From Good Friday to Easter Sunday - Easter Homily 2014

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From Good Friday to Easter Sunday

Easter Homily 2014

All seemed lost. His disciples were convinced that Jesus would lead them to a new and glorious future. They had felt invincible being around him. They had seen the huge crowds flocking to listen to him. They had witnessed extraordinary miracles. They had seen him stand up to the machinations of the Pharisees. They sensed a glorious future ahead. When he had spoken about his death, they could understand what he was saying and so dismissed the seriousness of it. There were too many hopeful signs of success.

Gethsemini shocked them. They were confused and bewildered. Then it got so much worse. Jesus, their master, was taken and crucified like a common criminal. They could not even bear to be seen there. They melted into the shadows, not knowing what to do. They had pinned their hopes on Jesus and he was now no longer there. They were without a leader, a point of reference. They had no sense of what would lie ahead. They huddled together shocked and stunned by the way things had gone.

No wonder that they were so slow to believe that he had risen. This was something incomprehensible to them. They were still caught up in their own shattered confidence. They could not comprehend that there still was a future linked to Jesus. For them he was gone. He was finished. The dream was now a nightmare.

Slowly the light began to dawn. Slowly they came out of their stupor. Little by little they began to embrace a new reality – Jesus had died, but he risen to a new and transformed life. He was taken from them, but he has come back – changed but absolutely real.

Easter only makes sense in the light of Good Friday. Mary Magdalene beheld the risen Lord in the Garden and the full extent of the wonder of that encounter was due to the fact that she had been there at the foot of the cross. She experienced the darkness of Calvary and now is overwhelmed by the light of the Risen Christ.

This is the Christian mystery: dying and rising. It is what we proclaim at every Mass after the Consecration. Christianity has at its heart the mystery of death and resurrection. Just as the Lord asks us to follow him in carrying a cross, so too the Lord draws us into new life. For the Christian living in union with Christ there is a constant interplay of death and life.

The crucifix is the main symbol of Christianity. However, it is not a testament to defeat, to failure and to death. Rather it is a testament to the victory of love, to the triumph of sacrifice and to restoration and new hope. The Christian is one who lives with a clear awareness that the darkness will not prevail, that evil will not succeed and that finally all will be restored in God.

However, such a view is not just a vague optimism or a Pollyanna approach to life's challenges. The Resurrection of Jesus announces that the victory has been won and is already being worked out.

As Christians we do not live under a burden of only beholding our Saviour dying on the cross, because we know that we are now in a living relationship with the One who is risen. His risen life now pulsates through us. God is accomplishing a new thing in the midst of signs of disintegration and destruction.

As Christians we look not to what are the signs of decay, but we look for the signs of new life. We look not at problems, but for their resolution. We look not for death, but for life. God, the author of life and the restorer of life, is at work. We only need the eyes to see. The eyes that do see are the eyes of faith. Our faith enables us to penetrate beyond the surface of things. Faith enables us to sense the purposes of God beyond human understanding. Faith enables us to have hope when the external signs all foster despair.

This takes on particular meaning at this moment in history. Many declare that Christianity has had its day. Pundits are regularly declaring that the Church is on a path of decline. The Church, however, is not the passive victim of societal pressures, because it has within it a vital principle of life: the Risen Lord. It is not caught in terminal decline.

The Church lives and will continue to live because Christ lives. The Church will rise up to new life because Christ has risen to new life. The Church will radiate light and truth because the risen Christ radiates light and truth. Christ is the inner dynamism of the Church. As Christ lives in the hearts of believers through faith so the Church will live and find new life and fruitfulness.

The Resurrection of Christ from the three days in the tomb is the declaration that death does not have the final say. His rising declares that light will break over the darkness as the dawn over the night.

We unashamedly call Jesus of Nazareth in his rising “Lord” and “Saviour”: Universal Lord and Saviour of mankind. It is in him that we place our hope. It is in his victory that we will be victorious. It is in and through his risen life that we will taste life.

The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the central tenet of our Catholic faith. In our faith in the Resurrection we live out our lives in the sure confidence that all will be well.

In a sense it is only when we have known a Good Friday that we can really come to know the wonder of Easter Sunday. It is only when we have known darkness that we appreciate the light. It is only when we have lost hope that we know the beauty of having confidence in our future.

Although we have not known it the Lord had been with us in our darkness and now he leads us into light. We were not aware that the Lord was with us in our confusion and uncertainty but he comes to reveal new hope and gives us his peace. In the midst of our lostness the Lord did not abandon us but in his time he came and brought us into clarity and sight.

Though we fail to realise the fact the Lord did not abandon us on Good Friday – though all the signs seem to suggest this. Yes, he did go away but only to return. He would return in a transformed and wonderful way. His return has taken us to a new place. We have been saved and lifted up.

The Lord is risen and we rise in him. Alleluia.

 

Archbishop Julian Porteous

Wednesday, 19 March 2014