Grief and Hope!

What Peace?!
April 13, 2024
Being Pruned?!
April 24, 2024
What Peace?!
April 13, 2024
Being Pruned?!
April 24, 2024

The stories emerging about the man who murdered six people at Bondi Junction just over a week ago, and the stabbing of two priests in an Assyrian Christian Orthodox Church service in Wakely, western Sydney has caused huge concern and debate and soul searching in our communities. 

Grief over the terrible events has been shared widely through the shedding of tears, the placing of flowers and the creation of a memorial, alongside the questions asked about ‘how could this happen?’  We each have our own personal reflections and responses to the failure of our communities to prevent such tragedies.  

People and the media have been quick to judge, have an opinion and decide what was right and wrong and who should be blamed, in some cases totally incorrectly.  A young police woman was left to kill a killer as a way to prevent further tragedy. 

Police responding to the attack in the church were overwhelmed by community grief and horror, and the tipping of concern into anger and mob violence drowning out our Christian message of love, hope and forgiveness.  It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to think about how Jesus ended up on a cross.

Parents and families have been left devastated, and broken mental health systems and the abuse caused by social media have been highlighted once again.

So how does this reflection of these two tragedies fit within our celebrations today of Mark the Evangelist and martyr, on this Holy Feast Day? Mark’s Gospel description (16:1-15) of the resurrection helps us step into the story in ways we might not usually consider. 

There are the women who remained consistently with Jesus throughout his ministry and right through to the end, so he wasn’t abandoned at any point in his crucifixion, burial and resurrection.   He had people who loved him all the way to his death and into his risen life, who were present at every step of the way.   The fact it was women who did this, has meant this consistent female presence and witness is often overlooked in the bigger narrative repeatedly and consistently told of abandonment, betrayal and denial by Jesus’ disciples and friends, ignoring the other facts of the stories. 

So, we know abandonment, denial, betrayal and doubt are not the whole story of humanity.  Instead, this is also a story of love, compassion, trust, enduring companionship and hope by God and Christ Jesus in humanity.  When we find ourselves in the darkest of places as many people do today, we can be assured God was, is and will always be present.   

And I wonder if we’ve overlooked similar aspects in these recent tragic events. 

We have seen all the love that has been poured out for those who were injured and for the innocent ones who were killed and injured.   We have seen the devastated love of the parents for their son who killed so many and their repeated apologies for his actions; parents who have had to accept all over again, the inability of our health systems to keep people safe, from themselves and others in spite of their best of intentions and hopes.  But they loved their broken and mentally ill son.  All of us have imagined what it would be like if that was our child, killed or killer, and have wept quietly at the grief of such a tragedy. 

We have seen the deep compassion of people who have asked for kindness, restoration of peace and prayer rather than violence, coming from all the neighbouring churches and faith traditions. Our Christian hope is for love, forgiveness and justice rather than revenge and hate being poured out in offering to the community.  

So, I am amazed, grateful and accept with relief, Jesus’ actions and words, as he points out with compassion and love, his trust for his disciples following his resurrection, and for us, as he welcomes us and meets us in all the places where we have failed God and ourselves and one another so profoundly.   It is in such brokenness that we are loved so compassionately. 

The trauma of our own failures is highlighted by Mark, evangelist and martyr, in the story of the first day of the new week as the women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome (Mark 16:1) brought spices to anoint the body of their beloved friend and teacher.  They had waited obediently until the Sabbath was over, and were determined to be there at the tomb very early on in the morning. 

The stone blocking the entrance to the tomb had been rolled away, much to their surprise and alarm.  Their fear overwhelms them as they listen to the young man, dressed in white telling them what has happened and repeating what Jesus had previously told them; Jesus has been raised, and they were to meet him in Galilee!  The different accounts of this story at the end of Mark’s gospel allow us to think through our own responses and imagine how the disciples and followers heard the news.

Mary Magdalene went to tell the others, who refused to believe her; they refused to believe the two who came back from Emmaus having met Jesus, and finally Jesus himself appears to the disciples, and:

He upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.  And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.’  (Mark 16:14b-15)

Mark is uncompromising about the failures of the disciples with their betrayal, abandonment and doubts about Jesus, and of Mary Magdalene who came to tell them what had happened; and still disbelieving even of the others who had encountered the risen Lord, because like Thomas, they can’t believe until they see.

Can we believe in God’s love without seeing?  Do we need to follow the rest of the community in judgement, despair, anger and outrage.  Are we choosing to take offence rather than to give love, compassion, forgiveness and hope?  We are being sent, like Mark, the evangelist, to go out to the whole world to spread the good news.  This is our calling!  It is even more important to do so today.

The Lord be with you.

Lucy Morris
Lucy Morris
Anglican Priest, International Speaker, Published Author, Social Justice Advocate and Activist.

Comments are closed.