Fr John's Homily - Easter

20 April 2019 | General Interest

EASTER HOMILY 2019  ESSENDON

Women as Evangelists – Apostles to the Apostles

“God is Dead” Nietschze” “Nietschze is dead” God!

Lk 24.1-12 AA 10.34-43 1Cor 5.6-8 (Jn 20.1-9)

Looking for consolation and meaning in life, the brilliant, but eventually crazy, late 19th century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, despite having a Lutheran pastor father, pronounced God to be dead, and claimed: “Everything in it (New Testament) is cowardice… self-deception and closing one’s eyes to oneself… in the entire NT there is only one solitary figure one is obliged to respect? Pilate, the Roman governor.”! Sadly for him, he ended up going totally bonkers at 44 in Turin, in 1889, kissing a horse (like the jockey and Winx the other day!), and then taken to an asylum where he died 11 years later at 55 (cared for by his elderly mother and sister). At this point, some wag published a note: “Nietzsche is dead. God”, just to update “God is dead. Nietzsche!” In his adamant atheism, he ultimately failed to find meaning or happiness or love in his life! (Atheist commentator Philip Adams is still looking, in a more positive way, with an enquiring mind and good sense of humour!)

Some have proposed the images of Notre Dame de Paris post-inferno are suggestive of Easter symbolism, with the large internal cross behind the altar still standing tall after it all. Yes, this was a disaster, but apparently accidental, with no loss of life, so in the scheme of things, it could certainly have been far worse, and it can and, no doubt, will, be rebuilt ($1 billion apparently already raised in a day. So much for starving humanity!!) Yet, it remains a symbol of Christian faith, Catholic Tradition, French history and la Belle France itself! (Who has been there?) It is certainly a landmark from a historical and religious perspective, with human ingenuity, creativity and remarkable engineering way back there from Mediaeval times, some 800 years ago, 10 times the average human life span today, and far less back then, when life was described as short, sharp and brutish for most. It could well be used as a metaphor for what we celebrate as Christians, akin to the phoenix rising from the ashes, or nature’s irrepressible resilience after disaster.

One simple example is reflected where I was in Kinglake as celebrant for a wedding recently, and there were dark reminders of natural disaster after the extreme bushfires of just over 10 years ago, on still starkness of bare trees at the top of the distant hills, yet green vegetation all around, kangaroos hopping around in the background, and the evidence of natural regeneration and human recovery, with the memorials as a sombre mark of the terrible tragedy 173 lives lost, not to be reclaimed.

Easter, like Christmas, keeps coming around fast, even though it’s late this year. It’s a time of reflection and joy, after the celebration of the service and mission calls of Holy Thursday with the washing of the feet and institution of Eucharist as spiritual Bread of Life for the Broken, being me and you all in together,. The dark injustice and evil of Good or Holy Friday comes in between, with a reminder of the capacity for humanity to inflict suffering and pain on the innocent, with Jesus as scapegoat for the religious leaders (aka Temple Police), threatened by his challenges to their insincerity or hypocrisy and self-importance, and his direct truthfulness, as Pilate (Nietzsche’s only ‘friend’!) asks the old question as to what is truth (not an unreasonable, but rather perceptive question!), he being more familiar with fake truth, as we have become familiar with it in our time and place.

To quote a Pope, Francis reminds us in Laudato si that: “’Everything is connected’ (coming from theologian Karl Rahner)… Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love of our fellow human beings and unwavering commitment to solving the problems of society.” Says the recently late Daniel O’Leary: “There is no longer a dualistic separation between any aspects of God’s Creation, or between Creation and God… God is the Author, Creator, Mother of all that exists, the Great Designer and Artistic Imagination of the process of evolution.”

He later speaks of the central doctrine of Christianity as the mystery of resurrection, going “Beyond the individual, one-off personal resurrection of Jesus at the first Easter, there is… an expanded and richer explanation of the continuing ‘resurrection of all creation’ in the light of an evolving universe.… Understanding the resurrection in a new life-giving way is one of the most important tasks of theology today… Earth is not left behind but transformed in love and this transformation in love, here on earth, is heaven. What God promises is a new heaven and a new earth, not a new heaven without earth.” Big thoughts, but worth considering, as we ponder the meaning for ourselves, and the impact it should have on our lives here on earth, as looking to the heavens alone doesn’t do us much earthly good! The mystery endures, but requires the leap of faith.

