Fr Billy Swan
Dear friends. A few years ago, the former British Prime Minister David Cameron said in his Easter message: ‘Easter is all about remembering the importance of change, responsibility and doing the right thing for the good of our children’. Is it? On one hand, we understand where he was coming from, speaking to many UK citizens who were not Christian. On the other hand, what he said misses the point completely. Easter is not about these things. Just like the cross, Easter is not a symbol but a reality. As the cross is God’s judgement on the world so the empty tomb is his offer of hope and mercy. Easter is about the extraordinary claim that one man, Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. Easter is all about whether this is true or not. It’s either true or false for he either rose from the dead or didn’t. But if it is true, then life can never be the same again.
In John’s account of the passion that we heard on Good Friday, Pilate brought Jesus out before the crowd and said: ‘Ecce homo…Behold the man’. ‘Behold this man’ he asks us - look at him, ponder him. Who is he and why was he condemned? What did he do to deserve this? What was his message and who is he now for the world? Is he dead like all the others who went before him or did he rise from the dead like he said he would? Friends, these are the real questions that arise when we ‘behold the man’ and as we allow the power of the story to challenge us and move us. This is what the resurrection does – it bursts out of the small boxes we have made for God and re-configures every aspect of life according to its power.
I remember reading the story of a man named Chuck Colson who was jailed for his part in the Watergate scandal in the 1970’s in the US. In prison he re-discovered his Christian faith. In a book he wrote, he tells about how he and the others involved came under such pressure that their lie could not hold. The truth had to come out and in the end, it did. Colson then asks the question: if the resurrection was a lie, there is no way that the lie could hold under the torture, imprisonment and interrogation of the early disciples. We might ask ourselves the question - would St Peter and the other martyrs have died for a rumour? Would they have gone to their own cross or into the arena with the lions for love of a symbol or a myth? Of course not! They held to the faith because it was true – a faith that astounded those who were putting them to death because of their serenity and certainty that as Christ went before them in death, so too they would enjoy the fullness of life after death and be united to God.
In this spirit and on this day, we proclaim the truth of the resurrection once more with energy, power and hope. As we read in Matthew’s Gospel, the resurrection caused an earthquake, a rocking of the world to its foundations like what we see with the effects of the coronavirus. But the greatest power the world have ever known is that of the resurrection – the power of love, truth and hope that can never die and that makes all things new.
So if you are sick, discouraged, caught in sin, feel down, burdened and worried about the future, do not despair. These are the large stones that can be removed so that the power of God’s action can burst forth. You may not know it now but the seeds of a new future are already there in your present. This is the power of the resurrection that is not a symbol or a myth for no symbol or no myth has the power to raise the dead. Only God’s love can do that. The resurrection is true and because it is, nothing remains the same.
Happy Easter everyone and may the hope of this message reach you wherever you read these words. Alleluia!!