By Sister Pat Whalen

On Ash Wednesday, people of faith were invited to rend their hearts, to tend to prayer, fasting and almsgiving so that their hearts and minds are prepared to enter Holy Week, a sacred time of reflection on the Paschal mystery, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. On this Palm Sunday, his followers recall the events of this solemn week in their contemplation on Jesus’ unconditional love and generosity poured out on behalf of humankind. 

Marked with a joyful, triumphant spirit, Jesus enters Jerusalem. Holding branches of palms, the crowds greet him, spreading their cloaks on the ground. Exaltation, exuberance, excitement fills the air with voices shouting and proclaiming “Hosanna!” In Hebrew, this word is translated as “save us.” Who is present among the throng?  Surely those companions and followers who embrace and believe in Jesus and accept him as savior and redeemer. Perhaps the lame, the blind and other recipients of his merciful healing have arrived for the Passover celebration and value this opportunity to be in the presence of Jesus. Mounted on a colt, he moves with such simplicity, not as a conquering general riding a chariot pulled by mighty stallions. Those who misunderstand his leadership and expect him to overthrow the Roman occupation are also among the crowd. Scriptural accounts include his adversaries, the religious authorities who are fearful, resentful and angry because people are believing in Jesus. Within five days, those who proclaimed “Hosanna” on Sunday will be among those who shout, “Crucify him” on Friday.  In spite of this joyful celebration of Jesus entering Jerusalem, suffering lurks. 

Jesus is profoundly faithful as he humbly receives the praises from the crowd surrounding him. With a steadfast spirit, Jesus will move day by day throughout this dramatic week toward fulfilling the mysterious will of the Father through his suffering, death and resurrection. On Palm Sunday, the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ is read. With profound gratitude his followers ponder the willingness of Jesus to pour out his life and experience the anguish that accompanies his suffering and death. With awe, one contemplates the events of Holy Thursday and Good Friday, Jesus’ extraordinary act of profound self-giving love for God and humankind. 

Christ’s early companions and disciples preached and taught the good news, revealed the compassion of a merciful God, encouraged living in love of God and neighbor and caring for those in need. This ministry of service continues to this day. Daily reports of those who are suffering in neighborhoods, cities, countries and the world community are publicized and broadcasted. So many are deprived of life, livelihood, property and opportunity to care for themselves and their loved ones. The list of sorrowing persons and suffering situations is extensive and seems never-ending. Confronted with wounds that afflict the human condition such as poverty, war, bias, persecution, starvation, terrorism, deprivation, abandonment, homicide, abuse, trafficking, illiteracy and other situations filled with heartache, many hearts and minds are filled with compassion. 

The Constitutions of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas point to this suffering and offer a response of care and service:

We as Sisters of Mercy freely responding to a call to serve the needy of our time commit ourselves to follow Jesus Christ in his compassion for suffering people.

Through our Critical Concerns (Immigration, Earth, Racism, Nonviolence, and Women) Sisters of Mercy, Associates and Companions as well as co-workers in Mercy sponsored educational, health care and social service ministries strive to address and alleviate human suffering. In addition, our sisters who reside in care centers and long-term nursing facilities offer intercessory prayer for suffering persons and the communities they serve. 

Easter offers hope that life overcomes death, that light prevails over darkness, that goodness overpowers evil. Inspired by God’s befriending Spirit may our lives promote new life, light and goodness.