The following are the full versions of the Easter/Chrism messages from each bishop in New Zealand to the faithful.
Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn
Easter is THE great festival of the year for Christians everywhere.
Every Sunday is celebrated as a “little” Easter, but EASTER SUNDAY itself is the biggie!
• We prepare for the great Easter Festival during the 40 days of Lent.
• We celebrate it with an OCTAVE: for 8 days in a row we keep “Easter Sunday”.
Easter is too big to fit into just one day. Over these 8 days we read all the Gospel passages that record the EASTER APPEARANCES of Jesus after his Resurrection.
• And for 50 days till PENTECOST we keep the Easter season.
Every Easter we are challenged with the core mystery of the RESURRECTION.
Is it true, or is it not?
The FOUR GOSPELS tell us that Jesus died upon a cross around 3pm on the Friday before the Saturday Feast of PASSOVER.
His dead body was removed from the cross late on the Friday afternoon & placed hurriedly, before nightfall, in an unused tomb nearby.
Then early on the Sunday morning some women go to the tomb to anoint his body but find the tomb open and the body missing.
Then a number of his followers reported seeing him in person, still bearing the wounds of the cross, but now very much alive, but in a new & more dynamic way.
These appearances continue for 40 days till he reputedly ascends to the heavens but with the command to make disciples of all nations, and with the promise that he would remain with us always.
The big issue with EASTER: is it true, or is it not?
There have always been those who said the body was stolen & his disciples were deluded.
But on the other hand no one ever found his dead body, though many sought to do so.
In every generation there have always been a body of people who say, Yes, I believe.
Obviously I am one of those, and I stand alongside my parents, & Pope Francis, & Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and countless numbers of others through the ages.
Is the possibility of LIFE AFTER THIS LIFE so strange?
Jesus Himself used the example of a seed in nature: it is planted, & appears to die, but then new life emerges. It is as if NATURE ITSELF is saying: look around you!
Easter is a time to reflect on the deep mysteries of LIFE, & of DEATH.
Does LIFE have any meaning? Is DEATH ALL THERE IS? Do we continue to exist just for a time in the memories of those who knew us?
The Message of Easter is that JESUS STILL LIVES, & that we too are called to LIVE ETERNALLY in God’s presence.
I wish you & your family a very HAPPY EASTER.
Wellington Cardinal John Dew
With these words I wish Easter blessings to all readers of New Zealand Catholic.
The days of Holy Week and Easter are considered by the Church to be the most important days in the Church’s Liturgical Year. They are our most important days and therefore should be our holiest days. The celebrations of the Paschal Mystery, the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord cannot be anything else; they are the days when the gift of life in all its fullness was won for us through Jesus obedience to the Father. They are days we are meant to reflect on and pray deeply about, that is why we have such beautiful and meaningful ceremonies. We need, even after Easter, to find times to pray, to be still and contemplate, to think about what all the liturgies mean for us in our daily lives.
I hope we can all set aside time to pray and ponder. I believe that in our very busy world we need time more than ever before. A few days ago I discovered these words of Suzanne Aubert:
“Life is a journey by road. In the way we travel the dust is thick and shade is scarce. Let us know how to select the best place to halt to bathe our eyes, To shake off the dust that covers us, and to wash our sore feet.”
As I wish you Easter Blessings I pray that each of us will “select the best place to halt” so that we can be refreshed and renewed, and as we “Halt to bathe our eyes, shake off the dust and wash our sore feet” may we know Jesus in an even deeper way than we did before, may we know Him who is “the Resurrection and the Life.”
Dunedin Bishop Colin Campbell
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the Gospel of this radiant night of the Easter Vigil, we first meet the women who go to the tomb of Jesus with spices to anoint his body (cf.Lk24:1-3). They go to perform an act of compassion, a traditional act of affection and love for a dear departed person, just as we would. They had followed Jesus, They had listened to his words, they had felt understood by him in their dignity and they had accompanied him to the very end, to Calvary and to the moment when he was taken down from the cross. We can imagine their feelings as they make their way to the tomb: a certain sadness, sorrow that Jesus has left them, he had died, his life had come to an end. Life would now go on as before. Yet the women continued to feel love, the love for Jesus which now led them to his tomb. But at this point, something completely new and unexpected happens, something which upsets their hearts and their plans, something which will upset their whole life: they see the stone removed from before the tomb, they draw near and they do not find the Lord’s body. It is an event which leaves them perplexed, hesitant, full of questions: “What happened?”, “What is the meaning of all this?” (cf.Lk 24:4). Doesn’t the same thing happen to us when something completely new occurs in our everyday life? We stop short, we don’t understand, we don’t know what to do. Newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us, the newness which God asks of us. We are like the Apostles in the Gospel: often we would prefer to hold on to our own security, to stand in front of a tomb, to think about someone who has died, someone who ultimately lives on only as a memory, like the great historical figures from the past. We are afraid of God’s surprises; we are afraid of God’s surprises! He always surprises us!
