22/03/08 Easter Vigil Homily

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Homily Notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland
Pro-Cathedral, 22rd March 2008

We celebrate this Holy Easter Night united with Christians gathered all round the world.  We celebrate with those who gather in large Cathedrals and Shrines; we celebrate with those whose witness to the light of Christ takes place in the darkness of persecution, of war and of poverty.  As a Christian community, worldwide, we rejoice in the Victory of Jesus Christ over death.  We pledge to live our own lives as children of the light and of life of the Risen Lord.

Around the world on this night the Sacrament of Baptism will be administered, not just to children, but to thousands of adult men and women whose lives have been changed through hearing the call and the message of Jesus and who now through the cleansing and saving waters of the sacrament become full members of God’s people.

We have listened in the readings to the proclamation of the God’s saving work throughout human history.  We have been reminded of God’s fidelity to his people from generation to generation.   It is his fidelity which brings freedom to his chosen people.

In celebrating Baptism during this Easter Vigil, we affirm that the Resurrection which we commemorate this evening is not a distant event of the past.  For us the Resurrection is not something to be explored from the point of view of the historian or the archaeologist or the investigative journalist who gathers scraps of evidence or documents to possibly what an event of the past looked like.

We look at the Resurrection from the point of view of faith, a point of view which is no less real.   Our faith enables us to realize that the Easter event is the highest and most mysterious event in the whole of human history, and that it is something which is present and effective in our here and now.

Easter is the night of life and light, the night on which Jesus rose from the dead to show us that love is stronger than hatred, that love is stronger even than death itself.   It is the night of life and light for all times.   We celebrate this Holy Night right united with Christians the world over.   We celebrate Easter also right in the midst of the realities of our own city, of today’s Ireland and of the world in which we life.  

In many small towns in central Europe, there is still the tradition, early on Easter morning, of making the announcement of Easter not just in Church but also from the balcony of the old Town Hall.  To many today, this may seem to be just a curious little piece of folklore which has managed to survive over centuries.  Its origins are not just in ritual and tradition.  It is rather an age-old public conviction of Christian communities, addressed to all who wish to hear, that the message “The Lord is Risen” belongs not just in the sacristy, not just within the walls of a Cathedral, but out on the streets and in society.  The message of Easter is to be proclaimed to all.

The joy of the resurrection fills the whole world.  Just as at the moment of creation God separated the light from the darkness, through the resurrection life is separated from death from evil and from sin and a new moment is created in human history.

Easter is the most decisive event in history, an event so great that it would is impossible for us believers in Jesus Christ to keep this good news to ourselves.   If we believe in what happened at Easter then we have to let that fact irradiate from every aspect of the fabric of our being.  We have to announce it.  We have to live it.  We have to reflect life and light in all that we do and we have purify our conscience of the works of death and darkness that remain in us.

God’s saving activity remains active in our world just as we have heard it was throughout the history of salvation.  Today God still frees his people from darkness and death.  The Risen Lord calls us to be present in our world bringing this good news.  He calls on us though the witness of our lives to help construct already today something of that that world which will be fully renewed when he comes again.

God remains faithful.  In our world great human progress is accompanied by fragility, ambiguity and huge inequalities, the progress of human genius generates new expectation of progress and yet many people remain marginalized or alienated.  It is the memory of God’s faithfulness throughout history which gives the Christian the ability to announce resurrection in our world.  It gives us the freedom to announce Resurrection as the hope that humankind can still construct a world in which justice is celebrated, where self-interest is moderated by sharing, where men and women can flourish in true freedom and can live their lives to the full.

The Resurrection provides a true foundation for hope.  Those who believe in the resurrection should then be in the vanguard of those who work to overcome scepticism, interior tiredness and resignation, indifference and egoism. 

In word and deed Christians must proclaim the good news that the Lord is Risen.  We should proclaim it on our streets.  We should whisper the good news of resurrection into the ear of all and say to them: “Do not be afraid, the power of death, the power of the negative forces which are present has been defeated and can be defeated”. The Christian in society does not bury his or her head in empty philosophies. The one who believes in resurrection must be out in the world with a passion for life, for truth, for justice.

If Christians have a passion for life then they should be in the forefront in the fight for life, at every moment of its existence.   We have to defend the right to life and we have to fight that all can live with a level of dignity worthy of the Lord of life in whose image they have been created.   It is not the task of the Church to construct the just society, but the message of Jesus Christ enables us to bring a contribution to the discussion on “what society”, which extends beyond the sphere of reason,  bringing an inspiration and a stimulus for consciences through providing greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice.

Christians must have the courage to be present in society on the side of life.   They should be bringing the message of Easter into the public square of political and social life, on community as well as on a broader level.  Christians should be driving forces for a society which contests a culture of violence; Christians should be driving forces for a society based on truth and not corruption; Christians should be driving forces for a society which supports the family as the cradle of life and which generates new policies for real support for families; Christians should be driving forces for a society in which young people receive not just education and instruction but the reasons for hope.

Those of us who have accompanied Jesus in these days of Holy Week have accompanied him in his suffering and thus must a special concern for all those who suffer, ensuring that they receive not just the necessary technical or medical care, but also compassion, which means sharing in their suffering, being alongside them in their suffering.

Through the Resurrection a great energy for newness and life has been released into life.   We see that already as we look on those disciples who encountered the Risen Lord.  They were not a group of utopians or visionaries.  They are the ones who at the first challenge fled, who denied, who were afraid, who were without inventiveness and hope when they thought that their experience with Jesus had come to an end in death.  It is to this group that the Lord appears.  It is the members of this group who are changed when they meet with that same Jesus once again, but this time irradiating new life and new vitality.  Jesus’ resurrection is not just a new injection of life into a dead body, but bodily entry into a new form of life which shares completely in God’s life and is filled with the spirit.

The mystery of the resurrection opens up for us the path to complete union with God, the path to which our own powers are unable to bring us. Through the Resurrection, death is conquered, we are set free and to live with new hope.  Let us, with Christian across the world, joyfully proclaim the good news to all “Christ is truly Risen”.