Reflection based on Easter Sunday Morning Homily

‘The stone had been removed from the tomb

As I rambled for a while around the church carpark this Easter morning, a memory returned to me of a true story recorded on BBC Radio Northern Ireland many years ago, written by Fr John Mc Cullough about a remarkable teenage boy. Brendan was his name, born with a down syndrome condition, but in spite of suffering poor health on occasion, he was blessed with a free spirit. He loved to celebrate whenever the was an excuse to do so.  

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On St. Patrick's day, in Derry, he gloriously dressed in his finest green outfit, sprayed with shamrocks, tall leprechaun hat, the full works, and then proudly marched with the passing parade. Not bound by a particular political stance; on the 12th July each year, aglow with trappings of blue, reds and orange, he got the same thrill when falling in line with the stern members of whatever Orange district was passing his home, sometime causing mild disruption to impeccably well drilled marching feet of proud Ulster men.

Even though his parents gloried in thrill he got from such participation, he also caused them a certain concern in case harm would ever come his way.

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Sadly, in his late teens, as his health deteriorated, Brendan’s energy levels weakened, and even though he earnestly desired to immerse himself in these colourful events, his frail body denied him the carefree pleasure, until finally: 

His Spirit left the body overcoat of pain and restriction

and stepped free into the endless celebration of Creator and Creation over the County Derry Air.

 

A number of images this Easter Sunday morning reminds us again of possibilities regarding: new life, new beginnings, transformation:

The lighted Easter Candle bearing the 5 golden studs,

The White Shroud gracing the Good Friday cross,

The Empty Tomb with the stone rolled away.

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All these images are precious reminders that

nailed to cross that Good Friday afternoon,

his body bruised and broken; Jesus finally breathed his last:

 

Christ’s Spirit left the body overcoat of pain and restriction

and stepped free

into the endless celebration of Creator and Creation…

 

Three days later, unnoticed by the vast majority of people in Jerusalem; something extraordinary was unfolding that gave a radically new insight into life, death and the spirit world. 

Last Saturday night and Easter Sunday morning as we celebrated the Easter Vigil and the Mass of the Lords’ Resurrection, the following passage was read from Scripture

 

Early on the ‘first day of the week’,

while it was still dark,

Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that

the stone had been removed from the tomb

Gospel: John 20:1-9 

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The image of the ‘stone rolled away’ symbolically represents the removal of obstacles which; imprison, hinder, bind or restrict. Easter is a powerful celebration of hope; a yearly reminder that oppressive burdens can be cast aside; chains which bind physically or mentally, can be loosened. Even with the death of a loved one, there can be life. 

 To be an Easter people, is to believe that change can happen; that even in the darkest moments, a ‘wee ember of hope’ still glows. 

At this present time when we are confined physically to our homes with time on our hands, this Easter theme provides an opportunity to reflect and identify obstacles, burdens, mental blocks which restrict our creative energies, with a view to once more to taking responsibility for ourselves and celebrating life to the full.


Some examples surfaced in my mind during the ramble before Mass.

 

Community:

In this present age, compared to times past, people don’t naturally meet each other as often. Due to our confinement, as a result of the virus, we have a renewed sense of the importance of community, a feeling that we are interconnected locally, nationally and globally. The voluntary effort on the part of so many to help and support people confined to their homes is lifegiving not just in terms of providing food for the body. A poignant poem read on radio last Tuesday by a woman whose sister died as a result of the virus, ‘my sister is not a statistic’, is a powerful reminder that each person is precious and deserves recognition and respect in spite of our brokenness. 

New technological means of communication so essential at present time when we are forced to isolate, are also rewriting the way we live our lives.  

There are amazing advantages available through these technologies, but if we lose the practice of meeting people physically face to face, then we are missing out on an essential source of nourishment. The parting gift left by the Lord the night before he died, is based on the same principal. He broke bread and shared it. There is nourishment in the bread, but also nourishment in the sharing.

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Becoming over reliant on the I phone or I pad as a means of communicating, is a form of entombment. There is a danger of losing the capacity of looking people in the eye, saying hello or simply nodding the head with or without a smile. Such common practices in the past was so comforting, even if the passerby was a total stranger.

 

 The aftermath of the Pandemic will either reinforce a lifestyle that relies on the said technologies, or raise awareness of a need inherent within us, and make a conscious effort to create spaces and  places where we can meet, greet, give & receive a hug, and saying the iconic ‘hello’

 

 

Spirituality:

‘They recognized him in the Breaking of Bread’.

‘Breaking of bread’ with others in so many gracious ways, is an acknowledgement of ‘divinity’ in which we reflect the image and likeness of God.

 

This Easter, which has been like no other Easter in living memory, as we contemplate our fragility and dependence, I would also like to suggest that we see traces of the Risen Lord in our people around us. Leading into the Holy Week ceremonies, the following reflection from the Archdiocese of Lima in Peru went viral:

 

Who says that Christ is not coming out this year?

When in fact he is dressed in white, blue and green in hospital

 

Who says that the Nazarene cannot do penance?

When they are all sacrificing,

By attending to the sick in emergency rooms?

{c.f. below for the rest of the reflection}

 

In times past, there was a tendency to associate spirituality with people who were ‘into religion’, or ‘believed in God’. 

