(Fr Paul Manickathan SAC - Easter Homily, 2016)
A boy and his father were walking through a large forest and found that to get to the other side they would have to pass through a long dark tunnel. The boy hesitated at the entrance. "Father," said the boy . "How can we walk through there when it's so dark? We won't be able to see where we're going. We don't have torches or candles to light our way."
The father calmly told his son, "Once inside, we'll close our eyes for several minutes to give them a chance to get accustomed to the dark. When we open them again, we will be able to see our way through the tunnel."
The boy did what his father told him. After closing his eyes for some time, he was able to see inside the tunnel and he and his father were able to cross safely to the other side.
FAITH is like that. It lights up the darkness of our spiritual lives, transforming and revealing and giving us sight to see hidden realities and dangers unspiritual minds cannot see or understand, as we walk the walk of faith through the 'narrow-dark-tunnel-of-this-life' in the light of our Saviour.
Imagine a room, with its door and windows all shut. It's totally dark. Your eyesight is as good as ever, but without light there is no way you can appreciate any of the treasures around you in the room. Eyesight without light is useless.
For believers, our FAITH in Christ, the 'Light of the world' enables us to glimpse the wonders of the treasures God's call holds for us. Without faith, human vision is blurred. With faith, is clearly seen the free gift God is offering us again and again, especially each time the death and resurrection of Jesus is celebrated. Each celebration brings with it a strengthening renewal of the FAITH which is God's free gift to all who open themselves to receive it.
Before Good Friday, men exercised their influences in the life of Jesus, but after Good Friday, once the body of Jesus was laid in the tomb, God took over the action. It was then His to write the script in the life of Jesus, and He wrote it in a different way.
Good Friday belonged to men. They could do what they wanted, and they did their worst - and nailed Jesus to the Cross. But, Easter Sunday belonged to God. Men had no part in it, except to watch in awe and amazement at the things God was doing. Men condemned Jesus to death, but God raised Him to life.
The 1st Easter saw the manifestation of God's life-giving power. In any battle between God and man, God will win in the end. The workings of men against God is always doomed to failure. Their work on the tower of Babel, for instance, could only end in their confusion and defeat, because their presumption was an offence to God. God will always have the last say in the affairs of men.
Although the evangelists' reports of the Resurrection are in standard apocalyptic style; with a great earthquake, the veil of the temple being rent in two, the appearances of angels, some dead rising from their graves, and the Lord Himself appearing to Mary Magdalen, no evangelist could describe the actual resurrection. While the crucifixion takes place in full view of witnesses and accusers alike, the resurrection is withheld from human sight. As God willed it, this event forever remains in the domain of 'FAITH'.
The Apostles' proclamations about the Risen Jesus are based on the empty tomb and His post-resurrection appearances. For those without faith, this is not enough. They expect God to meet them on their human terms. But, God wills that understanding of it all, shall only come in the terms of 'FAITH'.
At Easter we see the Crucified Lord transformed into the Risen Christ, and so it is that we too must undergo our own transformation which only our FAITH in Him can activate and accomplish in us.
Our transformation may be metaphorically illustrated in the following way:
Does anyone know what Silicone Dioxide (SiO2) is? It is the chemical compound for sand, ordinary sand. Yet, if we take that ordinary sand and purify it by removing any traces of iron, then bleach it and add limestone and sodium carbonate, then melt the sand by heating it to 1700 degrees we see it become the transparent substance we call 'glass', glass which can be formed into beautiful Cathedral stained glass windows. Glass that can be formed into eyeglasses which can help people to see. Glass that can be formed into a magnificent piece of crystal. But, this all starts with the use of ordinary 'sand' which ceases to be sand. Sand that has given itself up to be re-created and transformed into something stunningly greater.
For me, I see that sand to glass transformation as being a wonderful metaphor for the nights and days of Easter. At first, we see the Lord crucified on Good Friday, with God the Father staying His hand from protecting His Son from the evil. We see the ordinariness and humanity of Jesus, and we see how 'evil' seems to have triumphed over 'good'. Yet, when we look deeper into this reality we see something quite different. Instead, we see a journey of transformation, not only of Jesus being transformed into the Risen Christ on Easter Sunday, but that, His Easter transformation has opened the way for our transformation into living members of His Risen Mystical Body. By means of His Easter suffering, death and resurrection, Jesus has thereby opened the door for us to enter our Father's Eternal Heavenly Home.
