Dialog Box

17 April 2019

Easter: What can it mean?


Image courtesy of Michael Leunig.


I came across this Michael Leunig cartoon in the newspaper and it had much that resonated for me in terms of how we might want to think about the meaning of Easter.

Wherever we may sit on the “faith” spectrum, rest assured, the obligatory visit to the supermarket with shelves replete with Easter eggs, bunnies and hot cross buns ensures that we don’t miss the message, “Easter is here!”

We are a diverse community, whether we are thinking about community globally or locally. There is much that makes us distinct, unique. Celebrating difference is a vital part of what at the same time binds us. There is a unity in this rich diversity.

In this light, it is therefore a challenge to speak about a specifically Christian celebration such as Easter in a way that speaks to each of us. The commercial world likes to think it has it down pat; by commodifying Easter it can sell it to as broad an audience as possible!

I think however that there may be far more meaningful ways to tap into those universal human themes that Easter represents. Beginning with Ash Wednesday with the Lenten season culminating a month or so later in the three big days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, this Christian feast marks the completion of Jesus of Nazareth’s life and ministry in his suffering, crucifixion, death and resurrection. 

The really big themes of life and death, suffering and meaning, loss and redemption do have a profoundly universal resonance. On so many levels these tap into the very question of what it means to be truly human and, especially, to be a person in relationship with the other.

Some of the things around us locally and in the world more broadly can leave us confused, despondent even. The horrible violence witnessed in Christchurch New Zealand is indeed part of a much larger matrix of hate and racism. The never ending cycle of violence and destruction in the different parts of our global community can leave us not so much aghast but, rather, weary and disbelieving that it will ever be different. Closer to home, in a post Royal Commission world, we are left reeling in the aftermath of the revelation of catastrophic levels of institutionalised abuse of children. 

Is this it? As I ponder how to make sense of the negatives, the first thought is to somehow enumerate all the positive examples that can counter these. My intuition tells me however, that even if I were to make a start at listing all the “good stuff” about our world, the list will be pretty long! There is for me however a sense that drawing up lists and counter lists misses the point. 

Perhaps what is needed more today is the courage to articulate a “counter narrative”. Yes, there is pain and suffering, there is too kindness and generosity. Human existence can perhaps be better described as a complex and nuanced dialectic that embraces death and new life, suffering and redemption, the cross and resurrection – a kind of crucible that holds together in tension the extremes of human experience and out of which emerges that which is profoundly new and life giving. “I have come that you may have life”, Jesus said, “life in all its fullness”. (Jn 10:10)

As a part the CatholicCare community, we are called to embrace the more universal dimensions of this Easter season, that is, to humanise environments and relationships that have become dehumanising. St Oscar Romero*, in the face of the oppression of his fellow Salvadorans, reflected that

a community that can feel as its own all that is human 
and wants to embrace the pain,
the hope, 
the affliction
of all who suffer and feel joy, 
such a community will be truly Christ like.
And that depends on us.

As we reflect on the particular meaning that Easter may have for us, I wonder, what might our counter narrative look like? It may be helpful to return to Michael Leunig’s soulful piece in the hope that it may also resonate with you. 

What might be some of the ingredients of our very own “counter narrative”?

A pastoral reflection by Paul Zammit, Senior Manager of Pastoral Services, CatholicCare.


The CatholicCare Team would like to wish everyone and their families a very happy and safe Easter this year. Please note that we will be out of office from 12pm on Thursday 18 April until 9am Wednesday 24 April for the Easter period.

*Oscar Romero was Archbishop of San Salvador. He was assassinated on Monday March 24th 1980 as he was celebrating Mass in the chapel of the Divine Providence cancer hospital where he lived. He was declared a saint by Pope Francis on October 14th 2018. 

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