Easter is a time for being reminded that hope can spring up and new life can grow in apparently barren places, reflects ANDY HAMILTON SJ.
In many nations with a Christian history the most delicious recipes are those designed for Easter. Particularly the sweets. That is understandable. When Lent was a time of fasting its conclusion at Easter was a time to celebrate with lots of good food. As Eid still is in Muslim communities which celebrate the end of Ramadan. The move from fast to feast among Christians, however, also echoes Jesus’ sombre last journey to Jerusalem which ended with despair for his followers at his tortured death on the cross. This was then upended by their joy and amazement when he rose from the dead and appeared to them.
In a secular society the fasting that preceded Easter has disappeared. But Easter remains a time of celebration. Celebrations always recognise happy times and happy events, often marking the end of hard times. They also express our hope for the future – that a child baptised or circumcised will live happily and fruitfully, that a family whose matriarch has just died will continue to stay close even after her death, that a peace signed at the end of war will mark the end of all wars. Often these celebrations represent hope against hope. All the evidence may point otherwise.
The celebration of Easter this year may also seem to summon an unlikely hope. Climate change, the beating of the drums of war around the world and in Australia, debt, inflation and the powerlessness of Governments to address such large issues point more to a nailed down coffin than to a tomb found empty and tended by angels. And yet we hope that goodness will triumph over evil, that life will prove stronger than death, that our nation and world will see that the security of each of us is bound up in the service of one another.
At Jesuit Social Services this year we see small signs of thaw amidst the ice of daily news. It seems likely that the Victorian Government will soon raise the age of criminal responsibility, so that children who have behaved unsociably will be seen as children and not as criminals. The Referendum on The Indigenous Voice to Parliament, too, marks the recognition that the First Australians have a unique place in Australia and that they must be consulted about legislation that concerns them.
That is the message of Easter: that hope can spring up and new life can grow in apparently barren places. It is a time for light hearts and for companionship.