TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Encounter with the Mystery

What a week it has been for those of us immersed in the many ceremonies that make up our Holy Week. Just over a week ago, my family welcomed Rowan Samuel into the family of the Catholic Church at his Baptism. It was a lovely celebration with the priest being attentive to Rowan and sharing in the joy of this sacrament. As he offered Rowan the candle with the words, “Receive the light of Christ”, Rowan reached out with enthusiasm, bringing great joy to those gathered to celebrate. I hope he always walks as a child of the Light.

We then moved into Palm Sunday, the Chrism Mass, The Lord’s Supper, The Passion of Our Lord and then the Easter Vigil. I am feeling overwhelmed by my encounter with the Mystery throughout all of the ceremonies, with so many powerful words of teaching, prayer and consolation along with the symbols and faith of those who gathered. On top of this, I was part of the Cathedral Choir, which sang at all of these amazing ceremonies, with most powerful and moving hymns. I usually find Holy Week to be emotionally and spiritually demanding, and this was even more so this year. I think as I get older, what we celebrate impacts more deeply into my being.  

Our faith invites us to go deeply into the continuous search for meaning and purpose of our lives, and the lives of all creation, and each year, particularly in Holy Week, provides the unveiling of this need to seek and to search. During the Easter Vigil at the Cathedral, we listened to the seven readings from the Hebrew Scriptures, accompanied by their respective psalms. Bishop Bill introduced these readings with the following words:

Dear brothers and sisters,
now that we have begun our solemn Vigil,
let us listen with quiet hearts to the Word of God.
Let us meditate on how God in times past saved his people
and in these, the last days, has sent us his Son
as our Redeemer.
Let us pray that our God may complete
this paschal work of salvation
by the fullness of redemption.

For this week’s message, I thought I would share with you some of the words that spoke to me from each of the readings in the hope that you too will gain some insight into the ongoing unfolding of God’s mystery in your life:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…… Thus heaven and earth were completed with all their array. On the seventh day, God completed the work he had been doing. He rested on the seventh day after all the work he had been doing. (Genesis 1:1-2:2)

God put Abraham to the test. ‘Abraham, Abraham,’ he called. ‘Here I am’ he replied…..because you have not refused me your son, your only son, I will shower blessings on you. I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore. (Genesis 22:1-18)

Israel witnessed the great act that the Lord had performed against the Egyptians, and the people venerated the Lord, they put their faith in the Lord and in Moses his servant. (Exodus 14:15-15:1)

So now I swear concerning my anger with you and the threats made against you; for the mountains may depart, the hills be shaken, but my love for you will never leave you and my covenant of peace with you will never be shaken, says the lord who takes pity on you. (Isaiah 54:5-14)

Seek the Lord while he is still to be found, call to him while he is still near. Let the wicked man abandon his way, the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn back to the Lord who will take pity on him, to our God who is rich in forgiving; for my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways not your ways – it is the Lord who speaks. Yes, the heavens are as high above earth as my ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:1-11)

Listen, Israel, to the commands that bring life; hear, and learn what knowledge means…..Because you have forsaken the fountain of wisdom. Had you walked in the way of God, you would have lived in peace for ever. Learn where knowledge is, where strength, where understanding, and so learn where length of days is, where life, where light of the eyes and where peace. But who has found out where she lives, who has entered her treasure house? (Baruch 3:9-15, 32-4:4)

I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead. I shall put my spirit in you, and make you keep my laws and sincerely respect my observances. You will live in the land which I gave your ancestors. You shall be my people and I will be your God. (Ezekiel 36:16-28)

Surely, this is just one snippet of the richness we have been granted over these days, and for this we proclaimed in song – Alleluia, Alleluia!!!

We have been granted release from the tomb that can bind us. And in the words of Richard Rohr from last week’s reflections on “Darkness of the Tomb”:

Jesus replaced the myth of redemptive violence with the truth of redemptive suffering. On the cross he showed us how to hold pain and let it transform us rather than project it elsewhere. I believe one of the greatest meanings of the crucifixion is the revelation of God’s presence in the midst of suffering. God suffers with us.

Even when we may feel alone and abandoned, as Jesus did on the cross—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)—we can trust that divine love is holding us. Thankfully, we know the end of the story from the beginning that after death comes resurrection, after injustice comes liberation, after wounding comes healing. But we can’t skip over the darkness of the tomb.

Anyone who enters into love, and through love experiences inextricable suffering and the fatality of death, enters into the history of the human God, for [their] forsakenness is lifted away from [them] in the forsakenness of Christ, and in this way [they] can continue to love, need not look away from the negative and from death, but can sustain death. [Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God (Harper & Row: 1974), 254]

The synoptic gospel accounts of the resurrection have the women experiencing an empty tomb with angels declaring to them not to be afraid, but that the one for whom they were looking had risen. They then declared this to the other disciples who thought it to be nonsense.

In our preparation for the Plenary Council of Australia may we hold the messages of this Easter season with us and share our faith and encounters with courage.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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