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A different kind of Easter Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ  |  03 April 2020

The loss this year of those rituals and traditions that mark Easter also bring to light the original depths of the Easter story.

For many of us this year the celebration of Easter Sunday this year will feel more like Lent or Passion Week. That will be the case for all our fellow Australians, too. There will be no football, no concerts, no interstate or international travel, few schools to have holidays from, no family gatherings. The atmosphere, too, will be one of constraint, not freedom. Fear and anxiety about the future will stay close to us. We are all captive to coronavirus.

These restrictions are hurtful, but they may also open us to the depths of the story of the first Easter.

In the Gospel stories Easter Sunday dawns in a world remarkably like our own this year. There is nothing to celebrate. Jesus’ world has been shut down; his disciples are hiding away in locked rooms in fear that they will be the next to be arrested; the only people in the streets apart from the police are a couple of Jesus’ friends, mostly women. Their love, which has overcome their fear, draws them out to visit his tomb.

Hope temporarily lost

As Easter Sunday dawns his followers have not only lost a friend and a leader. They have also lost the hope that they placed in him, and the reason for following him. They walked with him because they believed that God would act through him to free his people. The crucifixion of Jesus had proved that belief to be absurd and had taken away any grounds for hope. The leaders of his own people had disowned him. The Roman authorities had done what they were expert at. They killed Jesus slowly outside the city, leaving him nailed naked and writhing to a timber pole, stripping away his humanity and any hope that he would bring freedom. For his disciples Easter Sunday dawned in a desert.

The Gospel stories at Easter time are not just about celebration. They describe in different ways the disciples’ transition from despair at the death of a friend and of their own hopes to joy and the realisation that God has freed them though his death. Disciples cowering behind locked doors find Jesus present with them. Disciples leaving Jerusalem in grief find that he has been walking with them. Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb in grief to anoint his corpse finds him waiting for her unrecognised outside the tomb. These stories all point to God’s presence and victory in what seemed to be a crushing and final defeat.

God’s love is with us

In a stirring passage, Paul begins with the words ‘Nothing can separate us from the love of God’. He goes on to list the human catastrophes that might be expected to do so. He was confident because he believed so strongly that God had raised Jesus from the dead.

Today he might add to his list all the experiences of coronavirus – the sickness, death, isolation, impoverishment and loneliness that it has brought with it. For him the raising of Jesus meant that beyond these things lay a hope and love stronger than death.

This year, as we contemplate all the things that could separate us from hope, Easter invites all of us to ask what matters to us deeply enough to sustain us in the face of loss and death. It invites us, too, to ask for a deeper faith and hope.

Used with permission.

Palm Sunday

Ride On – Ride On

Lord Jesus Christ,

over the broken glass of our world,

the rumours meant to hurt,

the prejudice meant to wound,

the weapons meant to kill,

ride on

trampling our attempts at disaster into dust.

RIDE ON

RIDE ON IN MAJESTY.

 

over the distance

which separates us from you,

and it is such a distance,

measurable in half truths,

 in unkept promises,

in second-best obedience.

ride on

until you touch and heal us,

who feel for no one but ourselves.

RIDE ON

RIDE ON IN MAJESTY.

 

through the back streets and the sin bins

and the sniggered-at corners of the city,

where human life festers

and love runs cold,

ride on

bringing hope and dignity

where most send scorn and silence.

RIDE ON

RIDE ON IN MAJESTY.

 

For you, O Christ, do care

and must show us how.

On our own,

our ambitions rival your summons

and thus threaten good faith

and neglect God’s people.

 

In your company and at your side,,

we might yet help to bandage and heal

the wounds of the world.

RIDE ON…..RIDE ON IN MAJESTY AND TAKE US WITH YOU. AMEN

Wild Goose. © 2012 Wild Goose Resource Group. Iona Community. UK

 

Lent – Week Five

The season of Lent also prepares the elect and the faithful for eucharist. While focusing on the baptismal nature of the season, we must not forget that baptism is the gateway, the door that leads to the table.

The goal of initiation is not baptism; it is eucharist. The eucharist is the fullest sign of incorporation into the Body of Christ; it is the ultimate sacrament of unity. Through our participation in Christ’s Body, we become one people.  The entire Christian life is somewhat catechumenal in nature. Christians are never finished!! They never arrive; they are always on the journey.  Each time we partake of Christ’s Body and Blood, we recommit ourselves to the ongoing incorporation into his life, death and resurrection, the paschal mystery.  We receive the necessary nourishment to take up our cross, to go out to the world, to be fed off of, and to become food for others.

Word & Worship: Workbook for year A   Mary Birmingham: © 1999. Paulist Press.

It is a particularly poignant Lent this year. The fasting and sacrificial element are certainly highlighted for us at the moment as we are needing to fast from something that is very important to us – the celebration of Eucharist.

Let us be united in this communal fasting, praying for one another and keeping in touch through different means. It is important that we keep connected when asked to avoid social gatherings.
Blessings and peace at this time.