Dear brothers and sisters, let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives! Are we often weary, disheartened and sad? Do we feel weighed down by our sins? Do we think that we won’t be able to cope? Let us not close our hearts, let us not lose confidence, let us never give up: there are no situations which God cannot change, there is no sin which he cannot forgive, if only we open ourselves to him.
But let us return to the Gospel, to the women and take one step further. They find the tomb empty, the body of Jesus is not there, something new has happened, but all this still doesn’t tell them anything certain: it raises questions; it leaves them confused, without offering an answer. And suddenly there are two men in dazzling clothes who say: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; but he has risen” (Lk 24:5-6). What was a simple act, done surely out of love – going to the tomb – has now turned into an event, a truly life-changing event. Nothing remains as it was before, not only in the lives of those women, but also in our own lives and in the history of mankind. Jesus is not dead, he has risen, he is alive! He does not simply return to life; rather he is life itself, because he is the Son of God, the living God (cf.Num 14:21-28; Deut 5:26; Josh 3:10). Jesus no longer belongs to the past, but lives in the present and is projected towards the future; he is the everlasting “today” of God. This is the newness of God appears to the women, the disciples and all of us as victory over sin, evil and death, over everything that crushes life and makes it seem less human. And this is a message meant for me and you, dear sister, dear brother, How often does Love have to tell us: Why do you look for the living among the dead? Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness… and that is where death is. That is not the place to look for the One who is alive!
Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now, you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.
Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe
It strikes me more and more that Easter is becoming the forgotten feast. Christmas still manages to draw huge numbers to Mass but Easter in New Zealand is becoming just a long holiday where there is just too much “Church stuff” that gets lost in the busyness and business of holidays.
In early 1993 I was in the old city of Jerusalem. It was the day before the Sabbath. The ancient narrow streets were packed with tourists, pilgrims and people shopping in preparation for the Sabbath. In the middle of the bustling crowd I heard this throb, throb, throb, and around the corner came this little Jerusalem City Council tractor and trailer. Despite the streets being packed, the crowd somehow managed to part, to allow the tractor through… a momentary interruption amongst the busyness. I wonder if it was like that when a Roman patrol took three men out to Calvary to be crucified on the preparation day before the Passover in a Jerusalem packed with pilgrims for the big festival. A few women followed… and one of his apostles made it to the crucifixion.
On the third day Mary of Magdalene came running back from the tomb to announce the Lord had risen. Peter and John went to the tomb, saw and believed, and then locked themselves back in their tomb of fear. And yet the risen Christ entered into their locked room, into the despair of the disciples walking to Emmaus. From what appeared dead he brought new life for he has conquered all.
In our time when there are so many voices wanting to bury or forget Christianity we are called to the faithfulness of Mary Magdalene, and to the joy of the disciples on the Emmaus Road. For Christ the Risen One walks among us and he will conquer the doubts and forgetfulness of our age for he has conquered all. Yes, you and I are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song!
May the Christ of Mercy rise in your heart and your family in these Easter days.
Palmerston North Bishop Charles Drennan
The very first words uttered directly to you, just after you were baptized with water, were these: “You have become a new creation” (Rite of Baptism, 99).
That dynamic of becoming, of newness, is never complete, or finished, in our own individual lives or in the life of the Church. Why? Not because we are busy but because the Holy Spirit is busy, in us. When you were baptized those gathered also prayed: loving God send your Holy Spirit to dwell within you (Rite of Baptism, 86). It is the Holy Spirit who makes the Church as a whole always new, with what the second Vatican Council described as “the freshness of youth” (LG, 4).
The great unity which this Chrism Mass celebrates is therefore not just a demonstration of our diocesan geography; it is an emboldening of our diocesan mission. You do represent areas and regions but more importantly each and every one of us here embodies a mission; we are aware in ourselves of a sense of becoming someone always new, with fresh insights into our faith, and so too we notice both ourselves and the Church – our parishes and their schools – evolving and growing.
