the introduction to
+Easter â€“ 2
the introduction to
Lent provides an opportunity each and every year for us to look into our hearts and see whether our external and internal lives are in union. We are called upon to try and unclutter many of the unnecessary distractions of life in order to more fully prepare for the joyous season of Easter.
” – 4
easons have provided both nature and humanity with a way to encounter patterns and rhythms. Ancient and
indigenous cultures have regularly looked for the “signs of the times” in determining movement, rituals and life. The Christian search for meaning sees the Church also use seasons as a guide to living and remembering the faith. Each year we are given Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and Ordinary Time to reflect and celebrate. Lent and Easter focus on the preparation for, and the celebration of, the death and resurrection of Jesus – the core of our faith. Lent provides an opportunity each and every year for us to look into our hearts and see whether our external and internal lives are in union. We are called upon to try and unclutter many of the unnecessary distractions of life in order to more fully prepare for the joyous season of Easter. In eras past, many Christians followed the tradition of denying themselves something in order to prepare for Easter. – 5
Today, we have developed a tradition of actually adding to our daily routines, acts of mercy, compassion and prayer as even more concrete examples of the faith that we believe is the Good News. These acts of charity help believers unite their experience with Jesus in a very real and concrete way. Lent calls for the light of Christ to be shone on elements of darkness that keep people trapped in sin. The Sacrament of Reconciliation offers each believer the assurance that Godâ€™s love is stronger than their sin and Lent has been a traditional time when people access this sacrament. Lent is also a season which asks us to renew the promises we made at Baptism. With infant baptism, these promises were made by parents and God-parents. Lent, beginning with Ash Wednesday and concluding 40 days later with the start of the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday), calls for a personal re-commitment to our faith. The Passion of Christ celebrated on Good Friday is the most solemn day in the Christian calendar. The execution of Jesus on the Cross seemed to mark his defeat. Christians experience the loss deeply and yet also know that joy is soon to follow. The Season of Lent prepares us for Easter, the great â€“ 6
season of hope. Easter fully expresses the Good News of Christian faith, where the resurrection of Jesus defeats death forever. The word “Alleluia” meaning “he is risen” is the word which best expresses the Easter joy. This season announces to the world that while the love of God may have been put in the grave, through our sin, his love could not remain there and he rose above death to free all humanity. For Christians, death is a comma, not a full-stop. The Easter (Paschal) candle is one of the best symbols for this belief. At the Easter Vigil the light of the Easter candle, symbolising our faith, is shared with all attending the Church liturgies. No matter how many candles are lit from the Easter candle, it doesn’t lose its sharing capacity. This symbolises the light of Christ reaching every member of humanity. The Sacrament of Baptism is celebrated in many churches during this season. Easter assures us that whatever obstacles are in front of us, the power behind us is even greater. This power is the love of God. This is why Christians are called to boldly proclaim that Jesus is the Good News and that Easter is the season of hope. Fr Michael Twigg OMI – Mazenod College, Victoria – 7
THE KEY THEMES OF LENT When we journey through the prayers and readings of the Churchâ€™s liturgy we note that there are many themes that fill the Lenten season: Self-denial Wonder and Contemplation Renewal Joy Conversion Sacramental Celebration
LENT ONE TEMPTATION IN THE WILDERNESS
illed with the Holy Spirit, Jesus left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit through the wilderness, being
tempted there by the devil for forty days. During that time he ate nothing and at the end he was hungry. Then the devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to turn into a loaf.’ But Jesus replied, ‘Scripture says: Man does not live on bread alone.’ – Luke 4:1-4 – 9
The classic theme of Lent has been Self-Denial. Somehow in the story of the Christian Church this became the dominant focus. Often the assessment of a Lenten journey was made upon this single category and was evaluated by one question: what are you giving up this Lent? It is all very well to fast from some food or drink over the 40 days but to what end? To supplement the post-Christmas diet or the new-year, new-look-at-me resolutions! Why engage in any abstinence if it does not deepen our relationship with Christ, bond us closer to our fellow believers and forge a stronger commitment to care for those in need. Isaiah (Chapter 58) got it right: the fasting that God wants addresses the urgent needs of the oppressed and the hungry, the poor and the naked. This fast will correct our faults, raise our minds to God and help us grow in love. Lent is a time to become more like Jesus in our life, our prayer and mission. It invites an intention to change.
