'Glory awaits us because Christ is risen' - Easter Sunday

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > 'Glory awaits us because Christ is risen' - Easter Sunday

My brothers and sisters,

The Gospels recount a number of occasions when the Lord restored a dead person to life.

One instance was when the Lord was asked to come to heal a twelve-year-old daughter of a synagogue official who was desperately sick. On the way the Lord was told that the young girl had died. The synagogue official considered it too late but the Lord insisted on going to his house. He went into the room where the dead child lay and said, “Talitha koum!” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” And the girl sat up and he gave her back to her family suggesting that they give her something to eat. (Mt 9:18-26)

On another occasion the Lord was entering a village called Nain and at the time a funeral procession was coming out of the village. A young man, the only son of a woman who was a widow, had died. Jesus stopped the funeral procession and said, “Young man I say to you arise.” He sat up and began to talk. (Luke 7:11-17)

On another occasion Jesus learnt that his friend Lazarus was dying. Jesus, it seemed, often stayed with Lazarus, Martha and Mary who lived close to Jerusalem. He delayed arriving and Lazarus had been dead four days. Jesus asked where he was buried. He went to the tomb, asked for the stone to be rolled away, and then called out, “Lazarus, come out.” Lazarus came forth from the tomb.

These are remarkable stories showing the compassion and the power of our Lord Jesus Christ – that Jesus restored a person to life. However, it was a restoration of human life which would eventually have to encounter death again.

Today the Christian world celebrates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. However, his rising from the dead is totally different from those that he restored to life, because Jesus rose to a new and glorious life.

The stories concerning the risen Lord reveal key aspects of this new life to which Jesus has risen.

Firstly, it was a transformed existence. Jesus was no longer tied to space and time. He is able, on the evening of the day of his resurrection, to appear unexpectedly in the midst of his disciples in the Upper Room where the doors were closed.

Yet he is not a ghost. He asks them to give him something to eat. He was clearly bodily in nature. One week later he invites Thomas to put his hands into the wounds of the nails and spear. He is the same crucified Lord now carrying the marks of his crucifixion, but his human body was now in a glorified state. The body itself had not been discarded, as we heard today: when the disciples came, they found the tomb was empty.

At the same time, we can notice that even those who were closest to him, like Mary Magdalene and the disciples on the road to Emmaus, do not immediately recognise him. Somehow, while he is the same, he is also changed.

The resurrection of the Lord is a revelation not only of his new and glorified life, but it is also a revelation of what awaits each one of us. St Paul teaches in his first letter to the Corinthians, “Christ has been raised to life! And he makes us certain that others will also be raised to life. Just as we will die because of Adam, we will be raised to life because of Christ.” (I Cor 15:20-21)

My brothers and sisters, we can look forward to glory, and this realisation is the single most important source of our hope and a deep sense of the purpose and value of our life.
However, it doesn’t mean that we can then be complacent about this future which awaits us. St Paul reminded the Christians at Philippi that they must work out their salvation, as he says, “in fear and trembling”. (Phil 2:12)
Glory awaits us, but our destiny must be worked at. We dare not presume on God. We do not rest on our entitlements as a baptised Christian.

St John often reflected upon the glory that awaits the believer. He wrote in his first Letter: “See what great love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! …  Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 Jn 3:1-2)

But then he adds, “All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” So St John is urging his listeners to embrace the Christian life fully, and to strive for true holiness of life. When we contemplate what lies ahead of us, surely each of us are encouraged, inspired, indeed driven to want to live a life in Christ now. We are destined to be saints and here and now we want to live holy lives, united with God, living in Christ, empowered by the gift of the Holy Spirit.

St John, who was full of appreciation of what awaits him because of his faith, would urge his readers to shun anything that would hinder their life from being in full union with God. He writes, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God will live forever.” (1 Jn 2:14-17)

As Christians, we live in the world but we do not become of the world. Indeed, we desire to leave aside worldly ways, worldly temptations, and worldly satisfactions. Because these will all pass and they can never finally satisfy. We do not lower our eyes and only gaze on the attractions of this world, rather we lift our eyes – as we heard in the Second Reading this morning – we lift our eyes to the heavens and long for what awaits us there.

We fix our eyes on heavenly realities. We choose to live in union with Christ who becomes our way, our truth and our life. We are to live the human life, but we live it directed towards its higher destiny.

Heaven is too good to trifle with. What is in store for us is too wonderful to risk compromising ourselves by seeking cheap earthly joys. Our destiny is too great to risk it by patterns of sin and selfishness. We choose the glory of the resurrection and so we embrace the Christian life in its fullness.

We live now in the hope of heavenly glory and we work for it in lives devoted to our risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Sunday, 1 April 2018

To listen to an audio recording of the homily, click here: