Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Easter 2022, St Patrick’s Cathedral Parramatta
Victory of love over hatred and solidarity over scapegoating
With great joy, we are gathered to celebrate the most sacred night in our Christian calendar. What has brought us all here, old or new, regular or occasional, firm or wavering, is our faith in crucified and risen Lord who can bring hope out of despair and new possibilities out of apparent defeat. Easter gives us meaning, strength and power to transform the world in which we live. Easter provides us with the horizons of unquenchable light within which we strive for a better version of ourselves and our society despite all things to the contrary.
I thank you for living out your faith in a particularly challenging environment. For two years now, our liturgical celebrations have been muted by the pandemic. We have witnessed serious illness and death, social unrest and the economic hardships faced by individuals, families, and communities. In many parts of the country, destructive weather events have become more intense and more frequent. Then, there is the war in Ukraine that reminds us of our task of reconciliation and the future together for all humanity and in all societies.
The Gospel tonight speaks of a time of solitude, concealment and ambiguity. Mary of Magdala and the other disciples went to the tomb while it was still twilight. It was there in the silence and stillness of the dark that they attended to their grief and longing for Jesus. Mary is the symbol of the Church, which stands between the pain of the cross and the future resurrection yet to unfold.
Liminal time, that is, transition time is not a time for cynicism or nostalgia. There is a lot of cynicism in the Church today. The cynics see no point in remaining within the institution. They join the growing Catholic Alumni Association. Nostalgia is rife too. Some of us think that this post-Vatican II Church is doomed. They seek refuge in certitudes, symbols and rituals of a bygone era.
The way forward is neither by clinging steadfastly to the old nor by embracing rash revolution. Like Paul at Damascus, we must undergo a time of silent hope, stillness and mysticism, until we can learn to see, act and relate in a radically new way. It is a time for discerning what needs to die and what needs to rise. It can’t be rushed and put aside.
Liminal time is also a time to grieve. We must grieve for being an experience of exclusion instead of an encounter of radical love, inclusiveness and solidarity. We must grieve for the way we have allowed the preoccupation with the status quo, wealth, privilege and security to undermine the mission of the humble and poor servant church.
We must grieve in solidarity with the millions of refugees in our world, including the Ukrainians and the West Papuans on our doorstep; for those struggling in our own increasingly un-egalitarian society; for the plight of our indigenous that is far from our founding dream of Australia fair; for the plundering and destruction of our Mother Earth. We must grieve for our complicity in perpetuating systemic injustices against the weak, the marginal and the minority among us.
It is hoped that with the upcoming election, we can influence the political agenda of our nation, so that it may prioritize the well-being of all citizens, especially the most vulnerable among us. Inspired by the biblical vision of a caring society and Jesus’ model of privileging the downtrodden, we can work towards an economy and a social structure that puts the care of people first.
The Easter story does not end with Mary in grief. It tells us of her encounter with the Risen Lord who calls out her name and sends her out on a mission of proclaiming to others the Good News of the Resurrection. We too must hear Christ’s summons to build a new future against the background of entrenched hopelessness. As with Mary and the disciples, who were emboldened to move from the shadows of crucifixion into the light of the Resurrection, the Church must be a pioneer leading humanity to a new dawn of greater justice, equality and fraternity.
Brothers and sisters,
Jesus’ death and Resurrection mean that God has reset the cycle of human behaviour. He has set in motion the victory of love over hatred, solidarity over scapegoating and violence, social reconciliation over rivalry among opposing factions. He has enabled us to build a new future not without but with the very people whom we regard as outsiders and enemies.
With the joy and confidence of Easter, let us bear witness to the Kingdom vision of Jesus. Let us have the courage of the disciples in venturing to the new frontiers of solidarity, in order to minister like Jesus among the poor, the vulnerable and the wounded. Let us be truly Easter men and women bringing to life the Good News in our Church and our world.