I heard a story once shared by the late Archbishop Joe Cassidy that might have a place in today’s liturgy.
He spoke about his childhood days in Charlestown, Co. Mayo and his love for the cinema. He often referred to this as the escape into another world that we all look for from time to time. Going to the cinema was a highlight of his young life. To get there, the saving had to be done. Coins gathered and set aside to secure the ticket. One way of gathering coins was by collecting jam jars and returning them to the shop. He said he recalled one day that he wanted to go to the cinema but he could not find a jam jar. He went to his mother’s cupboard in the kitchen and saw there a jar and he knew that if he brought it to the local shop, the money received would secure his ticket. There was one problem. The jar was half full. He said he looked at it for a while, wrestled with the temptation and then closed the door, leaving the jar on its shelf. He said he learned a lesson that day. The jar was no use to him, unless it was empty. Joe shared this story on an Easter Sunday morning and added, “Neither is the tomb”!
Recently I met a priest who seemed a bit fed-up. I looked at him and said “They found the empty tomb” – in fairness, he smiled and a chat followed. Like the women and men in the Gospel story of this Easter Day, we can fail to understand the meaning of the Scriptures that he must rise from the dead. Our focus can be on the sealed tomb – its heavy stone in place and our questions around “who will roll away the stone?” rather than coming to an acceptance that the stone “which was very big”, had been rolled away by the Power of God’s Hand.
Our world, both global and personal, can all too easily be plunged into darkness and despair. Recent times have brought us face to face with devastating cruelty. People’s lives discarded with a barbarity matched only by the accompanying and stomach churning use of social media. This and so much more serves only to drive deep into the hearts and flesh of family and friends, the coldness of the hammered nails. There are as well and more local to us perhaps, personal battles and demons that crowd in on us and block the light. All too well, we know the confusion of those who loved Jesus as they watched the skies darken over Calvary.
It is perhaps in that very awareness we find again the light. As he knew what it was to suffer, to watch pain scrape its way across the faces of those he loved, to be misunderstood and sacrificed – it is here we meet God with us – the “Emmanuel” of Christmas and with us he says “this too will pass”. There is a today in all of this and a Paradise. There will be a stone rolled back, an empty tomb and a ticket secured.
A ticket – not to a cinema, long closed, in Charlestown but to an eternity ever open by the one who conquered Calvary, rested in the borrowed tomb and left behind the chains of despair and the taunts of brokenness. “He is not here. He is risen!”.
We are here and, with Him, we are risen. Light the light then. It’s so much better than cursing the darkness.
From “THE FURROW” “Homilies for April” (Vincent Sherlock)