TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Alleluia, alleluia

Alleluia, Jesus is risen, Happy Easter! It is so good to have the alleluia back in our liturgies, such a joyous sound.

I begin my message this week with the following words of Mother Teresa that I came across during the last couple of weeks. I thought they would be most apt for this holy season:

Who is Jesus to me? Jesus is the Word made Flesh.
Jesus is the Bread of Life. Jesus is the Victim offered for our sins on the Cross.
Jesus is the Sacrifice at Holy Mass for the sins of the world and mine.
Jesus is the Word - to be spoken. Jesus is the Truth - to be told.
Jesus is the Way - to be walked. Jesus is the Light - to be lit.
Jesus is the Life - to be loved. Jesus is the Joy - to be shared.
Jesus is the Sacrifice - to be given. Jesus is the Bread of Life - to be eaten.
Jesus is the Hungry - to be fed. Jesus is the Thirsty - to be satiated.
Jesus is the Naked - to be clothed. Jesus is the Homeless - to be taken in.
Jesus is the Sick - to be healed. Jesus is the Lonely - to be loved.
Jesus is the Unwanted - to be wanted. Jesus is the Leper - to wash his wounds.
Jesus is the Beggar - to give him a smile. Jesus is the Drunkard - to listen to him.
Jesus is the Little One - to embrace him. Jesus is the Dumb - to speak to him.
Jesus is the Crippled - to walk with him. Jesus is the Drug Addict - to befriend him.
Jesus is the Prostitute - to remove from danger and befriend her.
Jesus is the Prisoner - to be visited. Jesus is the Old - to be served.
To me Jesus is my God, Jesus is my Spouse, Jesus is my Life, Jesus is my only Love, Jesus is my All in All, Jesus is my Everything.
Amen.

This certainly reflects our Easter story and message.

While listening to Luke’s account of the passion on Palm Sunday I was struck by the following description of Jesus and his disciples in the garden:

“Lord, shall we use our swords?” And one of them struck out at the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. But at this Jesus spoke,” Leave off! That will do!” And touching the man’s ear he healed him.

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy we are listening to Luke’s account of the life of Jesus, his actions, his words, his teachings, his miracles; his context of making sense to those who are sharing this journey with him. Even in his time of betrayal, Jesus responds with a healing touch. For his followers and those who come after them, the Passover meal will take on a new meaning on each anniversary of the death of Jesus. After someone dies, it seems that those who have loved that person develop an even greater understanding of who that person was and the purpose of their lives. The ‘small stuff’ seems to disintegrate and the ‘stuff of love’ remains. So this is what we have been handed on to share; to retell the memory of the one who was loved deeply and whose life made more sense in the light of the wisdom traditions of the time. We also keep on telling this story in the light of our own lives and traditions. Jesus is God made flesh who dwelt among us.

Jesus was ready to forgive his executioners, he reached out to the two men who were being executed with him, he turned towards the women who walked with him on his journey to Calvary and then ensured that they were cared for, he healed the one whose ear had been struck off and he felt for Peter who would betray him. To the very end, his life was one of nonviolence and peace.

He trusts in God, and those of you who participated in the Easter Vigil and recalled our great story, in the Exsultet, the many readings, especially those from the Hebrew Scriptures, the psalms, the prayers, the blessing of the baptismal water, the renewal of baptismal promises, the words of baptism for those who were baptised, the Eucharistic Prayer, feel, I hope a sense of renewal and hope. As the prophet Baruch claims, we are called to walk in the way of God and we will live in peace forever.

The ceremonies at the Cathedral were just wonderful and a great tribute to the number of people who attended to the many tasks on behalf of the community. Once again there were people from all generations, ethnic backgrounds and lots of families. I was struck by their participation and the joy of the season. We have much to be thankful for.

On a more personal note, last weekend at the Way of the Cross, I recognised our need to take time with our dead. I recalled the time I spent with Ada after her death at Christmas. The actions at Stations 13 (Jesus is taken down from the Cross) and 14 (Jesus rises from the dead) were most profound for me. Jesus is taken down from the cross and his body is wrapped in linen cloths with spices and laid in a tomb. For me, it was reminiscent of Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet, anointing them with her tears and oil and wiping them with her hair. She recognised who he was and began to prepare him for his death. Nowadays, we tend to leave our dead with funeral directors, and I am sure they treat them with great dignity, but those who love them may not be involved in the last stages of farewelling them – bathing them, dressing them, preparing them for burial, and spending time with them. Until last week’s Way of the Cross, I had not realised the significance of what I did with Ada, and with her Mum and Dad, in our saying goodbye. Generally society has minimised the rituals that surround life and death. But we held Ada in our sorrow and grief, and blessed her with our tears and words. I honoured and blessed her hands and feet with paint, so that her footprints and handprints were captured in colour. Then I washed her, dressed her in her Dad’s baptismal gown, and wrapped her, ready for the last time her parents and grandparents would spend with her before the funeral. At the time I knew my tears, songs and preparations were sacred but these actions became more meaningful in the wake of this aspect of Jesus’ story and most especially in watching the young act it out.

The following reflection formed part of Station Twelve:

My mission of being in the heart of the people is not just a part of my life or a badge I can take off; it is not an ‘extra’ or just another moment in life. Instead, it is something I cannot uproot from my being without destroying my very self. I am a mission on this earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world. We have to regard ourselves as sealed, even branded, by this mission of bringing light, blessing, enlivening, raising up, healing and freeing. (Evangelii gaudium 273) The mission of the laity – to be channels of God’s mercy, compassion, peace and justice in the world. This ‘apprenticeship’ is how we grow as missionary disciples. (EG 120)

All moments are sacred and must be cherished, even those moments which seem unbearable. Our faith, and especially Easter, provides for us that thin space of connection between what is now and what is mystery. As Bishop Bill said after the blessing of the new fire:

Christ yesterday and today
the Beginning and the End
the Alpha
and the Omega.
All time belongs to him;
and all the ages.
To him be glory and power;
through every age and for ever. Amen.

Then as he inserted the five grains of incense into the candle in the form of a cross he said:

By his holy
and glorious wounds,
may Christ the Lord
guard us
and protect us. Amen.

And then lighting the candle from the new fire, he said:

May the light of Christ rising in glory
dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.

May the fifty days of our Easter Season be a time of great hope and joy for you and your families. I will continue to pray for conversion of heart for those who struggle with the deeper meaning that life can hold.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is the Vice Chancellor Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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