Easter Sunday - Homily 4

Homily 4 - 2019

I went for my walk around the lake this morning. It was still dark when I set off, no distractions, and I began thinking of Easter and the risen Christ. Before I got back home I had feasted my eyes on a beautiful dark-orange, crimson eastern sky, and a brilliant sun magically rising over the horizon. A line from a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins came into my mind: “Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east.”

This year we celebrate Easter under the dark cloud of a hurting, bewildered world. I still see the grieving face of Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand prime minister, as she hugged a devastated Muslin woman in Christchurch after the heartless massacre there a couple of weeks ago. We Catholics here in Australia have had a deeply troubling year so far, and there is more distress to come.

I think of the confusion and utter incomprehension of the women disciples who went to the tomb of Jesus early on the Sunday morning to anoint the dead body of Jesus, only to find it was not there, and then to hear the preposterous message that he had risen, whatever that could mean. Only later that same day, when the risen Jesus appeared personally to the group of disciples, did their confusion turn to joy. May we see our confusion turn to joy.

Currently we are in the middle of preparing for next year’s Plenary Council. Hopefully it will bring a number of needed changes to the ways we do things together. It has been the corporation dimension of the Church that is largely responsible for the mess we have got ourselves into – the structures, the laws and customs, the leadership and management. Fortunately, the Church is more than an international corporation. We are the body of the risen Christ, the People of God.

“Let him easter in us”. God knows we sorely need him. But nothing will happen if we just believe in him, or barrack for him, as it were. We need to get to know him personally, genuinely to become friends, to let him really love us. What we need is faith shot through with love. Only faith shot through with love can give birth to hope; and only hope can nourish joy and release the energy we need to work for change. He must do it all; and we must do it all – together.

Last Thursday, Holy Thursday, we remembered the institution of the Eucharist. It gave us a chance to think about what perhaps has become too familiar to many of us. I think that the most significant moment of the Eucharistic celebration is the “Amen” we say as we receive the host and the chalice. Each host is broken off from the larger host, which is the symbol, the sacrament, of the broken Body of Christ. The bread had to be broken so that it could be shared. The body had to be broken because it was the price of loving. Each sip of wine is a sip of the Blood from the broken body shed as the cost of Jesus’ commitment to his mission.

That mission was to save us from each other, from our over-riding self-interest, our habitual mutual competitiveness and hostility, our instinctive violence. Jesus came to teach us, and to exemplify the way of love, the way to love. His tortured and utterly de-humanising death showed the depths to which we too easily descend in defence of self-interest, group interest, national-interest. He hoped we would see and convert.

Our “Amen”, said as we receive the host and the cup, expresses our commitment to the project of Jesus, our readiness to share in his mission, whatever the cost. It is the way to risen life, to life to the full. It is the assurance of a truly “Happy Easter”.