(Homily given at the Easter Gathering of the Community of Sant’Egidio in the U.S.)
We have arrived at Easter after having followed Jesus in the last days of life. He welcomed us at the table with great friendship, he bent down before us to wash our feet and he taught us to do likewise one to another. He gave himself in the bread broken and the wine poured out. When anguish and sadness weighed heavy in his heart, he wanted us at his side in Gethsemane. He has indeed given all of his very self for our salvation and we have accompanied him, even to the tomb. A heavy stone sits in front of the tomb; our Lord is on the other side. We ask, “Who will roll it away?”
So often, we place too much trust in our own abilities and strengths. “How might we remove the stone?” we ask. But now is not the time to trust in our strengths and in our abilities. Now is the time to trust in God. Tonight, as family, we are invited to trust in the weak power of love. It was as a family and in love that the women went to the tomb. They did not know how the stone would be moved. They just loved. They just went. Love and faith teach us not to trust in our own strength but to trust in God. Love and faith teach us that life needs God. Faith and love is to believe that I need God to roll away the stone – the stone that covered the tomb of Jesus and all the stones that cover the tombs of our world and even our own lives. We need to go to the sepulcher, to go there just as the women did – in faith and love. Without going to the sepulcher we will not meet the angel nor hear the angel’s message.
“Do not be afraid!” says the angel, “I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, he is risen!” Whoever seeks Jesus must have no more fear! Jesus’ tomb was opened – the stone was rolled back – now all the graves will be able to be opened, all the stones of our lives can be rolled back! There is a force of life and love that emanates from the empty tomb and it is a force that continues to transform all of creation!
Tonight, we are once again reminded that the darkness of pain and suffering in the world, the darkness of my sin and your sin, has been overcome by the light of the Lord. The light of our Easter candle is the light of the resurrection! It is the light that does not diminish just as it is being shared. This is the light that has entered the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it! It is the light of the resurrection but in a sense it is a weak light. For a moment, let us reflect on the entrance of this light into our community. We held up the Easter candle yet then, one by one, we began to pass that light one to another. One by one we shared the light. The light depends upon us; it waits for us to share it.
One by one, the light grew, one by one the darkness of sin, violence and isolation dissipated. One by one the risen Lord enters our hearts and breaks the darkness of sin and expels the darkness of fear.
As for those first disciples, so for us – one by one the light illumines our hearts and one by one, we carry that light back to our cities and towns to help scatter the darkness. We shine the light of the resurrection through community and family, through friendship with the poor, through prayer, especially as we have been invited this Easter, prayer for the sick and for peace.
Let us go quickly for we have an appointment to keep – in Galilee! Tonight, at this gathering, we might as well say in New York, in Boston, in Washington, South Bend, Manchester, Chicago, Minneapolis, Oxford, Seattle, Johnson City, Chattanooga, Rome. Jesus is waiting for us! One by one, he is inviting us to find and meet him in these places where life is lived every day. Where the people are – especially with our friends the poor – the Lord awaits us. “He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.”
This is a momentous time! There is a decision to be made; we have an appointment that cannot be missed! Tonight’s celebration marks a new beginning for our lives and the life of our community. There are so many heavy stones and so much darkness – we all know this – but tonight we sing “Alleluia!” because Christ has risen! Free from fear and free from darkness we sing, “Christ is risen! Very truly he is risen!” That is the song of the community and our song! The sad logic of sin, death and violence is vanquished. Let us live the joy of the Gospel!
The risen one goes ahead of us to Galilee – to each of our towns and cities. We must remember that we are never alone. The risen one is already there, waiting for us, waiting to show us the way. In the gospel we are told that the women left the tomb quickly and as they were running the Lord appeared to them. Jesus comes to whoever runs toward him! We need to move, we need to go, and we need to live for others and not for ourselves! This is the love that can transform our lives and can change the life of our world – one by one.
Chris is risen! Let us rise with him and bring the good news to everyone! Christ is risen! Truly he is risen!