Here’s a reflection that I wrote for CatholicCare Sydney‘s staff newsletter.
I get a bit grumpy about Easter eggs appearing in the shops straight after Christmas. That’s how the retail cycle works, but the Christian calendar doesn’t jump straight from the joy of the birth of the Jesus to the hope of the Resurrection. I don’t think our personal or organizational lives are really like that either.
For Christians the birth of Jesus is a radical act of solidarity in which God becomes human. What a strong sign that every human being is important and has dignity and worth! The retail version of Christmas focuses on sentimental images of mother and child – not the young woman pregnant before marriage, struggling to find appropriate accommodation with her partner for the birth of their child, or the notion of God sharing in human experience. CatholicCare walks the path of Jesus, accompanying people through the ups and downs of being human.
After Christmas, the Church year follows the life of Jesus. The baby grows up! We hear the stories of his life and ministry, and learn about his attitudes, teachings and actions. We see how his identification with the poorest and most marginalized people, and the way he challenged the misuse of authority, lead powerful forces to want him dead. Sometimes our commitment to justice will not win us friends!
During the weeks of Lent, leading up to Easter, we reflect on what it means to follow Jesus. We try to put our lives in order and live our beliefs more fully. In a similar way, CatholicCare has regular processes to reflect on the alignment of the work being done with the vision, mission and values of the organization. Outcome measures and KPIs are not just bureaucratic distractions; they are tools that promote integrity and excellence in service.
During Holy Week, we accompany Jesus as he is tried, tortured and executed by an occupying power with the collusion of the religious authorities of his own people. We continue to see Jesus being crucified today in the suffering of the people whom we seek to serve. To skip straight from Christmas to Easter is to look away from, or gloss over, suffering and injustice. It is easier to look at the baby-in-a-manger Jesus than the crucified Jesus. CatholicCare doesn’t turn away from the difficult bits – it accompanies people through their life journeys.
In the course of your work I’m sure you have felt the emptiness, sense of hopelessness and uncertainty of Holy Saturday when is Jesus dead. There are times of desolation.
But the tomb is empty! Jesus is alive and active in a new way. Perhaps you see this in the transformations that people who participate in your programs make in their lives? This is what it means for CatholicCare to be an instrument of Christ’s liberating presence in the world.
Celebrating new life with Easter eggs has its place, and the time is nearly here! Choose organic fair trade Easter eggs for a stronger symbol of the fullness of life.