Ed#428 An Easter Reflection

21 March 2013 Alan Attwood

Ed#428 An Easter Reflection

It is time to be frank and upfront. Despite the cover of this edition, there is more to this time of the year than chocolate. And, no, I don’t mean hot cross buns either (though I am rather fond of them). In fact, I’m not thinking of anything edible. My mind is on higher things. For this is the time of year when it is impossible to avoid religious questions. This year, Jewish Passover overlaps with Christian Easter; Greek Orthodox Easter comes a bit later. Even sporting codes accept that bumps and biffo must temporarily take a back seat. Well, some of them, that is. The AFL rather quaintly does not schedule games for Good Friday: Easter Sunday and Monday, yes; Good Friday, no. The NRL, by contrast, schedules not one but two games for Good Friday. Make of that what you will. In the US, Major League Baseball games are played on Good Friday; so too Premier League Football matches in England. But even those who may check in on some of those events tend to be conscious that the long Easter weekend has a religious basis.

Appropriately, the global Catholic Church has organised things so that believers approach Easter with a new spiritual leader, Pope Francis. I am not a Catholic, but I suspect I’m not alone in having rather enjoyed the pomp and ceremony and suspense and sheer theatre inherent in the election of a new pope. All the major elements required of an imposing spectacle were ticked off: interesting costumes (you’ve got to love those splashes of red); a strong sense of historic ritual; and a wonderful setting in the Sistine Chapel – only Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris could possibly top it. The result of the cardinals’ deliberations – a fifth-ballot vote that saw Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires become Pope, and then take the name ‘Francis’ – took almost everyone, including so-called Vatican ‘experts’, by surprise. The Argentinian cardinal’s age, 76, had caused most to discount his chances. Still, he is said to be a sprightly 76, and few would dispute that he made a promising start. In his first public appearances he demonstrated humility, a sense of humour and an apparent determination not to lose the common touch. Sharing transport with cardinals, checking out of accommodation himself, standing in line for breakfast… These are all little things in themselves, but they have sent shockwaves through the Vatican. There is already a sense that Pope Francis is more interested in people than pomp.

It may not last, of course. This Pope, like his predecessors, confronts a daunting array of problems facing the Catholic Church, ranging from sexual abuse to alarming declines in both numbers of priests and adherents. But as The Big Issue has been dealing with what we call ‘The Great Divide’, the broadening gap between the very rich and very poor, it is refreshing to see that the church’s new leader appears intent of maintaining the common touch. He now has a global pulpit from which to preach his message about leading a “church for the poor”. And there is, of course, much preaching at this time of the year, everywhere from Rome to, say, Renmark or Rooty Hill.

It is not a bad thing, every once in a while, to pause to consider some of the big questions in life and death and everything in between. Now is a good time to do it. Some may go to church to do so, although that is not a prerequisite for reflection. The hardest part is allowing yourself to do it, in your own way and time. There’s no need for hats or robes or coloured smoke – although feel free to adopt any, should they help focus the mind.

My only other tip is a simple one: not too much chocolate.