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“The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road. The crowds preceding him and those following kept crying out and saying: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;
hosanna in the highest’” (Matthew 21: 8-9)
 
“They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucify him” (Matthew 27: 30-31).
 
Holy Week is a week of paradox. It begins with the triumph of waving palms and shouting hosanna to the son of David. But it soon becomes a very sad scene. The same king whom the crowds glorified is betrayed with a kiss, arrested, tortured, and finally crucified. Triumph is quickly transformed into tragedy.
 
How do we understand this paradox of the Lord’s Passion? The names “Palm” Sunday and “Passion” Narrative are not contradictory terms but rather are melded together in the Paschal Mystery which inseparably unites the dying and rising of Jesus. It weds tragedy to triumph, shame to glory, sorrow to joy.
 
It is here that the Paschal Mystery has a connection to our lives. We cannot wait for all our crosses to be lifted so that we can experience only complete joy. For us, joy comes mixed with sorrows; roses bloom, but the thorns remain.
 
Through the Passion readings we see that Jesus lived the full gamut of human reality. He expressed happiness with his family and friends, satisfaction in accomplishing his mission, fulfillment from seeing the fruits of his labor. Jesus also experienced the pain of disappointment, anger, betrayal, rejection, and both physical and mental torture. By walking closely with Jesus in these days of Holy Week, we remind ourselves that he is walking closely with us through every step of our sorrow and joy.
 
- What lesson does the suffering of Jesus teach you about your own suffering?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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That we may discover new reverence for the mystery of the Communion of Saints which transcends time and space to unite us with one another.
 
O Holy Trinity, God of love,
breathe in us, move among us,
gather us into you.
Resettle us on the soil of our earth
to free one another
through the mutual exchange of the varied gifts
with which you bless us.
Unbind us from our fears,
unite us in our shared sorrows,
enlarge us with the deep and simple sharing of our joys.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen.
 

 
 
Excerpted from
Lenten Longings – Year A: Let Yourself Be…, available from RENEW International

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A couple of months ago I gave the opening keynote address, entitled “Evangelization Matters,” at the Mid-Atlantic Congress for Pastoral Leaders in Baltimore. To begin I shared the story about Pope Francis celebrating his first Holy Thursday liturgy as pope in a juvenile detention center in Rome. For me, this is a story of the New Evangelization and why it matters. Pope Francis washed feet in a prison instead of Rome’s grand Basilica of St. John Lateran. Instead of the traditional 12 priests, he washed, dried, and kissed the feet of 12 young inmates—outcasts who live on the margins of society. He went even farther—he dared to wash two young women’s feet and the feet of a Muslim. He did not have to say anything—he just did it! His simple, loving action reverberated around the world. Speaking to the young offenders, Francis said that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion in a gesture of love and service. “This is a symbol, it is a sign. Washing your feet means I am at your service. Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us,” the pope said.
 
I can only wonder what this encounter with Christ through the pope’s gesture of foot washing meant to these young people. And what will this encounter with the welcoming and merciful Christ mean for their lives in the future? Yes, evangelization matters. The pope’s example at that prison was not only a living out of the indiscriminate love of Christ but a call to everyone who witnessed it to do the same. The pope was renewing the challenge we hear first from Jesus, succinctly expressed in a song of Weston Priory: “The Lord Jesus after eating with his friends washed their feet and said to them: Do you know what I your Lord have done to you, I have given example so you must also do.”
 
As the pope reminds us in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), evangelization is the joy-filled work of touching peoples’ minds and hearts and lives with the saving, healing, liberating good news of Jesus Christ who came not to be served but to serve. Evangelization is bringing the joy of the Gospel to the heart of our world by making God’s reign of justice and peace a reality in all of creation. Yes, evangelization matters.
 
The unlimited love of Jesus bends before us, washes us clean, and urges us to go forth and be foot washers especially to the least among us. Jesus sends us out with the joy of the Gospel: will you go?
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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get_organizedDon’t know where to start as you launch small Christian communities in your parish? If your parish team has been in place for a while, is it still all it needs to be to help your small communities stay relevant and vibrant? Wondering how to tell what effect small communities are having on the parish at large and how to maximize their impact? Here are some ideas that can help answer those questions.
 
 
First, let’s identify the challenges:
- We need to plan effectively, but we are not sure how to proceed.
- How do we improve on what’s out there?
- How do we keep the small communities together?
- How can we address some of the areas that need improvement?
 
Mind mapping
Draw a circle in the middle of a page and write a goal in it. Draw lines radiating out from the circle and on each line list a task that is required to reach the goal. Then below each line write the name of a person who will accomplish the task. This is a simple method that works.
 
Review your Parish Team
If your parish team has been in place for two years or more, has it lost some important elements? Is it still representative of the parish? Do you still have young adults involved? Teens? Is the ethnic/cultural diversity of the parish reflected on the parish team? It will be hard to organize effectively without these pieces in place and these voices being heard.
 
Focus groups
Feedback from others can help pinpoint areas for growth and improvement. A helpful way to secure this, especially if your parish is large, is through focus groups. Using the parish directory, assemble a few random groups that are a representative sample of the parish and ask them to meet for 90 minutes to discuss several questions, such as, “How would you describe our parish to others?” “What could we do that would make you feel more involved in the parish?” “Have you considered joining a small community? Why, or why not?” “Has the parish done a good job of letting you know about small communities?” Record their answers, and arrange a meeting of the parish team to discuss and act upon these findings.
 
Small community bulletin boards
Consider putting up a bulletin board for each small Christian community. Put these somewhere in the parish hall or in a hallway that is frequently used. Each small Christian community could use it any way they want. They could put up pictures of their members, report on mission activities, advertise for new members, etc. This simple, easy-to-do idea is the single best way to help the entire parish to think of itself as a “community of communities.” Once the people begin to see the communities as real, united entities, rather than collections of individuals, you are on your way.

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“When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise.’
Martha said, ‘I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.’ He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Sir, come and see.’ And Jesus wept.
Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, ‘Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.’ And when he had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, ‘Untie him and let him go’” (John 11:17, 21-27, 33b-35, 39-44).
 
When Lazarus first fell ill, Mary and Martha probably became pretty worried. Then again, they were good friends of Jesus of Nazareth, the one sent by God, who had cured so many people. They believed that all they had to do was let Jesus know and he would come heal their brother. Imagine their disappointment, their feelings of betrayal, when Jesus did not come soon enough, and Lazarus died.
 
When Jesus finally arrived, Martha and Mary each greeted him with the same accusation, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
 
Jesus accompanied both sisters in their own experience of grief, confirming the faith that Martha spoke aloud and joining in Mary’s tears. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus encounters people in dark moments and invites them into a new fullness of life through physical and spiritual healing. His journey through death to resurrection offers us hope in new life no matter what darkness may come. “I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus said.
 
“Lazarus, come out! … Untie him and let him go.” These words carry meaning for us, too. We may be living in the dark, dank, dreary tombs of our bad habits and wrong choices, bound by prejudices, desires, attachments, and addictions. Even when we become dead to the fullness of life or to the needs and feelings of others, Jesus can resurrect us. The witness of history is that he has resurrected millions from sin, from inertia, from insensitivity, from selfishness, and his touch has not lost its ancient power.
 
- When have you experienced resurrection, or new life, coming from an experience of death or darkness?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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