Transforming our palm into the light of Resurrection


Elphege L. Quenum S.J, Director of AJAN

Palm Sunday takes us into a paradoxical status of joy and passion. The celebration reveals the royal glory of Jesus and makes us live His passion and death. Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph, which announces His victory over death which He will be subjected to.

Palm Sunday is sometimes the daily reality of people living with, or affected by HIV. They often experience a painful situation marked by the anxiety over health, the search for an ordinary social and economic life free of prejudice, stigma and discrimination. At the same time, they experience the joy nurtured by the health care received, the attention given to them, the dignity accorded to them and their faith in a total healing that God can give them. 

To move from the mixture of pain and joy to a pure and constant joy with people living with HIV, is to transform their “Palm state” into the light of Resurrection. It is to give them the care they need to enjoy a better health and a better life. This is the mission of African Jesuit AIDS Network that continues to serve people infected or affected by HIV through its various centers in Africa. This mission requires an attitude of service to which Jesus urges his disciples to embrace. When Jesus talks about his passion, the scene around Him takes us back to the image of our socio-political life. In this context, the leader is the one who is surrounded by prestige, the one who enjoys many privileges that the ordinary citizen, the sick, or the person suffering from HIV are not allowed to have, the strongest, the one who rules as the leaders of nations and who others serve.

But Jesus draws our attention and interest on the service which carries a constructive and fruitful value. By asserting that "Let the greatest among you behave as the youngest, and the leader as the servant," Jesus himself gave us the example of humility and service. He comforted the weak, healed the sick, freed the possessed and showed that the leader must work for the welfare and happiness of each and every one. If we could all, citizens and leaders, go to the school of Jesus, our African societies would be better. We would implement public policies and the necessary structures to take care of vulnerable people in our societies such as foreigners, migrants and people living with HIV and AIDS.

Africa does not lack examples of good leaders. It is the number that lacks. If our societies could overflow of Thomas Sankara, Nelson Mandela, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, it would be more pleasant to live in our societies. These leaders were definitely not perfect, but they can inspire a great sense of the common interest and mutual service.

Pope Francis also inspires us: As Cardinal, he washed the feet of 12 HIV & AIDS patients in Buenos Aires in 2001. Shortly after being elected Pope, he washed the feet of prisoners in Rome in 2013. On Friday, the 12th of April 2019, he kissed the shoes of leaders from Southern Sudan as he implored them to work towards peace in in their war-torn country.

May that spirit of service motivate us and help us transform the weak people’s Palm Sunday into a Resurrection Sunday.