Letter to Parishioners #3 – Palm Sunday

Dear Parishioners,

Palm Sunday marks the end of the season of Lent and the beginning of the Holy Week. It is a bittersweet celebration as it is joyful yet sorrowful at the same time because we are unable to celebrate as a community. Today, as we celebrate the Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, we acclaimed him as our king. Yet, we also solemnly proclaim the account of His Passion. In this poignant contrast, our hearts experience, in some little ways, what Jesus himself must have felt in His own heart that day as he rejoiced with his friends and wept over Jerusalem.

The whole liturgical experience of our gathering for the blessing of palms, the procession into the church and the whole congregation participating in the Passion narrative makes us to identify ourselves with the many characters in the passion narrative and enter more deeply in life of Jesus. The life of Jesus in the scriptures unfolds before us the drama of our own lives, which we often take for granted.

I am sure many of us are saddened by the fact that we are not able to partake in the celebrations of Palm Sunday and the Triduum as a community, however Jesus calls each one of us to be a more active participants as we enter more deeply into the experience of His passion, in concrete ways. For us, we have moved from the excitement and joy prior to the MCO and now entered into the 2nd phase of MCO. This prolonged isolation and uncertainty that we are facing together is a time that we are called to follow the path of Jesus and unite ourselves with His suffering.

Pope Francis in his ‘Urbi et Orbi’ prayers and blessing to the world last Friday said that “this trial is a time of choosing. It is not the time of God’s judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regards to God.”

Jesus, who accepted the ‘hosanna’ of the crowd knew fully well that they would soon cry out, “Crucify Him!”. He asks us to not only contemplate him in the news, images and videos on the Internet, but also in the many of our brothers and sisters who are enduring suffering like His own during this pandemic: the front-liners who serve the needs of others with anxiety and fear, those who are alone and lonely, those who suffer from the loss of jobs and are financially strained, those who are mentally and physically challenged and those who stay at home and feel deprived, all or some of whom may be in our own homes and within our community.

Jesus is present in them and He asks us to look at them in the eye, to hear their cry to be acknowledged and to be loved. The Jesus who entered Jerusalem amid the waving of palm branches is the same Jesus who was nailed to the cross and died between two criminals.

During this time, Bishop Sebastian has gifted us with the “Holy Week Kit 2020” to be celebrated as a family and household. He also declared that A General Absolution will be given to all Catholics in the Diocese of Penang on Good Friday at 3.00pm following the conditions mentioned:

a) To heartily repent of all their sins

b) To venerate a cross that is available to you (can also be a rosary, pendant) or if you do not have a cross, you may venerate the cross in your heart.

c) To say seven (7) time “Lord Jesus, be Merciful to me a sinner” which serves as you penance.

Let us pray for strength to sail through these challenging times in our lives, and for God’s divine grace to come into our hearts so that we will respond in love and charity to ourselves, our families and our community. Jesus, the humble king of justice, grant us mercy, strength and peace.

Have Blessed and spirit filled Holy Week

Praying for you always,

Fr. Joachim Robert & Fr. Michael Raymond OFM Cap
Priests of Cathedral of Holy Spirit, Penang.