Homily for Easter Sunday

Dear Brothers and Sisters, happy Easter! Easter really is a happy thing. It’s the happy thing.  It’s the happiness that rescues every other happiness, be it great or small. Easter raises everything.

Now, we know that Christ’s self-sacrifice on the Cross was accepted by the Father. It wasn’t just, as some people think, a noble gesture but ultimately useless, milk spilt on a stone, a glass knocked over, wine lost on the ground, while history grinds on. No, Christ’s self-giving was “seen” and “heard” by God the Father, recognised and endorsed, and the love that drove it has been multiplied over us all. Now, we know that any love, any real love, will not be wasted. No goodness lost, no truth forgotten, no beauty squandered.

Today’s Liturgy – its full participation, its readings, its music, its ritual gestures – is a chorus of many voices, in many styles, from different centuries, all of them proclaiming one great and glorious thing: ‘He is risen’. In the Entrance Antiphon, Jesus himself leads the singing, speaking to his Father: “I have risen, and I am with you still, alleluia. You have laid your hand upon me, alleluia. Too wonderful for me this knowledge, alleluia, alleluia.” Through him, through your Son, the Collect then says, “you have conquered death and unlocked for us the path to eternity.” “God raised him to life and allowed him to be seen”, Peter, a Galilean fisherman, tells Cornelius the Roman centurion. The Psalm chips in with a famous line: “this is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad.” St Paul, Jewish rabbi, tells the Colossians, “You have been brought back to true life with Christ”; you are risen too. “Tell us Mary [Mary Magdalene]”, sings the Sequence, “say what thou didst see upon the way. The tomb the Living did enclose; I saw Christ’s glory as he rose! The angels there attesting; shroud with grave clothes resting. Christ my hope has risen!” And gently at the end of the Gospel: “then the other disciple [John, the beloved disciple] who had reached the tomb first went in; he saw and he believed.” Even that folded facecloth, folded by risen hands, has its witness to give.

It’s in our hearts, I trust, to join this choir and, whatever our situation, add our own Alleluia. To say it again, Easter really is a happy thing. It’s the happy thing.  It’s the happiness that rescues and raises every other happiness, be it great or small.

A day or two ago, I said to a young girl, “Have a happy Easter!” “I will” she replied with great resolution and went skipping away. “I will”. Yes, we need that will. If the sun has risen, it’s silly to stay indoors, bent over our screens. Why do we get so locked in to our angers or grotty pleasures. Best to go out and soak in the sun! He has risen and we can rise. We can choose to turn from grief to grace. “I will”. John saw, and he believed. We hear and we can believe. John did it simply and swiftly, a quicksilver man. Peter puffed along behind, older and slower, slowed most by the shame of his denial. He needed time, but he reached the same goal. Later that day it came to him. “The Lord has risen indeed and has appeared to Simon [Peter]”, cry the disciples. Faith can take a moment, a day, a lifetime. It can take a walk in the country, like the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, with the presence of a companion making sense of things. It may require a miraculous catch of fish. It may need the sight of wounds, an experience of suffering: “Put your finger here; see my side. Doubt no longer but believe”. But in the end, faith is always God’s doing, a drawing of the Spirit, the revelation of a face. Faith is a resurrection.

Today we are all invited to faith, to renew and rekindle it as we will in a moment. “I will”, said the bright young girl. It was an expression of hope based on the goodness of her parents. “I do” we can add. We say “I do” to believing; we say “I will” to joy and hope, because we can, because it’s real, it’s given, a “sure and certain hope”.

Let me end with a story. Last night, somewhere in Vietnam, along with thousands through the world, a young man of 27 professed the faith and was baptised, Ho Ca Dau. He was brought up in an atheist family, Communist, Marxist. He took part in the low-level but real persecution that affects Christians in that country. He spied on them and reported on them. On one occasion he had five of them briefly arrested for carrying crosses and Bibles. Then his father contracted cancer of the liver. The family had to sell their animals to pay for the treatment. They hit rock bottom. Ho was amazed when some Catholic people helped support the family financially and emotionally; among them were the five whom previously he had had arrested. Still, it was hard going for Ho, and one day he collapsed on the street from hunger. A passer-by, a Catholic man called Thaddeus, picked him up, took him to hospital and paid for his recovery, and later helped him find a good job. Familiar? Touched by this charity, Ho began to mix and pray with Catholics, and eventually asked to be baptised. And so last night he was. He has taken as his motto, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” He has had a resurrection.

Faith in those first Christians, hope in that girl, love in that Vietnamese community. And so we rise with Christ.

Our Mass will end with the Halleluiah Chorus. Let’s add our voice to the chorus of faith. Let’s add our will to the joy beyond grief, that is, let’s never lose hope. Let’s love like those Christians of Vietnam, repaying evil with good.  He has risen, he is risen, he rises in us, in faith and hope and love. Alleluia! Happy Easter!

St Mary’s Cathedral, Aberdeen, 31 March 2024


RC Diocese of Aberdeen Charitable Trust.
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