Fr. Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Nationalist papers.
This column appeared in the edition published 27 April 2011.
Holy Week. Seven days, filled with Religious Symbolism and Rituals, from Washing Feet to Venerating the Cross. Holy Week tells the very hopeful story of Jesus’ great love and resilient compassion. A free love, given in an absolute fashion. A love, told powerfully by a God who “lay down his life for his friends”.
For this reason, these days resonate with many emotions felt within all our hearts. The joy and intimacy at a family meal, the pain of not knowing our future, the emptiness, because of a loved ones death and the transforming hope and joy on Easter Sunday; Jesus risen from the dead.
This Holy Week, the Church, promotes this powerful story, while at the same time remains so bruised by its past. The recent Ryan, Murphy and now Cloyne Reports tell the shocking true story of how an institution covered up; remained silent and failed to deal with the shocking truth regarding clerical child sexual abuse. A very sacred trust between priest and people has been so greatly damaged because of such terrible scandal. Many people struggle especially victims who are to the foremost in my mind while I begin to prepare to celebrate Holy Week. It is fundamental to begin with this reality, as a people who so often walk in the shadows and long for new light and hope.
Our church is so much greater that the old model of a black and white institutional church. An institution that continues, often to disconnect itself from the reality of where many people find themselves to be. One of the great models of the church in the Second Vatican Council and never realised is that of the church being a living dynamic community of faith “the people of God”. This week Jesus reminds us all that essentially our church is local; familiar places where we share meals, support and encourage. Our church is not even about buildings or ceremonies. “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am with you”. Jesus continues to wash our feet through the hands of parents, caring for their family, voluntary organisations who support often the most vulnerable in our society.
Jesus in Gethsemane reminds us that we are not alone. His fragile and very vulnerable experience of doubt, frustration and extreme anxiety is a powerful solidarity with so many who are uncertain and overwhelmed. I think especially of those who live with debt, unemployment, the horrible consequences of this dreadful recession.
Jesus dying on the cross is an invitation to new life. His kingdom is not for those who have it all, but firstly, for those who are in want of something greater. His word to a dying thief – “Today you will be with me in paradise”.
His dying arms outstretched are an invitation to all people to turn to his love. Jesus on the cross embraces the depth of our humanity and in doing so makes us new and powerful.
A church on its knees, bruised and deeply scarred is perhaps a Christ-like place to be. “By his wounds we are healed”. Without the cross we have no Easter. It is through suffering; Jesus gives us Easter – Hope.
My prayer, especially at our Dawn Mass on Easter Sunday at 6:00am surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation is for renewed hope. God’s light is bright, His presence is real. May we begin again in renewed confidence that through Jesus all will be well.