Dear parish family at St. James, visitors and friends,
Even though our church buildings are closed, locked doors are no obstacles for the risen Lord.
We have never experienced an Easter like this, with public worship suspended in many places, and people confined to their homes.
Over the past weeks, our world and our lives have been turned upside down, as we respond to the global pandemic of coronavirus, COVID-19.
Our Easter services this year have taken a very different form, as Christian communities seek to respond in many ways that will slow the spread of the virus, and keep vulnerable people safe.
It has been heartening to see the creative ways our churches are connecting to pray, pastorally care for one another, and advocate for those who are experiencing disadvantage and injustice.
Across Australia and around the world during the Christian festival of Easter, we celebrate that Christ is risen, and continues to be present with us today. As we celebrate Easter this year, we are conscious of all those who are affected by the catastrophic and unprecedented events in our nation, of bushfire, flood and drought, as well as the global pandemic.
It is our Christian belief that through his life and ministry, Jesus identifies with, and comes alongside us in our suffering, offering comfort and compassion.
In our churches and wider communities, we are witnessing acts of enormous sacrifice and love, as people reach out to their neighbours. In the midst of grief, we see emerging signs of hope, and new life. The Jesus story as we have heard in the gospel, does not end in death, but in life. Jesus, the God-man dies on the cross and is buried, and after three days rises again. The disciples got to experience the risen Christ. They came to realise that the empty tomb was no joke, but the source of a new and glorified life, in which we are invited to share.
The risen Lord breaks through the physical and emotional barrier, just by standing in their midst and speaking “Peace”, banishing fear stemming from the hostility of the world. It is not merely a wish: “Peace be with you”; rather it is a declaration: “Peace be with you”! The cross of Jesus, dear friends, says that there is no dark place, no depth of human desolation, where Jesus is not present – he is there. The book of Exodus speaks about “Moses entering the thick darkness where God is present” (Ex 20:21).
Jesus is in the thick darkness of COVID-19, and his resurrection says that he is the light which dispels even the thick darkness of death. So when we sing “The Light of Christ” on Easter night, even in an empty church, we are speaking a truth to all the world – that the virus may be new but the remedy is not.
We can all catch something of the reality of the resurrection, when we experience new life in the midst of hopelessness. We can see it in so many working on the frontline, our nurses, doctors, volunteers, religious, sisters, priests, shopworkers – all performing their duties so that society can continue. We can see it in the beloved disciples who see in the dark what no-one else sees.
Let us keep deep faith, dearest friends, stay strong and try to remain sane.
On behalf of Fr Silvio, Fr Brendan, Dcn Royden, the parish council, and myself, we miss you greatly and long to be physically united with you again.
May you all experience God’s renewing love and hope in your life and families. Have a blessed and peaceful Easter.
Fr Jude Pirotta mssp Parish Priest