Bishop Bill Wright: Easter Message 2018

In the past, I have sometimes at Easter written as a Christian to Christians, sometimes to the broader community. On the latter occasions, I’ve tried to find meanings in the Easter celebration for those who don’t believe in Christ, such as the value in coming together as families, celebrating hopefulness in a generalised sort of way or even just taking the opportunity for refreshment that a few days off can afford us. This year, looking around at our nation, I feel I have to try to speak to the community about what the Christians are on about at Easter, what it means to us.

The first and most vital idea for Christians is that human life is not just ‘one darn thing after another and then we die’. I don’t know how many people really live with that bleak a view of things, but it is almost a convention to give it out as your opinion in the media, on talk show and in skinny latte circles. People like to think that they are not deluding themselves with ‘pie in the sky’, that they are being courageously rational in facing up to their own use-by date and inevitable extinction. Fair enough, nobody wants to live a delusion, far less brainwashed by the church into doing so.

Christians, however, don’t find that believing in resurrection is irrational. The Resurrection of Jesus is a fairly well attested event by the standards of things that happened millennia ago. It was written about while people who saw him die were still around to tell the tale. And those who said they experienced him alive again after his death were not expecting to do so, their religious traditions and ideas did not include expecting to see a dead man alive. A ghost, maybe, or an on-going semi-life in Hades, but not the sort of experience of Jesus that they said they had. That was unexpected. It changed their lives, and they were prepared to die rather than deny what they had seen. And in any case, supposing they had been making it all up, why not tell the story more convincingly? Why leave in all those bits about not recognising him, not believing it, not understanding?

So, yes, Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead. They not only believe that as a bit of history, however, they believe that this means that he is alive to this day. And the thing about that is that many of the people walking the streets with you believe, as countless millions have believed down the centuries, that they too have had some sort of personal encounter with Jesus that has changed their lives forever. Now this really is cloud cuckoo land to the sceptics, and the believers readily concede that they can’t prove it to anyone’s satisfaction but their own. Still, they know the times when they have prayed and felt nothing and how different it is to be suddenly conscious of the ‘other’ being with them. Most people will tell you that it’s a rare experience, but you won’t convince them that it didn’t happen.

So, Easter is about believing that human lives really do matter. We are capable of being resurrected, we seen that. So, rich or poor, celebrity or not, remembered for centuries or quickly forgotten by the great world, human beings matter. The sick and the old matter. The refugees and the oppressed matter. The unborn and the dying matter. And what we do in life matters because our way of being human makes us who we are and who we will be when the chemicals break down and the bones turn to dust. It’s not a ‘pie in the sky’ theory that makes what happens in this world unimportant. Our belief commits us to living every moment as part of a much bigger story of the importance of goodness, truth, justice, humanity and faithfulness. Living such a life, Jesus was still a man who could most assuredly die. But, in God’s world, such people do not remain dead.

Bishop Bill Wright Image
Bishop Bill Wright

Most Reverend William (Bill) Wright is the eighth Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and is the pastoral leader of more than 150,000 Catholics in the region.