My dear people,

We are living in a time of crisis and transition in the Church. We are like the disciples who went looking for Jesus on the first Easter Sunday and instead found an empty tomb. There seems to be a dead end for those searching for Jesus in the Church. In the midst of scandal and confusion, many turn to despair, grief and even anger.

When we look at salvation history, we see the pattern of dying and rising in the Church discernible at every turn. God brought unexpected outcomes out of the most crushing defeats: Out of the ashes of the exile, he brought about the new Israel; out of the ashes of the crucifixion, the resurrection; out of the ashes of the Roman persecution, the universal Church.

Today, there is a strong sense that the Church is once again at the crossroads. In the post-Royal Commission, the safe and secure moorings of the past recede far from our view. As we face the deep and treacherous waters of the future, we grow in the awareness of paschal rhythm. We realise what needs to die and what needs to rise. The Church needs to die to that which is not of Christ in order to rise again to all that Christ and his Gospel stand for.

• We need to die to a worldly culture of power, dominance and privilege and rise to the Gospel-inspired culture of simplicity, vulnerability and powerlessness;
• We need to die to being an enclosure for the virtuous and the privileged and rise to become an oasis for the poor and the “anawim” of God;
• We need to die to being an experience of exclusion and condemnation and to rise to being an encounter of radical love, inclusiveness and solidarity;
• We need to die to worldly trappings, triumphalism, clericalism and rising again to the power of vulnerable trust, servant-leadership, discipleship of humble service.

We see something of the paschal rhythm in the papacy of Pope Francis and the way he challenges us to follow the direction of the kingdom. The Church, he insists, must be the Church of the poor and for the poor. We must abandon our culture of comfort and go to the periphery. He has eschewed the trappings and privileges of his office. He has championed a leadership that fosters relationships rather than clerical status and power.

Dear friends, of the Diocese of Parramatta, 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. Perhaps we too need to hear our names called and our personal relationship with the Lord reaffirmed. In the midst of our despair and uncertainty, we need to hear the affirmation of Our Lord with crystal clarity: “Be not afraid”

Be not afraid to die to that which is not worthy of Christ, that which is like the old wineskins unable to contain the new wine God is pouring. The Church must constantly pattern itself on the death and resurrection of Christ.

As we mourn the death of the old way of being Church, we are not without hope. The risen Christ shows us the way forward. He also empowers us to be agents of change and partners with him in the furtherance of God’s reign.

God’s ways often involve the pain of letting go, of beginning again, of going forward with hope and trust. Let us endeavour to live the rhythm of Christ dying and rising in the Church and in all facets of our lives. Then we can be certain that the loving God will bring about renewal and transformation as He brought Jesus Christ to life from the dead.

Happy Easter to all!

Most Rev Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM CONV