The one thing that each of the Gospel accounts of the resurrection of Jesus begin with – is that it happened on the first day of the week. Now in Jewish reckoning, the seventh day of the week was the Sabbath day (Saturday) – the day when the Lord rested from the work of creation, offering to us the example of a cycle of work and worship. So the first day of the week is the day that we call the Lord’s day, the day of the resurrection – Sunday.
When this group of women made their way to the tomb that the body of Jesus had been laid in two days earlier, they would not have had any expectation of what they might find – other than the bloody and beaten and still very dead body of their dear loved friend and Messiah, Jesus. To see the stone had been rolled away would perhaps have been an initial relief – even with perhaps half-a-dozen women the task of moving that stone would have been a great burden. But that relief quickly turned into concern when they saw that the grave was almost empty. Almost – because the cloths that had wrapped the body of Jesus when it was hastily embalmed on the Friday – were still there. At least that meant that it was not grave-robbers who had moved the stone. Grave robbers were never interested in a dead body – especially one that had been tortured and brutalised through Roman crucifixion. They would take the expensive cloths and anything else that had been left in the tomb with the body – but here was the opposite situation – no body yet everything else was left. How strange and confusing!
Into this confusion suddenly two men in dazzling clothes appear with a call to the women to remember the words that Jesus had spoken. Words that they indeed do remember as they take the first frail steps on the journey to belief.
Recorded at St Paul’s, Camden, 8am (8’50”)
I remember a day when I was bushwalking in the coastal range down the South Coast, and I had been walking for a while just below the ridge-line – so I was unable to actually get a view of the breath-taking coast-line. At one stage I saw a rocky outcrop that was just above the track, and I thought that if perhaps I climbed to the top of it then I would get a view above the trees. So I found a way to scramble and climb to the top, only to again have the view blocked by trees. Then I spotted a large boulder that seemed to offer a possibility of a view over and through the trees. It looked massive and immovable so I climbed on to the top of it – and was rewarded with the most fantastic view of the coast-line below. No sooner had I climbed on top, but the damn thing began to move! As the boulder began to fall – taking me with it of course (dow’h) – my heart began to race and pound like the drum-beat of early heavy metal music. Thankfully the rock quickly resettled into its new position, and I was left standing there on top of it, shaken and vividly reminded of how small I was in a massive and beautiful world.
I remember a call to the hospital, and taking the lift to the fourth floor, proceeding to the nurses’ desk to find out which bed the person I was visiting was in. Then, upon entering the room, to see my friend with her husband as she held her new-born baby lying there in her arms with the look of love on both of them at this tiny creation of love and cuteness.
I remember the joy of friends as they fell in love with each other and shared such happiness and delight as they prepared for the day of their marriage. Then when first I spoke to the husband, only months later, as he began to grieve and sorrow about the way their relationship was going. Later you talk to her and there is the expression of grief and sorrow about how their marriage is failing – how could it turn out like this?
Recorded at St Paul’s – Easter Vigil (9’59”)
What an amazing night it must have been! Already the Lord had demonstrated his incredible power in the nine plagues that Pharoah and the Egyptian people had suffered because they had still not let the people of God go free, so that they may go into the wilderness to worship the Lord their God. But on this night as they prepared the lamb that they had chosen to offer for the special “Passover Meal” that they were going to eat together for the very first time – they still didn’t really know what to expect. Would Pharoah finally actually let them go free – or would he change his mind and send his troops in pursuit of them? For the Hebrew people, all they wanted was to be free to worship – this was the true freedom that they longed for.
Recorded at St Mary’s Leppington (7’17”)
Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday
During this most extraordinary week that we call Holy, the liturgy of the church leads us in a confusing journey through the final week of the life of Jesus. Even the colours that the church chooses for each liturgy demonstrate the range of emotions that we are called to enter into during this week. From the red of welcome and celebration to accompany the palms and branches of the crowds who welcome Jesus into Jerusalem, into the solemn reading of the passion, we return for the first three days of Holy Week into the purple of Lent that has marked us over these past six weeks…
Journey with Jesus and the church across this roller-coaster of colour and emotion.
