“If anyone has hurt us, if we think anyone owes us something, if we think anyone has done us wrong, Christ is ready to pay that debt in full,” said Somascan Religious Fr Chris de Sousa CRS to a crowded St Christopher’s parish in Holsworthy at the Veneration of the Cross on Friday 15 April.
“Let’s resolve on this Good Friday to be reconciled to God by reconciling today with anyone who owes us.”
Supported by parish priest Fr Mathew Veliyamkandathil CRS and visiting priest Fr Johnson Malayil CRS at St Joseph’s parish in Moorebank, this message of reconciliation and forgiveness was echoed at services over the course of the Easter Triduum.
At the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, a night which commemorates the establishment of the sacrament of Holy Communion, Fr Johnson Malayil CRS highlighted the importance of receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist.
“People always are told when they go on holidays to make sure that there is a place for them in a hotel,” said Fr Johnson during his homily.
“Do you want to book your place in heaven? You can do it free of cost. You don’t need any travel agents. You can do it only by receiving the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ.”
But in participating in this life-giving Sacrament, the visiting priest from India, stressed the need to receive Our Lord in a state of grace with a heart void of ill feelings.
It was a call to unity and forgiveness which was mirrored in the Holy Thursday ritual of the Washing of the Feet.
On Friday morning, parishioners at St Joseph’s were surprised by a dramatic reenactment of the Stations of the Cross by the Somascan Young Adults.
As Roman soldiers dragged a beaten down Jesus from his place at the foot of the altar, they led the crowds throughout the grounds of the adjacent school to the oval where the final stations of Our Lord’s Passion were emotionally depicted.
Somascan aspirant and young adult group member Michael Iezzi was chosen to be one of the Roman soldiers leading Christ to his crucifixion.
Michael said that playing this part helped him to engage more meaningfully with Christ’s passion.
“By experiencing the feeling of the cracking whip along with the pushing, manhandling and taunting, I was able to really grasp, in both a physical and spiritual way, how we crucify Christ every time we sin,” said Michael.
“I felt a deep sense of sorrow, and as weird as it may seem, confusion as well.
“Having the benefit of history and revelation of Christ’s resurrection, we know as Catholics how the Easter story plays out.
“But during the reenactment I was wondering, ‘How could these people do this to Christ? How could people be this sadistic and evil?’
“It was also a painful thing for me to realise that a normal man wouldn’t have been able to endure this torture, and that he endured it beyond human capability.”
As a carpenter by trade, Michael offered his time and skills to construct the Cross used for the crucifixion.
“Working with my hands is something I do everyday, it is often the case that I do not have an opportunity to offer even the most simple task as a prayer to God,” said Michael.
“Purposefully focusing on creating the tool of Christ’s saving death opened a floodgate of graces into my daily life of carpentry work. It allowed me to see not just this specific task as an offering to God but everything in my day to day life.”
After the Veneration of the Cross on Friday night, the youth of both parishes were invited to a showing of Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ at St Christopher’s school hall which has become a national Somascan tradition.
The Easter Vigil was truly the pinnacle of the Paschal Triduum as both parishes overflowed with flowers and filled with the angelic voices of their choirs.
“The liturgy, in its complexity, beauty and mystery, allowed for reflection on Christ’s triumph and was a most fitting way to enter into the Easter octave,” said Michael Iezzi.
“The immense joy of the Risen Christ, the defeat of death, and the opening of the gates of heaven, all things that filled me with a great trust and joy this Easter.”
During his homily at St Joseph’s, Fr Johnson spoke on the paradox of Christ’s defeat of death by dying and how it is a source of hope for us in life’s dark moments.
“The Resurrection of Jesus is a victory for each one of us,” said Fr Johnson.
“Despite my failure, the moment I go to confession that failure is erased and I’m still victorious because Jesus already has won on our behalf.
“Victory for us comes sometimes through what you think is defeat.
“Like in tonight’s third reading, it was the Red Sea which [Moses and the Israelites] thought was going to be their end and destruction that, because of God’s power, became a permanent protection.”
Fr Johnson concluded with the reassurance that when you “keep on forgiving others, keep on reconciling yourselves with others, keep renewing your relationship with your family, the peace of the Risen Lord will rest on you”.