17 April 2022
Acts 10:34, 37-43 Col 3:1-4 John 20:1-9
‘Christ has turned all our sunsets into dawns’ (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, hatred or injustice. 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 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 understood the teaching of Scripture, that he must rise from the dead’ (Jn 20:9).
Coming to believe in the resurrection of Jesus can be a gradual discovery, as in the case of the disciples of Jesus, or a moment of sudden illumination as vividly portrayed by the poet, Denise Levertov, in her poem about the famous painting by Diego Velázquez, The Servant-Girl at Emmaus:
She listens, listens, holding
her breath. Surely that voice
is his – the one who had looked at her, once, across the crowd,
as no one ever had looked?
Had seen her? Had spoken as if to her?
Surely those hands were his,
taking the platter of bread from hers just now?
Hands he’d laid on the dying and made them well?
Surely that face —?
The man they’d crucified for sedition and blasphemy.
The man whose body disappeared from its tomb.
The man it was rumoured now some women had seen this morning, alive?
Those who had brought this stranger home to their table
don’t recognize yet with whom they sit.
But she in the kitchen, absently touching the wine jug she’s to take in,
a young black servant intently listening,
swings round and sees
the light around him
and is sure.
In this poem, Levertov highlights the intense focus and intent listening of the servant girl which triggers the moment of her recognition of the presence of the Risen Christ. Even though Jesus had spent far more time in the company of his disciples, teaching them by word and example, they did not understand his words and were slow to risen presence among them. For a long time they remained imprisoned by their fears and doubts. We, too, can be slow to believe in the Risen Christ present to us, to let go of our doubts and fears, and focus our lives on him. We need to imitate the intent listening to the Servant girl at Emmaus and let ‘the light around him’ illumine our lives, too.
Pope Francis reminds us in one of his Easter homilies, ‘Jesus is a specialist at turning our deaths into life, our mourning into dancing. With him, we too can experience a Pasch, that is, a Passover from self-centredness to communion, from desolation to consolation, from fear to confidence. Let us not keep our faces bowed to the ground in fear, but raise our eyes to the risen Jesus. His gaze fills us with hope, for it tells us that we are loved unfailingly, and that however much we make a mess of things, his love remains unchanged. This is the one, non-negotiable certitude we have in life: his love does not change. Let us ask ourselves: In my life, where am I looking? Am I gazing at graveyards, or looking for the Living One?’
On this Easter Sunday morning, let us rejoice and be glad because Christ our Lord is Risen. Death, and all that is negative within ourselves 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 made manifest in Christ – manifested supremely in his glorious resurrection from the dead. I wish each and every one of you a blessed, peaceful and joy-filled Easter!
Michael McCabe SMA, April 2022
To listen to an alternative Homily from Fr Tom Casey of the SMA Media Centre, Ndola, Zambia please click on the play button below.