The four Gospels concur that it was the faithful, if fearful, women who first acknowledged that Jesus is Risen and become ‘Apostles to the Apostles’! For the apostles themselves, it is a gradual growing awareness that he must be risen, but only confirmed in faith when they encounter him face to face, in person. And so the empty tomb is also an ancient tradition going back to the start, but it takes them time to come to faith afterwards. Then there is the long haul of proclamation of that faith and the fears and dangers of mission ahead. It’s no easy path for anyone.

And yet, Easter people are people of joy and appreciation and hope. For us, the mission goes on, after the reassurances of the Gospels, preceding the Last Supper exhortations or directions of Jesus to continue this ministry of service. There is never any suggestion of it ending with his departure; but it is clear, from the start, that the Cross overshadows the picture of discipleship and living faith, as a part of the whole.

On Good Friday, we focus on our own mortality, as we commemorate the premature and unjust death of Jesus, as we reflect on the need to face our crosses and to support others with theirs, assured by the Risen Jesus that his presence endures as we reflect it in our lives.

If we consider the history of Christianity down through the ages, we see clear signs of hope, even when the darker side of human nature and events is revealed, the complexities and entanglements of Church and State, abuse of power and wealth, self-aggrandisement and exclusivism, despite the clear Gospel message of Jesus to avoid the peripherals and to reflect the law of love he enunciates consistently in his historical life among us. How does the message get so lost at times?

Well, Peter at least made a big comeback, but it’s still the women in first, post-Resurrection. It’s too late for despairing Judas, the reminder that the guilt and remorse is not worth the 30 pieces of silver, even though they say: “Every man (or woman?) has his (or her) price”? (Do I? Do you? Do we know when we haven’t been tested, like Peter?) Could you or I be bought to compromise our principles? Well, we could definitely be tempted, and then wrestle with our free will, hopefully hearing and responding to that little voice of conscience deep down!

The Easter message is universal as one of hope, peace, love, joy and unity, as we support one another in faith and live as Gospel people of God. This sure is GOOD NEWS in capitals, as long as we take it to heart, despite all the hurdles and obstacles along the way. The simple, but challenging, conclusion is to respond to the Spirit in love, in all its forms, as we recognize His presence in our midst and our world.

A Happy Easter to all. Buona Pasqua a tutti. Joyeuses Paques a tous, Vesele Velikonoce, Felices Pasquas, Feliz Pascoa, Frohe Ostern, Christos Anesti (Alithos Anesti) or Kalo Pascha.

(And my Easter story for this year is “Bird”, about facing up to our fears and having a go, as they say! Life, Be in it!!)

 

john hannon   20th April 2019

 

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(The wonderful Irish priest, pastor and author Daniel O’Leary, sadly has died at 82 in January this year, whose reflections Sister Regina used for our Lenten Spirituality Circle, based on his recent book, ‘An Astonishing Secret’, where he writes about hope, speaking of ‘The Love Story of Creation and the Wonder of You’, following an earlier tome, titled ‘The Happiness Habit’! )

(O’Leary cites priest poet John Donne on “No man is an island, entire of itself. Each is piece of the continent, a part of the main… Each man’s death diminishes me. Therefore, send not to know For whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.” We need each other.)

(Resurrection names and reveals what is happening everywhere and all the time in evolution. Resurrection happens when death, even sin, all that normally destroys us, becomes part of what transforms and liberates us into a life bigger than all kinds of dying)

(In his last article, written weeks before his death, Daniel faces his fate bravely: “The moment when you will know for sure the birth and death of everything, the sustaining and empowering of all that works towards good, the source of all beauty, the precious energy which creates, heals and quickens our souls and our tumours, the invisible, unimaginable, universal energy of the cosmos – is Love. The realization invades me… Like the breaking of the dawn. Once sensed, the precipice of despair will always remain out of reach.” This is confronting stuff, but points to the personal reality of each of us, whatever stage of life we are at, as believers and doubters too, as we come to Doubting but Honest Thomas next week!)