As flames engulfed the beautiful Cathedral of Notre Dame on Monday evening last, a local priest spoke of his “great sadness” at the destruction, but, seeing how much had been saved – including the Blessed Sacrament and the treasured relic of the Crown of Thorns – he also expressed his “unspeakable joy” which he put down to his “hope of the Resurrection”.
This past week Christians have been marking, in prayer and in worship, the two great pillars of our faith – the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ.
At this time of the year, the media features stories about relics like the Shroud of Turin, the Crown of Thorns, the True Cross and the Veil of Veronica. Seasonal films are shown like The Passion of the Christ, Mary Magdalenand The Greatest Story Ever Told. But perhaps the most vivid and tangible way to understand the mystery of Holy Week and Easter is to remember that “Christ is alive!”, and to search for Him in the real life experiences of people who face the Cross of suffering while sharing the hope of Resurrection.
The Cross of Good Friday continues to cast a long shadow in the world from the hungry and thirsty lands of South Sudan and Yemen, to those still fleeing from violence in Syria, to those caught up in natural disasters like the recent cyclone in Mozambique. And we can all think of people much nearer home for whom the agony of the Cross is very real. This weekend I have been praying in particular for the loved ones and colleagues of the talented young journalist, Lyra McKee, whose life was so cruelly and pointlessly ended by violence in my home city of Derry. May Lyra rest in peace.
If the story of salvation had ended on Good Friday, we would remain a people of despair, crying out as Jesus did on the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned us?”
On this Easter Day I pray that we can be “Easter People” – like the early Christians – capable of bringing the joy of the Resurrection into our troubled world. Everywhere around us people are crying out for a reason to live in hope. Our mission, as Easter people, is to work for the restoration of hope in society; to be a positive and charitable presence in our communities, especially with the suffering, homeless, migrants and poor. We are called to be reconcilers and peacemakers, willing to help heal the wounds of the past in our families, society and Church; to be comforters, reaching out to those who feel abandoned or in despair with the Good News of Easter hope.
Pope Francis sums up this Good News in his post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christus vivit (Christ is Alive), which the Holy Father published on 2 April specifically for the benefit of young people but also for the entire People of God:
“Christ is alive! He is our hope, and in a wonderful way he brings youth to our world, and everything he touches becomes young, new, full of life … Christ is alive and he wants you to be alive! He is in you, he is with you and he never abandons you. However far you may wander, he is always there, the Risen One. He calls you and he waits for you to return to him and start over again. When you feel you are growing old out of sorrow, resentment or fear, doubt or failure, he will always be there to restore your strength and your hope” (Christus vivit, 1/2).
Beannachtaí na Cásca oraibh go léir.