Sunday, 8th April 2012
Saint George's Cathedral
When Jesus was on his way from Galilee to Jerusalem, where he was destined to be put to death, he asked his disciples a question. "Who do you say that I am?" And Peter answered for them all: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." We too, the present day disciples of Jesus, believe that he is the only Son of God, the one who emptied himself and became one like us in everything but sin. We believe Jesus Christ was the Messiah, the Servant-King whose coming was foretold long ago and in whose humanity was revealed the infinite and unconditional love of God for every human being.
In the person of Jesus Christ, God’s gift of life and love, his gift of forgiveness and reconciliation has been offered to every human being. His whole life, all that he did, all that he taught was an invitation to believe in God’s love for us and his offer of forgiveness for our sins. But despite his evident integrity, despite the miracles he performed, despite the love and compassion he showed in his life and ministry, in the end he and his message were rejected by the majority of the people of his time. Even his chosen disciples deserted him in his hour of need. Betrayed, arrested and put to death on a cross as a common criminal, he was buried in a tomb.
With his death on the cross, the hopes of those who did believe in him were shattered. His followers began to disperse. A few stayed behind and hid in the Upper Room in Jerusalem in fear of their lives. They were devastated, riddled with guilt, fear, and confusion. For them, the prospect for the future was utterly bleak and uninviting.
But then, on Easter Sunday morning, when Mary of Magdala went to the tomb her consternation knew no bounds. The tomb was empty! With the death of Jesus, the light of his presence had gone from the disciples’ lives and they felt a profound sense of absence and abandonment. So Mary of Magdala ran to Peter and cried out: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him.” Peter and another disciple ran to the tomb and found it empty. By tradition the other disciple was John, the beloved disciple. Only then did the light begin to dawn, only then was hope rekindled, because, as St. John tells us, "Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” They saw only the empty tomb and some linen cloths. But John, the beloved disciple “saw and believed”. Through the eyes of faith he ‘saw’ at a deeper level the reality of what the empty tomb meant.
St. Paul, the great missionary apostle of the infant Church, in his Letter to the Corinthians says: “…if Christ has not been raised then our preaching is useless and your believing is useless… But Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, the first fruits of all who have fallen asleep.” (1 Cor. 15:14,20) Here Paul is saying clearly that the historical reality of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the crowning truth of our faith. This truth was believed and lived as the central truth of faith by the first Christian community. And for just over 2000 years, from the first Easter Sunday until the present day, the Church has preached this truth continually and faithfully to successive generations.
When we Christians celebrate Easter, we celebrate the fact that Christ is risen from the dead and that he lives in our hearts and minds through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, who is the Lord and giver of Life. In celebrating Easter we are celebrating life itself, and life to the full. From the darkness of his death, the light of eternal life shone out in all its brightness when Jesus, the Light of the world, was raised to new life.
Our Easter faith is a joyful and exultant proclamation that there is a real meaning to life, a vitality to every day, a purpose to those efforts of loving which can at times tire our hearts and distress our spirit. We believe that the whole meaning and purpose of life lies in the gift of love – that self-giving love which was at the heart of Christ’s own life – a love that will never end.
We will know that Easter is real, that Christ lives, when we allow him to make our own lives sources of light and life for others; when our words heal and encourage; when our hearts come alive with compassion; when we stand firm for the value of life itself in all its aspects. Easter becomes a reality in our own lives when people are healed, consoled and strengthened by the life-giving love we show to each other, and especially to those in need. Easter is real when we become living signs and symbols of the presence of the risen Christ in our world, and of the values which he taught during his life on earth. Christian behaviour springs from communion with the risen Jesus, just as Christian celebration is a life led in conformity with the person of Jesus Christ.
Today, throughout the whole world, Christians proclaim that
Christ is truly risen from the dead. This is the heart of our
faith. This is its principal mystery. We believe and proclaim that
the Resurrection of Christ is not only an historical event but an
ever-present reality which influences the life of each one of us.
Christ’s Resurrection not only changed the course of history, it
has the power, through faith, to transform our lives too. So with
immense joy and confidence we proclaim once again today that
Christ is the true Light of the world, the Light which shines in
the darkness, the Light which no darkness can ever extinguish.
This is the Mystery of Faith. As we said in response to the Psalm
this morning, “This day was made by the Lord; we rejoice and are
glad.” Why? Because today we celebrate and proclaim the fact that
“Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”