Saturday 27 April at St Mary’s Church, Northcote
Flags of Sri Lanka and the Holy See
In the Gospel we hear that the disciples were gathered in fear, and Jesus appears and reassures them with the words “peace be with you”.
His arrest, and subsequent journey to Calvary had been a brutal experience. The one they had followed, many for three years, had been humiliated, tortured, crucified. What had happened to the dream he shared with them?
They heard him preach and teach with authority, they witnessed his miracles and heard him proclaim his vision of the kingdom. He gave people hope and their lives meaning, and then it all came crashing down it seemed, with him nailed to a cross. They gathered afterwards, fearful, confused, afraid.
And then the stories began of how the tomb was found empty, of the women encountering the Risen Lord, of those on the road to Emmaus having their hearts opened, and now, in the midst of their fear and isolation, he appears and says to them, “Peace be with you!”.
And now, in Sri Lanka …. over 250 killed, more than 500 wounded. Individuals, families, communities, both in Sri Lanka and beyond bearing the burden of the senseless loss of a loved one.
We can imagine our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka gathering this day behind locked doors, lives traumatised, confused and fearful. How they need to hear the reassuring words of the Lord “peace be with you”! Our prayers and love go out to the people of Sri Lanka and they come to terms with the horrendous violence of Easter Sunday. I invite the Sri Lankans in our midst to stand …. we enfold you with our love and prayer at this time. Peace be with you.
We can rightly ask … How in God’s name, can people commit such atrocities, ‘in God’s name’?! For however we might refer to, or call God, surely we must hear the voice of God -the enraged voice of God – cry out “not in MY name!”.
It is a call to religious leaders, whatever our faith and tradition to speak up! Extremists and terrorists must not dictate or determine the relationship we have with people of other faiths and cultural backgrounds.
What sort of person causes such harm, can blow themselves up, can cause such hurt and pain? Destroying lives in houses of prayer and peace? St Anthony’s Shrine in Sri Lanka in particular was a place of inter-faith encounter, drawing people from all backgrounds into an encounter with the sacred.
As a nation we refuse to live in a culture of fear and suspicion. Fr Jude and I discussed whether we would wear the purple vestments of mourning or stay with the Easter white. Of course we choose the white and gold, not allowing the perpetrators of evil and hate to snuff out the hope, healing and reassuring joy of the resurrection.
We know that the blood of martyrs can be the seed bed of faith. We know that the light of Christ will burn brightly even on the darkest of days. We acknowledge the presence of Christ in those who gathered in fear and hear his voice, again and again reassure us “Peace be with you”.
We acknowledge the presence of Christ this Sunday in Sri Lanka where churches are in lockdown, as Catholics, instead of gathering in churches and in communities, listen to Mass broadcast from his chapel by the Cardinal Archbishop of Colomb. An Easter like no other! A Sunday in which we hear Christ say three times “Peace be with you!”.
We join them in solidarity and prayer as we gather this Sunday.
Let us be mindful too of our Christian brothers and sisters throughout the world who are amongst the most persecuted – in Syria, Iraq and Palestine – ancient Christian communities, of which there are now just a remnant.
Peace be with you … peace be with you … peace be with you!