Steve Smith and David Warner at Easter

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Easter Homily by Fr Frank Brennan SJ at the churches of Adamaniby and Nimmitabel, Easter 2018.

Church at dawnWhat would it mean for any of us to be wishing Steve Smith and David Warner a happy and blessed Easter? There's a lot of jostling going on, as they and the suits front questions about who knew what, when. They know they have done wrong. They have been caught. They've been clean bowled on the pitch of public opinion. They will pay heavily for their wrong.

Would something like this have happened in the past? Who knows? What we do know is that they live in the same cultural and social context as we do. Many doubt that there are any fixed certainties in life like the good, the true and the beautiful. Everything is relative; everything has a price; everything has value depending only on the consequences. Whatever their wrongdoing, Smith and Warner are seeking forgiveness. They yearn for redemption. They wish all this had never happened. They want a fresh start. They're looking for Easter.

In John's gospel, there's quite a deal of jostling going on outside the tomb, and you might say, running between wickets. Mary Magdalene gets there first, sees the stone has been moved away and that Jesus is no longer there, but she does not go in to the tomb. Instead she runs to Simon Peter and the other disciple. The two disciples then run to the tomb. The other disciple gets there first but does not go in. With the jostling, John maintains what he heard — that Mary Magdalene got there first. But he does not make the evidence of resurrection dependent on the testimony of a woman, given the spirit of the age. John has the other disciple get there first so that he can attest authoritatively the state of play outside the tomb without any secondary account coming from the less than reliable Simon Peter.

John has Simon Peter as the first witness to the situation inside the tomb, maintaining Simon Peter's position of authority in the community of believers. Simon Peter then gets there, goes right into the tomb, and finds the cloths placed altogether differently from how they were placed when Lazarus was raised from the dead. Lazarus lay passive and dead. Jesus called him forth and told those at the tomb to unbind him and let him go free. Jesus has raised himself, and 'the cloth that had been on his head, this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself'. This is not the work of any robber stealing away the body of Jesus. This is not a simple repetition of the resurrection of the passive dead Lazarus. This is a fulfilment of the scripture that the Lord must rise (himself) from the dead.

The Anglican bishop and scripture scholar N. T. Wright has just published a superb biography of Paul in which he describes Paul's appearance at the Areopagus in Athens when Paul would have been on trial for peddling new dangerous ideas and challenging the Greeks for erecting temples to a variety of gods. Recalling that Socrates' crime was 'corrupting the youth and introducing foreign divinities', Wright concludes that Paul was taken to the Areopagus for trial because he seemed to be proclaiming foreign divinities. By proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus, Paul points to the many signposts for this fulfilment in the many teachings and many gods honoured at the Areopagus.

Wright says: 'Paul is not suggesting for a moment that one could start from those signposts and work one's way up to Jesus and the resurrection. But he is certainly suggesting that the puzzles and inconsistencies — the ignorances, in fact — within the world of Athenian and other pagan cultures functioned like signposts pointing into the dark, and that when the true God revealed his ultimate purposes for the world in Jesus's resurrection, one would then be able to see that this might be where the signposts had been pointing all along.'

For us Christians, the worldly searches for forgiveness and redemption, the heartfelt yearnings for a fresh start, and the all too human quests for the true, the good and the beautiful find their crystallisation and most integrated expression in the resurrection of Jesus.

We Christians not only believe that the good, the true and the beautiful are real, are meaningful, and are worth fighting for. But we believe even more than that. We believe that they ultimately triumph in the risen Jesus — good triumphs over evil; the truth triumphs over falsehood; and the beautiful triumphs over the ugly. Evil, falsehood and ugliness are all too prevalent in our world, in our lives, and in our own hearts. Here and now, they so often win the day.

But the resurrection of Jesus gives us hope of that fresh start, that redemption, and that new life. We share Paul's vision of what Wright calls 'a united and holy community, prayerful, rooted in the scriptural story of ancient Israel, facing social and political hostility but insisting on doing good to all people, especially the poor'. In the face of evil, falsehood and ugliness, we do not give up, even in the face of death. We believe that the good, the true and the beautiful will triumph ultimately as they did in that empty tomb with the ordered cloths and the jostling witnesses.

During Holy Week, Kristina Keneally delivered her maiden speech in the Senate. Like all politicians' speeches, there were aspects appealing only to those of a certain political persuasion. But you could hear a pin drop in the Senate chamber when all Senators regardless of their party-political affiliation sat respectfully and empathetically as Kristina told the chamber of her love for her husband Ben and how she dedicated all she did in public life to their two sons, before then disclosing the details about their daughter who was stillborn. Kristina said, 'Our daughter Caroline never drew breath, but she changed me forever. She enlarged my understanding of love and loss. She taught me to survive. She made me brave, almost fearless.' An Easter story of new life through death.

Also during this Holy Week, Cynthia Banham who had been a journalist in the Canberra press gallery published her autobiography A Certain Light. Cynthia had escaped the ill-fated Garuda flight in Yogyakarta 11 eleven years ago in which some other Australian journalists had died, including the wonderful, vivacious Liz O'Neill who had worked for me some years before. Cynthia lost both legs, had burns to 60 per cent of her body, and survived miraculously. She has since married. She and her husband have a son. She has completed a PhD and now published this first book.

She concludes the book with a reflection on a Father's Day picnic at Uriarra Crossing on the Murrumbidgee River when her son was three: 'as I held my boy against my chest with the remnants of our picnic about us, I told myself this was what I survived for, this was why it mattered that I did, even with my injuries. I felt the pure contentment of being with my husband, our son and our dog.' She concludes the book with these words: 'Maybe there was meaning in what happened to me after all. Maybe the lightness in the story that I couldn't always see was love, redeeming love.'

The lightness in our story is the Easter full moon rising over Nimmitabel as we prepare to celebrate the Easter vigil. This moon lights the way of possibility for a new beginning marked by forgiveness and redemption, where the true, the good and the beautiful can triumph. The deep blue of Lake Eucumbene at dusk speaks to us of new life as we prepare to celebrate mass in the Church at new Adaminaby knowing that the old Adaminaby lies submerged forever in the lake so that others might have life. The autumnal contrasts along the Monaro Highway speak to us of dying with the promise of new life.

Happy Easter to you and your loved ones wherever they may be and whatever they might believe about the possibility of the good, the true and the beautiful triumphing any time soon, or ever at all. Let's hope that Steve Smith and David Warner will one day enjoy another Easter and the fullness of its possibilities.

 

 

Frank BrennanFrank Brennan SJ is the CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia.

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Existing comments

We will probably never know the deepest inner thoughts of people trying to deal with murky situations, as with one senior Australian Catholic Church leader and one Australian cricket captain. The one, reportedly seeks to place blame anywhere but with himself and use an expensive legal team to intimidate complainants. It is hard for me to see Ressurection here. The other, reportedly accepted full responsibility to himself and the humiliating and perhaps harsh and hasty penance without appeal. Ressurection will follow.
John Casey | 05 April 2018


Let's trust the transforming power of God as we live the Resurrection story in our world today. May the Australian cricket captain and his deputy know Easter hope as they persevere through their difficulties, act with integrity and may that hope raise them from the dead every day, again and again and again.
Antoinette Doyle | 05 April 2018


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