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God’s timeless mystery at work in our midst

Friday 14 April 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Church Talk, Features


God’s timeless mystery at work in our midst
From left, Tebano Arere, Iosepha Tuteru and Mary Taurarii perform at the St Joseph’s Cathedral in Avarua on Sunday. Picture: OLIVER BOLCH/23041315

Easter is not a single Sunday in the year. Rather it has to be a way of life, a daily process of transformation assuring us of our divine destiny – a life in God, writes Bishop Paul Donoghue of the Catholic Church.

On the Sunday before Easter, in the Catholic Church we began with Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. On this day we reflected in our prayer on Jesus establishing himself as a peaceful king of God’s kingdom in the world. Then at the last supper on Holy Thursday we focused on Jesus celebrating the first Eucharist with his apostles in the upper room. This included the important lesson of the “Washing of the Feet” whereby Jesus showed us how we serve our neighbour.

Good Friday focused entirely on the Lord’s Passion and Death to show us the great love of God for humankind. And then on Easter Sunday we celebrated the Lord’s resurrection from the dead.

In our cathedral church the prayer on Sunday was led by our children. As Mary Magdalen, and later the apostles John and Peter discovered the empty tomb, I wonder what children in 2023 make of this mystery?

In bringing the Gospel into the church to be proclaimed, the children sang: “I have decided to follow Jesus.” The question to ask ourselves is whether having discovered the empty tomb, like Mary Magdalen, Peter and John, who made the leap of faith and realised that Jesus was alive, would our children also realise that Jesus is alive today and is calling them and us to follow him too in 2023?

From left, Teava Rongo, Josephine George, Mary Taurarii and Iosepha Tuteru. Picture: OLIVER BOLCH/23041316

I write this article on Monday morning, the day after all the celebrations. It seems like a test of the staying power of what we have just celebrated. Even for the first disciples, Easter Sunday passed into Monday morning and the question, “where do we go from here?” would have been very much on their minds. Some, like the disciples on their way to Emmaus, may have decided it is all over and leave Jerusalem for home immediately.

In Matthew 28:10 we get the answer to our question above when Jesus appears to the women and says, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee and they will see me.” Galilee represented normality and everyday life for the disciples and it reminds us that we too will find Christ in the normality of our lives.

However, there is another group that we need to take note of as their decision will have a major impact on history, particularly for the Jewish people. The chief priests and the Jewish authorities offered the explanation that the disciples had stolen the body when the soldiers had fell asleep on duty. (Matt. 28:13)

As Jesus wanted the disciples to get back to normal by returning to Galilee, our challenge today is that after a week of intense celebration following in the footsteps of Jesus in our churches we need to get back to normal to our families, work places and communities.

In 2023 many of us have found ourselves involved in funerals in our families and communities. Funerals bring home to us questions central to Easter:  Is there life after death? Is resurrection possible? Is life eternal? Does heaven exist?  We look to one another and our churches for reassurance and support.

When we look overseas, the same news of conflict and suffering such as the war between Russian and Ukraine continues on from atrocity to atrocity. The other night our news was full of the presence of land mines now blotting the landscape of both the countryside and in back yards of dwellings and maiming of innocent people that results. Over Easter we heard of more drownings of refugees on capsizing boats that don’t make it to European shores. This is the normal in many countries. Our world neighbours are being called to be Easter people of faith and press on with life in these dire circumstances.

Closer to home in New Zealand, large parts of the country have been under the threat of tornadoes over the weekend. The year 2023 has been a sudden wake up call to many of us as we witness the signs of shifting weather patterns and the global disruptions that result impacting on people’s normal lives in ways totally unexpected previously.

Yes, we who are enduring life’s unpredictable losses, going forward in faith, facing the timeless mystery of God at work in our midst healing a broken world, can we pray – no more tears, no more death?

Like the disciples, we are called to overcome our fears and doubts, to open our eyes to Jesus as he walks on the road with us. We will find him in the Scriptures and in the breaking of bread and we will recognise, touch and eat, with him in our faith communities. This is how the resurrection will come real in us and for those who witness our faith in action.

On Easter Monday, the world will try to go back to business as usual. But as we read the signs of the time, this is no longer possible for us. Many things have changed in a permanent way over the last two years. We are changed by the promise of a new life won by Jesus when he rose from the tomb. As our children reminded us in the Cathedral on Sunday, Jesus is saying, “Come follow me.”  The children went on to sing, “there is no turning back” even if we find we are the only ones following. We have the cross before us, with the world behind us.

I believe by God’s grace we can change the direction of history, the fate of the earth, and the structures and attitudes that resist God’s will for our world today. Easter is not a single Sunday in the year. Rather it has to be a way of life, a daily process of transformation assuring us of our divine destiny – a life in God.

Yes, this is the day the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it!