Homily for Easter Day

‘This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad’ (Ps 117).

Today must be a good day to be Pope. He goes out on to the balcony of St Peter’s and addresses the many people present in St Peter’s Square, and to millions of people watching him then and later. And he says: Christ is risen! He is truly risen! What wonderful words to say! What a message to have received and to pass on! In the 1st reading, the Apostle Peter addresses a Roman soldier and his household: ‘they killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him to life…and he has ordered us [the apostles] to proclaim this.’ And here, two thousand years later, is the Successor of Peter, in the city of Rome, saying the same thing and proclaiming it to the city and the world. Christ is risen! Truly, ‘their voice goes forth through all the earth, their words to the utmost bounds of the earth’ (Ps 18:5).

Today is a good day to be a bishop or priest or deacon. A bishop is a successor of the apostles and priests and deacons are co-workers with their bishop. So we too have the same apostolic message to give. We too, in our smaller worlds, want to stand up today and say: ‘He is risen. He is truly risen.’ This is something greater than us. It makes us feel small, being given a great message like this. But when we give it out, we know we’re doing what we’ve been called to do. And then, in a beautiful phrase of St Paul’s, we are “the fellow-workers of your joy” (2 Cor 1:24).

Today is a good day to be a Christian, to be a believer. It’s good to be able to say to ourselves and one another: he is risen, he is truly risen! It’s good, it’s not irrational, to accept the testimony of those women disciples, like Mary Magdalene, of the apostles and the written Gospels: how against all their expectations that tomb was found empty on Sunday morning, and how, over 40 days, at different times and places and ways, in Jerusalem and Galilee, in rooms, in a garden, on roads, by the sea, their crucified Lord appeared to them, risen from the dead and risen bodily. It’s good to have the eyes of our heart and mind opened by the Holy Spirit to the truth of this testimony, handed on by the Church, witnessed to over 20 centuries by lives of faith, hope and love, even unto death, and to say, ‘I believe’. In a moment we will all have a chance to reaffirm our faith. It changes everything. Yes, it’s good to say, God so loved the world that he sent his only-begotten Son, and through him ‘has conquered death and unlocked for us the path to eternity’ (Collect).  To sing with the Psalmist, ‘I shall not die, I shall live.’ To hear the words, ‘Your sins are forgiven’. To say, yes, we / I am loved. To know there’s something more to me than what I see or what others think and say. To know there’s something other than my confusions and weaknesses, failures and sins, disappointments and passions. To know there is a Father cherishing me as his child, a Christ walking beside me, a Holy Spirit at work within me. To be carried by the prayers of Mary and the saints and have the companionship of brothers and sisters in the faith. Yes, all of this rose today with Jesus from the empty tomb and is given to us. It’s good to know we’re no longer alone.

Today is a good day to be human. It’s good because in his humanity the Son of God carries every human being, has died for us and risen for us and taken our humanity to the Father. He has set it for ever in glory at the heart of the Trinity. And this means the horizon has changed for everyone for ever, though we always stay free to reject or accept. Here’s the explanation of the baffling, heart-breaking capacity of us humans to keep on doggedly hoping despite everything, to keep on dreaming of happiness and love and peace for all the evidence against them. No, this isn’t some cruel joke or trick of our psyche. Rather, it’s like a flickering compass needle in us waiting for the pull of magnetic north, or like those little circles on computer screens which keep turning till the connection is found. And today it is. ‘He – John – saw and he believed.’ I’d even say it’s a good day to be tired and sad and suffering. It’s a good day to die. It’s a good day to be standing crying with Mary Magdalene in the garden, to be wandering round perplexed like Peter and his friends, to be walking miserably in the wrong direction like the disciples on the way to Emmaus. It’s good because this is the day that all these things become something else. They’re no longer the last things, ultimates. They’re preludes, overtures, vigils, birth-pangs, winters waiting for spring. They’re the dark hour before the dawn. They’re apertures. ‘At night there are tears, but joy comes with the dawn’ (Ps 29:6).

It’s a good day even to be an octopus or an ant or one of these blessed seagulls that haunt our lives here! The whole creation has a different destiny now.

And it isn’t a day like just another day. It is the first day of a new creation. It’s a day that can carry all our days, like the Paschal Candle carrying the number of the current year. It’s the day that rose that morning in Jerusalem, and will never set. It’s the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice in it and be glad. Let’s leave our darkness and live in it! Christ is risen! He is truly risen! Amen.


RC Diocese of Aberdeen Charitable Trust.
A registered Scottish Charity Number SC005122