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  • Fr. John Jennings

Our Sacred Stories - Holy Week: A Pilgrimage through Death to Life, Darkness to Light

This Sunday we enter what we call Holy Week, that sacred season from Passion Sunday to Easter. As we bless the palms and listen to the Passion story once more, we begin a pilgrimage in solidarity with our world. It is a journey of faith which calls us to reflect on the suffering and death of Jesus. Ultimately our trek will take us to Easter and the resurrection of Jesus. From darkness to light.

Our pilgrimage unfolds on three levels. We take this pilgrimage personally, looking inward at our own life. Each of us has our experiences of pain, suffering and encounters with evil. We also embark on this pilgrimage communally, for we journey with the whole Christian community. It too, is often broken and suffering, struggling with the shortcomings and flaws within us.

Beyond this, our journey is also one we share with all of humanity, and the whole of creation. We witness the face of evil and pain and suffering with all the peoples and nations of our world. In every place and every age, this has been our global reality. So often, we are a world of darkness - inequalities, injustice, war, threats of climate change and the dread of a pandemic. We are so often less than we can be or even want to be.

In this season of Holy Week – Easter we are called to reflection, prayer and a movement of heart, mind and action through the experience of evil and death, to new and transformed life. It is season of hope and promise, a pilgrimage through death to new life, from darkness to light.

Our journey begins at a high point with acclamation and celebration, as we hear the story of Jesus` entry into Jerusalem to the cheers and accolades of the crowd (Mark 11:1-10). We end our pilgrimage on another high point - the resurrection of Jesus with Easter, from darkness to light.

As we journey from one high point to the next, however, we must descend into the valley, the darkness of challenge, of struggle, of suffering, of pain, evil. It is a valley where we journey with Jesus through his passion and ultimately his death. This is a valley of darkness. Our human experience reveals it as something we all face in life. We encounter it in ourselves and we encounter it in our world.

Evil poses questions that have challenged reason and religious faith down through the centuries. Despite all efforts to ``explain`` it, evil defies rational explanation. No one has identified the ultimate cause of evil. The principal religious traditions of the world: Buddism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, have all noted the existence of evil. But why do we face it? Where does it come from?

Religious traditions can identify no ultimate cause, but they do aid us with the challenge. What helps us is how these traditions present the divine. Christianity, Judaism and Islam all present us with an image of God who is above all else, compassionate. We may not know why there is evil, but our Christian faith does offer us a response to it. It is the response of Jesus – to be compassionate as our God is compassionate.

In other words, the challenge of evil is not addressed by discovering who caused it or why we face it. It is addressed by how we respond – by compassion and care, for one another and for our world. This is a week of moving from darkness to light, death to new life. Jesus embodies God’s compassionate love for all humanity

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