By Bridget Bears, RSCJ
This Holy Week, for me — for us — is like no other.
Last Sunday, Religious of the Sacred Heart from around the world gathered for a Society of the Sacred Heart meeting on refugees from Ukraine. Gathered, representing multiple languages, six continents, and bringing to the table the complexities of politics, religion, and life, our hearts were troubled — together.
I invite you this Palm Sunday to view the recording of this meeting on the RSCJ international website, as it reminds me with piercing clarity of our common call as members of One Body.
While the violence in Ukraine is not the only situation of violence, war, and the ravages of power in our global community, it has catapulted my Holy Week comfort. It has propelled me into knowing that this Holy Week I am not a spectator of re-enactment, I am present.
After the meeting last Sunday, I wound my way through the streets of Washington, D.C., and drifted back in memory to the first time I experienced a live performance of the then revolutionary rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar.” A high school student at the time, the magnificence of the Gospel came to life for me, and the image that remained with me was the scene depicting today’s scripture, specifically, the entrance of Jesus as celebrated victor.
While chaos and celebration surrounded Jesus, I recall the cognitive dissonance I experienced from the ‘inside out’ as I watched Jesus not celebrating with the crowd as he rode the donkey through the palm branches, but rather, his face stilled with solemn expression — a knowing that haunted me then, and one I still feel now. He knew something. I choose to believe that he had a choice. Jesus could have turned away from what he did not want to see and run. Instead, he chose to stay where he knew suffering was inevitable. He rode on.
As Jesus rode through the crowd, neither the volume of public opinion nor the desires of those closest to him swayed his path. He was confident in his “inner knowing,” and grounded in his knowledge of belonging. In the words of Sister Thea Bowman, “Remember who you are and whose you are.” He went into the chaos, not around it — through the celebrations and towards the “fake news” promulgated to convince the crowds to abandon their inner experience of who Jesus was. I feel that tug of war: the desire to be present and the temptation to flee.
Holy Week feels very real this year. I feel less judgmental of generations before me who may not have acted in the face of tumult. I feel aligned with my own sisters, some whose past decisions I struggle with in the present. I feel overwhelmed with the magnitude of the suffering, violence and my own inability to affect change. Still, in this Holy Week, I make a choice and refuse to accept the paralyzing invitation of despair. Hope, for me, is a verb.
This Holy Week, I feel an invitation to place myself in the business of change making. Perhaps, the only change I can make is in myself, but then again, perhaps that is the change that needs most attention as we approach the Triduum. Maybe the war that I have to address is the one in my own heart and the real work is “staying at the table.”
This Holy Week, I invite you to join me on this journey. Let us watch the news with an eye for the eyes of the other. Then, let us listen to the news within and be attuned — like Jesus — to our inner knowing. In this week, let our lives reflect the scripture that teaches the power of hope, the courage needed to stay on the path, and absolute confidence in the resurrection. Let us be change makers…beginning with our own hearts…and then — only then — we will be able to “take their pain as our own.”
Image: Artwork by Bridget Bearss, RSCJ, and Beth Ponticello