Easter Sunday 2021
Acts 10:34, 37-43
‘Christ has turned all our sunsets into dawn’ (St Clement of Alexandria)
We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song. The Easter liturgy makes it clear that the centre piece of the great drama of salvation is the passage of Christ from death to new life. In Christ not only is death defeated but even our fallen condition has become no longer a curse but a cause of rejoicing. Because of Christ’s resurrection we can shout triumphantly in the words of the Exsultet: ‘O happy fault that brought us so glorious a Redeemer.’
In the first reading of today’s Eucharist, Peter makes it clear that Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead was the direct action of God: ‘God raised him to life and allowed him to be seen’ (Acts 10:38). The Resurrection is God the Father’s response to the Cross, his affirmation of everything that Jesus preached and did, everything for which he lived and died. It is the definitive answer of the Father to a world that sought to silence Jesus forever. It is the supreme manifestation of the power of God’s Love – a love that is stronger than death or hatred or injustice. It is the Father’s final, astounding reply to all our hesitant, faint-hearted, self-centred responses to his gracious initiatives. It is the final word between God and humanity in the dialogue of salvation: the great Amen of God, not just to humanity, but to all creation.
The second reading from St Paul’s Letter to the Colossians reminds us of what Jesus’ resurrection means for us, his disciples. Through baptism we died with Christ and came to share in his new, risen life. So ‘we must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand’ (Col 3:2).
The gospel passage from Saint John, recounts Mary of Magdala’s discovery of the empty tomb. She runs to tell Simon Peter and John (‘the other disciple’) who run to the tomb and, seeing for themselves that it contained only the burial cloths of Jesus, come to believe in his resurrection. Until that moment, John tells us, ‘they had failed to understand the teaching of Scripture, that he must rise from the dead’ (John 20:9).
There are different ways of coming to believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. The following story, which I came across some time ago, illustrates one of these ways.
The editor of a leading religious newspaper was walking along some cliffs near Eastbourne, England, one Easter morning. On his walk he met an old fisherman, and during their conversation together, the editor was struck by simple faith of the old fisherman in his risen Saviour. ‘How do you know that Christ is risen?’ he asked. ‘Sir,’ came the reply, ‘do you see those cottages near the cliffs? Well, Sir, sometimes when I am far out at sea I know that the sun is risen by the light that is reflected by yon cottage windows. How do I know that Christ is risen? Why, Sir, do I not see the light reflected from the face of some of my companions every day, and do I not feel the light of his glory in my own life? You may as well tell me that the sun is not risen when I see its reflected glory, as tell me that my Lord is not risen.’ This story echoes the memorable statement of the great second century theologian, Clement of Alexandria, on the significance of Christ’s resurrection: ‘Christ has turned all our sunsets into dawn’.
In one of his Easter homilies, Pope Francis encourages us to welcome the Risen Christ into our lives as a friend, with trust and confidence: ‘If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk. You won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for, and the strength to live as he would have you do.’
On this Easter Sunday we rejoice and are glad because we know that Christ is risen and that death, and all that is negative in us and in our world, has no longer any power over him. And, with him, we too are victorious, for now nothing can come between us and the love of God manifested in Christ – manifested supremely in his glorious resurrection from the dead. I wish each and every one of you a blessed and joyful Easter.
A blessed Easter to you and yours!
Fr Michael McCabe SMA, Cork