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Homilies - Bishop Brendan Leahy

Easter 2022, St. John's Cathedral

Easter 2022, St. John’s Cathedral

The gospel we’ve just heard starts with the women going to the tomb at dawn on the day after the Sabbath. They would still have been distraught after the Crucifixion and went to the tomb to honour the body of Jesus. They were probably wondering how they would open the tomb because a large stone had been placed in front of it. But when they arrive they discover the tombstone that would have been impossible for them to roll away is open. And they hear the words: “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised”. Yes, this is the Good News they heard and we are told what happened next: “they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others”.

This evening we too are hearing Good News: “Jesus has been raised”. And the good news of Jesus’ resurrection isn’t just about a single event that happened two thousand years ago. It isn’t just about the resurrection of our body in a life after death. The Good News of the Resurrection is that Jesus is Risen, he is alive, he is active, he now journeys with us to give us strength, hope and help. He is with us. He never abandons us. Everything he touches becomes new, full life. This Good News tells us not only the tombstone that sealed Jesus’ tomb has been rolled away but because of Jesus’ resurrection, the tombstones in our lives and in our world can be opened.

We need to hear this message when there is so much bad news around – the war in Ukraine, the violent deaths in our own land, the scourge of on-line bullying and drug trafficking, the hike in living costs, the fragility of many vulnerable people who suffer social anxieties of all kinds.

A few years ago, at the Easter Vigil, Pope Francis said, “Easter, brothers and sisters, is the feast of tombstones taken away, rocks rolled aside”. Yes, what we celebrate at Easter is that God takes away even the hardest stones we come up against: death, our sinfulness and limits, our fears and vulnerability. The “tombstones” that we come up against can be rolled aside because we have contact with the “living stone” (cf. 1 Pet 2:4), the risen Jesus. When we grow disheartened we can turn to him and recognise he comes to make all things new, to overturn our every disappointment, to give us hope and help.

How does he do this? Let’s remember that in John’s Gospel it says that as he was dying Jesus “gave up his spirit”. There is a detail we might not notice. In saying this, John’s Gospel says he lay down his head and then gave up his spirit. In other words, his head was pointing to Mary and John standing at the Cross. It was they, and they are representing all of us, who would get the Holy Spirit. Then, on Easter Sunday, the Risen Jesus appears to the disciples and breathes the Spirit upon them and says to them: “Peace be with you”.

Yes, this is the great good news of Easter – the tombstones are rolled away, the Risen Jesus comes to strengthen us and he gives us the Holy Spirit that brings about peace. In whatever way we might feel we are lacking peace and our world is lacking peace, let’s make a renewed act of hope that peace is possible in our own lives, in the lives of others who are going through a valley of darkness and in our world at war.

It’s not that we say it’s all easy and we can be simply optimistic. No. What we are saying this evening is that a new horizon has opened up – death and darkness and war will not have the last word. Pope Francis uses the image of an anchor. Hope, he says, “like throwing an anchor to the other shore” and clinging to the rope. We anchor our lives in the new life that has opened up in Jesus and, clinging to that rope of hope and faith, we go ahead no matter what obstacles we face, trusting, believing that in Jesus Risen a new world has begun where there will be no more tears, no more mourning, no more crying, no more suffering.

The first stone to be moved aside this Easter night is that lack of hope that can imprison us. Instead, we can anchor our lives in the hope that comes from Jesus’ Resurrection.

With that Easter hope in us, we can then commit ourselves to building a new humanity, a new world, a new creation around us. We do this by going out to the whole world proclaiming the good news given to the women that first Easter. We proclaim that good news every time we let love conquer fear in our lives, every time we let peace respond to strife, every time we let go of what imprisons us, handing it over to God the Father who cares for us, every time we see each other with Easter eyes.