MILITARY ORDINARY OF AUSTRALIA
Bishop of the Australian Military Services
RESURRECTION AND CERTAINTY IN THE FUTURE
As we approach Easter 2021 in Australia, we are very much aware of a sense of uneasiness and uncertainty that prevails. This uncertainty is experienced at many levels both as individuals and as a community.
For a little over a year now, we have been responding to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have become more aware of the restrictions to limit the spread of this infection. The need to be constantly alert to both the risk we may be to others and that others may be to us has become a fundamental factor that determines our decisions about how we should go about our lives. While we look forward to a time when the need for those restrictions eases we are still living with not knowing when that will be. This has become, for many, a fearful time.
There has been the experience of enduring and recovering from natural disasters like widespread bushfires, expansive drought, deluging rain and floods. In addition to the danger of harm and loss many immediately experienced, there are ongoing consequences for those affected. Even those not directly involved are moved by the awareness of the suffering of others.
Perhaps even more have become discouraged and even distressed by constant revelations about behaviours of some in those agencies and institutions upon which our social good order rests who have failed to measure up to our expectations.
What does this have to do with Easter? Everything!!
Our experience is, in many ways, not too unlike the experience of people in Jesus’ time. There too there was great uncertainty, economic hardship; disease and dispossession; loss of confidence in the religious/societal leadership; fear of those in control; disunity fuelled by gossip and the constant ‘put down’ of others; and, an inflammatory excitement to social unrest.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke each record a summary of Jesus acknowledging these matters and His indication that even more was to come. In those Gospels, this summary occurs just before Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, imprisonment, trial and execution. That tells us that Jesus wants His disciples to be prepared and not to lose faith or heart in the face of difficulties, uncertainties and uneasiness. His response is to “stay awake” – to be alert, and not to be discouraged because the Holy Spirit is the constant source of our insight about what is right and good, and of how we should respond. We must always be alert, take appropriate action, and persevere even when on the limit of endurance because we are to draw upon the constant Divine Presence of the Holy Spirit. That Presence is not mere theory or philosophy but is a personal, intimate and inexhaustible gift. That Presence is inspirational and affirming.
The one to demonstrate that was Jesus Himself. In His humanity, He underwent and endured all that was involved in His Passion and Death. When we read and think about those events, as we do during Holy Week leading up to Easter, we are very much aware of His human response. It seemed as though everything had been taken away from Him – family, friends, dignity, reputation, achievements, etc. – all had abandoned Him, and in human terms, it was the end. All that natural human response takes on a completely new dimension in His rising from the tomb. Jesus shares with each us a new life, one that inspires us to acknowledge and endure uncertainties, and one that assists us to move through all challenges with assurance because He is with us. Even when all seems to fail us Jesus, does not and that is the only thing that we can be sure about. That is what Easter is about – not merely celebrating (although we do that) Jesus risen from the dead – but a real connection with the One who accompanies us through everything here and now, and leads us into eternal life.
+Max L Davis