Holy Week begins and ends with drama. When I think of Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday, three things stand out:

  1. The beginning of Holy Week
  2. The importance of processions in our life and the tradition of Walk for Justice for Refugees
  3. Having the courage to walk this journey with Jesus to his cross and passion.

The beginning of Holy Week is a time of deep reflection and preparation for the commemoration of the journey of Jesus Christ. It reminds us of the profound sacrifice and love of Jesus.

The Mass on Palm Sunday demands our attention, as we listen to the reading of the Passion of Jesus. Most parishes begin with a procession from outside the Church – waving palm branches or olive branches. Each parish keeps the branches until the following year, where they will be burned to be used as the ashes for the people on Ash Wednesday.

The symbolic act of the procession remembers the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, and the waving of the branches and laying them on the ground was used as a sign of honour and humility.

I remember I had a procession without a fanfare during 2020. I exited from quarantine exactly on Palm Sunday. Studying in the United States at the time, and only being seven months into a nine month live in program when COVID-19 hit, I made the decision to return to Australia, and thus was forced to quarantine. During that time, I didn’t know what was to come, almost like Jesus processing into Jerusalem, knowing that he was walking towards crucifixion and towards death. Jesus faced the impending gloom, not with disaster and annihilation, but with courage and strength, that he was our Saviour.

Mary MacKillop also lived her life never losing trust in the providence of God. In September 1873, after the albeit invalid excommunication she writes:

Never lose courage under your sufferings.
Mary MacKillop, 1873

Processions in different religions are diverse, but they all share a common purpose: to unite believers, express devotion and celebrate their faith. The processions are visible expressions of religious identity and provide an opportunity for spiritual reflection, uniting with others and a deeper connection to the divine.

One procession which is held worldwide on Palm Sunday and especially in cities across this country, is the Walk for Justice for Refugees. It’s a peaceful walk that brings people together from diverse backgrounds, including faith communities, human rights advocates and concerned citizens. These people come together to advocate for the rights and fair treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

By participating in this procession, it is a powerful demonstration of solidarity, reminding us of our sharing humanity and the importance of standing up for the rights and well-being of those who have been forced to flee their homes in search of safety and protection. The Holy Family indeed had to flee their homeland in search for safety.

Let us embrace the significance of processions on this Palm Sunday, recognising their deeper meaning. May these sacred traditions inspire us to reflect on the love and sacrifice of Jesus, as well as remind us of our commitment to live out our faith with devotion, compassion and unity.

You can learn how to make a small palm cross on YouTube here.

Sr Rita Malavisi rsj