On the other hand, God as revealed in the scriptures and sacred writings from other religious traditions, characterize God as loving, compassionate, merciful. Qualities also inherent in human beings. We are told in the opening chapter of the oldest book in the Bible that we are made ‘in the image and likeness of this God’, and this is most evidenced in our capacity to love. This reality is a precious reminder that to be Human is to be Spiritual

Many people have turned away from God and Religion, because of the revelations concerning scandals associated with the abuse of innocents by religious, people who abused their office and the good name of God, in satisfying their own warped and devious desires. Other have lost touch of Our Loving God, because of exposure to theologies and dogmas which in no represent the God as evidenced in Jesus Christ. 

I would say to ‘roll back the stone of hurt and rejection’ caused by such misrepresentations, and open your hearts to the reality that we are naturally linked to a Loving, Caring, Compassionate God; this bond is part of our DNA.

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Allow yourself to enter into ‘Communion with God’, and in a reflective critical way; deepen within your heart a precious relationship with the Divine, as revealed in the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ

a God of Justice, Love, Healing and Peace. 

Our Common Home

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With the global slowdown in the volume of traffic on roads and air, etc ; an enormous decrease in the level of Carbon Emissions has enabled Planet Earth, ‘Our Common Home’ [who] is like a sister with whom we share our life’.[Pope Francis Laudato Si]  to breath more naturally.

 

This ‘forced slow down’, is a powerful indicator that human behavior can have a positive or negative influence on the well-being of the earth.

 

Hopefully the global disruption to life caused by such a minute virus, will lead to a serious recognition of the vital partnership which ought to exist between ourselves and the planet.  

As a result of pollution in its many guises, our ‘Common Home’ is chronically hurting, and when the planet ‘loses its cool’, extreme weather is unleashed in the form of storms, drought, resulting in flooding, forest & bush fires, famine.  

We have been warned by scientist over the past three decades or more to take note of the dire consequences for earth’s inhabitants if corrective action is not taken. I mentioned a few months ago during Mass, that ‘the planet doesn’t need to be saved by us’; it has the time and the capacity to look after itself and carry out the necessary repairs to any damage it endures. Rather it is we the ‘settlers’ who need to ‘wake up’, because in the long run, it is humanity who will suffer the consequences. 

Good news emerging over the past few years comes in the form of more and more young people raising their voices and demanding appropriate action from the adult population and world leaders. May your generation continue in your efforts to voice your concerns for the sake of protecting this precious habitat that has faithfully served past generations in spite of our reckless ways.

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As I write this script, I notice the 2020 April Edition of National Geographic. This month’s copy is unusual insofar as half of the manual is printed upside down. You have a choice therefore of reading the magazine from the front or back. The title on one cover is: HOW WE SAVED THE PLANET: ‘An Optimist’s Guide to Life on Earth in 2070’.

The title of the flip side reads, HOW WE LOST THE PLANET ‘A Pessimist’s Guide to Life on Earth in 2070’.  

Just as we have been repeatedly told regarding the slowing down of the virus, ‘slowing down with the spread of the virus depends on the way we individually behave.  Likewise, the health of the Planet in 2070, will largely depend on how we conduct ourselves as a people.  Let us rise from our slumber, ‘roll back the stone’ and look for radical action in response to the ‘Cry of the Earth’.

 

Early on the ‘first day of the week’,

while it was still dark,

Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that

the stone had been removed from the tomb.

Alleluia, Alleluia

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A Holy Week video message from the Archdiocese of Lima, Peru April 2020

 

Who says that Christ is not coming out this year?

When in fact he is dressed in white, blue and green in hospital

 

Who says that the Nazarene cannot do penance?

When they are all sacrificing,

By attending to the sick in emergency rooms?

 

Who days the fallen Jesus

Is not coming out on Holy Wednesday

Look at him in our doctors

Who fall tired and exhausted,

With humble Simons of Cyrene helping at each step

Nurses, care-givers, janitors

Side by side with them, without rest

 

Like Jesus who passed through the earth on a donkey

So do our heroic drivers spend the nights awake

To supply markets, neighbourhoods, pharmacies and shops…

 

The military and police patrol deserted streets

And they are not with their families,

Because they are taking care of ours.

 

And far from the cities,

Jesus is bent on the furrows of earth

He goes to sea on a boat

Lays cables, digs wells, or grazes the cattle

 

Let no one say that the Lord is not present in the streets

When, in empty churches,

Priests celebrate daily mass.

 

Let no one say that the one Condemned

Is not coming out this year

As long as there is a kindly voice invoking the one locked up.

 

Let no one say that the All-powerful One

Will not take his walk this year,

When so many are praying and offering their lives in love.

With tiredness, good humour and without fail

 

Christ is also present in supermarkets,

Replenishing shelves or charging at the cash register.

 

Jesus comes in a truck, painted in white and green,

Collecting our garbage, and goes away unnoticed.

 

When I see so many people who have buried their own

I feel that even the Patroness of the slums,

The Virgin of Sorrows, has come out,

With her Son on her lap.

 

And even if passing

Through the Sepulchre frightens us all,

That is where the strength lies,

Of the one who has conquered the world.

 

Perhaps there will be no processions

With carved images,

But now you see Christ meeting you amid life

Hidden in a thousand faces, without candles and bells

 

And even if there are no processions this Summer,

We will continue to smell

The incense of the faith of your people.

 

Love leaps over the walls,

The heart does not lock up.

 

It will be a Holy Week

More than ever, true.