Easter Sunday – Homily

Fr Senan Furlong OSB

That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been … think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first
link on one memorable day.

Great expectations were shattered on the Friday we call good. Jesus’ death on the cross seemed so final, so irrevocable, the erasure of meaning and hope. Things fell apart and those left behind were broken and devastated. The violence of Friday however gave way to the stillness of Saturday and now, it’s early dawn on the first day of the week, the first Easter Sunday. And the first link of the long chain of new life on this one memorable day is an empty tomb.

Sometimes things come along that you didn’t know you needed until you’re offered them. And who would ever have imagined that something as unpromising as an empty tomb would be one of these? On one memorable day three people, one woman and two men came to the tomb where Jesus had been laid. Each came looking for something, not really knowing what that something was.

First came Mary of Magdala, grief stricken and inconsolable. To her horror, she found that Jesus’ body was gone. Then came Peter and the beloved disciple running to the tomb at Mary’s news. Peter did not hesitate to go straight in, but all he could understand then was emptiness: an empty tomb and empty grave clothes. The beloved disciple who outran Peter also entered in. “He saw and he believed.” What he believed is hard to say. Even if he outran Peter in faith, clearly neither of them yet understood what this was all about, for both of them just went home. But Mary, who stood by Jesus as he was dying on the cross, now waited at the tomb in tears; and it is to her that the first link, the empty tomb, yielded up its meaning. Mary is the first to see the Risen Lord. She is first to proclaim, ‘I have seen the Lord.’

We may think we know what we are looking for, hoping to fulfil our great expectations. And then suddenly everything changes: the tomb is empty! Our expectations are shown to be far from great, what we were looking for embarrassingly paltry.

Waiting at the empty tomb like Mary changes us. We seek the Lord only to find that it is the Risen Lord who is seeking us. No matter what we throw at him, however deeply we reject him, however much we seek to bury him, he will find a way back to us. Nothing can separate us from the love of the Lord, not even death itself. This is the story of Easter, this is the story of eternity. Today is the one memorable day that changes the course of our lives and binds us with the long chain of God’s infinite love.

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