Easter in dark times



Any number of things test the fortitude of people of faith. Relationships break, failures interrupt, and sometimes we feel keenly the inexorable nature of mortality. Easter, for me, has always been a time to sit in the brokenness of things, to absorb the dread and devastation that runs through the Triduum, and reel at the inexplicable sacrifice.

Crucifixion artworkCrushing humility might have characterised my experience in previous years. This year, I feel formless rage.

I don't think Easter is meant to be entirely comforting. For people of Christian faith, touching base with our belief in salvation offers certain assurances. The scenes that we memorialise have an air of inevitability; we know how they play out to Sunday. We perform a sadness that is finite.

This can keep us from remembering to be angry. Jesus was taken, tried, tortured and tied to a tree. The human drama of Easter — with its various betrayals, moments of audacity and doubt, the machinations in shadow — bears the sting of injustice. The central narrative of Christian faith is political. Choices were made by people in power. They are still being made.

The past several months has been an exercise in managing anger at thousands dead in the Philippines, sanctioned by a president who retains popularity.

I have never been blind to the faults of my people, but it is difficult now to recognise our country. I do not understand the depth of callousness, the disregard for hard-won democratic institutions, the toxicity that runs through public discourse. It is not an inevitable state of things. People in power make choices.

The past several years has also been an exercise in managing anger at hundreds of thousands dead and millions fled from Syria.

We now know it as an intractable, multilayered conflict that has left little of Syria to govern. To think that it started as a protest against corruption, state repression and high unemployment six years ago in the southern city of Deraa. Chains of devastation are wrought. People in power make choices.


"It is good to be sad about the things that go wrong because it means we can still tell wrong from right. But it is also good to be angry about them."


The past several years has been an exercise in managing anger at more than 4444 incidents of child sexual abuse within Catholic Church institutions, as recorded by the Royal Commission. The number of alleged perpetrators is 1880. It is no longer impossible to fathom how so many predators could set upon young children and be systematically protected by Church officials. People in power make choices.

In recent weeks, aerial surveys indicate that two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef is bleached, following back-to-back bleaching events as well as the recent cyclone. There has been almost no respite for coral, with mortality of up to 50 per cent in the central reefs. It is emblematic of a bleak future. I feel fear and frustration at the likely impacts of climate change over the course of my child's life. These would not have been unavoidable. People in power make choices.

Unlike our Easter observances, we do not know in real life whether things work out and how. It might be hard to see through Sunday; we feel subdued in darkness. It is good to be sad about the things that go wrong because it means we can still tell wrong from right. But it is also good to be angry about them, even a little, because it means we still hope that things can be made right in some way.


Fatima MeashamFatima Measham is a Eureka Street consulting editor. She co-hosts the ChatterSquare podcast, tweets as @foomeister and blogs on Medium.

Topic tags: Fatima Measham, Easter, Philippines, coal, climate change



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Powerful, poetic and prophetic prose! Thank you Fatima for your prayer for Easter!

Jim Slingsby | 12 April 2017  

Wonderful piece by Fatima. People in power make choices. People without power, but with a vision of the good, try in whatever ways we can to help inform those choices, to work for better outcomes. It is a never ending struggle but it is essential not to give way to cynicism and despair.

Tony Kevin | 13 April 2017  

Your poetically wistful, but angry piece didn't even get to the pathetic disaster unfolding in the USA right now, too. As David Horsey in The Los Angeles Times put it, “Donald Trump’s foreign policy and legislative agenda may be a confused mess,” but “his administration’s attack on the environment is operating with the focus and zeal of the Spanish Inquisition.” I fear for the whole world my children and grandchildren will have to live in. As you say, "People in power make choices". All power to you, Fatima.

Bill Venables | 13 April 2017  

Thank you Fatima. It is right that we should all feel outrage at the injustices and barbarity present in this world. It is also vital that we know that it is our responsibility to act in our times against all kinds of evil. The hope brought to us by the Resurrection though is a great light in all the darkness that enrages us. The infinite wisdom in the message of the Easter event is to wait a little while even when things are dark. It reminds us to be patient because, good will always triumph over evil, love will always conquer hate, and a life well lived, through which we work in whatever small way we can to help our fellow human beings, will always transcend death.

Martin Loney | 13 April 2017  

The Easter message is never one of doom and gloom, Fatima. It is Christ's choice, his message of Hope for Humanity, the essence of Christianity and Death's ultimate nemesis.

john frawley | 13 April 2017  

'Formless rage'. Wow. That's exactly it. As Thomas Cullinan once lasceratingly put it: "You can't love your enemies until you have (stuck your neck out and made) some."

Michael Furtado | 13 April 2017  

“People in power make choices.” Then God forgives them because Jesus tells him that they know not what they are doing, rather like the latecomer to the vineyard who receives a full day’s pay as an act of grace and favour to the chagrin of those who know themselves to have been worthier for longer. The chagrin itself, like the mind and body from which it issues, does not belong to the person, the soul only using a tenancy of various faculties from the Creator. It can be used only if it should be used. But when? How does one begin to respond to mystery? By coalescing around the lodestar of the magisterium, the Church being the pillar and foundation of the truth, the Bible only being true because the Church says it is true, and the Church being the orderly apostolic succession of shepherds leading a scouring of sheep in need of tutelage.

Roy Chen Yee | 13 April 2017  

That "the central narrative of Christian faith is political" is a bit Trotskyist. The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ certainly has a political dimension; more aptly and profoundly,though, it is a theological narrative. Happy Easter.

