Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday: A Rally to Discipleship

Today is Palm Sunday and I joined comrades friends and makers of peace in Brisbane  for our annual Palm Sunday Peace Rally. The Brisbane Catholic Justice and Peace Commission had promoted this event in its E-Bulletin. However, if the newsheet of our Cathedral is a guide to preferential options in the  Archdiocese then peace-making doesn't even rate a mention.

As I looked around as those who were gathering I saw few of my sisters and brothers of Christian Faith.The most obvious presence was a Rev Sue Pickering, a Uniting Church minister with the UCA logo and a couple of Quakers in their signature vests.   In past years it was common to see a good number of people from parish communities, religious orders and diverse Churches. It's events like this that indicate the loss of association for me between liturgy and life in the market place. My fear is that  the Palm Sunday liturgical procession even when done in ecumenical settings has become a theatrical performance of polite people doing their religious duty.

Those of us who walked the city streets today in moments of silence and brief calls for a nuclear free and peaceful world captured the mixed emotions of the story of Jesus entry into Jerusalem. We  tend to imagine that the city stopped for this historic vignette, however like other cities today most people were going about their business and barely noticed the smallish group of  revelers following a man on a donkey.

As we walked through the corridors of empire and commercial power the  business of buying and selling was in full swing.Our  cries for the Kingdom of Justice and Peace were drowned out by the advertising and brash signage around us. However we rally and march as people gather for liturgy, to be reminded of why we meet, to celebrate a common dream and to stand in opposition to all around us that stifles the spirit of peace and justice.

In 2004 the Sydney Palm Sunday Peace rally was addressed by Josephite Sister,  Susan Connelly.  Her words remain as valid today as when first spoken:

Let the churches not be intimidated by those who say we should be quiet. All of us has citizens have the duty to call our representatives to account, but we also have the duty to ourselves and our children to save the national soul by not following official example. Let us never tell lies to anyone about anything. Revenge is always stupid, it solves nothing, and brings people down to the same level as those who wronged them. Let us rise above revenge. Let us take advantage of opportunities to learn about other people's cultures and religions, and rejoice in them. Let us arm ourselves with the courage of our convictions and refuse to be tricked into submission by the policies of the government today. 

I tell you if these keep silence, the stones will cry out. Let us not be outdone by stones, or donkeys either. Let us stand up to all turkeys and geese too, when the lives of people and the telling of truth is at stake. Whatever they do or say about us is not as important as the questions our children and grandchildren will ask about the world we hand on to them. When they say to us, what did you do during the illegal Iraq war?, what will you be able to say?

Again this year Susan Connelly is among speakers listed to address the Sydney Palm Sunday rally. The web site of the Sisters of St Joseph reminds us The Palm Sunday scripture tells us of Jesus as he wept over Jerusalem and the injustice, violence and complicity with war-making. In our global village of 2011 where we have seen in front of us so much violence and heart wrenching human suffering along with our earth screaming out at us, let us consider stepping out and join in solidarity with others on Palm Sunday
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