I don't know abut you, but I sometimes struggle with concentrating on homilies or sermons. I especially find homilies that take an exegesis stance more difficult to understand and relate to my personal life. Maybe, this is because I don't have a theological background and have never studied Scripture.
However, this doesn't mean every homily or sermon is difficult to understand. I mean its not everyday a priest opens up his homily with "Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars," which immediately caught my attention.
Father Kieran, who opened his homily in such a way at the Easter Vigil, not only engaged my interest, but the the whole congregation's. It was welcomed with an uproar of laughter. He continued to highlight the differences between women and men, "By the way, you notice it is always the poor men that come out worse in these surveys!"
The significance of highlighting these differences, draws our attention to the willingness of "the women that come eagerly at first sign of dawn to the empty tomb for their appointment with death. Remember they come to anoint a corpse."
It portrays Mary and Martha in such a faithful light, that "why was it the women who first see, who first proclaim? After all, in that era a female voice was worthless. The Gospel writers had no other choice, if the men were to go to the tomb, they would go to the wrong one wouldn’t they? They were not there. They’d missed it, the Cross, the pain, the burial."
In fact Father Kieran further explains that "These women remind us of people who turn up in hard places and still hope. Those who pick up the pieces and still believe God will have the last word. They remind me of ordinary but very special People who make me believe." That basically, sums up what 'Faith' really is. How through life's difficulties, suffering men, women, and children can pick themselves up and continue to walk on with life carrying a peaceful heart and a warm smile. I think this to me, is what the Easter message represents.
Easter not only represents Christ's suffering and death, but also the notion of re-birth and new beginnings. Its when Christ died for our sins so that we may live a new beginning, "The Easter story will not let that be the final word, will not let Death, and all our losses and little deaths be the end either. In our Baptism, in our Community, in Christ we have died to sin and become alive to hope."
The Easter message is more pertinent now when, currently the Catholic church is put under a lot of scrutiny, "shame, that would be a good word to sum up the feeling and position of the church as the particularly dark clouds of the last months have gathered... As I say this, I feel it necessary to apologize to all who have been hurt, overlooked or victimized by the institutional Sin of our church."
"As the Word shared tells us, Sin makes us know the inner weakness of being inadequate to the task of doing only those things that are decent, right and good."
The one weakness every human being face, is the constant battle with Sin. We can't all be Saints, but we can make the conscious effort to try. God keeps reminding us of this, especially during Easter, he reminds us of hope, "a true hope that leads us beyond the smallness of ourselves, beyond the ‘me, me, me’ of a consumerist culture, that John Paul says ‘makes slaves of us all’."
At the Easter vigil, Christ's awakening and empty tomb is the strong message that "we are being led out of Captivity, out of our own tombs. We are invited, like the women into a new beautiful and challenging light. To move out of the cemetery of our lost hopes, into a place we can speak to This New and Risen Christ of the dreams that once defined us, the person we were before things changed us. And like these early witnesses, we are called to see in this empty tomb to true hope for us all. The Story continues, in us, all of us."
"With the angels we proclaim life tonight, true hope in the wounded one who has Risen, so that from now on, nothing and no-one can be seen as a lost cause. That Mary Magdalene is not lost cause, that she will become one of the best disciples. That each of us Magdalene’s down the centuries can have faith and trust in this wonderful feast when a wounded Man sets us free."
"We bless God for this night, which challenges us always to see more in others because we love him. No one is a lost cause."
"He is Risen!"
Father Kieran Brady CSsR, is a Redemptorist priest residing at St Patrick's Church in Edinburgh.