WONDER & CONTEMPLATION
LENT TWO THE TRANSFIGURATION
esus took with him Peter and John and James and went up the mountain to pray. As he prayed, the aspect of
his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning … A cloud came and covered them with shadow; and when they went into the cloud the disciples were afraid. And a voice came from the cloud saying, ‘This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him’. – Luke 9:28-36, 34-35 – 11
How can we revitalise our capacity to wonder? When the disciples came down the mountain they told no one what they had seen but they wondered amongst themselves what this vision of a transformed Christ meant for them. The transfiguration of Christ was a wonderful event for Peter, James and John. The resurrection of Christ is an amazing moment for us, his followers. In order to celebrate this event more fully we need to re-energise our capacity for reflection. Lent provides a time to do this. It is a time to wonder about creation and the immensity of the cosmos. It is a time to focus on the microcosm of life, the tiny hand of the newborn or the simplicity of the spider web. We are called to wonder about our modern world which “shows itself at one and the same time both powerful and weak, capable of the noblest deeds and the foulest”. (Constitution of the Church in Modern World, #. 9 ) Lent is a journey away from the bustle of daily life and taking time out to contemplate our lives in Christ. It is a journey up the mountain to see a new vision that will stay with us a lifetime. Perhaps a vision of a new world; perhaps a place of peace. – 12
R E N E WA L
LENT THREE THE FIG TREE
man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard and he came looking for fruit on it but found none. He said to
the man who looked after the vineyard, “Look here, for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?” “Sir,” the man replied “leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down”. – Luke 13:6-9 13
In the parable of the fig tree, Christ challenges the crowd to give people another chance at renewal. The story of each person is one of second chances, another try, rewriting the draft. Renewal is not primarily about a new creation. Rather, it encompasses the clarification of ideas, the second attempt at the skill and the repetition of the activity. Lent is a time to have a second go at it, especially if the venture is of value. Lent is a time to renew the forgotten contact, revisit a good idea and re-try the project that had us excited but got lost in the bustle of the new year. How do we renew our lives and forge a new spiritual identity? Renewal is a call to remember how good things are and not forget them. The idea of personal renewal is what God asks of us in Lent â€“ keep doing the good things, but do more of them. If you have not practised a virtue that you used to be good at, then recapture it. Forgive the injury or the hurt. As they say in Thailand: Never mind, let it go! Lent renews our hidden talents and long lost skills for the good of ourselves and others.
LENT FOUR THE PRODIGAL SON
he son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”
The father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe — the best one — and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” – Luke 15: 21-24 –– 15 15
The Lenten theme of Joy is found in this gospel with the celebration held at the return of the younger son. We know the conclusion of this parable with the miserable elder son refusing to join the party. Withheld kindness is a real failing of many people, says St Paul. The authentic followers of Christ are exuberant people rejoicing in all elements of God’s creation and love. They don’t lose their fervour and are joyful in the knowledge that they share God’s homeland. We know some people who are joyless and offer little encouragement to the celebrating group. If we are like that sometimes we need to listen to the loving father in this parable and get some joy into our lives. God has given us this wonderful world to share and enjoy. “You have made us little less than the Angels, with glory and honour you crowned us”. Psalm 8:6 This Lenten theme of Joy prepares us for the Easter celebration and it is not limited to the Easter season, it is a year-round theme! How might we practise being joyful this week?
LENT FIVE THE ACCUSED WOMAN
s the Pharisees persisted with their questioning, Jesus looked up and said, ‘If there is one of you who
has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ When they heard this they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained standing there. He looked up and said, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir,’ she replied. ‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus ‘go away, and don’t sin anymore.’ – John 8: 7,9-11 17
The conversion motif in Lent is the call to assess our lives and embark upon the measures that will eradicate hurtful practices. The core of real conversion is the person’s recognition of the failure, the fault or the level of disregard for another. The authentic traction for conversion is found in this self-evaluation. The essence of conversion also demands a strong commitment to a new, truer identity. Lent calls us to conversion. We need to look at our lives and make a resilient decision to change. The U-turn on our trajectory is our task. We need to concentrate, check the rear view mirror, decelerate, indicate and make a slow, careful change to the direction we are heading. • What in your life needs conversion this year? Who might help you make the U-turn? • What words, actions or attitudes will you go away from and not do anymore?
