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Fr Jude’s Easter Message: Locked Doors – No Obstacle for the Risen Lord

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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

 

 

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As we gather in our homes to commemorate the passion of our lord Jesus Christ on this Good Friday 2020, we gather to hold holy the love that opposed violence and the love that endured violence, the love that made its’ way with the cross on its back.

We gather to profess our gratitude for that love, and to stand in solidarity with all those people whose courageous love makes them victims of violence. The cross of Jesus has not been dismantled, the suffering he experienced has not ceased. The cross stands in the midst of life. This is the first time in our lives where we do not meet each other in our churches, but we meet in our domestic churches, in the company of our families in our homes due to the coronavirus that has had an impact on the world at large.

I am daunted by what this virus is doing to lives all over the world…

  • those who are suffering from it;
  • those with compromised health and living in deadly fear of catching it;
  • those who have lost their jobs and don’t know how they will get through this;
  • the elderly in our community, and those isolated from human contact;
  • those at the front line courageously risking their lives for others, our doctors and nurses and carers;
  • millions of refugees living in unsafe situations with no place to go and now with less hope than before;
  • those whose kids are lonely for companionship and play, and are frustrated and bored;
  • millions of people around the globe trapped in their homes and cannot go out even for a walk;
  • people without health care, people who cannot get the medicines they need and the general loneliness millions are experiencing in isolation.

It isn’t often that the whole world feels this vulnerable, that we lose the illusion that we are in control. It is a sobering time, a reflective time, a time to recognise that we are not in control, and a time to count our blessings.

During this unusual time that we are living in, where the death toll of those who have died through this deadly pandemic rises daily, we ask the question: Why is it so significant that we recall the death of a man who died 2000 years ago? The reason is that his death has changed forever the very face of death and given it a new meaning.

We can see this exemplified in the Vietnamese cardinal Francis Van Thuan who had been ordained a bishop of Nha Trang in Vietnam in 1967 and appointed coadjutor bishop of Saigon in 1975 just days before it fell to the North Vietnamese army, was arrested and spent next to 13 years in prison. While in solitary confinement in 9 of the 13 years, he describes the conditions in which he was held.   He was in a cell without windows, and for several days and nights the light would never be switched off. And then for several days and nights he plunged into total darkness. He felt as though he was suffocating of heat and humidity to the point of insanity, and he was distressed because he could not fulfil his ministry as a priest.

Living in the present moment in silence and isolation does not make everything easy and Van Thuan explains, time passes slowly in prison, above all in isolation. Imagine a week, one month or more of silence. They are terribly long.   We are not experiencing something so severe, but we may find the next few weeks and months very hard. Many times in his life he explains, when he suffered from being unable to pray, and he writes, he cried like Jesus on the cross: My God, why have you abandoned me.   He adds at once: Yes I know that God did not abandon me. However difficult this time may be for us, and however hard it can be sometimes to believe it: our faith assures us that we will never be abandoned. As Christians we are committed to remember the passion of Jesus: “whenever you do this, do it in memory of me”. When a community chooses to remember suffering, their memory becomes a protest. That memory also serves to make us aware of the crosses that are in our midst. The memory of Jesus’ passion educates us to pay attention to the sufferings of others. The cross demands that attention should be paid. So today we pay attention to the suffering of Jesus, and the suffering of all those who are paralysed in the grip of fear, and all who are victims of hate and violence.

For us Christians, keeping the memory of Jesus’ death is a living reminder that we are never alone, as we stand near the cross in our lives. While our faith does not magically remove the pain, you and I are assured that Jesus, the crucified son of God, is in solidarity with us at that place. He is intimately close to us because he experienced that place in the most personal and intense way possible.

Our experience over the next few weeks and months will not, we trust, be as extreme as that of Cardinal Van Thuan. But it will offer us an opportunity. “When I lived in times of extreme physical and moral suffering”, Van Thuan writes, “I thought of Jesus crucified”. To the human eye, Jesus’ life was a defeat, a disappointment and a failure. However in the eyes of God, that was the most important moment of his life, because it was then that he poured out his blood for the salvation of humanity. Standing near the cross of Jesus is a painful and a powerful place to be. As we pray this Good Friday, we are invited to stand there with Jesus and his disciples. And we are called to trust that what is happening there is what happens wherever the God of Jesus Christ is present; God is faithfully present and at work to bring life out of death.

I invite you as a family, as you venerate the cross in your midst, to be reminded that the cross of Jesus stands at the centre of the Christian story, as the sign of the length love will go to in its passion for others. If we ever wonder if we are really loved, we should look at the figure on the cross. It is difficult to maintain, that we are unloved, when we know that someone thought that we were worth dying for. The cross was lifted up as a sign of our worth; someone thought that we were worth all that pain and suffering. And that somebody is Jesus, Son of God.

Fr Jude Pirotta mssp

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To keep yourself connected to the Parish and its prayer life during the lead up to Easter, consider taking part in any of the following. Unless otherwise stated, you can find these pages on the Parish Website under ‘Mass Online’ (stjamesapostlehcn.com.au/?page_id=5897)

  • Live Streamed Daily Mass at 9:00am until Wed 08 Apr via our Public Facebook page (you don’t need a personal Facebook account to view this page) at www.facebook.com/stjamesapostlehcn/
  • Way of the Cross reflection available on Mass Online
  • Sign up to the Parish Bulletin at stjamesapostlehcn.com.au/?page_id=537
  • Holy Week at Home Prayer Resources at stjamesapostlehcn.com.au/?page_id=5969
  • Palm Sunday pre-recorded Mass available on Sun 05 Apr at 10:30am at Mass Online
  • Holy Thursday pre-recorded Mass of the Lord’s Supper available on Thurs 09 Apr at 7:30pm at Mass Online
  • Good Friday Stations of the Cross available on Fri 10 Apr at 10:00am at Mass Online
  • Good Friday pre-recorded Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion available on Fri 10 Apr at 3:00pm at Mass Online
  • Easter Vigil pre-recorded Mass available on Sat 11 Apr at 7:30pm at Mass Online
  • Easter Triduum Homilies available after each celebration of the Mass.
  • Easter Sunday Message by Fr Jude available on Sun 12 Apr at 10:30am at Mass Online

 

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