Melbourne’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with some of the world’s longest social and economic lockdowns, affected every aspect of human life. For Catholics especially, in 2020 it meant the inability to enter into the liturgical celebration of Easter, the crowning liturgy of the year that celebrates the resurrection of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
In a new book, Streams of Light (2021), Dr Nigel Zimmermann has gathered together the 2020 Easter homilies preached in cathedrals around Australia for people to return to and reflect upon. All of these homilies radiate themes of exile and hope, darkness and light, doubt and faith. They draw upon the Scriptures and some of the richest biblical images to help Christians orient themselves in a fundamentally disorienting time of their lives. These homilies were spoken at a time when Australia was faced with great uncertainty, Zimmermann writes, when ‘the unknown challenged us profoundly, and we had to draw deep to find again the reasons for our hope.’
‘Pandemic or not,’ Zimmermann says, ‘Christ’s resurrection changes the whole course of our lives and gives them meaning.’ This collection of homilies reflects the ingenuity of Australian Bishops as they try to bring the hope and meaning of the resurrection into a time of profound darkness.
Archbishop Peter A Comensoli’s homily, for example, reflects on the nature of Christ’s voice as it calls to us by name. ‘It is not,’ the Archbishop said, ‘a voice to magically whisk us away to comfort and security, nor a voice that pretends there is no storm to ride through. It is, rather, the voice of the Risen One, who has known suffering and death and has tamed its power to overwhelm us …
Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead so as to show the world something marvellous and clever. His rising instead showed that suffering and death would no longer have the last word. ‘Easter’ is a word that has re-created the world, even in the midst of all its troubles.’
The homilies collected in this volume are equal parts bracing and inspiring, and they reflect the diversity of unique personalities that make up Australian Bishops. They remind us that the reason for Christian hope is essentially grounded in the resurrection, in the overcoming of death and suffering by the Author of life Himself. In a way that was, and is, much-needed, they also give concrete shape to Christian hope in troubled times.
Streams of Light can be purchased from St Paul's Publications.
Justin McLellan (CNS)26 February 2024
Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools (MACS)26 February 2024