Holy Saturday 2016
"When the women returned from the tomb, they told all this to the Eleven and to the others, but this story of theirs seemed pure nonsense, and they did not believe." "Pure nonsense", that's what we are celebrating tonight. And it's the Gospel that says so. To start with, the apostles and the other disciples found the news of the empty tomb and the message of the angels to the women, that the Lord Jesus had risen from the dead, simply impossible to believe, in fact, "pure nonsense". So it doesn't come as a surprise today when we read and hear all sorts of disparaging remarks about Jesus, the Resurrection, the Gospel, the Christian faith and the Church. It was the same from the beginning, starting with the scribes and Pharisees. For Christians, the more we hear Jesus blasphemed and insulted, the more we love him and want to be counted among his disciples. The more his Church is criticised and ridiculed, the more we love her and try to be faithful to her teaching and tradition. Persecution and martyrdom, whatever form they take, are the seedbeds of the Church, as Tertullian once said.
We all learn by making mistakes and reflecting on personal experience. The same happened with the apostles. They listened closely to what the angels had told the women. "Why look among the dead for one who is alive? He is not here: he is risen. Remember what he told you; that the Son of Man had to be handed over into the power of sinful men and be crucified, and rise again on the third day." To begin with, they didn't know what to make of it. They had to see for themselves. Think of Thomas - "Unless I see the holes in his hands and can put my fingers into the holes and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe."
Then, early in the morning on the first day of the week, something finally twigged in Peter's mind. Hadn't he heard Jesus talk about this very moment many times before his Passion? So he went running to the tomb and, finding it empty, came back, amazed at what he had seen. His doubts began to evaporate in the first light of dawn. He was beginning to believe: faith was taking hold. Only gradually, as Jesus appeared first to one, then to another, then finally to all of them, did the disciples come to believe that he had risen from the dead. Even so, remember what Jesus said to Thomas, "Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe."
Tonight we give thanks to God for the gift of faith. It might still be "pure nonsense" for many, but for us Christians, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the source of our joy and the key that opens the door to the meaning of life and death, of suffering and of God's ultimate purpose for Creation. In the Resurrection we see the light of truth.
Let us give St Paul, writing to the Romans, the last word. "When we were baptised, we went into the tomb with Christ Jesus, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father's glory, we too might live a new life. When he died, he died to sin once for all, so his life in now life with God. So you too must consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive for God in Christ Jesus."
On behalf of the Monastic Community I wish you all a joyful Easter. Christ is risen; he is risen indeed. Alleluia, alleluia.