There’s a lot of shouting going on this week.
It starts with the cheering crowd as Jesus makes his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Thursday night sees accusations and insults being flung around as Jesus is seized by the Roman authorities; and there’s more to come on Friday as he is jeered through the streets carrying his cross.
Holy Week is partly about remembering those events. But only partly. Yes, we carry palms, wash people’s feet, venerate the cross and light fires. But these things are only outward signs of what the Church is calling us to do inwardly. Our Easter liturgy doesn’t simply remember the past. If we enter into its spirit then we make the effect of those past events present today in our lives.
As we wave our palms (what a shame if someone has already folded them in the shape of a cross for us!) we recognise Jesus as Messiah just as the crowd did on that day long ago. But we also recognise our own fickleness. We acknowledge that we are capable of strong assertions of faith one moment and complete disregard the next minute.
When we wash people’s feet we re-enact what Jesus did at the Last Supper. But we do it to profess our belief in our call to serve others. It is a symbol of the Christian’s call to be of service to all our brothers and sisters in their needs. If we sit and watch but have no intention of increasing our desire to serve, then we are not taking part in the liturgy. We are simply present in church.
Venerating the wood of the cross is an act of devotion that we make as sinners. Yet it is also an opportunity for us to recognise our total dependence on Jesus whose death is the reason that today we can have life to the full. By dying on Calvary Jesus has tamed death, has overcome the worst evil that may befall us and has offered us the chance of eternal happiness. That’s what we remember as we approach the cross.
The Easter fire burns in the darkness (provided we haven’t started too early!) as a sign that our lives are not clogged by obscurity, that we can live life in the light. Christ rose from the dead to offer us a risen life that transcends mere human existence. Our renewal of baptismal promises ratifies our commitment to this new life. Yes, there’s a lot going on.
The challenge is to take part in it all inwardly and not let our conversation with God be drowned out by all the shouting.