Easter Morning Sermon
As those loyal women went to visit the tomb of Jesus, we can only imagine how desperately heart-broken they must have been. They found the tomb empty and their first reaction was shock and fear. They immediately tried to explain what they saw on a human level – who had stolen the body? But soon their fear blossomed into joy, a sense that something radically new had occurred.
Easter can sometimes seem a rather abstract celebration - even the popular images of Easter eggs and bunnies seem to have little connection with what we are actually celebrating. Resurrection itself is so far removed from human experience that we find it hard to understand. No wonder that, at different times in the Church’s history, Christians have focussed more on the crucified Christ than the risen one.
Today we celebrate a historical event, the Resurrection of Jesus. But we also celebrate an event that is still happening and has a very personal application. Thanks to our baptism we have been given the promise of eternal life; we struggle daily to overcome our faults, to escape the darkness of the world and live in the light, because we know that ultimately, if we choose to accept God’s offer, love is stronger than death .
Easter has a particular message at this strange time. When we kept Ash Wednesday who could have foretold that we’d be celebrating the Resurrection in this way? The lockdown has made life into a continual Lent, into one long Holy Saturday, where all seems empty and constrained. But, despite our anxiety, today at a very deep level, we are filled with hope. Let us not live these days of Easter as if we are still in Lent!
Indeed, with God’s help, we can make sure that this time is one of growth and, yes, resurrection. Many of the things that act as obstacles to our spiritual life have, at least momentarily, disappeared. Even if we feel busy we’re busy in a different way to usual. This is undoubtedly a tough period for us all - personally, emotionally, financially. But, from the perspective of faith, it is a time of opportunity.
As Fr Cantalamessa, the pope’s preacher, put it on Good Friday: ‘the pandemic...has abruptly roused us from the greatest danger individuals and humanity have always been susceptible to: the delusion of omnipotence.’ yes, ‘it took merely the smallest and most formless element of nature, a virus, to remind us that we are mortal, that military power and technology are not sufficient to save us.’ We’re not in control; suddenly we realise our vulnerability and our need for God.
‘The other positive fruit of the present health crisis,’ Fr Canatalmessa continued, ‘is the feeling of solidarity. When, in the memory of humanity, have the people of all nations ever felt themselves so united, so equal, so less in conflict than at this moment of pain?...We have forgotten about building walls. The virus knows no borders. In an instant it has broken down all the barriers and distinctions of race, nation, religion, wealth, and power.’ Let the sense of community and friendship, which we see at all levels (including that of the parish), continue beyond the lockdown!
Have you noticed how the stars seem clearer at night these days? Of course, there may be many reasons for this but part of it must be to do with the reduction in pollution and in flights. The air is clearer. And that acts as a symbol spiritually: God is close to us, let us rest in Him and remember that behind every painful cross is the light of Resurrection.