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May the presence of the Risen Lord transform empty hearts

Easter Sunday, Acts 10:34, 37-43; Ps 118; Col 3:1-4 or 1 Cor 5:6-8; Jn 20:1-9 (Year A)

By on Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The symbolism of the Easter Liturgy speaks to the heart. We whose lives have been touched by the darkness of sin are called to Christ, whose Resurrection becomes our Light. We whose hearts are so easily hardened have received hearts of flesh. In the waters of baptism we have been raised up. Through the Spirit we are alive in his faith, his hope and his love. Throughout Easter the Paschal Candle, together with the baptismal water with which we were blessed during the Easter Vigil, remind us that in Christ we are Light and Life.

The readings at the Mass of Easter Sunday demonstrate the power of the Risen Lord to transform a broken and fractured world. The Acts record the visit of Peter to the household of Cornelius, a gentile centurion in Rome’s army of occupation. As such he represented everything that divided Jew from Gentile, believer from non-believer, friend from foe.

The vision that had prepared Peter from this encounter had warned him “that what God has made clean, you must not profane”. Through the power of the Resurrection Peter’s eyes had been opened. He no longer retreated into the decades of alienation, but rejoiced to see the power of the Risen Lord at work in what many would have perceived as an alien to be shunned. Instead, he proclaimed his own experience of the Risen Lord, inviting Cornelius and his household to know “that all who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name”.

This scene, in microcosm, describes the mission that is entrusted to all believers. The Risen Lord opens our eyes, enabling us to see beyond the unconscious prejudices that restrict every generation. With Peter we are enabled to experience ourselves as those who are alive in Christ, and rejoice to bring his light to a divided world. Our Easter celebration of the Eucharist make us his witnesses, those who have eaten and drunk with him after his Resurrection. This Good News cannot be contained. It must be proclaimed to the world in all that we are and become.

If we are to become Christ’s witnesses in a hostile world, we must be completely convinced of what St Paul understood so clearly. Christ’s Resurrection is not a single event, but a continuing presence that transforms the life of every believer. “Let your thoughts be on heavenly things. You have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ is revealed, and he is your life, you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.”

May we never cease to live in wonder at the hidden grace of Christ’s Resurrection at work in our lives. St John’s account of the disciples coming to the empty tomb illuminates our own encounter with our Risen Lord. The day began in darkness with Mary of Magdala’s sense of loss. “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have put him.”

In differing ways, because of our own sinfulness and the changing circumstances of life, we can experience a similar sense of loss. We too can experience the emptiness of that tomb, can feel lost to Christ’s familiar presence.

The scene is not concluded with an explanation, but with the unfolding of the Resurrection in the heart of the beloved disciple as he entered the empty tomb. “He saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”

May the presence of the Risen Lord transform empty hearts.