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Easter Sunday Homily - Fr Paul Rowse, OP

Alleluia, the Lord is risen; he is truly risen, alleluia!  May you who celebrate the Lord’s resurrection from the dead with great joy come ever more deeply to understand its meaning in your daily life.  He is with us always, alleluia!

We’re told that it was on the first Easter Sunday that the disciples finally pieced some important things together.  Not everything the Lord said during his public ministry was easily understood. Sure, the parables are homely enough and the moral teaching is fairly accessible.  But what was not so clear to the disciples are the predictions about the future, especially the Lord’s own future.

Many times over the course of his earthly ministry, the Lord spoke about his death.  And as he carried on towards Jerusalem, he spoke about his death with increasing clarity and frequency.  The Son of Man is going to be rejected and betrayed.  The Son of Man will be tortured and killed off.  The Son of Man will rise again from the dead on the third day.  All this was, it seems, hard to understand.  Surely, he doesn’t mean what he’s saying; surely, he means death in some kind of symbolic sense: he’ll be dead bored when he’s dead tired in the dead of night.

The function of the Lord’s predictions about his death is to make us understand that the Lord truly gave up his life.  It wasn’t taken from him.  He saw the cross coming towards him and did nothing to avoid it.  On the contrary, he continued; he persevered; he loved his own to the end.  So, it’s a real death that he died.  His risen body bears the wounds of that death for all eternity, as if to verify the dreadful events we now celebrate in joy.

Just as the predictions help us into the reality of the Lord’s death, so does the absence of his body from the tomb guide us toward the resurrection.  He told us before about his resurrection too. The absence of the Lord’s body is the first sign of his resurrection: not the reunion with the disciples, nor the wounds, nor the light – but his absence.  He truly died and isn’t where he was left.  We shall spend our lives searching for the risen Lord.  Like Mary Magdalene, when we lose him, we go and be with his friends.  When grief, trouble, suffering, loss come our way, we have need of company.  Magdalene goes and finds the disciples, the Lord’s first friends, and together they make sense of what has happened.

As one, the disciples piece together the little that they know and so come to understand the mind of God.  Their Lord and ours truly died and is truly risen.  Christ isn’t in the tomb: he emptied it out.  Leaving the tomb behind, we search for him in the company of his disciples.  That can sound strange to us.  Surely, that would mean pooling ignorance, introducing confirmation bias, glossing over the obvious flaws.  But we know that the Lord wasn’t kidding when he said he was going to be rejected and betrayed and tortured and killed off.  Together, we know that he died and rose again.  All our heroes who knew him in the flesh believed this good news of Jesus’ resurrection.  None of them denied it.  All hoped in him.  None refused to testify.

So, now it is for us altogether to piece things together.  The Lord’s seeming absence from the earth this morning is a prelude to our knowing in our hearts that he is risen from the dead.  We shall never find all this out for ourselves, and those who choose to go it alone will never understand it without help.  We were created to live in society; we believe in the resurrection of Jesus together in his Church.  Today, at long last, the disciples got it: the absence of the Lord’s body is the first sign of his resurrection from the dead.  May the flimsy walls of doubt now crumble under the weight of our shared joy, a joy which continues, perseveres, to the end.

For the Lord is unseen but not missing.  He is with us always.  He is alive, alleluia!

Fr Paul Rowse, OP

Parish Priest

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