Sunday, 5 April 2015

Easter Sunday

Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Ps 117; Colossians 3:1-4 / 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8; John 20:1-9

Jesus loved those who were his own in the world and loved them ‘to the end’ (John 13.1). On the other hand the psalm for today’s Mass proclaims that ‘his love has no end’ (Psalm 117).

Human experience reaches only as far as the threshold of death. With sadness, anxiety and sometimes relief we see those we love moving towards that threshold and we know that we cannot cross it with them. We must let them go, say farewell and entrust them to the mystery that lies beyond. For us, to love to the end means to love with all our energy and commitment, and to do it right up to the point of death. More than that a human being cannot give.

Human love reaches its limit in death and must then say ‘it is finished’ (John 19.30). Jesus Christ loved in this way, giving his life for his friends in obedience to his Father’s will. He went the way of all flesh, entered the realm of the dead and his body was laid in the tomb.

Nobody could deny that he was a remarkable man, idealistic and courageous. Perhaps he was a bit innocent and foolish in getting entangled in the complex politics of Palestine in the way he did. But he left behind a memory of sincere teaching and generous attention to the needy. He loved his own, and loved them to the end.

Yet something new is created in the empty dark nothingness of this death. The Easter Sequence refers to Jesus as ‘Life’s Champion’ or simply as ‘the Living’. This is the one whose body is now laid in the tomb. What seems at first like the predictable limit of human striving, and another victory for the power of death, becomes something radically different and new. This combat between life and death is ‘strangely ended’ and Jesus, the beloved Son of the eternal Father, rises from death to new life. What seemed liked complete failure is transformed into total victory: the last enemy of humankind is itself defeated and death is no more.

The trial and execution of Jesus were public events, seen by the whole people. But nobody saw his resurrection from the dead. He rose in the silence of the night, in the darkness before dawn, in that time of mystery and prayer in which God creates and re-creates. Even in his risen glory he was not seen by all the people but only ‘by certain witnesses God had chosen beforehand’ (Acts 10.41).

It seems strange as a strategy for spreading the news about what had happened. Think of the impact a glorious re-appearance in the Temple would have had. A public appearance, surely, would have solved a lot of problems, perhaps even helped the Jewish nation as a whole to believe in him.

But something radically new is under way here and those best equipped to understand are his closest friends. So he appears to Peter and Mary Magdalene, the ones who loved him the most. Loving to the end is the limit of what a human being can do. But the resurrection of Jesus opens us to a Love that has no end. The victory belongs to God who is ‘the everlasting love’ (Jeremiah 31.3) and the glory of this victory is seen only with the eyes of love.

Saint Augustine says ‘show me a lover, he will understand’. As we rejoice today in the resurrection of Our Lord we pray that we may grow in His love – and so come to understand.

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