Easter Sunday - Homily 2

Homily 2 - 2013

I feel different this Easter from the way I have felt for a number of years.  I have always believed, and Easters have always been good occasions to refresh my faith. But this year I feel hope stirring as well - and it has surprised me.

Not that there has been no hope.  Indeed, lots of things happen locally - in the local Church and in people; and seeing them recharges my hope-reserves.  There are wonderful initiatives happening here and there, and there are wonderful people, often popping up in unexpected places – and these experiences nourish me.

But I had not quite realised the extent to which things happening at the centre have been depressing me, until I noticed the hope now bubbling around inside me.

I feel a bit like how I used to feel when Pope John XXIII was Pope.  It is early days yet, and I tell myself not to get carried away – but my feelings have a life of their own.  I remind myself that Pope John had an old-fashioned spirituality, and an old-fashioned theology.  Yet he proved to be beautifully open to the action of the Holy Spirit, and great things happened.

The recent change began to happen within me when Benedict XVI resigned.  That was something new, virtually unprecedented.  Where did the idea come from? I read that one of the Cardinals thought that the precedent would be unsettling – "destabilizing" was his word. To him, that was worrying.  To me, it began to enkindle hope.  But not too much hope – all the cardinals, after all, were appointees of either Benedict himself or of John Paul before him.  And then came the Conclave; and then the election of Pope Francis, whom I had never even heard about.

Now I gather that his theology is pretty much straight down the wicket.  But his behaviour has continued to destabilize, simply because he himself seems to be "down to earth".  Suddenly, his theological leanings don't seem to matter so much.  What are the bloggers on the Internet going to argue about now? You can hardly argue about poverty, simplicity and concern for those at the edges.  Already in a couple of weeks he has brought things into focus.  What matters above all is Jesus' way of non-selective love.  Everything else is secondary.

In today's Gospel passage, Mary Magdalene had no hope; but her disappointed love for Jesus drew her to the tomb.  Her love had not been able to save him.  Could she have done more?  No hope.  At this stage, no faith.  Just love - that would not die.  Finding the empty tomb was totally destabilizing – and her imagination was running riot.  In no time, everyone was running – she ran back to the disciples; Peter and the other disciple ran to the empty tomb.  No hope, just confusion, fear and panic.

Empty! What was it about the cloths that had enwrapped Jesus' body, and particularly the cloth that had covered his face, by itself and rolled up?  The Gospel doesn't say.  Peter saw them; the disciple Jesus loved saw them – and then, suddenly, for him the penny dropped.  The evidence wasn't much, but he believed, perhaps not knowing what he believed.

I wonder if that is what hope is? The sense that somehow all is well, all will be well.  The determined reaching out to mystery, beyond escapist optimism.  It wasn't quite that Jesus was alive.  The disciple would not find that out for sure until later in the day.  But already he felt himself alive – uncertain, but alive.  That is what hope does to you.  The Spirit of the risen Jesus was stirring within him.  The impossible could happen.  The impossible had happened.  And something had happened in him - and he knew it.

I have the hope that something like that first Easter morning is happening in the Church; is happening in me; and, I hope, is happening, too, in you – which is one reason why I heartily wish you Happy Easter!