EASTER VIGIL 2016
Homily notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin
“The authors of the 1916 Proclamation were men of faith who dreamed dreams of hope for Ireland for the Irish people”
“Why are you seeking the living among the dead?” In this night the entire Church of God slowly begins to break the silence of a Church in mourning; a Church which has been holding vigil around a tomb: a tomb, the symbol of the end of human hope.
Jesus, whose life had filled his followers with such hope, has faced the ignominious death of a common criminal. Many of his closest disciples have fled and deserted him at the first sign of what appeared to them to be a catastrophe. The work of Jesus, who had marvellously taught his followers about the mercy and loving kindness of God, seems to have been overtaken and defeated – first by lies and then by death brought about the corrupt.
The disciples are in disarray. Early in the morning some women who had prepared spices, with which to anoint a dead body, head for the tomb with heavy hearts. They head out to the grave to carry out the normal rituals of anointing a dead body.
They set out to find a dead body but they do not find it. The stone has been rolled away from the tomb. They fear – as Pilate indeed had also feared might happen – that someone had taken the body. They are saddened that they do not find the body of Jesus and they do not understand.
Then two figures in dazzling garments surprise them with a question: “Why are you seeking the living among the dead. He is not here, he has been raised”.
What does it mean that Jesus has been raised? What does it mean for Jesus himself and what does the Risen Christ say not just to us as individuals but to human history and to the world around us.
Jesus’ resurrection is not like that of Lazarus. He does not return to ordinary biological life which is always subject to death. Lazarus was raised from the dead, but he later died. Jesus resurrection is definitive. Neither is Jesus just a ghost, someone who though already dead occasionally seems to reappear in the world of the living. The risen Jesus in no way belongs to the realm of death. Jesus has conquered death. Jesus’ resurrection is a real event in real concrete history but an event that changes history.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ enters history, as we have recalled in the great Exultet hymn, as an explosion of light: light which illuminates the darkness; light which allows us to see reality as it is; light which enables us to discern the good from what is evil. Our liturgy this evening reminds us visibly how darkness already begins to be dispelled even when only one single flicker of light appears. Even one single flicker of light can be the beginning of hope within any darkness.
This is the message which the Church is called to preach. The Church is called to speak resurrection language, not the language of death. Even when surrounded by darkness that is tangible, the presence of the Risen Lord is among us always creating a space and a hope of life. Pope Francis writes:
“Christ’s resurrection is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated the world. When all seems to be dead, signs of the resurrection spring. In the midst of darkness something always springs to life and sooner or later produces fruit. On razed land, life breaks through stubbornly yet invincibly”.
Archbishop Mc Quaid often told the story of how he had a path in his garden sturdily rebuilt and tarred and was proud of how clean and sturdy and manageable it was. Then one day, only a few months later, as he was doing his regular walk what did he see: a beautiful, delicate tiny green blade of grass breaking through his sturdily built path. Resurrection breaks through stubbornly yet invincibly.
We remember in our prayers this evening all those for whom darkness seems impossible to overcome, for whom darkness seems unbearable and without hope. We remember those who grieve. We remember those who feel abandoned. We remember those for whom the darkness of their own past haunts them. We remember those whose torment and anxiety tears away at their will even to live. Wherever we encounter darkness, the Christian must speak words of resurrection, words which say to each of us in the darkness of our hearts, that life and light are possible.
As a Christian community we are called to be light in the world. We are called to be with those for whom darkness is excruciating and who see no future, no hope. Woe to a Church which with harsh words would hide or destroy or dim the light in people’s hearts. Woe to a Church which would prevent the light of Christ from appearing as it should.
We celebrate this Holy Night of the Resurrection of Jesus in the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Resurrection means that death has been definitively conquered. Resurrection means that hope can always be realised even in the darkest moments of history and can be brought into the darkest corners of our own hearts.
Jesus Christ entered into his passion and death freely out of love for us. His death was the ultimate expression of his giving of himself. Christ’s death lovingly opens the door which leads to resurrection and new life. It is love that transforms death definitively. That explosion of light which is the Resurrection tells us and reminds us even in the darkest days that there is always a future beyond darkness.
The tomb signifies a place of death. The Resurrection brings life and new light. Christians are called to speak the language of resurrection and hope within the society we live in. Christians are called to build a society where hope can flourish. This is a call especially in these days here in Ireland as we celebrate and commemorate the events of 1916.
The authors of the 1916 Proclamation were men of faith who dreamed dreams of hope for Ireland for the Irish people. Celebrating and commemorating should not consist just in looking back. The believer in the Risen Christ should be focussed towards the future, in the forefront in combatting the signs of darkness and despair that exist all around us and in working with all people of goodwill who dream a hope in building a more compassionate, caring and just society.
We believe that Christ is truly risen. Let us bring our faith in resurrection into our world, filled with joyful hope. ENDS