S AC R A M E N TA L C E L E B R AT I O N
LENT SIX PA L M S U N D A Y
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood, that will be poured out for many.” – Luke 22: 20 “For the days of his saving Passion and glorious Resurrection are approaching” – (Preface of the Passion II) –– 19 19
We come to Holy Week and focus upon the last of these themes: our call to deepen our understanding of the sacraments. We know that the seven sacraments are communal actions that we celebrate together. We commence every liturgical celebration with the reading of Scripture in order to remember our common story, our sharing in God’s divine life. Each sacrament we attend throughout our lives reminds us of God’s care for us and of the rich heritage we have in the Catholic Church. The sacraments not only ground us in the present, bringing us closer to each other, they also propel us to the future, orienting us toward higher, eternal things. Holy Week is a good time to revitalise our celebration of the sacraments. If we attend carefully to the scripture and liturgies of this week we will deepen our appreciation of the sacraments. Holy Week is like a specialised training session. No matter where we stand in the skills department we will emerge from these events with a better knowledge of our Catholic religion and a deeper love of the figures involved. Don’t miss these liturgies. They can change your life, change the way you play.
The Easter event celebrates the core belief of the Christian faith around which all the other elements of our faith revolve. It is the still point of our moving world.
TRIDUUM The three days, 72 hours, marking the death and resurrection of Christ extend from Holy Thursday evening until Easter Sunday evening. This is the Easter Triduum. These days re-enact, remember and re-actualise the central focus of our faith: Christ’s submission to the Father’s will and his rising from the dead. The Easter event celebrates the core belief of the Christian faith around which all the other elements of our faith revolve. It is the still point of our moving world. The key questions of human life are asked and answered in this event: What does it mean to be human? How should we live? What can we hope for?
G O O D F R I DAY SUFFERING AND DEATH
Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. REFLECTION
The suffering servant song from the book of Isaiah recounts the one upon whom the sins of the community are placed. ‘Ours were the sufferings he bore’ Isaiah 53:4. This passage is fulfilled in the person of Christ dying upon the cross. The old practice of slaying an animal as an offering to God is replaced by the once and for all event on Calvary. – 23
In the crucifixion, Jesus has taken our sins upon himself. He never forgets that all humanity is made in God’s image and his promise to the repentant thief asserts our hope of eternal life. We see in Christ’s suffering and death his love for us and the fulfilment of the promise of salvation for human kind. It is intriguing to note in the stories of great people in the ancient world that their death is quickly dismissed. ‘He took the hemlock’ or ‘She was stoned.’ The remarkable element about the death of Christ is that the early church recounted in detail his last hours. The manner of his death was never glossed over. His last words, prayers and painfilled cries are all recounted and retold. The early followers of Christ quickly saw this event as the summation of his work, his mission. They knew that the death of Christ had world changing implications and eternal power.
E A S T E R S U N DAY RESURRECTION OF THE LORD
Mary of Magdala told the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’. – John 20:18 REFLECTION
The narrative of the disciples encountering the Risen Lord loses its surprise somewhat with our yearly retelling. Somehow we must conjure the complete devastation of the witnesses to his death, some of whom laid his lifeless – 25
body in a borrowed tomb. To experience this person alive and transformed would be the most life changing event one could imagine. This encounter of witnessing the Risen Christ galvanised his followers who immediately began proclaiming his victory over death to the surrounding lands and to the ends for the earth.
