Perhaps the cynic in me could chalk-up Iran’s release of the British sailors to wiley stagecraft by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and effective behind-the-scenes diplomacy by Tony Blair’s government or other parties. But maybe because this is a reflective season about salvation — Holy Week in anticipation of Easter for Catholics and Christians, Passover for our Jewish friends — I like to see the sailors’ homecoming as a small sign of hope, however complicated by the truth of Ahmadinejad’s real intentions that we in the public may never know.
Settling disputes peacefully has been on my mind recently, particularly related to religious differences. Religious conflict fuels war on a grand scale, but also perpetrates profound social divisions among even the most overtly civilized people. Each day’s news brings new stories of radical splits among Episcopalians and the impending fracture within the Anglican Communion. Catholics follow this news warily, deeply conscious of our own divisions over the relationships among faith and morals and political choices in the secular arena. Some of us talk quietly about whether and how to move the dialogue away from flame-throwing to a more respectful climate. With the presidential election season crashing upon us, the great American religious divides will likely show their fault lines more clearly again, and Catholics, in particular, will find themselves in conflict over whether it’s possible to be a faithful Catholic while voting for certain politicians, or whether certain politicians should be banned from our Church.
Earlier this week, at the invitation of some very dear Jewish friends, I shared the Seder ritual of Passover with them and others, Christians and Jews together enacting the ritual meal while reciting the timeless psalms and prayers of remembrance, salvation and hope. The familiarity of the texts reminded me, once again, of how deeply entwined the Christian and Jewish traditions are in our roots. In that familiarity we recognize as well our common quest for spiritual community, a quest we share as well with other major religions.
In this Holy Week, whether the text we recite is the Torah or the Gospel or the Koran, people of faith should renew their vows to be agents for justice in the best sense, not the vengeful demand for an eye-for-an-eye, not the judgmental condemnation of those who have other beliefs, but truly, the justice that finds its ultimate expression in forgiveness, charity and peace.
NOTE: Holy Week services at Trinity and locally are as follows:
In Notre Dame Chapel, with the Nigerian Community:
Holy Thursday, April 5, 7 pm Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament till 10 pm
Father Peter Ajibola
Good Friday, April 6, 3 pm Stations of the Cross
Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion
Holy Saturday, April 7, 8 pm Easter Vigil Mass
Easter Sunday, April 8, 12 noon Easter Sunday Mass
There are also services available at the National Shrine:
Holy Thursday, April 5, 5:30 pm Choral Prelude (Upper Church), 6 pm Mass
Good Friday, April 6, 12 noon Stations of the Cross (Crypt Church)and 3 pm Solemn Celebration of the Lord’s Passion (Upper Church)
Holy Saturday, April 7, 8 pm Easter Vigil (Upper Church)
Easter Sunday, April 8, Masses at 7:30 am, 9 am, 10:30 am, Noon, 2:30 Mass in Spanish, 4:30 pm with Archbishop Donald Wuerl as the Celebrant and Homilist