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Promise of eternal life


With the coming of Pentecost we have now completed the Easter season. It is interesting that we seem to make less of an effort to engage in the Easter season than we do of the Lenten season.

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Is it because there are fewer things to do during Easter; that there are no stations of the Cross (what of the Stations of Light?); that there are no Lenten groups; that there are no penitential services; that there is less focus on the RCIA journey?

So might I ask, what did you learn this Easter season? How has your life changed because we have lived through the Easter season this year? Are you more joyful and renewed at the end of Easter than you were at the beginning?

Heaven knows there are enough things about which we can be fearful at the moment. I hope that Easter made us more hopeful.

Listening to the Gospels during the great 50 days of the Resurrection appearances during the early part of Easter and Jesus’ uncanny knack of turning up in those places of fear; of his accompanying the disciples toward hope and away from fear at Emmaus; or him confirming Peter in his love and restoring him to life and leadership; of being reminded that only Jesus is the true Good Shepherd, the true vine and we the branches; all the time reminding us that we shall never be alone, for the Spirit of truth will dwell within and will come and lead us into all truth.

All this is cumulative. Drawing our heart away from fear and into hope. None so more than the hope of eternal life. You could be forgiven these days for thinking that the present life is the only one there is. I was recently a guest at the South Australian Catholic Education Awards ceremony. There were 15 separate awards, each with a powerful story of witness and grace.

I was particularly struck by one of the responses given an award recipient when commenting on why he liked what he did. He said that he was inspired by St John Bosco’s simple hope for children and thus the goal of religious education was “that they be happy in this life and the next.” (forgive me if this is not an exact quote).

How often do we actually speak in such terms? And speak of both realities? We seem only to focus on this life and not so much on the next. Getting the balance right between the two is an art. As was once said, we can be so heavenly that we are no earthly good, and so earthly that we can be no heavenly good.

With debates around the country about voluntary assisted dying abounding, Easter reminds us that at baptism we are given the promise of life eternal, that where Jesus, who has conquered sin and death, has gone, we too have a dwelling forever.

We thus have an eternal horizon from which to make our choices. One of the fruits of Easter is that we ought to have a deeper appreciation of that gift given in baptism, that the seeds of eternal life have been sown in us and grow each day and each time we celebrate the Easter season.

While it deserves to better known, the Pentecost Sequence, known by its Latin name, Veni Sancte Spiritus (Come Holy Spirit) is always worth praying and remembering. It summarises Easter and allows us to live Easter all the year round. There are some rather dreary sung versions that exist, and there are some engaging ones. It is prayed after the second reading. Might I invite you to pray the Veni Sancte Spiritus  sequence often.

Holy Spirit, Lord of light,
From Thy clear celestial height
Thy pure beaming radiance give.

Come, Thou Father of the poor,
Come with treasures which endure,
Come, Thou Light of all that live.

Thou, of all consolers best,
Thou, the soul’s delightsome Guest,
Dost refreshing peace bestow.

Thou in toil art comfort sweet,
Pleasant coolness in the heat,
Solace in the midst of woe.

Light immortal, Light divine,
Visit Thou these hearts of Thine,
And our inmost being fill.

If Thou take Thy grace away,
Nothing pure in man will stay;
All his good is turned to ill.

Heal our wounds; our strength renew;
On our dryness pour Thy dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away.

Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.

Thou, on those who evermore
Thee confess and Thee adore,
In Thy sevenfold gifts descend:

Give them comfort when they die,
Give them life with Thee on high;
Give them joys that never end.

The abiding message of Easter is that it never ends. Every Sunday is a mini Easter. Here we see that God really is good, and that God is in charge, and we entrust our lives into the hands of the One who is Lord and Giver of Life.

We can use these 50 days to cultivate an Easter spirit that enables us to be truly Christian: embracing joy, living without fear, and seeing the world again—as if for the first time.

God is good, good indeed.

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