Homily by Father Alex McAllister SDS
We celebrate today the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ which is, without a doubt, the most important feast in the Christian Year. It is the anniversary of the greatest event that ever happened. It is a day of immense joy; all the more so because it comes after the long period of Lenten preparation.
We read in the Gospel of John this morning how Mary of Magdala discovered the tomb to be empty and how she ran as quickly as she could to inform Peter and John that the body of Jesus was missing.
It is important to avoid confusion and be very clear who this Mary Magdalene actually is. Mary was a common name at the time and Mary Magdalene is often confused with the repentant prostitute who anointed Jesus' feet and wiped them with her hair and who doesn’t have her name recorded in the Gospels.
The Mary we are talking about is the woman who, it is said, had seven demons driven out of her. She became a prominent disciple of Jesus and was among those who provided for Jesus and the Apostles out of their own resources, so she must have been a woman of some substance. We know that she was among the select group who were there when Jesus died on the Cross and it is evident that she had a deep love for the Lord and had spent a lot of time with him.
It is interesting to note, however, that Mary Magdalene, despite being a very close follower of Jesus, does not immediately realise when she saw the empty tomb that Jesus had risen from the dead. She says, ‘We don’t know where they have put him.’ This suggests that she thinks that some people, presumably with the approval of authorities, have removed the body from the tomb and placed it somewhere else.
The first to believe that Jesus has actually risen is, of course, John and then Peter immediately afterwards. Neither of them seems to have any difficulty in understanding what has happened. What this shows is that, despite being her being a close follower of Jesus, and presumably therefore hearing his teaching at some length and despite the fact that on a number of occasions Jesus had predicted he would rise from the dead, she still has difficulty believing in the fact of the resurrection.
In this I suppose she is not so different from many of us today. We recite the creed and we openly profess our faith in the resurrection every Sunday, but that does not mean that we have fully appreciated the consequences of the resurrection. It does not necessarily mean that this belief has taken deep root in us.
Most of us, in the course of our lives, will have witnessed death a number of times, we will surely have suffered bereavement and certainly we will have witnessed the mourning many other people around us have experienced. We may even have been present when someone we love has died. We have surely at that moment prayed that they will go to heaven and that they will be at peace with God for all eternity. The question is whether we truly believe it.
And what about ourselves? Despite these experiences of death, we may still experience deep doubts about what will happen to us when we die. We may well be very afraid of death and regard it as something mysterious and unknown and perhaps a thing which we deeply dread. The very thought of death can fill us with a profound anxiety.
And in this we are not alone, many people in society at large are also extremely fearful of the power of death. The widespread denial of the reality of death is pervasive in modern day culture and the obvious reason for this is that death is something the people of today cannot face up to.
What we need to do is to fully embrace the Easter story. What we need to do is to realise that the Apostles were telling the truth, and understand that Christ has broken through the barrier of dearth once and for all. What we need to do is to understand that death is not the end but rather the gateway to a completely new future.
We ought also to apply a bit of Christian hope to the situation. When we pray for those who have died we need to recognise that what we are actually doing is expressing a profound Christian hope in the resurrection.
We should carefully distinguish ordinary hope from Christian hope. Ordinary hope is wishing that our horse will win the Grand National or wanting the traffic lights to turn in our favour or anticipating promotion at work.
Christian hope includes this desire that something should happen, but added to this is the confident expectation that it will come about because it is the will of God. It is more about trusting in the promises of God rather than simply desiring or wishing a particular outcome to a certain set of circumstances. When we exercise the virtue of hope what we are doing is placing our confidence in God and believing that what he has ordained will actually happen.
When we feel anxiety about death what we should do is to place our trust in God. When we worry about what will happen to us when we die we need to turn to God in order to express our faith in him and confidently expect that what he has revealed to us about death will come about.
The Christian virtue of hope is essentially therefore focussed on God and on our fundamental belief that what he commands will definitely come about. In the case of death, we hope in eternal life because he has told us that it is not the end but a gateway to a new and fuller life with him.
Easter then is a wonderful season, it is a great celebration because it marks the definitive end of death and the unfolding of our salvation. The first Easter Day can be called the hinge of history because it is the definitive event which has changed the world and the whole of humanity. Up till that point everything was waiting for it and after it everything is seen in a completely new light.
So today we rejoice; today we celebrate in solemn liturgy the greatest event ever to occur in history which is nothing less than the dawning of our salvation. This is the event that places everything else in perspective because it opens for us the possibility to express our faith in Jesus Christ as the one true Saviour of the World.
On this wonderful Easter morning let us rejoice that we have so great a Saviour and with one voice place all our hope and trust in him.
St Joseph's Catholic Church
191 High Road
18.00 (Vigil with Hymns)
09.30 (Family Mass)
11.00 (Solemn Mass)
12.30 (With Hymns)
Weekdays: 07.30 & 10.00
Confessions: Saturday 10.30-11.00 & 19.00-19.30
St Joseph's Catholic Church
T: 020 8427 1955
Saturday: 18.00 (Vigil with Hymns)
Sunday: 08.15, 09.30 (Family Mass), 11.00 (Solemn Mass), 12.30, 18.00
Weekdays: 07.30, 10.00 - additional mass every first Friday at 19.00
Saturday: 11.00 & 19.00-19.30
First Friday: 18.00-18.45
EXPOSITION & BENEDICTION
First Friday: 18.00-18-45