Homily for 2nd Sunday of Easter 2010

Easter is such a beautiful time for the Christian Church. Easter celebrates the heart of our faith. It begins with the Triduum, that is, the "Three Days" from Holy Thursday evening till Easter Sunday evening. Together the three days are really "one great day" celebrating the Passover of the Lord. The liturgies of those three days are telling the same story in three different ways. Or in another sense the Triduum is just one continuous liturgy amid fasting and prayer. The Easter Season continues for six weeks rejoicing in the resurrection.

Jesus and the disciples were celebrating the Jewish Passover at the time. That Passover celebrated the new freedom and new identity of the Hebrew slaves as they gained the Promised Land. Jesus reinterpreted the Jewish Passover so that for the Christian it celebrates His Passover to the Father. And because of our Baptism it is our Passover too. We are Baptised into Christ. Our Christian Passover, our Eucharist, celebrates our new freedom and new identity as children of God. A freedom and identity not bound exclusively in a particular time and place in Israel, but which are found in the Kingdom of God, both here and now and in the future.

All this is made real when we celebrate the initiation of new members into the Church as we did at the Easter Vigil. And as we do again tonight. And as we will do at the children's Confirmation and First Eucharist in June. A new freedom and identity is forged through Jesus death and resurrection for them all. And the whole Church is renewed in them.

It struck me anew this week as we celebrated the funerals of two senior men of the parish, Sam Welsh and Pat O'Driscoll. The sadness of their funerals does not diminish the beauty of the Easter Season but highlights it. Both men, after long lives in which their faith played an important part if not a central one. Their funerals reminded me of what our Baptism means. Anyone who has lived into their 80s or 90s has had to come to know the heart of faith or else forget it. Such people have had to confront the demands of life and the doubts that suffering and disappointment can bring. When they do, you see people of great joy and peace. Their Passover, begun in Baptism and renewed in Eucharist, is complete in Jesus. They only await the final resurrection. The Easter mystery puts our lives into perspective from our greatest failures to our smallest joys.

All of us, like Thomas in the Gospel, can have our doubts about Jesus Christ. His doubts were embraced within the community of that fledgling Church gathered in confusion and fear in the upper room. He was not shunned for his doubts, but welcomed. And he, in spite of his doubts, kept coming back to the gathering. He had committed himself to their company and could not just walk away. And it was within in that Eucharistic setting that his doubts were put at rest. Jesus said to him, "Peace be with you."

You have probably heard the proverb popularised by Hilary Clinton thought to have its origin in Africa, "It takes a village to raise a child." It has a lot of truth to it. We, however, find it very difficult to be that kind of village for one another, parents and children. The lost children of our world and broken families demonstrate that. The "global village" won't do. It is too vast and dangerous to be a compassionate and strong companion to children and parents as they negotiate the passover from childhood to adulthood. The internet is a wonderful tool for communication and information but it can offer only a pseudo intimacy that cannot mediate a real life-giving encounter between people. And all of this is surrounded by conflicting belief systems and ideologies that can easily confuse and lead astray.

We however, have many resources of faith, hope, and love to share if we can but tap into them. The Catholic sense of the Church as the Body of Christ means that being a community is of paramount importance in handing on and nourishing our faith. Jesus' gift of peace to his disciples came with a mission: "As the Father has sent me so I send you" (John 19:21). It is a mission that he does not send us on unaided: "Receive the Holy Spirit." The Holy Spirit himself is with us. The results of this are portrayed in the Acts of the Apostles. That book tells the story of the Holy Spirit creating the Church and sending it on its mission. The Spirit drove the Church out across the world to bring the good news.

Let us pray in this Easter Season for the gifts of the Holy Spirit to help us from the youngest to the eldest in our mission.

Fr Graham