An Easter 2021 Message from Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta
“Go and tell my brothers and I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”.
My dear friends,
At Easter, we hear these words of the Risen Lord who empowers Mary of Magdala to overcome fear and to proclaim the Good News to others. She is known as an apostle to the apostles.
But it was not just Mary of Magdala who had a pivotal role in the early days of Christianity. Throughout salvation history, women disciples have played a critical part in forging a new future out of the hopeless present. Puah and Shiprah acted as catalysts for the exodus by their civil disobedience.
Esther boldly intervened for her people at the foreign court. Ruth broke new ground of inclusion as a consummate outsider. Mary MacKillop, of course, started a new and hitherto unheralded group of women who took the Good News to the edges of Australian society.
If the Church is to be faithful to the biblical narrative and responsive to the living presence of God, it must reclaim a discipleship of equals and empower men and women disciples to share their gifts for human flourishing and the growth of the Kingdom.
At the heart of the Easter message is the summons to a new future, framed with hope and possibility, in the midst of entrenched hopelessness. As with Mary and the disciples, who were emboldened to move from the shadows of crucifixion into the light and life of the Risen Christ, the Church must live this message.
It must embody the alternative relational paradigm that is rooted in the radical inclusivity, mutuality, compassion and the powerlessness of Jesus. We cannot have a better future if we persist in the age-old but dying paradigm of triumphalism, elitism, male supremacy and clerical dominance.
The Gospel speaks of the bewilderment and disillusionment of the disciples as they were confronted with an empty tomb. Perhaps, their experience was not unique. Many also go searching for Jesus in the Church and instead find it empty and void of what they thirst for.
It is incumbent on us especially as leaders to make the Church into a place where people can meet and experience the Risen Lord. We must not remain a closed system. For we encounter the living Christ beyond the known boundaries of our worldview. We meet him as a community of seekers of truth, meaning and ultimate concern. More importantly, we witness to him in our acts of solidarity, communion and service to the common good.
This transition time calls us to grieve before we can emerge cleansed, renewed and transformed. Mary wept at the sight of the empty tomb. We too must grieve for those whose experience has been one of exclusion, instead of an encounter of radical love, inclusiveness, and solidarity.
Pope Francis recently called on the Christian communities to sow seeds of love instead of issuing theoretical condemnations.
In the spirit of conversion, the Church here in Parramatta has embarked upon a Review of Governance with a view to improving governance practices and implementing key principles for a more synodal and “bottom-up” ecclesiology. The time has come for us not only to admit the need for change but to discern together as to what the process and the agenda for change should look like going forward.
Brothers and sisters,
In the face of painful transition, let us be empowered by the presence of the Risen Lord, calling us beyond the fear of the unknown. The paschal rhythm summons us to a discipleship of humility, weakness and vulnerability, of dying and rising in Christ.
We must die to the old ways of being Church abandoning the old paradigm of a fortress Church, prone to exclusivity and elitism. Instead, we learn to rise to Christlike ways of humility, inclusiveness, compassion.
May we be strengthened to walk the journey of faith and we may be leaven to the Kingdom through our active discipleship, witness, and engagement in the world. Let us have the courage of Mary and be truly Easter men and women bringing to life the Good News in our Church and our world.
Have a blessed Easter.
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv
Bishop of Parramatta