THE EASTER THEMES The early church used the 50 days between Easter and Pentecost to revisit the key elements of the Easter Mystery. The early preachers would recount the story of the resurrection and the key elements of the Easter Event in their homilies and instructions to the newly baptised. The following four themes have been selected from the prayers and readings of the Easter Season. New Life Peace Hope Good Shepherd â€“ 26
“In our baptism, we have been buried with him, died like him, that so, just as Christ was raised by his Father’s power from the dead, we too might live and move in a new kind of existence” – Romans 6:4 REFLECTION
The resurrection of Christ is not a resuscitation or return to a current life seen in the Lazarus story. The new life of – 27
the Risen Christ is a total transformation, a new existence, a transfigured state. The Easter story recounts the reactions of the apostles and disciples to the appearances of the Risen Lord. The new life he lives engendered a new awareness of God’s power to save and caused changed commitments in his followers. Belief in this new existence by the apostles emerged from encountering his risen body. Christ’s followers slowly came to understand this new insight and saw in it the wonderful plan of God. The resurrection stories are filled with a variety of responses to this new life ranging from disbelief and puzzlement to acceptance and action. The most remarkable element is the whole-hearted response of these followers once they accepted the reality of the resurrection: they immediately begin proclaiming Christ as Lord to the ends of the earth. • To live a new life is to love God and love our neighbour. What modified behaviour might we explore to show our love for one another this week? • How can we be symbols of new life for people who have lost hope? – 28
P E AC E
Jesus came and stood among them. “Peace be with you”, he said. – John 20:26 REFLECTION
The peace of the Risen Christ announces a new way of living. The disciples were cowering behind doors after Christ’s death but his greeting changed their lives. Their fear was gone. – 29
St Paul says we must use this sign of the kingdom for the betterment of humanity. We are challenged to work for peace and to co-operate with ventures round the world that promote good will and justice for all. The peace of Christ demands a new commitment to fostering our human family and confronting structures that deprive people of freedom and dignity. • What is the simple start we can make in our school or neighbourhood to foster the humanity of others? • Since we have all the spiritual gifts necessary, how should we employ the grace of Christ’s peace today? • How can we offer a word of hope to those in wartorn lands? What diplomatic efforts for peace can we encourage?
“You have been raised to life with Christ. Set your hearts on the things that are in heaven.” – Col 3:1 REFLECTION
At the end of Matthew’s gospel Jesus commissions the disciples to go and make disciples for all nations, teach and baptise. Today the order is changed somewhat for first we baptise babies, and then teach them, hoping that they – 31
will become disciples and follow Christ. The love of God for human kind gives hope that ripples out to fill our world. This hope is meant for all especially people in the broken places of our world. • Since we are made in God’s image, how can we offer hope to those who are deprived of their God-like dignity? • Who are the people who have little hope in our land? What endeavours can we initiate to show them they are loved? • We hope for heaven but must work for the kingdom here on earth. What Easter prayers or songs offer us hope today?
THE GOOD SHEPHERD
“I am the good shepherd, says the Lord; I know my sheep, and mine know me.” – John 10:14 REFLECTION
In any era there are elements of evil present in our world. The need for protection is a vital one in certain places and our news stories are filled with cases of people who have fallen victim to the crimes of others. The image of God – 33
shepherding his people is a comforting one for us. Jesus’ promise that he will care for the sheepfold against thieves and robbers is a reassuring one. The Old Testament saw God as a shepherd of Israel and saw their strong kings as fulfilling God’s will to care for the chosen people. Our church, which was born at the Easter event, rejoices in our good shepherd who never leaves us. • Parents offer us a good example of protecting their children. How can we care for people in danger? What safeguards can we mount to offer assistance to those in need? • The model of the Good Shepherd assumes knowledge of the flock. How can we come to know better the people in our community? • The vigilance and strength of the leader gives hope to the group. How might our church offer encouragement to those in need?
January 2013 Reflections by Joe Doolan Design and illustrations by Ian James www.jgd.com.au © ISBN 978 0 9872173 4 9 New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Mirrabooka Press (a division of Openbook Howden Design and Print) 2-12 Paul Street, St Marys SA 5042 Telephone : 08 8124 0000 www.mirrabookapress.com.au
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the introduction to
+Easter Easter is the high point of the Christian year. Lent is the period of preparation that precedes it. This Southern Cross guide takes a fresh look at both and provides short explanations and reflections to cover both seasons.
Lent provides an opportunity each and everyyear for us to look into our hearts and see whetherour external and internal lives are in union.