Our gospel reading for this weekend (John 11:1-45) was about two sisters, Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus. Jesus was closely connected with Lazarus, Mary and Martha and we read of Jesus’ human heart − sad, weeping, grief-stricken and distressed by the reality of what is happening. Mary throws herself at Jesus’ feet:
At the sight of her tears, and those of the Jews who followed her, Jesus said in great distress, with a sigh that came straight from the heart, ‘Where have you put him?’ They said, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept…
…still sighing, Jesus reached the tomb…… ‘Lazarus, here! Come out!...’Unbind him, let him go free.’
I can’t help but think of the many great sadnesses we face either personally, as a church, within families, as a community or indeed globally. I am conscious of those who speak with me with a sense of weeping. We are bound up in our own tombs and desire for someone to roll away the stone and to be called forth, to be set free. And yet, this reading reassures us that God (Jesus) knows our pain and despair, fully participating in our grief while offering redemption, the power of goodness over sin and death.
This reading is a foretaste of the journey we are about to undertake with Jesus through Holy Week. The paradox of our journey of faith is that we a called to suffer so that the manifestation of God’s glory can be revealed. I must admit this is hard to digest when the suffering is so real and raw.
I have shared with you previously, that since coming to the diocese and taking up the role of Vice Chancellor Pastoral Ministries, I begin my days with breakfast and the reading of The Newcastle Herald. So before heading into work on Saturday morning, 1st April, for the Diocesan Council for Ministry with Young People’s monthly meeting, I read the significant section of the Newcastle Herald devoted to Shine the Light and the last session of the Royal Commission.
Joanne McCarthy shared the following in an article titled “Restoring Public Faith”. She wrote:
In the article that started the Herald’s campaign I wrote that Australians had “lost faith in governments. We’ve lost faith in people in authority. We’ve lost faith in the politicians who purport to represent us. We’ve lost faith in the media. We’ve lost faith in the idea that everyone is equal before the law. And because of the child sex crisis, we’ve lost faith in faith itself”.
The royal commission has been about Australians restoring some of that faith by holding the powerful to account, and committing to change systems that have desperately failed so many.
It is not pride that I feel, but sadness, still.
For those who live with the consequences of this tragedy, and those overwhelmed by it and no longer with us, I only wish that none of it had ever happened.
I am certainly conscious of my own deep sadness and of the sadness of many who are struggling with the sense of being in the tomb and the desire to be set free. We long for a rational response to what has happened and many have walked away from the institution which had been the repository of their faith since birth. Many choose not to identify with any faith-based organisation because of the confusion that surrounds them.
And yet through the week I sat at the feet of a great Canon scholar, Fr Francis G Morrisey, OMI, Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Canon Law, Saint Paul University, Ottawa, Canada. He shared a great deal with us, but for this week I thought the following might provide you with some insight. He was speaking of the need not to change the texts of Canon Law but rather their interpretation and implementation. He was one of the advisors to the 1983 Code of Canon Law, a Code that still provides us with direction. I quote from the section on Resistance to Change:
In spite of Pope Francis’ renewed calls for reform and a new spirit in applying the needed changes, he notes there is continued opposition to his intentions.
In his address to the Roman Curia, December 22, 2016, he says this:
“In this process [of renewal], it is normal, and indeed healthy, to encounter difficulties, which in case of the reform, might present themselves as different types of resistance.
There can be cases of open resistance, often born of goodwill and sincere dialogue, and cases of hidden resistance, born of fearful or hardened hearts content with the empty rhetoric of “spiritual window-dressing” typical of those who say they are ready for change, yet want everything to remain as it was before.
There are also cases of malicious resistance, which spring up in misguided minds and comes to the fore when the devil inspires ill intentions (often cloaked in sheep’s clothing). This last kind of resistance hides behind words of self-justification and, often, accusation; it takes refuge in traditions, appearances, formalities, in the familiar, or else in a desire to make everything personal, failing to distinguish between the act, the actor and the action.”
Words to ponder as we consider eventual changes in our own life and ministry….
I wonder what resistance applies to each of us? He spoke of our need to read and interpret the words of Canon Law from the place of a spirit of service, and not power and control; to look towards the general principle and then to apply it to our local setting or role. Next week I hope to share with you some canons and the principles related to the exercise of authority in the Church. There is great wisdom for each of us.
I hope you enjoyed reading the messages from John Donnelly and Helene O’Neill over the past two weeks while I was on holidays. I am grateful for their generous sharing and for their respective roles in our church. They shared with you some of the ways we as the people of God are reaching out in faith, with the hope of supporting those on their faith journey or inviting others to come and see.
Allen’s and my time in Tasmania was truly wonderful. It is a beautiful place and its ancient landscape and waterways make it a very healing place to spend time.
I hope you might consider attending the annual Way of the Cross next Sunday at Kilaben Bay as it offers a very sacred way to begin Holy Week. Then I hope you might come to the Cathedral on Tuesday 11th April for the Chrism Mass. This certainly provides us with a great sense of being part of a Catholic Eucharistic community, whose members gather and are sent forth. Then will come time for you to gather in your parishes for the Triduum, reaching the climax of our faith with Easter Sunday.
May we continue to be drawn ever more deeply into the mystery of the Cross.