Homily for Easter Vigil, 2009
Easter my dear people is a magnificent feast. It is the absolute manifestation of God’s love for the world. It is the completion of a creation that was damaged by human sin after which the people chosen by God were enslaved in Egypt, then assisted by God were freed from slavery, blessed with God’s gift of the promised land, wisely guided by God’s prophets and kings until finally God sent His Son, who proclaimed God’s good news, was rejected by His own people tortured and killed by the Romans, until God crowned Him with resurrection, and filled with new life Himself and the world, a resurrection that was the beginning of a new creation, a new world, a new life for us all. It is that victory that we celebrate tonight, its symbols here in the Church being only too evident – the paschal candle representing Jesus as Light of the world who helps us to see, and then the new life that has arrived in Jesus, visible tonight in the new Christians who entered the Church through Baptism. The big challenge for us now is to see this new world given to us by God because of the life, death, and resurrection of His Son.
With His good news Jesus has given us a new vision, and has Himself been the new light to help us see that vision. What we have to do is to open our eyes to that new vision and the new creation. During Lent I visited all thirteen deaneries of the Archdiocese to explain to them, to the best of my ability, the theological foundation of our Archdiocese, Jesus, Communion, and Mission. I asked people during that visit to open their eyes to see the new world that accompanied the resurrection of Jesus, only fully understood by His followers on Pentecost Sunday when the Holy Spirit came, both to them and to us.
Before His resurrection Jesus was asked the apostles to open their eyes to see the new world that would come soon. Then after the resurrection once they were able to see that new world through the light of Jesus, He then sent them forth to share their vision with other people.
The special challenge of Easter is to see the redeemed world that surrounds us. Just as the resurrection fills Jesus with new life, Jesus in turn fills the world with new life. Did Jesus only come to us as a mere thirty-three year old, suffered and died, rose to new life in our midst, and then left us survive alone? Of course not. Paul the persecutor of Christians, convert to Christianity, then brilliant preacher and theologian of the early Church discerned the risen Christ in all people and described Him as “the Body of Christ”, to which we belong. Paul realised that the risen Christ resides in each and every one of us and appears to others when we do acts of goodness that promote God’s Kingdom.
Jesus, the Light of the world, gives us the capacity to see the beauty of God’s world and to see its goodness, that huge multitude of people who do good, but are often not noticed. If you want to see the new world look for the goodness that exists. Just mark down the acts of kindness you see on a daily basis and you will be amazed. Of course we don’t bury our heads in the sand and overlook the evil of the world. At the same time however we need to see the goodness that through Jesus Christ overcomes violence and evil. And as we search for goodness let us never overlook all those agencies working to help people both in Australia and overseas. They are rarely noticed or appreciated. Just think of the large number of carers in society; in hospitals, in the aged-care facilities, in the fire-fighters, in the police force, in the armed services and, perhaps most powerfully, in homes where day by day people do good without being noticed. There are a multitude of others who could be mentioned. All this is driven by the risen Christ who lives within each and every one of us and whom we will see in others if only we will open our eyes. The phrase “love makes the world go round” is absolutely true.
Today the gospel of Mark informs us that as the sun was rising Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, saw the empty tomb and were told by the Angels to tell the apostles “Jesus is going back to Galilee and you will see him there.’ In other words, Jesus has not abandoned the apostles, just as He has not abandoned us. With never-ending love He works today in His metaphorical Galilee, which includes all the world, even our very own selves.
Today on this marvellous feast of Easter let us determine to allow the risen Christ within us to help bring to completion the kingdom that He has given us as a gift. The risen Christ lives in the world and lives in us. Let us make sure therefore that He is visible in our lives, if not through our words then at least through our actions, and if at all possible with words and actions together. I wish each and everyone of you the joy and peace of the risen Christ and in a special way I offer those same greetings to the new Catholics who have entered the Church. May God bless you all abundantly in this time of Easter and may that blessing remain with you forever.
Most Rev John Bathersby
April 11, 2009