This morning we celebrate the great feast of Easter. It is the high-point of the liturgical year. We commemorate the anniversary of the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Of course, this is something we do every week when on Sunday, the first day of the week, we celebrate the Eucharist as a whole community. Jesus rose on the first day of the week and so we keep it as our day of rest.
But once a year we celebrate the resurrection big-time. We work our way through the season of Lent which is for us a time of increased prayer and fasting and then we observe the sequence of events which led up to the resurrection namely, the entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the arrest, trial and scourging of Jesus, his death on the Hill of Calvary and then in a blaze of light we celebrate the resurrection.
It is as if we insert ourselves into those events which took place almost two millennia ago. It is as if we were there. It is as if we are actually experiencing those events at first hand. And through the action of the liturgy we are deeply moved as we witness what happened to Jesus during that most momentous week. We identify with him in his suffering and we mourn him in his death. But on this most beautiful morning we rejoice. We rejoice as we recall how Christ rose from the dead, we rejoice as we witness the emptiness of the tomb and we rejoice in the knowledge that he appeared to Mary Magdalen and the other disciples.
Of course, we also realise the consequences of his resurrection. We know that by his death and resurrection Christ has wiped clean the slate for us. He has washed away our sins and, once our earthly existence is over, he invites us to join him in his heavenly Kingdom. This invitation is not unconditional, of course, it does depend on our sorrow for sin and our determination to live as best we can in the way that he wants. But for us to be given such a wonderful gift by such a loving Saviour is something that fills our hearts with joy and thanksgiving.
So today is a celebration, today is a day of joy, it is a day of thanksgiving. After the long days of Lent we can now rejoice; rejoice that the victory over sin has been won and rejoice that the promises of God have been fulfilled.
I guess that today a lot of chocolate will be consumed and nice dinners will be enjoyed. Maybe there will be Easter Egg hunts and surely there will be plenty of family time spent together. Maybe relatives will be coming or perhaps you will go to visit them. This is as it should be, this is how we celebrate a feast.
But we must not allow our enjoyment to obscure what this great day is all about. We must realise that the first Easter Day was the most decisive intervention of God into our world. We know that there was an enormously long lead-up taking very many centuries and which included other interventions by God such as the Great Flood and the Exodus. We know too that God sent a good number of Prophets to teach his people, even if most of them were mistreated by the people. But eventually he sent his only Son into the world to bring us the Good News of the Gospel.
Having maltreated the Prophets, the so-called Chosen People went on to do the most despicable thing that has ever happened: they put to death God’s only son. And how does God respond? Instead of unleashing his wrath, he turns the tables on us and wipes out our sins and opens for us the road to heaven. We have indeed an inexplicable God, we have a God who breaks all the rules, we have a God who in the face of a catastrophe turns it into the greatest possible good for mankind.
This is the reason we rejoice; this is the reason we celebrate. We exult in the fact that God loves us despite the fact of our human race doing its very worst. We glory in the fact that he loves us in the face of humanity’s complete rejection of him. As we mark this great feast, we realise that God loves us because we are his creation and he wants to share his life with us. We praise and thank him for what was achieved on that first Easter Day, we carry this Good News to the people around us and we celebrate and delight in that fact that we have such a great and loving God.
Father Alex McAllister SDS
Parish Priest of
St Thomas à Becket