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  • Writer's pictureFr. Satish Joseph

Holy Week: Remembering by Doing

Updated: Apr 2, 2023

Fr. Satish Joseph

Memory is everything. Amnesia is like a death. This Tuesday, I lost my dear uncle, my dad’s only surviving brother. My uncle was 83 years old. He was the primary caregiver of his wife who suffers from chronic dementia. It is truly tragic because after almost fifty years of marriage, aunt’s memory is scant. Without dementia, her awareness and grief of her husband’s death would be very different. But now, her memory is failing her. It is true, she is alive, but without memory, everything has become nothing.

Catholics are a people of ‘memory.’ I would not be exaggerating when I say, “we are what we remember.”

We begin Holy Week by recalling the account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. However, we do not simply read that account we but re-live it. We process into the church and welcome Jesus in the same way the people of Jerusalem processed with palm branches and welcomed Jesus. It is a ‘remembering by doing’. Again, at every Eucharist, we ‘remember’ the Last Supper and Jesus self-sacrifice for our redemption. But the Mass is a ‘remembering by doing’. We ‘re-live’ what Jesus did and we do this is remembrance of Him.

One of the banes of communication technology today is that it has taken over the role of human memory. There was a time we would mentally remember phone numbers, names, passwords, birthdays, anniversaries. Today, an external gadget has taken over our memory. But, it is doing great damage to human memory. Remember, without memory everything becomes nothing.

I believe something similar has happened with Christianity. We have allowed the memory of the events of our salvation to be taken over by cultural expressions of these events. There is a reason children know Santa Claus more than Jesus. There is a reason the Easter Bunny wields more power than the Risen Christ. The more we Christians do not ‘remember by doing’ the more we lose our collective memory. Remember, without memory everything becomes nothing.

As we enter Holy Week, I am making a plea. If your intention is that the next time you are in church it will be for Easter, please rethink. If your children have never been to the Holy Week Liturgies, please rethink. Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and then Easter – they are one seamless story to 'remember'. This Holy Week, as individuals, as a family, and as a community let us ‘remember’. Let us ‘remember by doing’ because without memory, everything becomes nothing.

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