Recorded at school liturgy for Holy Week – St Paul’s Catholic Primary School. (7’15”)
Jesus demonstrates what it looks like and what is possible as a human being to say a complete yes as a servant of the perfect will of God. Most of our life is marked by living with compromise and settling for second best – or worse for addiction, failure and sin. As we walk with Jesus during this Holy Week, we witness Jesus the man of sorrows – showing us how seriously God becomes involved with human dysfunction – not at arm’s length, but in the very midst of our own experience.
Recorded at St Mary’s, Leppington (4’38”)
This week at the World Youth Day preparation session held in Sydney, I gave the opening formation session, breaking open the message that was given by Pope Benedict for the WYD to be held in Rio de Janeiro in July this year. While the recording on the day did not work, I have since re-recorded the talk and mixed it into the presentation that I made, which is available on prezi.com. To watch the presentation, just click on the link below, open it in full screen mode, and then click on the play button in the bottom left of the screen.
With the election this week of Pope Francis, many people have been excited by his choice of name, his evident humility in bowing and asking for the blessing of the crowd, his payment of his hotel bill, catching the bus rather than being chauffeured and many more; but others have been disturbed by this simplicity and his refusal to engage in the pomp and ceremony that some expect of the papacy. It has also tapped into the fears of some that this papacy will not be about restoring traditions that a few people still long for, and instead be about new beginnings. Well, the readings today all call us to let go of the past and embrace the new things that God is doing in our midst – like the rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43) and running eagerly forward to embrace the future, counting everything else (including the past) as so much refuse in contrast to the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord.
Our Gospel is the intriguing story of the woman caught in adultery, brought into the temple and presented before the crowd of men, who stand ready to stone her to death. Instead, Jesus leads them into an examination of their own hearts, as he catches them out in hypocrisy. One by one, beginning with the elders, the accusers leave the temple, leaving only the woman and Jesus. As St Augustine puts it in his commentary, “Relicti sunt duo, misera et misericordia” – only two were left, the miserable one and mercy itself.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 6pm Vigil (7’46”)
Sunday 5, Season of Lent, Year C. John 7:59 – 8:11; Phil 3:8-14; Isaiah 43:16-21
The parable of the lost sons (Luke 15:11-32) is so rich and so regularly commented upon, that today I will note only a few things. We perhaps miss the extent of the insult that the younger son levels against his father when he asks for the share of the inheritance – not only is he wishing his father already dead, but he also shames the father in front of the whole local community, among whom the father will have to publicly and quickly sell a massive proportion of the family estate. Once the son has the cash, he heads off into the makran choran – which is often translated as a distant country, but literally evokes the vast empty lands in between places that you want to go. It is a great image of much of contemporary society – which seems so full and complete, and yet when push comes to shove, life is so empty. The emptiness of this land is what eventually provokes the change of heart and the discovery of being lost. The first readers would certainly have also heard echoes of the exile of the whole of the Jewish people into the makran choran of Babylon.
The search and welcome of the merciful and prodigal (wasteful) father is legendary. He holds nothing back. Not only is the son fully restored into the covenant of the household – not as a servant, but truly as a son – the robes, ring and sandals are all-powerful signs of this; but the return must be celebrated. For my son was lost, but now is found. The fatted calf becomes the defining symbol of the restoration. It seems that this is the thing that most annoys the older son. How could something so extravagant be chosen to celebrate the return of this ‘son of yours’? In the days before refrigeration, you needed a big party to justify killing a fatted calf. For although a scrawny goat is sufficient to feed a few friends – the best that the older son who sees the father (and thus God) as a slave master can imagine receiving, a fatted calf will feed hundreds of people in such a celebration. This is no small and token party – it is a sign of the abundance of God’s love. But for so many people, they still settle for the scrawny goat, and never imagine that we have been invited to celebrate with a fatted calf. But then, if you think you are already found, why would you need to celebrate in the first place? For the older son, the story ends with him still lost, still unaware of his need for mercy and reconciliation.
Recorded at St Mary’s, Leppington, 8am (11’30”)
Sunday 4, Season of Lent, Year C
When we come across Moses wandering through the wilderness, caring for the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, we are not told how often he has come to this particular place. Although the text calls it the mountain of the Lord, it is clear that is anachronistic – it only becomes worthy of that designation as a result of the amazing events that we hear today and even more so after the events that will unfold in the months ahead for Moses. Now, this place just happens to be where Moses is wandering around. It just happens to be where he finds a bush that is burning – but not being consumed. It is enough to attract his attention!
Recorded at St Paul’s, 10am (11’34”)