The Risen Lord walks with us - Easter Vigil Mass

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > The Risen Lord walks with us - Easter Vigil Mass

Tonight in this ancient ceremony the Church joyfully proclaims the resurrection of the Lord. The Easter Candle carried into the darkened church declares that Christ is the light that has scattered the darkness that has rested over humanity. Through our faith in Christ we know that we are children of light. It is our faith that enlightens our minds.

In the words of the Exsultet the Church sings of her joy in the risen Lord. “Rejoice,” it said, “let Mother Church rejoice.” It continued, “Let this holy building shake with joy.” The Church rises up in joy this night, and our hearts are raised up with her.

Tonight we declare our Christian faith: Jesus Christ our Lord is risen from the dead. He is risen indeed and triumphed over the ancient curse of sin and death. Our song is an exultant Alleluia. The Christian world lifts its voice in joyful proclamation at the wonder of the Resurrection of the Lord, and the joy and hope this brings to our lives and to all humanity.

The first Easter Sunday, though, was more muted. The tomb was discovered by the women to be empty. The women coming to embalm the body early on the first day of the week following the Sabbath were confused. The Apostles were incredulous on hearing the report from the women that the Lord had risen from the dead. St Luke mentions that when St Peter went to see the tomb and found it empty “he went home wondering at what had happened”.

When the Lord appeared to the Apostles on the Sunday evening they were still struggling to believe that it was indeed the risen Lord. St Luke records the Lord’s words to them, “Why are you troubled and why do questionings rise in your hearts?” They could not comprehend this extraordinary truth. Could this really be Jesus now risen in his earthly body?

He would show them his hands and side. He would offer to eat something. Yes, it is the same Jesus who had been crucified. Risen not to a spiritual existence, but in a glorified body.

Sometimes it is easier to accept bad news than to embrace good news. Sometimes, like the disciples, the experience of darkness and difficulty dulls our senses to the extent that we cannot see the light as it begins to dawn. When we have been burdened with failure or lost in a personal darkness, hope takes a longer time to rise in our hearts once again even when the danger passes. Our human experience of suffering can so dull our spirits that we begin to sense that there will never be joy or light again. We have been consigned to pain and misery.

The faithful of the Catholic Church in Australia have been hit again and again by bad news concerning the Church. Like the disciples we can sense that the Lord has been taken from us and we have been abandoned. For many in the Church there seems so little to cling to. Joy and hope have been drained from our hearts. We can see no possible way out.

We are like the Apostles on Holy Saturday, stunned and uncertain. In this state of mind it is difficult to lift our hearts in confident hope. Yet our faith declares that Christ has indeed conquered the darkness that can enshroud human life. A victory has been won, light has won, truth has won, love has won, mercy has won, even if its reality is hard to see and even harder to embrace.

This Easter as we sing our hymns of joyful exultation let us allow our hearts to follow our voices. In the end our faith is not grounded in our experiences but it is founded in our trust in Christ.

We can be reassured that the risen Christ still walks with us, as he did for the two downcast disciples on the road to Emmaus on that first Easter Sunday. They did not recognise who he was as he spoke to them on the road. It was the risen Christ who chose to join them on their journey from Jerusalem. They had lost all hope. Their dreams were shattered. Jesus, the risen Lord, simply engaged in conversation with them. This conversation lifted their spirits and afterwards they commented, “Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road?”

The Risen Christ is with us. He is with his Church. Right now he may be an unknown presence in our midst. But He is there, walking by our side even though we do not recognise him.

May each of us this Easter find our hearts stirred and enflamed as we realise that the risen Christ is indeed with us as we walk amid our own darkness. He is risen and all will be well.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Saturday, 20 April 2019