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When despair and isolation gave way to hope and love PDF Print E-mail

Sunday 21 April 2019: Easter Sunday

The teaching of scripture is that he must rise from the dead

The Richmond Catholic Parish wish you and your family
a blessed, healthy and happy Easter!
May God bless you all!

Love springs eternal.  Image courtesy of pixabay.comMany paintings of Easter depict springtime: green grass, flowering shrubs, colourful birds and lush growth. That is understandable, because most painters were European and Easter is celebrated in the European spring. But it is not just a matter of timing. The stories of Jesus’ Resurrection in the Gospels also have the feeling of spring. On the sea the winds are still; the fire on the beach is kindled, not to warm frozen fishermen but to cook their breakfast; the tender meeting of Jesus with Mary Magdalene by the tomb is set in a garden; even the funereal upper room where the disciples are gathered springs to exuberant life when Jesus appears. The stories echo simplicity, play, community, joy, hope and affection – all the qualities that characterize life in the Garden of Eden before the Fall. The joy and companionship that Easter brings echoes the vitality and friendliness that on sunny spring days bring people out together.

Of course, we live through each of the seasons of the year and all the seasons of our lives, each with their own challenges. The point of Easter is to assure us that our hopes lie beyond all those seasons and beyond the youth and ageing of the world we live in. The discordance between the images of Easter and the experience of autumn in Australia actually sharpens the meaning of Easter for us. Easter represents our hope that even after the winter to which the year is heading greenness will return. The memory of Easter is food for a testing journey. It is about both memory and hope.

When engaged in accompanying vulnerable young people whose experience of life has sometimes been loveless and violent, as we are at Jesuit Social Services, we often need to renew our hope and to remember springtime. Their life can seem so hopeless that we can become locked into grief rather than filled with hope. But it is precisely the hints of Easter which we see in their lives that sustain us – their resilience, their refusal to surrender to despair, the memory of unexpected good time and the moments of connection that break through isolation and suspicion, the sudden hope that can be stirred by a friendship or by faithfulness.

The first Easter was about relationships and the change that comes when something new comes in as spring interrupts winter. It is like the first experience of being deeply loved for one’s own sake that a young person has. It is founded in the experience of the disciples at Easter when despair and isolation gave way to hope and love as they met the risen Jesus. It gives us the assurance that God loves us deeply and that nothing will be lost in our hopes and our lives in God’s future.

Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ

New Young Adult Parishioner's Group - Reminder

Connecting handsInterested in joining a weekly group where young adults can get together to share their faith, have a meal, biblical reflection, an excursion or all of these?  Other ideas also welcome.

As mentioned in this and last week's parish bulletin, the first group get-together will be a midday lunch on Sunday 28 April 2019.

For more details, contact one of our parishioners, Denis, after a Sunday 9:30am Mass or on This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Walking with Jesus on Palm Sunday PDF Print E-mail

Sunday 14 April 2019: Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord

Palm SundayAs we imagine the scene of the first Palm Sunday, we can’t miss the disconnection between what we see with our eyes and the high meaning it proclaims. We see a man seated precariously on a barrel-like ass, accompanied by a raggle-taggle group of bystanders waving green tree fronds, as he makes his way through the dust into town. What it means is that the King of Israel has arrived for his installation. This is dynastic history played as comedy.

This contrast between appearance and reality makes Palm Sunday the right day to remember people who have sought protection in Australia. They, too, have come to Australia in mockeries of boats and have tried to enter through its sea gates. They, too, have been captured on arrival and hung out in prisons in order to deter others.

As on the first Palm Sunday a handful of Catholics will gather this year to march with others through their city streets. In Melbourne they will include people from Jesuit Social Services and Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum. They will march under banners insisting that these people are human beings like ourselves and demand respect. As they did on the first Palm Sunday and have done for many years bystanders will stop to watch for a minute or two and pass on, perhaps moved to reflection, perhaps dismissive of such puny challenges to a powerful State.

Yet, year by year the marches continue, gathering people who are still seeking protection, their relatives, and people who are horrified that our fellow human beings are suffering so in the name of Australia.

For Christians who march Palm Sunday is a holy day. It expresses their belief that Jesus’ way lay through suffering, torture and death to the exuberant life in which we share. What began in the humanly comic scene on Palm Sunday and continued in the humanly serious and brutal business of Good Friday, concluded in the divine comedy of Easter Sunday and its victory over the forces of death-dealing.

The Palm Sunday celebrations and marches remind us that the story of Jesus’ life, death and rising does not remain in the past but continues to be a compass bearing for our lives today. It reminds us, too, that governments can treat human beings badly, can preside over their descent into mental illness, isolation and despair, but that they cannot deprive even the most neglected and unlikeable of people of their dignity as human beings, each of whom matters and is precious to God. It reminds us, too, that we are bound to one another and that all other persons’ suffering is also our own; that, just as Jesus shared the life and death of people who were disregarded and seen as expendable, so we are called to allow the pain and desperation of people who seek protection to touch us and to move us to stand with them.

At the Palm Sunday marches we may seem to be few, as were those who remained with Jesus during his Passion. In reality, however, we are many, linked with all those through history who have hungered and thirsted for justice and for freedom for those enchained.

In Catholic Churches on Palm Sunday we hold green branches. Green is the colour of the springtime growth and promise that follow the chill of winter. The Palm Sunday March is held during the winter of the spirit, but it expresses our hope that people left to rot will be freed and will live with us.

Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ | | Image courtesy of Hermanoleon Clipart

New Young Adult Parishioner's Group

Connecting handsOne of our parishioners, Denis, would like to start up a weekly group for the parish where young adults can get together to share their faith, have a meal, biblical reflection, an excursion or all of these.  Other ideas welcome.

Interested?  Contact Denis after a Sunday 9:30am Mass or on This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

The first meeting will be on Sunday 28 April 2019 for a midday lunch.

Connecting to Jesus in the centre PDF Print E-mail

Sunday 07 April 2019: Fifth Sunday of Lent

The bibleThe Lord has done great things for us

Pope Francis’ Intention for April is for doctors and their humanitarian collaborators in war zones who risk their lives to save the lives of others.

Jesus famously said he could not work miracles in Nazareth because a prophet is without honour in his own country. He preached and healed elsewhere. Pope Francis picked up this insight when he spoke of the Church as a field hospital. He calls on Catholics, and especially priests, to leave the comfort zone where we are surrounded by people who think alike. We are to sally out into no man’s land to share the life of people who are on the edges of faith and of church. The Pope’s intention for April expresses this spirit when he asks us to pray for doctors and their companions – nurses, refugee staff and so on – who risk their lives in places of violence. Their world is no man’s land; the field hospital is their home. In their work they share the fears of the local people and must face their own fears, often far from the support of families and the comforts they have left behind.

Good doctors do more than heal the body. They are people on to whom we can transfer the anxieties and desperation that go with living in dangerous and disease-ridden places. Even if we are fortunate enough not to need their services we feel security in knowing they are there if we need them. They are a light of security and civilisation in a dark and dangerous place. They are one of the pillars around which a community may be built. Many doctors, indeed, remain pillars of community even when the time of immediate danger has passed. Weary Dunlop, for example, was the moral centre of many Australia soldiers captured and sent to the Burma Railway, and remained a centre of hope when they returned to Australia burdened by their memories. Other doctors who gave years of their life to work in the precarious refugee camps at the Cambodian Border with Thailand returned with the people to Cambodia. There they served in hospitals to which the villagers came.

It is easy to take for granted volunteers who risk their safety and health in order to accompany people whose lives are under threat. We notice them only when war claims them as victims as they and their clinics are destroyed by hostile or ‘friendly’ fire. We see only their white coats and ignore their faces, losing sight of the hopes that brought them to the war zone, the people who love them and whom they love in a safer place, the pride or self-doubt they feel in their work, and the work they may have to do to calm their fears and to hang in. They are not isolated individuals. They bring with them a network of relationships which are thickened and enriched in the war zones. In Christian faith we are all linked with medical staff and the endangered people whom they serve through the communion of saints: the network of relationships that stretches through time and well as through place, in which Jesus Christ is the centre. Pope Francis’ intention this month asks us to make that connection alive in our minds and hearts.

Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ | Image courtesy of pixabay.com

Lent: A time to focus on what matters PDF Print E-mail

Sunday 31 March 2019: Fourth Sunday of Lent

Your brother here was dead and has come to life

CrucifixMost of the important and lasting customs are not planned but grow like Topsy. So if we want to understand all their strands and adapt them for our own times it helps to look back through their history. That is the case with Lent, too.

Initially Lent linked together a practice common in the ancient world and the Christian focus on Jesus death. The practice was fasting, which was part of Jewish religious life and also of many other religions and philosophies. People had found that the experience of fasting clears the mind, takes one out of the ordinary distractions and compensations of daily life, and encourages a focus on what matters deeply. As we dream of chocolate bars and snacks it also reveals our weakness and inconstancy. When we fast we wait until the end of fasting and the opening of the lolly jar. It is a humbling and purifying exercise that takes us out of our daily world and time.

The Christian focus on fasting was drawn from a saying of Jesus. When asked why his disciples did not fast Jesus said, ‘They do not fast while the bridegroom is with them. When he is taken away, then they will fast’. The early Christians understood that Jesus was taken away through his crucifixion, but returns in his Resurrection and at the end of time. So dedicated to fasting the day before the weekly Eucharist when they gathered to celebrate Jesus’ rising from the dead.

In later centuries Christians dedicated a special week and developed special liturgies to remember the Easter events of Jesus’ passion, death and rising. That led naturally to an extended time of fasting in preparation for it. The forty days given to the celebration recalled stories central to Christian faith: the forty years during which the Jews wandered before gaining entry into the promised land, and the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert before he was baptised and entered his public life of preaching.

The fasting took many forms, many of them very rigorous. Some Christians neither ate nor drank until a vegan meal at the end of the day. That must have been difficult for farm workers in the Middle East. They also developed concessions for illness and age, which have been so extended over the centuries that Western Christians no longer experience the effects of earlier fasting. The Muslim season of Ramadan offers the best parallel to the centrality and severity of the earlier Lenten fast and its focus on companionship and later feasting.

The deeper meaning of Lent and its fast, however, remains. It is a time for focusing on what matters, on allowing the death and rising of Jesus to become central in our lives, of waiting for God in prayer, and to turn our minds and hearts to these things as a community. It is a time for attending. The challenge for us is to make space in the busyness and routine of our daily lives for reflection.

Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ | Image courtesy of pixabay.com

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