 

Lent – Week Four

Lent is a time of conversion, of metanoia, a complete turning away from sin into the loving arms of our loving God.  While it is a sombre time, it is nevertheless marked by a spirit of joy. As Christians we know the rest of the story. Christ was victorious over the power of sin and death. While it is no doubt a time of serious reflection and interior conversion, we are joyful because we know that Easter joy awaits us.  Christ the liberator continues to heal, strengthen, and free us from the bondage imposed by ourselves and by the world.

Lent is baptismal in nature. It is the time when the elect prepare to be fully initiated at the Easter Vigil through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and eucharist. During Lent, the faithful prepare to ritually remember their baptism and their baptismal commitment. Whether the newly baptised are present or not, the faithful will recall their baptism and renew their profession of faith at the Easter Liturgies.

What does your Baptismal call mean to you?

Spend some time reflecting on your baptismal promises?

What speaks to you most strongly?

 

Lent – Week Three

Lent is an extended time of self examination. In the RCIA, Lent coincides with the period of purification and enlightenment for catechumens. The elect enter a process of purification in which they examine their heart, mind and intentions.

They ask God to enlighten the areas of sin and darkness with the light of Christ’s healing presence. The elect preparing for baptism (along with the rest of the faithful) scrutinize and uncover what is weak and sinful and ask God to heal, strengthen, and liberate us from the power of evil.

The elect are a symbol of penitential posture we are all to assume during the season. The elect stand before the community in the celebration of the scrutinies on the Third, (Gospel of the Samaritan Woman Jn 4:5-16,19-26,39-42), Fourth (Gospel of the man born blind Jn 9:1-41), and Fifth (Gospel of the raising of Lazarus Jn 11:1-45) Sundays of Lent as the premier sign of Christ’s deliverance and victory over the power of evil.

We can ask ourselves….

In what ways am I open to what God is offering me?

What do ‘eyes’ of faith help me to see?

What do you want Jesus to say to you, “Unbind her/him, let her/him go free?”

 

Lent – Week Two

The disciplines of Lent

Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving

Fasting is regarded as the hallmark discipline of Lent. No doubt Christians would immediately identify fasting with Lent.  However, fasting is not just a Lenten discipline. It should be a habit common to the Christian’s entire life.  Fasting is always observed in tandem with prayer and almsgiving.

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are communal disciplines of Lent. The Lenten disciplines are not for private edification but are to build up the entire church.  One fasts in order to share. In antiquity, those who did not have enough to share were instructed to fast and use the money they saved on food to give to the poor.  Prayer, fasting and sharing are the agenda of the entire community. Prayer, fasting and sharing must include reflection on the social dimensions of sin in our world where many people do not have an adequate share of the world’s resources. Our commitment to prayer and fasting must include a commitment to issues of justice and equality for all people. It is hypocrisy to pray and fast and then assert that the poor of the world are not our problem, but are, instead, the problem of politicians and other nations.

From what are you going to fast this Lent?  Criticism? Selfishness? Anger? Complaining? Prejudice? Or…….

Is there an issue of injustice that you want to focus on this Lent?

Word & Worship: Workbook for year A   Mary Birmingham: © 1999. Paulist Press.

Lent – Week one

The rich, liturgical colour of royal purple cloaks the season in its penitential vesture. Simplicity and austerity quietly whisper images of the barren desert. Flowers are absent; music is sparse and the church quietly, but firmly, heralds its reflective “time out.”  Things have noticeably changed. As people and as church, we enter the period of serious penitential and baptismal reflection. We take stock and asses our growth in the Christian life.

Lent is penitential, baptismal and eucharistic by its very nature. The Second Vat Council restores the early baptismal focus of Lent.  The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy restored the two-fold baptismal and penitential nature of Lent. “By recalling or preparing for baptism and by repentance, this season disposes the faithful, as they more diligently listen to the word of God and devote themselves to prayer, to celebrate the paschal mystery” (#109).  Both baptism and repentance were to ‘be given greater prominence in both the liturgy and liturgical catechesis’ (#109). This is to take place in the liturgy through homilies and catechesis that emphasise the two-fold nature of the season.

Reflection for Week 1.

‘Where is there need for healing and reconciliation in our lives?”

How do we live out our baptismal call?

Word & Worship: Workbook for year A   Mary Birmingham: © 1999. Paulist Press.

 

Ash Wednesday

This week we begin the season of Lent by placing ashes on our forehead as a symbol of humility, purification and sorrow, and remind us of the need to repent of our failings. But we remember also that we are Easter people – that good can come out of evil, that death gives way to new life and that there is hope in the midst of despair.

It is designated by the Church as a day of fast and abstinence, as is Good Friday.

As we ponder the placing of ashes on us,
let us reflect

Our Ancestors in the faith used ashes as a sign of repentance,

a symbol of the uncertainty and fragility of human life.

Like them, we have tasted the ashes of hopelessness;

 we have walked through the ashes

  of our loss and pain;

we have stood knee deep in the ashes of our brokenness.

God of our lives,

out of the dust of creation

you have formed us and given us life.

May these ashes not only be a sign

of our repentance and death,

but be a reminder that by your gift of grace

in Jesus Christ, our Redeemer,

we are granted life forever with you.

Amen.

Wild Goose Publications, Glasgow, UK. © 2016

 

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