Homilies,  Year B

Easter 2021

As the ancient philosophers understood, there is an innate restlessness in the human spirit, an essential nomadic quality, that sets us on a journey into an infinite horizon. We are those who reach out beyond ourselves to something other, to something more. We search for love; we search for identity; we search for wholeness. Indeed, the very first question that Jesus puts to his disciples when they encounter him is, “What are you looking for?” (John 1:35). 

However, just as the Gospel begins with a question, so, too, does the Gospel end with a question.  It is the question that is at the heart of the account of the Resurrection of Jesus: “Why look among the dead for someone who is alive?” (Luke 24:5).  On the first Easter Sunday morning, the women come to the tomb in which Jesus has been laid looking for something.  Yet, here in the empty tomb they are given a question which re-orients and transforms not only their own search but indeed the human search itself. “Why look among the dead for someone who is alive?”

Do we not often search among the dead for what we need? So often, we search for love, for dignity, for acceptance, for worth, for understanding in places that cannot bring life. In the tomb of our hurts, in the darkness of our addictions, in the ghosts of our illusions and fantasies we get trapped searching for something.  But when we search among the dead for life our spirits become deadened; we become paralysed, unable to move forward. Our hearts no longer breathe; we become numb. 

Life cannot be found in our bitterness; life cannot be discovered in our resentments; life cannot unfold in our fears. Life can only burst forth when we lift our eyes and begin to search elsewhere. The Resurrection of Jesus is the bursting forth of his life such that it is no longer contained in time and space. It is for this life that we are now searching, with hearts full of expectation and anticipation. The eruption of his life beyond the confine of death shatters not only the tomb in which Jesus’ body lay. It shatters, too, the tombs of our own spirits. It breaks open the cycles of entrapment and offers us newness and freshness and possibility in those places where we thought there was only more of the same.  We no longer have to search among what deadens us for the life for which we yearn. The Resurrection proclaims it does not have to be more of the same.  Something different is possible!  

In this time of confusion and weariness, as we emerge out of the uncertainty of the pandemic whilst still being surrounded internationally by its cost we long for this opportunity with particular ardency. Perhaps the developments of this year have left us resonating with the words of the painter, Vincent van Gogh, “There may be a great fire in our soul, but no one ever comes to warm [oneself] at it, and the passers-by see only a little bit of smoke, coming through the chimney and pass on their way.”[1]  We long for the coals of our spirits to burst forth with fire yet again. The Easter Proclamation cannot but rekindle our hope and our courage. The fire has not been extinguished and it will never be.  Yes, the Easter Proclamation sparks to life and vigour the fire we have been given in ever new ways but which can appear at times to dim and fade.

To return to Van Gogh, “Now, look here, what must be done, one must tend that inward fire, have salt in oneself, wait patiently yet with how much impatience, for the hour when somebody will come and sit down near it – to stay there maybe? Let [the one] who believes in God wait for the hour that will come sooner or later.”[2]  But the hour has come! It comes now in our Easter Proclamation. 

No, we will not look among the dead for the One who lives. We will look for him in what still quickens our hearts. For Christ lives! Nothing can destroy this. Our numbness and our weariness, our anxiety and timidity, our loss of confidence and despair pale and dissolve in the Easter Proclamation which, through grace, we utter once again deep in our hearts, and find the courage to sing again in the darkness of our churches at the Vigil of Easter – the same places which become flooded with the many lights of faithful witnesses and which evidences the remarkable truth that no amount of darkness can extinguish the flame of a single candle. Christ lives and therefore does his Church!

As we gaze upon the Candle of Easter may each of us be reminded of those beautiful words of Pope Benedict to the crowd that had gathered in vigil to farewell him upon his resignation in 2013: “The fire of the Holy Spirit, the fire of Christ is never one that devours nor a destructive one. It’s a quiet fire, a small flame of goodness, of goodness and truth that transforms with its light and warmth. We have seen that the Lord doesn’t forget us – even today, his way is humble. The Lord is present, he gives warmth to our hearts, shows us life, creates charisms of goodness and charity that shine in our world, which are for us a guarantee of the goodness of God.”

May this Easter be for each of us an occasion of hope. May the Risen Christ touch anew our hearts and quicken our spirits. May we all find in surprising ways the fire of his life again.

[1] The Letters of Vincent van Gogh, edited by Mark Ruskill (New York: Atheneum, Macmillan Publishing Co., 1963), 122. Cited in Joyce Rupp, May I have this Dance? (Notre Dame, IND: Ave Maria Press, 1992), 112.

[2] The Letters of Vincent van Gogh, 122.

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