Our Church recently celebrated Holy Week. It is the last week of Lent leading to Easter.
It begins with Palm Sunday. We remember the day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.
The people welcomed him and pulled palm branches off the trees and laid them in his path as a sign of that welcome.
Then we read a long section of the Gospel which tells us of all the events which are going to unfold in the rest of the week.
Those great events are celebrated on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, each parish gathers together to pray and to bring all these events to mind.
Before we get started the priests and some of the people gather in the Cathedral in Middlesbrough. The bishop blesses us and invites us to renew our commitment to serving God and his Church.
It is quite a powerful event which reminds us we all need God’s help to be the best Christians we can be.
The more we celebrate Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection then the more it can have an effect on the way we live our lives.
Before we leave the Cathedral and go back to our parishes the bishop blesses three large jars of olive oil. Each parish is given a portion for use in the coming year.
These oils are used for blessing people who want to become Catholics, for blessings young people in Confirmation and for blessing the sick and suffering.
They remind us that God is not distant, that he offers his blessing to us at every stage of our lives. As we return to our parishes, carrying the oils for the blessings of God’s people we prepare for three days of commemoration of the big events in the life of Jesus on earth.
On Holy Thursday, we remember how he gave us the Mass and the priesthood, and how he washed the feet of his disciples as a model of service for all Christians.
On Good Friday we gather round the cross for a sombre commemoration of his suffering and death, we kiss the cross as a sign of our love for him and an appreciation of his self-sacrificing love for us.
Finally we come to Easter. We light candles as a symbol of the victory of life over death and mercy over sin.
We renew our baptism promises and thank God for the gift of faith.
We also pray for all who living in darkness, doubt, suffering or fear, that the light of God’s mercy may lead them to new life.