Friday 23 April 2021

A Continuing Hope

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, by Caravaggio (c. 1601–1602)

I hope you and your families have enjoyed the recent holidays and that you had the opportunity to spend some time reflecting upon the gift of Easter, the gift of God’s triumph over death and evil through the resurrection of Jesus, the Christ! We are continuing to journey through the Season of Easter, savouring the hope of the resurrection until we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost on 23 May, the coming of the Holy Spirit and the beginnings of the early Church.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have enjoyed engaging with the various resurrection appearances of Jesus: Peter and the beloved disciple at the empty tomb, Jesus conversing with Mary Magadalene and her joy when he calls her “Mary”, Jesus walking with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and how they recognised him in the breaking of the bread, and having breakfast with the disciples on the sea of Tiberias and his threefold question to Peter of “Do you love me?” paralleling the threefold denial of Peter. Each of us will have different favourite resurrection appearances and they will change over time, often depending on what is happening in our lives. My favourite resurrection appearance is Jesus appearing to Thomas, not because I bear the same name, but rather the example of Thomas can help each of us. It is normal to have doubts about our faith and the story of Thomas is designed to strengthen us with those final words of Jesus, “Blesses are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe”. This is each one of us.

The other aspect of this resurrection story that appeals to me is that the resurrected Jesus is recognised through his wounds. Each of us becomes wounded at various points in our life. The resurrected Jesus still bears the marks of his wounds, yet they have been transformed and are no longer weeping but rather are symbols of God’s love. It can be challenging to engage with our woundedness, though when we are able to do so, our wounds become the place where we most profoundly experience God’s love. Like the risen Christ, our wounds will always be part of us, however through the healing touch of Jesus, they can become sources of love and grace rather than hurt, pain, embarrassment and shame.

Three days after Easter, Fr Phil Crotty SJ, died aged 89. Fr Phil was an extraordinary Australian Jesuit who spent 48 years working as a missionary in Hazaribagh, India. He grew up in regional Victoria and entered the Jesuits in 1950. The next year the Australian Jesuits were given responsibility for a mission in India called Hazaribagh which is about 400km north-west of Kolkatta. Phil was missioned to Hazaribagh in 1952 as 20 year old. He undertook his philosophical and theological training in Pune and Kurseong and following his ordination to the priesthood he worked in Bhurkunda, a coal mining town and the beautiful Mahaudanr Valley before being appointed the Regional Superior of the Hazaribagh in the 1980s. Fr Phil was a master of the spiritual life and was able to mix easily with people from all walks in life, whether it be tribal villagers, steelworkers in Indian cities, government officials and people struggling with various issues in life.

In 2001, Fr Phil returned to Australia to work with Jesuit Mission. He was initially the Deputy Director based in Melbourne from 2001-2007 and then as the Director, based in Sydney until 2014. He was a member of the Jesuit Community attached to St Canice’s, Elizabeth Bay and then for the last six years he lived in the Jesuit Community at Lavender Bay, assisting with masses in Our Lady of the Way Parish especially at the Star of the Sea Church in Kirribilli. Over the last 20 years he has been a regular visitor to the College and instrumental in Jesuit Mission’s Indian Bazaar, which is held at the College towards the end of August or early September each year.

This year, Jesuit Mission is celebrating its 70th anniversary. Originally established to assist with the Hazaribagh Mission, in more recent decades it has also supported various Jesuit works in parts of Asia and Africa as well as India. Over 50 Australian and New Zealand Jesuits were missioned to Hazaribagh and what they have been able to achieve there is extraordinary. I have had the opportunity to visit Hazaribagh on five occasions and I was deeply moved by the genuine inculturation that they have pioneered in the region and the way in which they have proclaimed and lived a faith that does justice. Earlier this year, Fr Phil shared his reflections on 70 years of the mission to Hazaribagh which may be of interest to you: Reflections From Fr Phil.

Finally, many of you would be aware that Tropical Cyclone Seroja caused significant damage in Timor L’Este on Easter Sunday. Tragically 42 people died and an estimated 14,000 have been temporarily displaced, in a large part due to flash flooding. Jesuit Social Service is supporting many of these people with six informal evacuation centres in Hare and Dili. Jesuit Mission is supporting Jesuit Social Service in meeting the needs of people flowing from their displacement and the destruction of property. If you would like to know more about this, including the possibility of supporting the work of the Jesuits in East Timor in responding to this crisis please click here.

Wishing you all continuing Easter joy and hope.

Fr Tom Renshaw