Here is the text of the sermon preached by Fr Ian at the Easter Day Mass at St Chrysostom’s, 2019.
The first Easter Sunday began with sorrow, the sorrow of mourners visiting the grave of a friend – and more than a friend – who had recently and tragically been killed. Then came fear at the mystery of an empty tomb and the realisation that strange things were afoot. But then came wonder, wonder at the sight of the risen Lord, ‘Can it really be true?’ And finally sheer joy as Jesus appears to the disciples together in the upper room.
Sorrow. Fear. Wonder. Joy. Believers today experience the sorrow, and even perhaps something of the fear or the awe, in Holy Week – and especially on Good Friday. But for us Easter is a day simply of wonder and joy. And the invitation and the command given to the women who visited the tomb on the fist Easter morning are given anew to us who worship the risen Lord at Mass on this Easter morning, ‘Come and see the place where he was laid, and then go quickly and tell ….“He has been raised from the dead”.’
‘Come and see’. Come and feast your eyes on the empty tomb. Come and see the eleven disciples in the upper room as the risen Lord appears to them.
And pray for the eyes of faith that you may see the risen Lord here among us this morning, explaining the scriptures to us, and making himself known to us in the breaking of bread – yes, and actually giving us a share in his risen life as we receive him anew in our Easter Communion. Come and see the risen Lord. Come and share in the Easter experience.
‘Come and see’ is an invitation. But that’s only the first part. The second is a command, ‘Go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead”.’ This command is repeated in one form or another in all the gospels. ‘Go quickly and tell his disciples’, said the angel to the holy women. ‘Go and take word to my brothers’, said Jesus himself.
‘Go quickly and tell’. There were others who hadn’t yet heard, others who were waiting to hear and wanting to hear. Those who had heard – and seen – were bidden urgently to pass on the good news. And of course they did. To have kept it to themselves would have been unthinkable, unnatural, impossible. They were told to pass it on, and they wanted to. They knew it was true, and they wanted everyone else to know.
But just as the invitation, ‘Come and see’ is addressed to us today, so too is the command, ‘Go quickly and tell’. That word ‘quickly’ implies an urgency, and I believe there is a real urgency in the task that confronts you and me as Christ’s disciples today. Mind you, we have to be careful here. I find the idea of aggressive evangelism repulsive. If we are to speak to other people, we must also be prepared to listen to them. If we’re to speak to them of our faith, we must also listen to doubts, and share our doubts too. If we want others to take our experience and our stories seriously, we must also take their experience and their stories seriously.
I suspect that historians will describe our own age as one not of faith but of apathy and cynicism. Every survey that’s conducted indicates that most young people today haven’t the slightest idea of the meaning of Good Friday or Easter, that most young people know little of Jesus Christ – let alone that he rose from the dead. We can’t blame them for this. No one has told them, no one has helped them see.
And yet I suspect that there are many, many people who are longing to hear good news which we’re celebrating today. People who believe in goodness, and who long to be assured of its eternal value and its ultimate triumph. People who find themselves in terrible circumstances and long for new hope, new joy. People who find life baffling, devoid of meaning and purpose, and who long to discover just who they are and what their life is about. People who cherish the gift of life, and who long to be convinced of eternal life. People who’ve experienced God’s love through the love of a parent, a spouse, a partner or a child who’s died, and they can’t believe that the earthly parting was final – and yet they can’t believe either that it wasn’t.
People in their hundreds and thousands longing to hear the good news of Easter: That evil is overcome; that good was – and will be – triumphant; that this earthly life has an eternal dimension, an eternal significance; and that Our Lord’s victory over death, and His eternal life, are things which we and our loved ones can share.
We do indeed have a good news to celebrate and proclaim. Jesus Christ is risen today. Come and see. And then, when you’ve seen, go quickly and tell.