Easter Sunday

posted 24 Apr 2019, 05:06 by Parish Office

Homily for Easter 2019


Back when I was a teenager, I can remember coming back from school, only to find that we had been burgled.  I was the last one to get back home that day, but apparently, the story was that my sister went upstairs and then told my mother that her bedroom was in a mess.  And perhaps my mother thought:  what’s so unusual about that?  But when she came to look, she found it truly was a mess:  draws pulled out and left everywhere, and the contents of the tall boy and the wardrobe left all over the place.  They’d made a mess in my room and my parents’ room as well.  Unknowingly, my father had disturbed them earlier that day when he had returned back to the house at lunchtime to collect some computer parts and return them back to the shop.  So the burglars had fled, without having the time to go through the whole house.  But clearly they had been going through everything they could at lightening speed to avoid being caught.


Contrast this with the empty tomb.  Whilst the linen cloths were on the ground, the cloth that had been over the head of the Lord was rolled up in a place by itself.  Sometimes people try to explain away the Resurrection by saying that the Body was stolen.  But if so, they must have been rather neat thieves, taking time to roll up the cloth and put it away nicely, rather than just leaving it on the floor with the other cloths.


Of course, that in itself does not “prove” Christ’s Resurrection.  But when we begin to put all the other pieces together, the “alternative theories” begin to look a bit weak.  In the film Risen, the Romans go searching for the body of Jesus but don’t find it.  In fact, in the film, they think about faking it, using a dead body that you probably couldn’t tell for sure who it was.  That, conversely, would have been no proof that Christ didn’t rise.


Sometimes people put the Resurrection appearances of Christ down to mass hallucination.  That doesn’t really make sense.  The Gospel accounts show great scepticism on the part of the apostles.  The women return from the tomb, but in St Luke’s account it says, “but this story of theirs seemed pure nonsense, and they did not believe them”.  In St Mark’s Gospel it says that when Christ appeared to them in the evening, “he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen” (Mark 16:14).  In St Luke’s account, when Christ appears to them, they initially think they are seeing a ghost.  He shows them His hands and His feet, but they are still unsure.  It says that “In their joy they were still disbelieving and still wondering” (see Luke 24:38-41.


Then, of course, in St John’s Gospel, we have the figure of Thomas.  Even though everyone else tells him Christ has risen, he still refuses to believe, until Christ appears to him personally and gets him to touch the holes in His hands and His side.


And then, at the end of St Matthew’s Gospel, when Christ appears a final time, it says, “When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated” (Matt 28:17).  The Resurrection took a long time to sink in.


When we compare the Resurrection accounts side-by-side from the four Gospels, we also come up against something else:  they don’t all tell exactly the same sequence of events.  Who saw Christ first?  How many people did the women see at the tomb?  Were they men or angels?  Who said what to who and who then responded in which way?  But this is further proof that the Resurrection really happened.  When the police investigate a crime and get witnesses to describe what they saw, it is a normal thing for the statements to slightly contradict each other when we’re dealing with an emotionally-charged situation.  Emotion makes memory inaccurate.  Meanwhile, if all the witnesses tell exactly the same story, then it could indicate that they got together beforehand and agreed among themselves what they were going to say.  And without doubt, the Resurrection was an emotionally-charged moment.  We know what’s coming up next, but for the women and the Eleven, they don’t know.  When the Eleven hear, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb … and we don’t know where they have put him”, you can imagine the initial alarm, fright and possibly anger too.  Who’s done this?  Why?  Can’t they leave things alone?  Don’t they have any respect for the dead?  What is going on?  Who’s done this:  the Jews or the Romans?  What do they think they are playing at?  Thankfully, they encounter more than just an empty tomb.  Christ appears various times on Easter day and throughout the forty days leading up to the Ascension, re-affirming them in their faith and preparing them for mission.


Sometimes, the ways of God are not the way we would have chosen to do things.  But God knows better.