Saturday, April 7, 2012

That our Joy may be Complete

Mass of Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord
for the English Language Community
 Kyiv, 8 April 2012
Acts 10:34a, 37-43
            This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
Col. 3:1-4
John 20:1-9

Normally, let us say, among the expressions we use to describe today the notion of “Easter Joy” figures very high on the list. Maybe that’s why the Gospel we just read from St. John, which recounts the first moments of that very first Easter Day: the discovery by Mary of Magdala of the Empty Tomb; Simon Peter running with the beloved disciple to the Tomb and seeing the burial cloths there lying on the ground empty, maybe that’s why we find a bit unsettling this particular Gospel assigned for today. What it describes is Easter surprise: not so much Easter joy as Easter panic. That is what renders our first two readings for today so important: they help us process this great mystery of Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead and to better understand its meaning for us in terms of now, that is, in terms of things in time and for all eternity, where when time has run its course we who are faithful will be with Him in joy and light for ever and ever.

During Holy Week, I had the chance to read some great words from a homily of St. Augustine, which talk about Jesus’ death for our salvation and His resurrection for our eternal glory:
“Who is Christ if not the Word of God: in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God? This Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us. He had no power of himself to die for us: he had to take from us our mortal flesh. This was the way in which, though immortal, he was able to die; the way in which he chose to give life to mortal men: he would first share with us, and then enable us to share with him. Of ourselves we had no power to live, nor did he of himself have the power to die.  In other words, he performed the most wonderful exchange with us. Through us, he died; through him, we shall live.”

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I think I’m too thoroughly Catholic. It is not that I take my faith for granted, but rather simply that I cannot appreciate how burdensome life must be for lots of people, even here in this great city of Kyiv, who live with no other expectation than that death is bound to overtake them sooner or later. I have a problem understanding that there are those in the world who cannot even pray as the Old Testament prophet Job prayed and say “I know that my redeemer lives” and that on that great Day of Judgment I, in my body, with my own eyes, I will see him.

“Easter panic”! Do me a favour and with me wish a little “Easter panic” by way of a blessing and first step (like on that very first Easter Sunday with Mary of Magdala, Peter and John) wish a little “Easter panic” on lots of folks here and elsewhere around the world who either have never been baptized or who were never raised in the faith of their baptism, a bit of panic as a first encounter for all those who were never taught, have never experienced themselves the meaning of “Easter joy”.

May all in every place and time learn of the cause of our joy, borrowing the notion from St. Augustine, that we from simply being a people destined to die are or have become much more thanks to the “yes” of the Blessed ever-Virgin Mary to the Archangel Gabriel which gave the Word of God His humanity, gave Him a share in our humanity and the possibility of dying, such that swallowed up in death Jesus might burst the bars of death’s prison and grant to us a share in His eternal life.

I rather suspect that old Adam and Eve must have panicked a bit too, when on that first Holy Saturday Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man, descending to them in death grasped them both by the hand and said, “Awake, you sleepers, arise from the dead!” Please, God, may our world everywhere receive a healthy dose of “Easter panic” and then truly, finally awake to “Easter joy”!

See and believe as did the beloved disciple! He is risen! Yes, He is truly risen, even as He said! Alleluia!

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