Easter Sunday - The Relevance of the Resurrection
The following is a sermon prepared for the 9:30am Mass in Blackfriars, Oxford.
A few weeks ago, I was invited to a school in Essex, and I went into a Year 10 classroom to take some questions. A boy, obviously hoping I would answer his assignment for him, put me on the spot, and asked me: ‘What is the relevance of the doctrine of the resurrection for today’? Well, that is a question we might well ask ourselves today. And I thought I should share with you what I said to him.
Think of the suffering of the people of Japan, Libya, Pakistan etc. Consider the pain and suffering around us, and in our own lives. Suffering is very immediate, and touches each of us at sometime and in some way, directly and indirectly. Then we begin to see how very relevant the resurrection of Jesus Christ is. For as St Paul said, if Christ has not raised then “your faith is futile and you are still in your sins…” Without the resurrection, then his dying on the Cross is futile.
Because we believe that Christ became one of a us, a human person who suffered, died, and was buried. In Jesus Christ, our God became present to human suffering, so that when we suffer, God is there. He is not a God who is distant from us, but a God who has compassion and suffers alongside us. This is a beautiful and important part of our Christian faith. Each generation is overwhelmed by evil, suffering and sin in the world and asks, ‘Where is God’. And the God whom they - we - interrogate is One who is Crucified, suffering on the Cross. And so, the mystery of sin and evil is given meaning - even if we don’t understand it. But it has meaning because Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example.
But all this - Christ’s passion and death - would be ultimately meaningless if not for the resurrection. It is the resurrection, always shining through the Cross, that gives it meaning. It is the resurrection and the promise it holds for us that gives meaning to our suffering, our death; to the Cross we carry each day, and the dying in baptism and in daily martyrdom that we live for Christ. It is the resurrection that gives meaning to the crucifixion of humanity… in Syria, Haiti, the Ivory Coast, Iraq, Afghanistan. On the streets where the homeless lie, and in the slums where the poor scavenge for scraps in rubbish dumps, and in our homes torn apart by violence, selfishness, disharmony. And in our hearts too, crucified by the insults, humiliation, and indignity that others mete out to us. All this pain, sadness, and suffering, where Christ is present only makes sense, or has any meaning because he is the Risen One.
Because we believe he is risen, we know that sin is defeated, that evil and suffering has an end, and that pain, trials, and even death is only temporary. All these have their end, and give way to everlasting life, eternal blessedness, and a new world in which there are no more tears nor sorrow. So, the resurrection touches each one of us individually and as part of the cosmos. It gives us hope and strength to live and to carry on when we might otherwise be weighed down by the sins and trials of life and the world. What could be more relevant?
But neither are we just left with a distant promise… The resurrection is very much present too in our lives, and in our world. For we hope in a new world in which we have an intimate communion with God and share in his divine life. And we already have a foretaste of this in the Mass. The promise of the resurrection becomes a sacramental reality in Holy Communion, and gives us strength for Life’s journey and for the crosses we carry. For in the Eucharist, Christ gives us his risen Body. For here, today, now, and in every Mass we receive a pledge of divine life and already enjoy the effects of Christ’s resurrection. So, we can proclaim after the Consecration: “Lord, by your Cross and Resurrection you have set us free, you are the Saviour of the world”.
And all of this, I believe, is the relevance of the doctrine of the resurrection for today, and for the here and now, and always!