Homily for the Easter Vigil Year B 2021 at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, 3 April 2021
Easter 2021: Risen Christ summons us to a new future of hope
“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, in our Christian tradition, as an apostle to the apostles.
But it was not just Mary of Magdala who had a pivotal role in the early days of the followers of the Way. 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 disobeying Pharaoh. Esther boldly intervened for her Jewish people at the foreign court. Ruth broke new ground of inclusion as a consummate outsider to Israel’s strictly safeguarded bloodline. Mary MacKillop was equally courageous in taking the Good News to the edges of colonial Australia even by upsetting the ecclesial status quo.
If the Church is to be true to its founding stories and responsive to the living presence of God, it must find ways to promote a community 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 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.
It has been a turbulent time for women in Australia. Rallies have been held to challenge the status quo. In the world where the rules are made by the strong and the structures of power favour the privileged, it must embody the alternative relational paradigm. This alternative relational paradigm turns the world’s trickle-down system on its head because it is rooted in Jesus’ radical solidarity with the suffering, the poor and the lowly. The Church cannot have a prophetic voice in society if we fail to be the model egalitarian community where those disadvantaged on account of their race, gender, social status and disability find empowerment for a dignified life.
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. Others wonder why come home when home still feels alienating to them.
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 recognise, too, that such experience is not only available within the walls of the Church. We must not be an inward-looking and maintenance-focused people. Rather, we must be willing to be mission-oriented serving people where they are, in our parishes through liturgy and sacraments but also through pastoral closeness to those wandering in the new Babylon, that is the “strange land” beyond the pews.
This transition time calls us to contrition before we can emerge cleansed, renewed and transformed. Mary weeps at the sight of the empty tomb. We must learn to grieve and lament for failing to live up to our call to embody the alternative relational paradigm. Pope Francis recently called on the Christian communities to sow seeds of love instead of issuing judgments and condemnations.
In the spirit of conversion, the Church in Parramatta has embarked on a thorough review with the aim of improving our governance practices and implementing key principles for a more synodal and “bottom-up” ecclesiology. We strive to be a Church that empowers all the faithful to exercise their baptismal call and contribute to the mission of spreading the Good News.
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.
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 find Christ among the poor, the vulnerable and the wounded. 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.
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