Every year since becoming Bishop I have been moved by the wairua or spirit of this night. I’ve noticed how many parishes and pastoral areas are giving great thought in choosing who collects the sacred oils; a choice which reflects a growing enthusiasm for evangelization, a growing desire to pass on our gift of faith proactively to the next generation to our tamariki, mokupuna. Tonight an 8 year old boy from one parish will collect their oils because he was sponsor for a 6 year old in his class being baptized. And some parishes send an elderly couple because they are the wisdom figures – ngā pou, ngā kaumātua – from whom others draw the strength to go deeper, to go forth.
Our mission – Christ’s mission, to bring the good news to the poor, to set the downtrodden free, to live a year of justice of mercy – is not always easy. But nor is it necessarily daunting. I often say to myself, especially when I’m facing a difficulty or challenge, it’s the Holy Spirit’s work. Not as a cop out but because that is in fact how we, the Church, work: our becoming a new creation, our stepping forth, our contribution to evangelization is possible only because we grow and evolve within nothing less than the divine life of the Blessed Trinity itself. Seeing all you teenagers here tonight – marvellous – that incidentally is why Confirmation is so important. You are bestowed with gifts that are not Mum or Dad’s wish list for you, that are not your Principal’s set of goals for you, but are gifts of God’s very own life; enabling you to become sharers in that.
This sense of living our life within God’s life was already realized by the prophets of the Old Testament. We heard in the words of Isaiah tonight: the spirit of the Lord has been given to me, the Lord has anointed, and so I have come not with my own to do list but rather I have been sent and am always accompanied.
Some could say well if our future depends on the Holy Spirit can’t we slacken of a bit. It’s a fair enough observation. Yet, the opposite desire is what is true. Once we are relieved of any burden – thinking too much depends on me – we in fact are released, not randomly, but uplifted with energy to be collaborators with the Holy Spirit. So, any complacency would not so much be an indictment of ourselves as a hindrance to the transmission of the teaching, the life and the worship of the Church (cf. Dei Verbum, 8).
That mission, that work, involves us all. Where do you fit? There are many images of the Church; one of the most common is that of a boat or waka. And so, if the Holy Spirit is like the current of the waters on which we set forth then each one us has been gifted an oar with which to row. Or if the Church is like a basket – kete – then you too have a responsibility to weave the flax, the fabric, of our people – te muka tangata. And we are. Look around you. No one here is a spectator, everyone here is a participant, a contributor, to our beautiful iwi whakapono or community of faith.
A few weeks ago a new member of our Diocesan staff quizzed me at one of our regular staff meetings. He said, you’ve asked us to pray and to plan for growth. He said, I’ve never actually heard a Bishop say he expects statistical growth. So he added, why do you expect us to grow in number? It’s a good question. We Catholics perhaps are reticent about up front goals.
What do you think? Should we grow? Why? Here are three brief responses. Firstly Jesus himself said go forth and make disciples of all nations (cf. Mt 28:19). It is Jesus who wants and expects growth. Secondly, we lose credibility if we stop believing passionately – saying publically – that communities of faith are great and indeed necessary for ourselves and for our society. And lastly working – shepherding we might say – for growth is good for any organization or community; it keeps us on our toes and for us, growth introduces a gospel sourced, a Jesus stated, measure of pastoral accountability.
That healthy and holy desire for growth involves us all and so tonight I wish to thank the priests, school Principals, DRSs and other teachers, our catechists and parish workers, musicians and other volunteer ministers, who creatively with great focus and purpose have with many others too worked to weave us together as the Lord’s people.
Our resolution to strive in an unburdened hopeful manner for growth finds particular significance in tonight’s liturgy with our oil of Catechumens. This sacred oil of commitment – used especially for those preparing for baptism or becoming Catholic – reminds us that our faith evolves in stages. For many of us there have been times when our faith might have been dormant or luke warm. Yet here we are tonight. Someone, some experience, along our way has encouraged us, beckoned us forward, lifted us up, shown the door as open. Surely this is part of what Pope Francis is evoking this year as we live a holy year, a year of Jubilee, a year of Mercy a year of open doors, open hearts, open minds.
Mercy honours time, it does not demand instant perfection; mercy recognizes stages, it does not demand completion; mercy embraces sinners it does not chastise us; mercy is the opposite of hearts turned cold through scruples and petty formalities; for mercy is the human face of God which in Jesus brings us new growth and new life.
Indeed, we are a wondrous new creation. With hearts full of joy let us thank the Lord for the witness of each other and of those from where have come in our families, our schools, our parishes and communities. Amen.