Solemn Mass of Easter Sunday celebrated at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne
Sunday 16 April 2017
“You must have heard about the recent happenings, about Jesus of Nazareth ….. we can witness to everything he did throughout the countryside of Judea and in Jerusalem.”
(Cf. Acts 10:37.39)
My dear Brothers and Sisters,
These are the words which the apostle, Peter, a witness to the resurrection of Christ, addressed to the centurion, Cornelius, and his household. Today, the witnesses speak out. The women who ran to the tomb, the apostles, Peter and John, Paul of Tarsus, the many missionaries and saints who have given to the world their awareness that Christ is risen. On the strength of this unending testimony the Church has grown and is now spread throughout the world, even in our own century.
Today too we are witnesses to the Risen Christ. The empty tomb, which is so often a frightening and confronting symbol, is today a symbol of rejoicing and hope. Jesus is not here: he is risen and gone ahead of us.
Many people in our society deny the resurrection; many accept it and think it a “spiritual resurrection”. The Church has always taught, and we believe, that Jesus arose in his actual body as we too shall rise from the dead.
Jesus comes to offer the promise of resurrection to every human being. Just as he wept before the tomb of Lazarus, so he weeps before those who are unwilling or unaware to accept his resurrection.
Jesus rising from the dead vindicates all that he did in his life. He humbly, obediently and lovingly accepted the will of God the Father, that he might come and save us. Christ is risen from the dead so that we too might have a new life. Only experts can appreciate physics, law or genetics, but each one of us can appreciate that Jesus Christ, true Man and true God, died but then conquered death and rose again. Our heart opens up because it means that there is something for us beyond death. We have been given new life in Christ. He gives us power to live and to tell the world of its destiny and of the hope which God alone gives it.
Today especially that hope is one of peace. We know the suffering and slaughter of our times, the tragedies of racism and starvation. Christ is the foundation of our hope and he promises us that peace is possible - in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, in Africa. Such peace must begin in our hearts and attitude towards others.
Nevertheless, it is only if we ponder what Jesus accomplished in his Resurrection that we can make sense of human weakness and wrongdoing around us. Even people who kill believe (however wrongly) they are taking justified steps to achieve what is good – perhaps peace, or justice, or a homeland, or a cure; and true peace and justice, our true homeland and our true cure, belong to God alone. New life and real happiness with God and his saints are what the whole human race is aiming at, and these can now be ours because of the Resurrection. This is indeed Good News.
Jesus Christ shows us that the possibilities for hope and for good are greater than we would ever imagine and go beyond death. If we believe and hope for peace then we will have the courage to work for it. If we believe that we can make concrete steps to reach out to those who are poor, then we will achieve it. If we believe that it is possible, because of our love of Christ, to support those who are burdened by chemical or drug dependency and who are in the midst of our very families, then with Christ’s help we will achieve it.
It is important too to remember that the Resurrection did not come about easily or without cost. The most sacred image in our churches and around our necks is not the empty tomb: it is the Cross by which the Resurrection was won. An Orthodox Easter text runs, “Lord, we glorify your Passion; show us your Resurrection”; it is as if even on Good Friday, Resurrection is before our eyes, while today on Easter Sunday the Cross is present still, but now as the focus of our deep, deep gratitude.
In human terms we dread sickness or death. With Christ the news of his resurrection makes us burst out of the tomb of our own expectations and go into the reality of glorious life and light. Cardinal Newman once wrote in an Easter sermon, “This day on which Christ rose from the dead has brought us salvation. It is a day that has made us greater than we know. We have had enough of weariness, sorrow and remorse. We have had enough of this troublesome world. We know how strange the feeling is of perfect silence after continued sound. Such is our blessedness now. Calm and serene days have begun and Christ is heard in them. Let us only put off the world and we put on Christ. May we grow in grace season after season, year after year, till he takes to himself, first one then another, to be reunited forever in the kingdom of his Father and our Father, his God and our God.” (John Henry Newman, Parochial Sermons Volume 6 Sermon 8 on Easter.)
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.