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Fr Billy Swan

Dear friends. On this Easter Sunday we gather with millions of Christians all over the world to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead. This is the belief on which everything else stands or falls. If he did not rise from the dead then we are pitiful fools. If he did then everything changes and we must change too.

The Gospel today begins with Mary of Magdala’ visit to the grave of Jesus. When I go home once a week on my day off, I also try to make a visit to my father’s grave. For me it is an important part of my week that connects me not just to his memory but to himself as a person still alive in God. I suspect it is the same for all of you when you visit the graves of your loved ones. 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. I trust in the words of the angel in the Gospel: ‘He is not here, he is risen’. And if Christ is risen then Dad and others are risen with him.

Imagine what was going through the mind of Mary of Magdala when she left her home in the early hours of that Sunday morning to visit the tomb of Jesus. 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 and stolen the body. 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 who changed her life, 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’.

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. In the Church’s liturgy that we have celebrated in the Triduum, we recalled the saving works of God in history and reminded ourselves that the saving power of God’s love and mercy remains the most powerful forces in the world. God sent his Son into the story of humankind. He has sent his Son into the story of our lives too. In that story he is present, alive and active. His light and hope reaches us intimately and reassures us that we are loved and that we matter. To everyone who hungers for fulfilment and meaning, Christ’s choice of us and the vocation he gifts us, is the food that will satisfy. To anyone who is batting with the darkness of illness, treatment, loneliness, worry, addiction, pain or hurt, Christ reaches you and assures you that you are not alone. To families and the community of the Church, faith in the same Lord brings us together on the journey and it is He who leads us on the way. To the sick and elderly we say: ‘Your dignity is greater than your abilities or your health. You are not a burden. You matter and we care’. In the words of the mission statement of our Pastoral Council: ‘We are here to support, care, listen to and serve each member of our community’. To all the people of the world suffering from war and displacement, we join with Pope Francis and the Irish bishops in shouting ‘STOP!’. Enough is enough. It is time for peace – the peace for which Christ suffered, died and rose again.

Today, in all the dark tombs of our lives and our world, let us place Christ. In all the tombs of sin, violence, hatred or any tomb in your life right now, invite the Lord in there to bring healing and new life. If he overcame death then 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 today 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, we rejoice. Alleluia!!


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