Easter Sunday - Homily 3

Homily 3 - 2018

Christ has risen! or, as the young man in the white robe and sitting on the right hand side, said in today’s Gospel, “Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified: he is risen!”

So what? Most of our contemporaries seem to think make that challenge, even if they do not verbalise it. Perhaps, even some of your own family, or one or other of your close friends. So what? What can we answer - that has some chance of catching their interest? that in some way seems relevant to them?

I wonder if the young man’s next line is the significant one, “Tell his disciples .. He is going before you to Galilee; it is there you will see him”. It bears pondering.

But first, a little background. The disciples in question were the men who had fled for their lives in the garden when he was arrested on the Thursday night – cowards, who were still hiding in absolute fear. They were nowhere to be seen as he slowly and agonizingly died, abandoned but for a few women disciples looking on from a safe distance. One of their friends had betrayed him; one had denied under pressure from a little servant-girl that he even knew him. In the forty hours or so since he had died, had they lost their faith in him? 

It was to these the risen Jesus gave the message that he was going into Galilee; there they would see him. Might that mean that, despite their abject failure, it would be business as usual? nothing had changed? he was still their friend?

I believe that. But I struggle to come to terms with it. It sits uncomfortably with my habitual, almost instinctive, reactions. But if it is true, everything changes. If it is true, it changes my whole approach to life.

What we are talking about is acceptance, unconditional acceptance, in the face of deep, wounding hurt. Call it forgiveness. How can you forgive and not betray your own dignity? How can you forgive and not deny, or minimize, the awful, destructive, on-going hurt done to others? In today’s world, is forgiveness responsible? What message does it give?

I believe that forgiveness on the one hand and the recognition, condemnation and active opposition to evil on the other hand are two quite separate activities. Rather than cancel each other out, they invite each other to an ever-greater fullness. Ideally, we forgive because of who, and how, we are. Forgiveness flows from our experience of personal inner peace. That has to be worked at; it is chosen. Yet it is more than a choice – somehow it becomes us/me. It is expressed in an attitude of spontaneous benevolence to the world. Our usual reaction to the world, flowing from our unconscious insecurities and inner brokenness and wounds, is to see the world with low-level but constant criticism or hostility. That is why we have to work to find genuine inner peace. It is also why people cannot/should not be pressured into forgiving. But once that inner peace is found, we can look at the world and interact with it in freedom.

Despite first reactions, we become free to look evil in the face, as the professional, confident, medical specialist can look at cancer, name it for what it is, see its potential destructiveness, and know the best way to work for its cure or its alleviation. In the medical field it is called diagnosis. Its moral equivalent is judgment. When God judges, God diagnoses, understands, and moves to heal. Punishment does nothing for diagnosis, and is often counterproductive with healing.

There is so much more that needs to be said about forgiveness. So much confusion surrounds it. There is too much counterfeit forgiveness; just as there is too much futile vindictiveness.

“Tell his disciples .. He is going before you to Galilee; it is there you will see him”. They had so much more to learn. Things had just begun.

Perhaps, “Happy Easter!” goes on hold until we plunge further into the mystery of forgiveness. We all need someone who asks, “So what!”