From Today’s Gospel:
“As he was drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen.”
As we begin our journey towards the Passion we invite you to walk alongside Han. Listen to her words. Where are you drawn to be a voice of welcome?
Han first came to the UK 15 years ago, after it became unsafe for her to stay in her home country. Having made the difficult decision to flee, Han prefers not to speak about her life, and the problems she faced, before coming to the UK. It is very common for refugees to prefer not to speak in public about their back story. The process of seeking asylum requires people to retell very painful stories over and over again, not just to officials but also to charities they register with for help.
Han first encountered JRS a little over a year ago after a friend referred her to us. This is where we join Han on her journey.
Like all of the refugees we have accompanied this Lent, Han came to the UK in the hope that she would find safety. However, she was faced by an asylum system that treated her with hostility; a system designed to mistrust individuals before they share their story; a system that creates a society where she feels unwelcome.
“We are forgotten people by the system, the system doesn’t care for us, doesn’t look after us.”
In an otherwise cruel environment, Han has been able to find that welcome, absent elsewhere, at JRS.
“I was abandoned by the system, I was neglected and I didn’t know how to move forward. So, when I came I found each volunteer trying to put their best effort to welcome me with my name, which in itself is a source of comfort.”
“They’re making us feel like a family. It is peaceful and it calms my mind. JRS welcomes each person.”
An Invitation to Prayer
We invite you to take some time with Han’s journey and today’s readings, and join with Nick, Community Outreach Officer at JRS UK, in prayer and reflection.
In the Gospel reading that introduces today’s Palm Sunday Mass we hear crowds of people greeting Jesus on his way into Jerusalem, singing praises to God with joy. However, in a few days’ time, the same crowd has turned to condemnation, abandoning the Son of God they welcome so eagerly today. It is a stark turn of events as even Jesus’ closest friends abandon him as he approaches his Passion.
This sense of abandonment, echoed in Han’s words today, is a harsh reality for those we accompany at JRS. Coming in search of safety, in the belief that they will be welcomed, they are instead met with hostility, ostracised from society and rejected. We must ask ourselves what part have we played in this situation? Are we, like the crowds in Jerusalem, influenced by the Pharisees, encouraged to turn our backs on those who we should be offering welcome?
But there is hope in the final words of this gospel passage today. When confronted by the Pharisees, Jesus says that even if the crowds were silent “the very stones would cry out.” Even if faced with rejection, the Lord would still find welcome. Thankfully, Han has found a welcome at JRS; a place of peace and calm in an otherwise hostile world.
May the Lord’s promise of welcome inspire us to reach out to refugees, those seeking asylum and anyone who feels ostracised and rejected from our communities. May we strive to create a society that is hospitable and offers care to others.
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