Fr Billy Swan
Dear friends. I begin by wishing you all a very happy Easter full of joy with every blessing and the fullness of life in God that we celebrate on this special day.
When I go home once a week on my day off, I always try to make a visit to my father’s grave. For me it is an important part of my week that connects me with a number of important realities. The first connection is with Dad himself and with the memories of him that surface in my mind and my heart. I suspect it is the same for all of you when you visit the graves of your loved ones on a Sunday afternoon or perhaps every day. Memories, thoughts and new perspectives open up as we stand there at their tombs. But what is most important for me is not the memories and thoughts in themselves but the relationship that I still have with my father. That is why I don’t worry if I don’t stay long at his grave because I don’t have the feeling that I am leaving him behind there.
Imagine then what was going through the mind of Mary of Magdala when she left her home in the early hours of Easter Sunday morning to visit the tomb of Jesus. I’m sure that she was no different than the rest of us who visit the graves of loved ones. She too had her memories of Jesus, her conversations with him and the raw grief of the loss of his friendship with his death. For Mary, she came to the tomb with little expectation but to sit in silence and be alone with her memories of the man who had changed her life but who was now dead and gone. She once had a beautiful friendship with the man who showed her such great mercy but now that he was dead, that friendship was over.
When she arrived, she was shocked to see the tomb empty and her first thoughts were that someone had broken into the tomb. The irony of course is that no one had broken into the tomb but that Jesus had broken out of it and because this happened, her life was about to begin all over again. On that first Easter Sunday morning, the amazing truth dawned on Mary of Magdala that Jesus Christ, the man she loved, was alive and had overcome death. In this sense, Mary of Magdala was the first to experience the hope that all of us can have when we too visit graves and tombs: our relationship with our loved ones lives on because they live on. As St Paul tells us in the second reading ‘their lives are hidden with Christ in God’. On that first Easter day, three lives would never be the same again. For Peter, John and Mary, they were the first witnesses to know that Jesus had overcome death and because he had, then he had overcome everything else as well. If Jesus was Lord over death then he was Lord over everything.
Yet our faith in the resurrection is more than about life after death even though this is part of it. It is about the fullness of life on both sides of the grave. Jesus's resurrection is the beginning of God's new project not to snatch us away from earth to heaven but to fill earth with the life of heaven.
In everyday life then, no one is without hope. If Christ is risen and we carry his spirit with us and within us, then no situation is hopeless. If God can bring life from death then he can also give new hope to the sick, new joy to the sad, new comfort to the bereaved, new shelter to the refugee, new opportunities for the unemployed, new peace to the troubled in spirit, new meaning for those who are lost, new beginnings for those who have failed. For those who believe, none of these tombs can contain the force of life that bursts out of them once Christ in placed within them.
Today, in all the dark tombs of our lives and our world, let us place Christ. In all the tombs of sin, violence, hatred and If you have any tomb in your life right now, invite the Lord in there to bring healing and new life. If he overcame death he can overcome everything in ways we never imagined. That is why we rejoice today with new hope and life. That is why I will visit my father’s grave this evening and thank God not just for the memory of my old man but for the love between us that lives on. Christ is alive today and because he is, so is Dad. Alleluia!!