Easter Sunday is the day we recognise and celebrate these transformations as being factually real. What was started at Christmas with Christ's incarnation is completed in His Easter Sunday resurrection. The empty tomb is the symbol of His transformation, and from it has come our transformation from the sand of the desert of our lives into the crystal glass of our Heavenly life, with all God's FAITHFUL now being born again in Jesus, to shine forever in the magnificence of HIS radiant Heavenly Glory.
Yet, this shall not happen without our own choosing to allow it. During the 5 weeks of Lent, we have journeyed through the desert sands of our lives into our final transformation. As we journeyed we recognised our need for purification. We recognised our need to be purified from our sins to enable ourselves to be transformed into something new.
Those of us who are already Christians and Catholics must choose that journey, permitting the Lord to purify us. We need to allow the Lord to add the limestone of His grace to us, to be heated by the fire of His Holy Spirit. We need to allow ourselves to be transformed, from the sand of our lives into the crystal of Christ. But, there is still one more ingredient needed for the crystal, or stained glass window, to come alive completely. Windows need light to shine through them for their true beauty to come alive. So too with us, we need to allow the light of Christ to shine through us for our true God-reflecting radiance to come alive and to continue to shine in and through us, forever.
The Easter Story begins in the 1st Day of the week, but what happened in the 1st Day of Creation? In Genesis 1:3 is written: 'Then God commanded, "Let there be Light!" And light appeared. God was pleased with what He saw.' And, again we see in Genesis 1:14-16, God creating the Sun and the moon. We read there: 'Then God commanded, "Let lights appear in the sky to separate day from night, and to show the time when days, years and religious festivals begin; they will shine in the sky to give light to the earth, and it was done. So, God made the two larger lights, the sun to rule over the day, and the moon to rule over the night; as He also made the stars.'
So, what type of light was created in the 1st day? It was the inexpressible 'light' of God's Self-revelation.
Easter began in the dark and carried through into the darkness of the tomb. The story begins with someone whom many had written off as a lost cause: Mary Magdalen. When she reached the tomb, she sees that the stone has been rolled away, and she interprets this to mean that Jesus's body has been stolen.
When Peter and the 'beloved disciple' hear the story they immediately start running to the tomb, and we have a marvellous action picture of the 'Easter jog'. The beloved disciple runs faster than Peter and reaches the tomb first, looks in to see the cloths lying on the ground, and then he waits for Peter. Peter goes in and sees the same evidence. In contrast to Peter, John 'believes'. He sees more than the discarded clothes; he sees what this means with 'the eye of FAITH'. His, is a love that 'sees' in the dark.
There are three Greek words John uses in his Gospel with regard to 'seeing':
In Chapter 20, verse 6, we are told he 'saw' the linen cloth. The Greek word for 'seeing' is "Plepo", which means physical sight. Next, Peter went into the tomb and 'saw'. Here, the Greek word used by John is "Theoreyo" which means an experimental way of seeing, from which word derives the English word, 'theory'. Next, he said with regard to himself when he went in, he said he 'saw' and 'believed', this time using the Greek word "Orao" which refers to 'spiritual' sight.
Therein, John, the Evangelist, is telling us that it is spiritual 'Love' alone which gives the 'Spiritual Sight' of FAITH which is necessary for us to be able to 'see' and recognise in the darkness of this life, the Risen Lord. (Just as it is with 'spiritual faith-love', that we 'see' Him in the Holy Eucharist.)
Love does not require miracles.
'See' the love between husband and wife.
Do they need miracles to prove they love each other?
May we all, together, 'see', and love God with all of our hearts, all of our minds, all of our souls, and all of our strength, forever blessed in the love Our Saviour poured out for us, taking our place on the Cross of Calvary, ending, as it did, with His visible triumph over death in confirmation of His Infinite Power and the Radiant Glory of His Resurrection and Divinity.
May God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit bless us all with a Holy and Peace-filled Easter.