This is my Easter homily. Choicest blessings to all readers!!!
Last Tuesday I was over in the local cemetery saying some prayers for all those interred therein. I was standing next to Fr Seamus’ grave and the adjoining headstone caught my attention. It belongs to Colm Tully and the inscription reads MEMORY IS A GOLDEN CHAIN THAT BINDS US TILL WE MEET AGAIN. Memory is a golden chain that binds us till we meet again.
It came to me that this verse is a beautiful summary of our Christian hope of being reunited with our departed loved ones. This is surely the deepest aspiration of the human heart, far greater than even winning the lotto or seeing Donegal win the All Ireland this year! I found myself thinking about my own parents who are both interred in the same grave down in Kenmare. I offered Mass for my mother Mary on the occasion of her 33rd anniversary last night.
Until this great reunion, we are united in a lesser way by REMEMBERING. Think about the word REMEMBER. When we dis-member something, we separate the parts or members of some thing. When we re-member something, we are bringing together those parts or members that have been separated. This accounts for our traditional practices of Month’s Mind Masses for our departed loved ones, anniversary Masses, printing memorial cards, erecting thoughtful headstones, etc. And of course, we pray for our departed loves ones too.
All of this presents a really big question. How are we going to be reunited with our loves ones? In the likes of Walt Disney movies, this happens automatically, like gravity. We go off into the clouds, we meet an old man with white hair and a beard sitting on a big throne with lots of angels flying around. And we live happily ever after. This is fantasy, it is not real and we shouldn’t stake such an important expectation on it.
What is the real and trustworthy way of being reunited with our loves ones? Firstly we need to recognise our absolute need for a saviour. We cannot do it on our own. At the beginning of Lent we were reminded of our own mortality. “Remember man thou are dust and unto dust thou shalt return.” The wealthiest person in the world is Jeff Bezos, the founder of AMAZON at $145B. He is totally incapable of getting past this absolute barrier of death. So is the most powerful person in the world, Donald Trump. He is a billionaire in his own rite, the president of the United States of America with control of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, etc.
Christians believe that Jesus is the SAVIOUR because he came back from the dead on the first Easter Sunday. In the gospel we heard all about the empty tomb that greeted the women when they came to anoint his body after his burial on Good Friday. The Resurrection is the central belief of Christianity. St Paul tells us that if this didn’t happen, then Christianity is a false religion. Furthermore it is the biggest fraud ever in human history given that some 1.2 billion people currently believe in it – not to mention all those who entrusted themselves to it during the last 2000 years.
A second big question presents itself as well. What do we have to do to be saved from death by Jesus? Some people think that being a Christian is all about being a NICE person. This is a totally inadequate understanding of Christianity – at best it is less than half right and puts the car before the horse. As the name implies, Christianity is all about Christ Jesus. It is about believing in him and accepting him into our lives as Lord and Saviour. This act of accepting Jesus, saying YES to him in our life is so important. God wants us to be his friends and even more, to be his adopted children. This absolutely requires a response of love that comes from our free will. If God didn’t respect our free will, then we would be his prisoners, conscripts or slaves; that is not what his Kingdom and family is about.
In today’s first reading we were told “All who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name.” The primary requirement is believing in Jesus, not being a nice person. To believe in Jesus is to have a trusting confidence in him as the Good Shepherd who will lead us through all our dark valleys. This is the primary way our sins are forgiven and we are united to God with all our loved ones.
What else does believing in Jesus lead to? Well, it leads to a living relationship and friendship with him, similar to those ties within our own natural families – between spouses, parents and children, siblings, grandparents and grandchildren, etc. Friendships need to be nurtured by activities that bring us together. Hence the importance of our commitment to daily prayer, Holy Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, living right with God and neighbour according to the wisdom of the Ten Commandments, etc.
In Summary: The deepest aspiration of our human hearts is to be reunited with our departed loved ones. Jesus made this possible by his victory over sin and death. All he asks of us is to believe in him and accept him as our Lord and Saviour.