Homily for Easter 2005
There is a real questioning in Australia at the moment about the place our Christian heritage has in the life of the country. It is particularly so at Easter which is both a significant feast for the Christian Churches on one hand and a sacred long weekend for everyone. Even though some do not believe in Christ at all, they would never relinquish the holiday! The Easter long weekend is part of our national psyche, our culture.
Ours is a multicultural country in which people of all faiths and none celebrate Easter in some way or other. Not all for the same reasons. The questions asked are such as these, 'Should we now have a place in our culture for Islamic feasts or some other religion? Why should we honour only the Christian heritage?'
All of this means for us that our observance of the traditional Christian holidays and feasts is of necessity a very intentional one. We choose to be here tonight rather than spend the whole time at the beach or shopping. To be here is becoming very counter-cultural as they say. For those of us who do come regularly it is very much part of our own way of life of course, but may it go deeper than just part of our routine. Coming here out of faith and commitment to the community is a powerful statement and a witness to the rest of society of the risen Lord.
Then again there are some who avoid the Easter ceremonies because they can so long and seemingly messy especially the Vigil. One cannot come to the Easter Vigil and be unaffected. You cannot attend just to fulfill some obligation. The rite does not let you do that. You have to be engaged or it means nothing. You have to be convinced that the Eucharist is more than my personal spiritual likes and dislikes. It is about the whole Body of Christ renewing itself as it proclaims that there is new life in Christ.
But it is not just about coming to Church. It is about being nourished to live the paschal mystery every day of our lives. We do that by the way we take the gospel values seriously in our family and work a day life. That is how we live the dying and rising of Jesus. As we proclaim in the Eucharistic Prayer, “Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restore our life.” That is the proclamation of the paschal mystery, the mystery of faith.
We have neither physically died nor been physically raised yet, like Lazarus. But we have died to sin in baptism as Paul reminded us. And we have risen with Jesus by the way we live lives of justice, compassion, and forgiveness, self sacrifice everyday. By the way we do not conform to the values of our consumerist world where everything can become a commodity from tooth paste to test tube babies. And sex sells the lot.
On this Easter day we stand before the tombs of the many deaths in our lives. It may be a failed marriage, a child who has gone astray, hopes for a career dashed, a parish project that floundered, or the real death or sickness of someone we love. We had looked forward with high hopes and enthusiasm for these people and plans just as the followers of Jesus had begun their journey with Christ. All we have left is an empty tomb.
Standing here we need to be patient and faithful like the two Marys, Mary Magdala and the other Mary, and, having visited our memories of what might have been, tell our story to our friends and come to know in that encounter that God will be faithful to us. As the people of God we are doing that today. We have remembered our story of God creating and saving us and the story of our infidelities as told in the scriptures. We pray that our baptismal commitment may be raised up anew. And in the Eucharist we say to each other that we have not lost hope as we are once more joined to each other in Christ. We can continue on our journey.
This is particularly important for our RCIA candidates as we receive them into the Church and Confirm them in their Baptism and call them to partake of the sacred banquet of the Eucharist. They are publicly proclaiming their faith before us all and the family and world in which they live.
At the tomb of Jesus the two Mary's are told by the angel to go and tell the disciples that the Lord is risen. Theirs is a great privilege. They are the first evangelists. On the way Jesus meets them and tells them the same message as the angel. He however, calls the disciples his 'brothers'. Even though they denied him and fled, he still calls them brothers. They are welcomed back into the circle of his family. These two women had never left it. (By the way, Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute as is commonly held. The DaVinci Code was right about that.) The NT certainly never excludes women from the life and ministry of the community whatever the later Church might have done.
At Easter we, too, gather in fear and great joy for all that God has done for us. We celebrate that we are welcomed, too, for all our faults. We celebrate we are brothers and sisters of Christ and so of each other. In praying our baptism promises tonight we renew our commitment to Jesus and the Kingdom.