John | 13 April 2017  

We are living in end times. God will prevail over the sins and mortality of man kind. The time is near!.

Cam BEAR | 13 April 2017  

Because of our sense of lack of power we are entreated by our Lord Jesus to pray and as the old cliché says 'When you pray be prepared to be art of the answer to your prayer.' I often pray 'Lord what can I do about this situation that I am so concerned about. Some times with surprising results.

David | 13 April 2017  

Your passion fires-up your elegant prose, dear Fatima. Sadly, on this occasion you may be off mark. Jesus Christ, has been 'the Lamb slain' from and for the creation of our universe (many verses, but Revelation 13:8b and 1 Peter 1:20 make it clear). We may ask why?. Let's refer to Wikipedia's 'Genocide through history' to be aghast at what iniquities we human beings (all of us, given the situation) are capable of. Of course, The Holy Trinity and the whole Realm of God were always aware of this. The universe of space-time/energy-matter has always been the place where God in Christ would confront human wickedness; and, become The Way (no other)for any person - past, present, or future - to chose to escape from humanity's deadly limits. Our sweet, brave Jesus knew full well what He was doing: "The Father loves Me, because I lay down My life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from Me; I lay it down of My own free will, and as it is in My power to lay it down, so it is in My power to take it up again . " John 10:17/18 (JB).

Dr Marty Rice | 13 April 2017  

It's still Good Friday when injustice reigns and the task of prophecy is to cry out against it in just and creative anger. Thank you for leading us in this, Fatima.

Joan Seymour | 14 April 2017  

Inspiring Fatima, Yes we forget that the execution of Jesus was a political act by those in power who felt threatened by his message. Maybe this fact needs more empathises in our discourses on the Passion and Resurrection . Sadly we see, as you write ,many instances of people in power making choices to bolster their power and prestige. At present we are watching Trump flex his muscles against the despot in North Korea. With the use of a megga bomb to knock out a small splinter group of ISIS in Afghanistan.I read it as Trump's warning to North Korea just as Truman used the atomic bomb to awe Stalin. History repeats itself-why do we never learn?

Gavin | 15 April 2017  

With Fatima, Joan & Gavin am in total agreement that every follower of Christ will stand for justice & equity. Indeed, one pays a price (gladly) for doing this. As a daily pattern of life (that many who are not Catholics or Christians or Theists live by) this shouldn't conceal what Jesus Christ did: "Mine is not a kingdom of this world . . . My kingdom is not of this kind . . . I came into the world . . to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to My voice." John 18:36/37 "Do you think I cannot appeal to God who would promptly send more than 7,200 angels to My defence?" Matthew 26:53 With all deep respects, it's spiritually fatal to mistake this for a political stance - we'd loose the vitality of Christ's unique character & ministry. Trusting you'll be with me when I say that if we do it politically we'll lose both when we win and when we lose. If we do it Jesus' way, we'll win whether we win or lose. There's an eternity of difference . . .

Dr Marty Rice | 15 April 2017  

People in power make choices. Catholics for Renewal have recently an 'Open Letter to the Australian Catholic Bishops' to all Parish Priests, but will they pass it on to their parishioners as asked. The Open Letter states: " .... We ask each and every bishop to act now on these reforms: Eradicate the corrosive culture of clericalism – “an evil . . . in the Church” (Pope Francis). Become truly accountable with full involvement of the faithful, including diocesan pastoral councils, and diocesan assemblies or synods; with pastoral plans and annual diocesan reports. Appoint women to more senior diocesan positions, such as chancellor and delegate of bishops. Hold diocesan synods/assemblies in 2018, with deanery and parish listening sessions, to develop the agenda for the national 2020 Plenary Council; and as part of normal diocesan governance. Further remodel priestly formation, including ongoing development, assessment and registration. Reconcile publicly and fully with all the persons abused, their families and communities, and commit to just redress. Send an urgent delegation, including laity, to Pope Francis: urging him to purge child sexual abuse from the Church etc ..." Please go to the Catholics for Renewal website and sign the letter online.

Grant Allen | 16 April 2017  

Fatima, I too feel formless rage at politicians who behave unconscionably - those who are intent on opening new coal mines instead of quickly mitigating climate change; those who put desperate asylum seekers on off-shore 'hell-holes'; those who won't tackle negative gearing and make every effort to make housing more affordable; those who want to balance the budget ont the backs of the poor by cutting back on social services and overseas aid, etc. How can some of these politicians claim to be Christian? How can some of them sleep at night?

Grant Allen | 16 April 2017  

Dear Grant, in response to your: "How can some of these politicians claim to be Christian?" They could probably explain how their policies are the best, on balance, for the majority. Am sure you'd realise that both right and left, conservatives and liberals, capitalists and communists use this statement of yours against each other. Each political extreme tries to grab the moral high ground. It's simply the spin of a world making it's way along the broad and easy road. For nearly 2,000 years there's been a 3rd, narrow and difficult Way: that of living in submission to Christ's direction. This has never been something that's obtained by wishful thinking & sloganizing. As 1 Peter 1:13- has it: "Free your minds, then, of encumbrances; control them, and put your trust in nothing but the grace that will be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. Do not behave in the way that you liked to before you learnt the truth; make a habit of obedience: be holy in all you do . . ." Lack of faith in this gave rise to a politicization, historically so detrimental to Catholic community. Let's not keep repeating the same mistake, please.

Dr Marty Rice | 19 April 2017  

Well said Dr Marty Rice.

john frawley | 20 April 2017  

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