The Most Revd James Ayong
Now is the judgment of this world, Now shall the ruler of this world be cast out. John 12:31
Today, I simply want to give my Easter message in the form of reflection on the above paradoxical statement of our risen Lord and Saviour, in the context of the current situation of our Nation, as encouragement to all Christians in Papua New Guinea.
This paradoxical, or seemingly self-contradictory statement of Jesus, capping a week of paradox that capped a life of paradox, must have seemed stunningly inaccurate at the time. It certainly did not look like the ruler of the world was being cast out - it looked like the ruler of the world was winning a resounding victory. Certainly, it looked like that to Jesus' friends: the end of a dream, the utter failure of their hope for the kingdom of God on earth. They would not have said things were finally coming together at that moment. They would have said that things were coming apart.
This is the paradox of our faith. We must remember that John wrote among a people already beginning to experience persecution. He knew of their sorrow, of the difficulties of their situation, the terrible challenges to their faith. But, he also knew that God moves most powerfully in the human situations that seem most hopeless. When does the flame of faith burn most brightly in the human heart? Is it during easy times, the times when everything goes smoothly and without incident? Is it not true that we see the face of Jesus Christ most clearly at the times when we most need to see Him? We look for Jesus when the world is especially cruel and He does not fail to reveal Himself to us. The early Church used to say that the blood of its martyrs was the seed of its growth, and we are here at this point in time today, because what the early Church said was true. God adds to us the strength we need.
The most important thing that we can give to those committed to our care is the example of Christian courage that we set for them. Let them see Jesus: let them see leaders who value faith so highly that we are glad to sacrifice for it, whose hope is so lively - no power on earth can wreck it. If this is your legacy to those in your communities, they will have all they need to live and to grow into the full stature of Christ, whatever happens to them in the world.
In the lives of our leaders and in our own lives, this is the way it is: the life of faith always skates perilously near the edge of failures and frequently tumbles into the abyss. The broad avenues of success and respect are ordinarily not the paths along which God leads us. We are called to a more dangerous walk: straight into the mouth of evil, straight into confrontation with the worst the world can do to the children of God.
"Pray for us now and at the hour of our death", we beg the saints, because we know that the moment of danger is a holy moment, a moment over which the spirit hovers lovingly. As Christians in our own country, we are witnesses for truth, equality and justice in our own Nation. We must assert the claim of justice, equality and truth against the merchants of corruption and injustice, serve those who are in need in the world of the rich, who are becoming even richer, honour the spirit in a world addicted to the desires of the flesh. Such a set of values is not a recipe for worldly success and, very often the people of God do not succeed, at least in the eyes of the world.
In our day, we share with our brothers and sisters who taste worldly failures - in so many countries where the faith is persecuted. The last hundred years have seen more religious persecution than in all the earlier centuries combined, and earlier centuries are so famous for their holy martyrs. If we do not share the pain of worldly failure when it comes to one part of our Nation, if we abandon one another, each to our own local needs and challenges, we lose the gift of paradox, which is God's primary way of interacting with the human condition. We cannot know the risen Christ if we shrink from the crucified Christ.