Broadcast from St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney
Saved from what? Christians talk a lot about salvation through Jesus’ cross and resurrection, but in this age of science and technology, affluence and education, big government and media, do we really need saving? Well, healthcare may address our physical diseases, but we know that it can at best only postpone our deaths. We are all left wondering: is there life after death? Then, there are the moral, intellectual and emotional problems that are often even more resistant to prevention and cure than the physical ones. The COVID19 crisis has revealed some of the best things about Australians, but it’s also unveiled our ‘shadow side’: our anxieties and self-protectiveness, selfish hoarding and blame-games. It’s precisely to address this sort of thing—the sickness of sin—that Jesus died and rose, as well as to address sin’s triumph in death.
What are some of the good things that we’ve demonstrated during the COVID19 crisis which help ‘redeem’ this difficult moment, pointing us in more positive ways going forward? That we’re all vulnerable and dependent, some easily spooked or panicked, and so we need each other’s support. That some things, people, ideals, matter most to us and that there are sides at least as important as physical health and safety about us. That isolation is difficult for most people, that a sense of neighbourliness can be recovered, but that we must push the boundaries on who we include amongst our ‘neighbours’. And that in a crisis we can become insular as a nation or as individuals and so must scrutinise that carefully, knowing that sharing can be hard but is right.
We’ve been mightily impressed by the courage and self-giving of our health professionals, pastoral workers and others, caring for the dead, sick or at risk: we should imitate their generosity and support them well in the future. We’ve witnessed our political, business and labour leaders cast aside ideological differences to lead us through these dangers, and keep our polity and economy going: let’s hope that long continues. We’ve seen essential service workers stay on the job, others work from home, those out of work looking out for others. We’ve proven we can adapt: now we’ve learnt how, I suspect Zoom meetings will be much more a part of life going forward. And we’ve found new places and ways to pray and share our faith and ideals. While of course much will eventually return to normal, it will be a new normal, and it will be up to us all to make sure that new normal is a better normal, more just and compassionate, more hopeful and caring.
A boy and his dad came into this cathedral to pray. The boy Antony and his dad Danny prayed right here and went to the statue of Saint Anthony: the name saint of the boy. Little did they know that would be the boy’s last day on earth. For Antony and Gelina and Sienna Abdallah, with their cousin Veronique would be killed. Their parents, Danny and Leila are with us today in St Mary’s Cathedral, joined also by Veronique’s parents, the Sakrs. And we extend all of us, our continued love for them and condolences on the deaths of the four children. We all shared in their grief, but we marvelled at Leila’s strength and dignity as she and Danny forgave the alleged drink driver whose ute caused the death of the children. Today those parents will bring forward the gifts at the offertory and bring forward the memories of their beloved children. Leila reminded all of us of the preciousness of human life and of her gratitude for her own loved ones. She professed her Christian faith that her children are now with God and that her family will be reunited one day. And she called us all to prayer and charity.
This was no ordinary human response: it was a superhuman one, a supernatural one, an Easter one. Yet this is not a family of superheroes or saints: these are ordinary people who by God’s grace could do extraordinary things in the most terrible of circumstances. And it is precisely for this sort of thing that we are saved. As Leila read to us this morning from St Paul (Col 3:1-4), it is our faith that gives us confidence that Antony, Angelina, Sienna and Veronique “have been brought back to life with Christ” and that enables us to let go of “earthly thoughts” like anger and revenge, self-protection and the rest, and dwell instead “on heavenly things” like peace and love, and the glory our young ones now share with Jesus.
Good Friday tells from what we are saved. Easter Sunday tells for what we are saved. And the Easter season which begins today and extends to the end of time proclaims loud and clear by whom we are saved: Jesus Christ, our sure and certain hope of the resurrection.
Some will say: well, that’s a nice story but no thanks. I don’t really believe in God. I get that: the Resurrection can seem too good to be true. Like the apostle Thomas, we might say that until I’ve got my paws on the risen Jesus myself, I’m not going to believe such hysteria and wishful thinking. Fair enough: faith is a gift, freely accepted or not. But even if you don’t believe in Jesus or are unsure, He believes in you. He died and rose to save you. “Shalom, Hi,” He says today to the women at the empty tomb (Mt 28:1-10). “Peace,” He says to you. “No need to be afraid anymore. I am with you always!”
Announcement Immediately after the Agnus Dei
Because our current circumstances preclude attendance at Mass and reception of Holy Communion: I invite you now to ask God that by spiritual communion you might receive all the graces you would in sacramental communion. To those who were to be baptised and confirmed at Easter and with those to be received into the Church to receive their first Holy Communion, I invite you to do likewise. I offer this Easter celebration and the Holy Eucharist for your loved ones, for yourselves and for all the world. Know that separation between us does not separate us from God.
Word of Thanks after the Mass of the Day of the Resurrection of the Lord
Broadcast from St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney
Dear friends: before our final blessing may I thank you all for joining me for this celebration of Easter livestreamed from St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney and broadcast through the Seven Network throughout Australia. Though COVID19 has made this the strangest Easter, our celebration today has been a very special one also. For that I thank our concelebrants, choir, and all those who assisted in the liturgy and of course the Seven Network. Easter Sunday liturgies are the greatest events in the life of the Catholic Church and of the Christian people throughout the world. Thank you for joining us.
Our young people watching this Mass are no doubt impatient for their Easter eggs, so I won’t keep you much longer. May I simply conclude by assuring you that the Church will continue to pray and offer Mass daily for an end to this pandemic, for your safety and good health, for the dead, sick and at risk, for our health professionals, essential service workers and researchers, for our leaders and health authorities, for those who are isolated or afraid. We will continue to offer health care, welfare services and pastoral care, and to collaborate with the other churches and faiths, our civic leaders and health authorities to serve you in every way we can. Together we will get through this COVID-19 crisis, and hopefully be better people individually and as a community, for it, with our faith renewed and our ideals by this period of enforced ‘retreat’. May God bless you and your loved ones abundantly in this holiest of seasons. A very Happy Easter to you all.