Easter Homily of Archbishop Michael: The Centrality of the Resurrection

Without the Resurrection, Jesus’ life would have been a total failure, all the more disappointing for it had promised so much. At the resurrection every moment of Jesus’ ministry takes on significant meaning. The Resurrection then is the keystone, that central rock without which the entire archway would collapse. We all tend to avoid, if possible, questions that are difficult and situations that are painful. The most serious difficulty that faced the early Christians to be that their leader died as an executed criminal on a cross. The early Church could not avoid that question. The early church however grasped this nettle firmly and told the story of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus from its earliest days. It did not sidestep the issue. Neither can we sidestep the issue because Christ’s passion continues today in the many people who are suffering: the unemployed, the families where there is violence and distrust, those in prison, the elderly who are forgotten and regarded as part of disposable society, those who have to leave their homeland through persecution, those who are despairing of hope.

The preface of Eucharist Prayer for Easter reads “by dying he destroyed our death; by rising he restored our life”. This is the central message of Easter, death is a conquered reality. Our liberation from death is a liberation which conditions everything else and opens the way to every constructive project which is lasting and full of hope for history and humanity.

On Easter morning we find the risen Jesus speaking to the woman at the tomb. His question to her is “who are you looking for?” This is a very significant question. Jesus began his public ministry with that question, which he presented to his would-be followers and now at the end of the Gospel he returns to those same words, “who are you looking for”? Meaning “you are looking for someone”. This is the fundamental question that the resurrection presents to us. You are looking for someone who will dry your tears, who will faithfully love you, who will save you. You may not know who you are looking for, but you are looking for your God.

This question is addressed to us on this Easter day. It is our opening of the tomb of our heart to the power of the living God. If we hear the question – if we challenge ourselves to respond to it – then we, too, will hear him call us by name as Jesus called the woman “Mary”.

The power of the Resurrection reaches into every place and into every time. Yet when we see people who continue to suffer, we feel defeated and tend to lose hope.

We live between the memory of Jesus’ resurrection which we recall and the future hope. Of course we experience the icy winds of cynicism, pessimism and negativity which threaten to extinguish the flame of hope and lock us into tombs without any future. In that sense our hope-filled faith in a God of life is quite difficult to sustain in that kind of world. Yet, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus we celebrate not just a past event on an April morning in the middle-East over 2,000 years ago; we are celebrating a victory that is on-going. We are celebrating a God, whose loving and life-giving power is at work among us today to bring new life out of death and transform dark tombs into places of hope. As we express our faith in the resurrection this does not mean that our difficulties disappear, but rather new light is thrown on all the situations with which we cope and we are encouraged and enabled to view them from another perspective.

Let us reflect for a moment on the women who went to the tomb of Jesus on that Easter morning. They went with very closed minds, with the intention of anointing a corpse and embalming the body of Jesus. Contrast the women’s journey away from the tomb that morning. They were taken completely by surprise by a God who shattered their expectations with new life and hope. That same God is at work in our lives today. Of course, our plans may not work out as we had expected but God’s plan for our lives is always more wonderful than our own. God continues to take us by surprise just as he took the woman who went to the tomb that Easter morning. The tomb of death has been transformed by God into the womb of new life. The women are the messengers of Easter hope. This Easter day the Lord empowers us to take a new path and be heralds of hope to our sisters and brothers and especially to those who are in danger of losing heart and hope.

A very happy and blessed Easter Season to you and all your loved ones on this special day!

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