(Saint Bernardine’s Church, Regents Park: Sunday 7.30am & 9am)
31 March 2013
(Readings: Acts 10:34. 37-43; Ps 117; Col 3:1-4; Lk 24:1-12)
In our readings this morning we see a theme that helps us understand the meaning of resurrection. In the second reading, Saint Paul tells the Colossians: “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” In the Gospel, the angels ask the women who have come to Jesus’ tomb: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” For Christians, in the light of the resurrection, there is to be a new way of thinking; a whole new way of looking at the world.
After the power of God raises Jesus from the dead, there is now an incompatibility between Jesus and death.(1) Certainly Jesus is no stranger to suffering and death – having lived it himself – and Jesus is profoundly with those who suffer all sorts of death-dealing forces – but Jesus’ presence in the midst of suffering and death is precisely to redeem and ultimately to destroy those things: to break their stronghold and to give the promise of new life, to bring people to share his own risen life.
At the Mass to inaugurate his pontificate, Pope Francis made an appeal to the whole world, especially to all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life – but also to all men and women of good will. He urged, “Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world!” (2) He said that “Whenever human beings fail to live up to [their] responsibility [of being protectors of God’s gifts], whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened.”
This then is the challenge for all the baptized – all the followers of Christ: we are not to be discouraged by darkness that we discover in our lives, and in the life of the world; and we are certainly not to give in to a fatalism, that simply accepts – or worse, tolerates – evil that we find. No! We are to live the life of Christ, who came into the darkness of the world to bring LIGHT; we are to continue the mission of Jesus who entered into human suffering so that he could TRANSFORM it. Jesus brought RECONCILIATION where there had been estrangement; HEALING in the face of sickness. He destroyed death itself in his own body! This is what Easter is celebrating. This is what “setting our minds on heavenly things” is about. This is looking for Jesus among the living.
There is a sense, I think, that we can approach the Easter message with the same attitude that the apostles first had when the women came and told them that they believed that Jesus had risen again. The apostles didn’t believe them – they thought it was “an idle tale;” “nonsense” even.
We come year after year to celebrate holy Easter, and we might be tempted to say “not much seems to change!” Wars continue in various parts of our world, “children are starving to death, … familes [break up], refugees flee for their lives” (3) … the press is awash with bad news. “For many people, Easter is not a time of hope.”
This makes me pose the question, to wonder: perhaps we have not yet been converted enough to Easter faith. Have we allowed ourselves to be captured by Christ? Have we let his light so shine on us that we can then let his light shine through us to others?
In the Easter proclamation that was sung last night, we proclaim that the power of the Easter mystery “dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.”
Let’s pray as we offer Mass on this Easter morning that the Lord will open up our hearts and fill them with the power of his love – so that we can be agents of the life that Christ wants to bring – and to restore – to the world that was made through his hands.
Let us cast aside the omens of death and destruction: may they not accompany us into the future. May God help us to be people of hope, because Jesus is risen, he has truly risen!
(1) Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, SJ, Living God’s Word: Reflections on the Sunday Readings for Year C. Toronto, Novalis, 2012.
(2) Pope Francis, Homily at Mass for the beginning of the Petrine ministry, 19 March 2013, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/homilies/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130319_omelia-inizio-pontificato_en.html
(3) Malcolm McMahon, O.P., “Easter Sunday: New Harmony,” http://torch.op.org/preaching_sermon_item.php?sermon=5736