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Homily for Easter Sunday

Christ is risen! Alleluia! Today we celebrate the victory of Christ over

sin and death. Death seemed to have the upper hand, to be something

inevitable, just like in the expression: there are two things certain in life: death

and taxes. Not only did Jesus declare Himself exempt from the Temple tax (see

Matthew 17:24-27), but death no longer applies to Him anymore either. He has

paid the price for us, He has cast out the “prince of this world” and taken back

His domain, He has restored our relationship with the Father. Now we can be

baptised and become His adopted sons and daughters. We can live the new life,

as from the beginning he meant us to live it. And when our earthly lives

themselves reach their end, we can take our rightful place in heaven. But even

after that, there is more – at the end of the world, when Christ returns in glory,

we too will rise with new, glorified bodies. Just as Christ now has a glorified

body, rather than just the same body as before, so we too “will be revealed in

all ... [our] glory with him”. There’s a lot to take in and a lot to celebrate.


What will our resurrected bodies be like? We can look first at Christ’s body.

For whatever reason, some people failed to recognise Him after His

Resurrection. There are at least two possible explanations for this. Some say

that, in some way, Christ looked different, and so people failed to recognise

Him. Another explanation is that people simply didn’t expect to see Him

again. If a friend of yours died, and later on you saw someone who looked

similar, you’re more likely to say, “you know what, you look like my friend so-

and-so” rather than assume your friend has risen from the dead. It seems that,

whilst some of the apostles and disciples had the promise of the Resurrection in

the back of their minds, others did not. The Crucifixion had been such an

utterly definite and humiliating end, and for some, it had broken their faith.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. How could God die? He said all these

wonderful things, but we must have been mistaken somehow. Thomas, of

course, is famous for his doubting, and he wasn’t there when Christ appeared to

the apostles the first time. He needed time to himself to think it all through and

process it.


In Acts 1:3 it says: “He had shown himself alive to them after his Passion by

many demonstrations: for forty days he had continued to appear to them and

tell them about the kingdom of God”. So over time they became more firmly

grounded in the reality that He was risen, and also, no doubt He revised with

them all He had taught them and got them ready for mission. But the mission

was not just for the apostles. 1 Cor 15:5-6: “he appeared first to Cephas [that

means St Peter] and secondly to the Twelve. Next he appeared to more than

five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still alive,

though some have died”, so St Paul, when he wrote that, could say: if you

don’t believe me, ask all the others – they all saw Him as well!


So back to answering my earlier question of what will the resurrected body be

like. Maybe I shouldn’t ask that question, because St Paul’s reply in 1 Cor 15

is that that is a stupid question. But then he gives a bit of an answer. He likens

it to sowing a seed:


“the thing that is sown is perishable but what is raised is glorious; the thing that

is sown is weak but what is raised is powerful; when it is sown it embodies the

soul, when it is raised it embodies the spirit. ...

[Our] present perishable nature must put on imperishability and this mortal

nature must put on immortality” (see 1 Cor 15:42-44. 53).


Apparently the great preacher Fr Ronald Knox said, that trying to explain what

the resurrected body is like, is similar to trying to explain to a blind person the

colour red. You do your best to explain, and then the blind man says: “Yes, I

think I’ve got it now. It’s like the sound of a trumpet flaring.” In fact, he

hasn’t really got it at all. In my previous experience as a hospital chaplain, I

myself visited someone who was blind. I had seen him before, so I asked him

if he recognised my voice, but he said he did not. I asked him: were you born

blind, or did you lose your sight later on in life? He said that he had always

been blind. He knew there was something called sight, but he had no idea how

it works. He knew that somehow, when a person enters a room, you somehow

know who the person is, but he could comprehend how; it was completely

beyond his experience.


Perhaps in some ways, it’s the same for us with talk about the resurrected

body. But what we do know, is that it’s true. Christ has won the victory,

defeating death and sin, and now, new life is awaiting us. “That Christ is truly

risen from the dead we know. Victorious king, thy mercy show!” (from the

Easter Sequence)

 

Curious about exploring things further?  If you would like to ask further questions about the topics raised in these homilies (or maybe think it wasn’t explained too well!), please feel free to e-mail Fr Michael at stjoseph.thame@rcaob.org.uk

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