Through Death Into New Life
In this beautiful homily for Easter Sunday, Year A, Father Hanly explains that Jesus passes through death not alone but with us, every last one of us. Father then looks at what this means for us.
Readings for Easter Sunday, The Resurrection of the Lord, Year A
- First Reading: Acts 10:34, 37-43
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
- Second Reading: Colossians 3:1-4, or First Corinthians 5:6-8
- Gospel: John 20:1-9
Today, of course, is the most important day for us in the year. It is the celebration of the rising of Jesus from the dead. It is the beginning of a whole new way of looking at life and we, as Christians, look upon life no longer through our eyes, but through the eyes of the One who broke through the terror of death and into a new way of being.
So briefly, today, there are just two things to learn.
The first one, of course, is that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, and His Son so loved his Father and the world that he suffered such a grievous and terrible ordeal as he passed through death into new life.
And we must remember that: that nowhere in the world can we say of God that He is short of love. For Jesus, on the cross, at the moment when his whole world collapsed, when everything that he believed in and trusted seemed to fall about his ears, when he said to his Father, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” as that happened, he turned to the screaming mob in front of him and he said, “Father, forgive them.”
This is when he becomes our Messiah, not when he does all the wonders, all the healing, all the things that he said, the beautiful things that he has said. It only comes when everything is taken away from him and he is on the edges of despair, and he turns to his Father and says, “I do this for you. I have only one request: that you hold back your arm of justice and, from now on, only forgiveness.”
And that’s the first great lesson of today, because he is asking us to do the same thing. If we are followers of Jesus, we must hold back justice and offer forgiveness. And, in this way, the world turns around. It is no longer eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, what is right and what is wrong. There is only love, forgiveness, caring. And this is how we enter into the new life, following in the footsteps of Jesus, our Lord.
When the disciples went to the tomb, they didn’t find anything. The tomb was empty, completely gone, an empty tomb. And what are we to think of that?
We are to think, “Where is Jesus?” They didn’t take him away. We know that that was impossible. Did his disciples hide him? They were there. They were amazed. They saw the cloth neatly folded. Where did he go? Did he hide?
And, of course, we know the answer. He passed from death into new life. And he did not do it, for Jesus never did anything for himself, he did it for us.
And so when he faces the ordeal of his life, with all its difficulties, he accepts them, and forgiving those who have made such an outrage possible.
On the other hand, he passes through death not alone but with us, every last one of us. He passes through death and gives us a share in the new life that he himself now lives.
This is the reason why we sit here. At the Last Supper, he took bread, knowing that they would never see him again the way he had been with them, and he said, “This is my body which is offered up for you, take this. This is my blood which is poured out for you, take this.”
And in the gift of himself in this form, he said once again, “Whenever you come together, whenever you touch these things, remember it is I. It is I who am with you and I will be with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.”
The question then, of course, is, if we enter into the tomb, have we really died? For now we are in another way of being.
We’re not talking about physical death. We are talking about what Jesus died for. When we pass through the death of Jesus, we pass through and turn our backs on selfishness, on hurting others, on judging, on making the place that God has created to be a place of great wonder and joy and happiness into a place where many people do not have enough to eat, where many people feel their hopes are dashed each day by the injustices that they have to confront, where many people forget that they were created to walk in this life as children, children free and full of joy.
And so it is when we enter into the tomb, we, as Christians, are asked to leave all these things behind and, in the process, we are learning how to love. Not our love. Our love is not worth anything. To love, one with Jesus, the way Jesus loved: to forgive, to care, to reach out to all those around us. And then we, too, experience what Jesus says. He has given us new life. The new life is his life. In his life, there is only forgiveness. And so we must take that with us on our journey.
This gift of yourself was given when you were a child and someone brought you here and they gave you someone to answer for you. And, of course, it was your baptism. And the meaning of baptism is to pass through the water of death and rise to new life, and to become one with God and one with Jesus, bound together in the Spirit.
And so now we will, once again, take those vows that our godparents took for us many years ago. And we will rise up, and we will take these same words and say to God, “Yes, I do.”
The response to the questions are: “I do.” Very simple: I do. Will you do this? I do. Do you accept this? I do. And it’s a wedding. Do you take this man to be your husband? Do you take this woman to be your wife? I do. And because both are a covenant, first the covenant between a man and a woman marrying is a binding together, the covenant of God Himself, is God and us binding ourselves together in a unity that will last for all our days.
So now we ask you to rise and we will renew those promises that we made long ago and we will say with a full heart, “I do.”