week, the most sacred time in the Church’s liturgical calendar.
It commemorates the final week of Jesus’ life and offers a reminder of the sacrifice for us embodied by His suffering and death on the cross at Calvary, followed on the third day by His glorious resurrection and its joyous message of hope and renewal.
It’s a message we surely need in these difficult times.
We’re not at all heartened, for instance, that a bloody and senseless war continues to rage in Ukraine after an invasion by its much larger neighbor Russia. Nor are we happy that Covid-19 variants are still infecting people as they struggle to return to pre-pandemic lives.
Also, prices at the gas pump are through the roof, homelessness remains a stubborn fact of the urban streetscape and crime rates are up.
Not even the Oscars’ ceremony provided its usual escape, with Will Smith’s live-TV slap of host Chris Rock dominating conversations for days.
How, then, shall we experience the hopeful promise of Holy Week?
By focusing on the steps, small steps and large, that will carry us forward.
The Easter season can be a time to renew and restore relationships with family and friends that may have diminished during the pandemic restrictions, and it’s something that all of us can do.
More broadly, we can also find a measure of hope in the strengthened resolve of the world community to hold Russia accountable for its brutal incursion into Ukraine, particularly as horrific atrocities against civilians come to light. And peace talks were still under way, albeit in fits and starts, leaving a small window of hope.
New York City’s new mayor Eric Adams’ plan to address the seemingly intractable homelessness problem, starting with moving homeless persons out of the subway system and linking them to services, strikes us as having merit; it won’t show major results overnight, as many in this population resist services and help, but it’s a major step in the right direction and another sign of hope.
If we can, we’d like to introduce the mayor to a Catholic Charities-affiliated program that’s been serving the homeless and hungry in the Bronx for 40 years: Part of the Solution (POTS). It’s one of several long-term and successful Catholic agencies that has served difficult populations and could provide a model that might be attractive to at least a portion of the street homeless people so in need of help.
As for prices of gas and other inflationary signals, the most positive spin may be that it is well within our control to more carefully monitor the use of our cars, to car pool if possible, and to walk more frequently, with the added bonus that it’s healthy.
Finally, Holy Week is an opportunity for us to reconnect with our parishes and the public practice of our faith. The two-year pandemic changed our churchgoing habits just as it changed so many other facets of our lives.
Maybe what all of us need right now is a break from all of the “noise” around us and to quietly observe the rituals and practices of this holiest of weeks, attending the Masses and services and focusing on our relationship with God and our Church.
That, we’re sure, is the most hopeful step we can take.
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