An Easter Message of hope and courage
Happy Easter! Rejoice! Alleluia! Love has conquered death! God has fulfilled His promises out of love for His children! Christ our Saviour has risen! As Pope Francis encouraged us during his celebration of the Easter Vigil yesterday evening, “even from the grave Jesus brings life!”
This morning on Channel 7 we were blessed with the live broadcast of a glorious liturgy celebrating the resurrection of Christ at St Mary’s Cathedral Sydney. This evening Pope Francis will bless us with his Urbi et Orbi (to the city [of Rome] and the world) message. You may find this uploaded online Vatican News or their Youtube Channel Vatican News - English.
Our Parish has been streaming mass for the past month online, bringing peace and comfort to our community - a true service and support in the spirit of Christ. May we too give back to in service and support in whatever way we can to continue the running and care of our Parish. The quality of the Triduum online was truly special this Easter, feeling like we were present there in the Church and reliving the Paschal sacrifice through our prayerful participation. Thank you to all those who worked behind the scenes to support our rich liturgy, to Fr John, and our incredible online production team! It is through your works that the glory of God shines! Even through our screens! A BIG thank you to Adrian who done so much to make it possible for us to celebrate mass at home. What a blessing!
Grace Perhaps this Easter offered more grace to you than previous Easters? What drives communion with the Lord is not standing in a Church, but the measure of your faith. Perhaps you have attended rich liturgies, but your soul could not have been further away, your mind wondering, your soul in a state of sin, a distraction or wound closing your heart and mind? I pray that during this time of isolation that you have been intentional in growing closer in intimacy with the Lord, rejecting sin and distraction (material and temporary pleasures), allowing yourself to truly entering into mystery of Christ's resurrection. God always offers his grace, always invites us into his love and mercy - it has not be restricted in the government's lock down regulations. "For nothing can separate us from the love of God" but our own sin that Christ comes to free us from this Easter. Perhaps this did not happen for you, but again, the only thing that is stopping you - is you, and luckily God's not going to stop inviting you to receive his grace. Remove those distractions, let the light shine on those dark places, seek the peace and joy of the Lord, trust in his promises - for you have only eternal life to gain.
Our Holy Father's Easter Vigil homily reminded us of two gifts that the Risen Christ extends to every disciple: hope and courage. “They, like us, had before their eyes the drama of suffering, of an unexpected tragedy that happened all too suddenly. They had seen death and it weighed on their hearts.”
Courage The women who followed Christ to his crucifixion were not paralysed with fear, but did something “simple yet extraordinary” - they prepared “at home the spices to anoint” Jesus’ body...“they did not stop loving; in the darkness of their hearts, they lit a flame of mercy.” Our Blessed Mother, full of courage and love did not give up on the Lord, react in anger or vengeance, but spent the day in prayer for she placed her trust and hope in the Lord’s promises.
Poetically our Holy Father puts it, “Jesus, like a seed buried in the ground, was about to make new life blossom in the world; and these women, by prayer and love, were helping to make that hope flower.”
Our hope is not in an ideal or philosophy but an encounter with a person who went to a place where no one else would willingly go and emerged from a place where no one else has - the grave. “He, who rolled away the stone that sealed the entrance of the tomb, can also remove the stones in our hearts…. He did not abandon us; He visited us and entered into our situations of pain, anguish and death. His light dispelled the darkness of the tomb: today He wants that light to penetrate even to the darkest corners of our lives.”
Wherever you are in this world, whatever you are struggling with; fear, poverty, anger, pain, despair, illness, isolation, grief - I pray you take courage and have hope that you are not alone. Throughout the Gospels and especially during the events of the Triduum, Jesus goes to the darkest places of human suffering willingly for us and transforms it in his mercy and love to the source of our Easter joy; eternal life with Him. But as Matthew’s Gospel ends, Jesus is not far away waiting for us in heaven, but “I am with you always”, inviting us now to join him in the hope and joy of His resurrection.
In the readings today, Jesus’ words ring even stronger in the disciples as they finally understand the significance of this death and their own faith is resurrected in his rising. Let us never allow Jesus’ rising to become an old memory or event we celebrate once a year, but an ever present and living resurrection that brings true courage and hope in our lives each day. As Pope Francis summarises, “it is encouraging to know that He walks ahead of us in life and in death. He goes before us to Galilee, that is, to the place which for Him and His disciples evoked the idea of daily life, family and work. Jesus wants us to bring hope there, to our everyday life. For the disciples, Galilee was also the place of remembrance, for it was the place where they were first called. Returning to Galilee means remembering that we have been loved and called by God.”
So respond to the call today. Allow Christ to resurrect your own heart and spread the good news, as the priest dismisses us at every mass -“glorify God by your life”. Don’t let Lent be the only season of purification and enlightenment in your life. It is not a season that cycles every year to be repeated, but spirals, each time drawing closer to Christ, growing closer in intimacy and communion. Inspired by the message of Easter, continue to live in the spirit and reflect in this glorious season - “how can I be the risen Christ to others in the world?”
I leave with you this evening with a beautiful Easter message from Archbishop Fisher who encourages a hopeful message for us all in the spirit of the risen Christ during this pandemic:
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia! Now go - “glorify God by your life”