With Easter approaching, Bishop Bill Wright has released his Easter message for the people of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and the wider community.
You can watch a video of Bishop Bill's message below or read the full text.
“Easter is the source of Christian hope. The very first Christians were those whose lives were changed by their experience, first, of seeing Jesus Christ cruelly put to death and then, soon afterwards, of meeting him alive again, risen from the dead. The next group of Christians were those who believed that unlikely story because they could see how the apostles had been changed, how meeting Christ alive from the dead had filled them with hope and joy.
The hope that Christians have can, of course, be parodied and trivialised. It can be dismissed as ‘pie in the sky when I die’, the simple childish belief that, if I am very, very good I will one day go to heaven. But Easter is about much more than that. It is profoundly about how meeting Christ transforms our lives now.
Knowing that God raised Jesus from the dead, is knowing that Jesus was right to put his trust in a good and loving God. It is knowing that Jesus was right to believe that the least important and most abandoned human beings were still sons and daughters who mattered to God and had a great destiny. It is knowing that history, life, God, are ultimately on the side of goodness and truth, not power and fate. People who believe those things live in this world in new and different ways.
They don’t sit around waiting to go to heaven; they see how Christ’s life mattered, how what happens in this world, in our lives, really does matter. They are world changers, not disengaged observers, waiting for the next life.
Of course, Christ rose from the dead very long ago. We can’t meet the people who saw him alive, we can’t feel how utterly their lives were changed by that experience. We can and do, however, still meet people filled with joy and hope by their own meeting with Jesus alive today. Their experience is more like that of St Paul who never knew Jesus but, to his great surprise, had an overwhelming experience of being suddenly in his presence, suddenly hearing him speak to his heart, though those around him saw and heard nothing. There are “St Pauls” in every age, people who encounter Jesus alive and with them, albeit in ways that are very hard to explain or describe.
Pope Francis has written about how ‘the joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus’. He invites people everywhere to ‘a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them’. ‘The Lord does not disappoint’, he writes. ‘Whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realise that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms.’
I wish everyone a Happy Easter. I mean by that, of course, much more than a day’s celebration or a pleasant long weekend. I pray that all those who are short of hope and joy will be transformed by meeting Jesus alive, possibly this Easter. May you be, ever afterwards, more alive yourself, more filled with hope and faith and love every day of your life. That is what the Easter experience does.”