26 April, 2014

Homily for Easter Day

John 20:1-18.

A couple of weeks ago a YouTube video of a deaf woman from Gateshead went viral. The clip shows the forty year-old woman’s reaction as she becomes able to hear for the first time in her life. As viewers, we might feel happy for her; amazed by the great achievements of medicine; and intrigued to see how she will adapt to her new life. Tears might even well up. Yet, if you think about it, we often remain sceptical about the future of those involved in extraordinary joyous events, and about their long-term conditions.
On the opposite, when news about devastating events reaches us we are never really, if anything we tend to believe more the highest victim-counts and the darkest statistics. We may share a sense of shock and desolation, but we hardly question the reality of such events. To quote Vivian, the protagonist of the 1990s cult film Pretty Woman, The bad stuff is easier to believe. You ever notice that?

On one hand, the events surrounding the death of Jesus are devastating ones for all those who stayed by the Cross of Jesus and helped with his burial. Yet they possess some sort of banality. From a purely human point of view the events of Calvary are part of the crude reality of the world as we know it – people are victim of violence and are killed all the times; their families suffer and are destroyed as a consequence. We don’t have to believe in this. We don’t have to believe in
this death; it just happens. The tears of Mary Magdalene are prompted by a deep-seated conviction that dead people stay in toms, they do not live again. This is how the world works.
On the other hand, the resurrection of Jesus confronted the disciples as it confronts us with a reality that human hearts cannot ignore forever – at some point we have to embrace it or reject it. The extraordinary character of this event demands from us faith and trust. It requires us to drop our scepticism about the future and the deep-seated conviction that the bad stuff of life in easier to believe. The resurrection demands us to attune our hearing for the voice of the risen Lord in order that we may recognise Him when he speaks.

Last week I asked you to see yourself in the characters of Holy Week. Today I renew that invitation, asking you to put yourselves in the shoes of Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene crying in the cemetery is really each and every one of us. Sometimes we go through life only believing in and focusing on bad things; we know about Jesus but we are overwhelmed by the triviality of life, and as a consequence we fail to recognise Him when we encounter Him risen in the Holy Eucharist, lonely in the marginalised, rejoicing in the mission of the Church.
However, like Mary Magdalene we may still be able to recognise the risen Jesus if our hearts are prepared to hear Him calling us by name. In that instant, as our eyes of faith are opened to the presence of Jesus, we see the world as if for the first time and our hearts believe as if they never doubted before.

I mentioned Pretty Woman and wouldn't want you to think this is my favourite film, so I leave you some lyrics from the West End musical The Woman in White. I hope you can hear Mary Magdalene and every one of us speaking in this…
Whenever I see your face the world disappears...
How do I know to trust what I'm feeling?
I believe my heart. It believes in you.
It's telling me that what I see is completely true.
And with all my soul I believe my heart.
For now whenever my heart speaks, I can only hear your voice.

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