01 May 2022
Easter: the death of death
The Southern Cross, May 2022
What is Easter? For people of faith it is the high point of the year; for some it is simply an extended long weekend. How many of us really believe that it lasts for 50 days? That’s 50 days to receive the gift of new life and integrate it more deeply into all aspects of our lives; 50 days as God’s holy people to make sure the new life that transforms us allows us to make a difference in the church and the world.
In the lead up to Holy Week, I sometimes make the comment that Holy Week is our grand final. This is only partially true. While Holy Week and the Easter Triduum (the great three days beginning Holy Thursday night and continuing onto Easter Sunday night) is the central event of the whole of our liturgical and Christian lives, it is only just the beginning. A grand final means that it is all over for the season; for us everything leads up to the Triduum and leads away from it. While the Triduum has all the intensity of a grand final – the endurance; the drama; the emotion – it is not only where we end, but also where we begin. No wonder we need 50 full days to unpack this mystery, and each Sunday is a mini-Easter which renews Easter again and again.
For all our modern sophistication, we still do not like talking about death. Easter plunges us right into death and life. Easter acknowledges that death is an unavoidable part of being human. It also says that it does not have the last word. In short, Easter celebrates the death of death. At Easter we are reclaimed by our baptism into God’s life, reminding us that we do not belong to death. We acknowledge the painful reality of death, of course, but more loudly do we announce the death of death. This is a very personal matter, but also a promise made to us as the holy people of God, and one, like Mary Magdalene, we need to announce to the whole world.
Shortly after the Australian tennis player Ash Barty announced her retirement from professional tennis, one of the commentators said of her decision: ‘That’s bravery. What matters to her is having a life, not having a fatter bank balance. Who has that maturity at 25? Or ever? It took me a long time to learn my basic recipe for happiness: someone to love, something to do, something to look forward to. Our beautiful Ash has found hers so much earlier.’
Easter, through the gift of baptism, offers us a basic recipe for happiness too. It literally allows us to share in God’s life. Jesus, the Risen Christ, literally brings the life of God to us and sets up home within our lives, not for a short time, not while we are good, but forever. It is this life we look deeply at during Lent. It is this baptismal life that we renew and commit anew at the Easter Vigil and Easter Day, it is this life that we seek to live out each day and participate in each Sunday. Whether we begin this at our birth and grow into it, whether we find it later on in life, for all of us it is a spring of living water that is at work within us giving life, giving hope.
At Easter we too have someone to love: God; our sisters and brothers; our true self and the whole of creation. Something to do: live out our baptism in a transformational way. Something to look forward to: a deep life here and the fullness of life with God and the death of death.
At Easter, as St Augustine reminds us, ‘We are Easter people and our song is Alleluia’. Sometimes it’s only at the end of Easter that we recognise the role of the Holy Spirit but one of the beautiful things we celebrate at Easter is the fact that through baptism God’s Holy Spirit dwells within each of us and henceforth accompanies us on life’s journey. In baptism God literally pours the Holy Spirit into our lives. Imagine having a constant companion who is our helper and guide. You do through baptism.
At Easter we renew our baptismal life and know that we belong not to death but to life. And that is Good News indeed.
Easter this year, South Australians will have been bookended by elections both State and Federal. In the cacophony of noise and voices it can be tempting to disengage with the whole process. In the recent run-off election for the president of France, nearly 30 per cent of the population abstained from voting. Our compulsory system does not give us that option, and we need to take seriously our responsibility to vote. Might we ask, what of those with no voice? Who speaks up for them? What of working for the common good at a time when the gap between those who have and those who have not, has become even greater? Yes, it is hard to pierce through the noise, and spin and get to the essentials. Yet that is what having a vote means. Committing Australia to be a fairer, more just society, not just an economy, a fair and just and hopeful society. Committing Australia to be a place of welcome, where there is no place for fear, but only hope. Pie in the sky? No. It is our Easter faith in action.
I encourage you to read the Australian Bishops’ statement on the election. It can be found at www.catholic.org.au
The second session of the Plenary Council draws near, to be held ‘in person’ in Sydney during the first week of July. I hope the next two months will be a time where we all engage more deeply in the process of the Council: in our own personal lives; in our parishes and communities, and in our Diocese. Please pray that at this important juncture we will listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Church, and not only to ourselves. Pray that the desired renewal in our faith will be reignited as it was in the Acts of the Apostles.
Easter is that time where we see ever deeper into the heart of God. We see what life is all about, that it is actually about the death of death; that God in Jesus Christ has come to us bringing not only life now, but life forever.
A blessed Easter to you all. God is good, good indeed.
Picture: The Archdiocese hosted the pre-synod gathering and presented the diocesan synod report at The Monastery on Saturday April 30. The report highlights the various consultations that have taken place in the Archdiocese over the past few years and the many voices of the Catholic community. It also presents a synthesis of the Diocesan Assembly recommendations and signals a commitment to a continued journey of synodality. The report, which will be sent to the Bishops Conference and directly to the Vatican, can be found at www.adelaide.catholic.org.au