This is the text of a homily included in “Homilies for April” in the Furrow
“Were you there when they found the empty tomb ….” so goes the old Spiritual and it leads us to that challenging line “sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble” … There are many versions of this hymn and many ways to sing it but the lyric is constant. Questions in song: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” “Were you there when he died upon the cross, laid him in the tomb, when the sun refused to shine ….” and always leading to the tremble – the response.
Isn’t there something good about that? There’s a response and a real one in trembling because it says something in us has been touched by an experience. Someone once said the best remedy for “trembling legs” is to kneel! To pray! Respond! At the heart of everything our faith is about and every word uttered by Christ is the desire for response.
We have it in abundance in all our Scripture and Liturgy of the past few days. “Behold the wood of the cross on which hung the saviour of the world”. “Come let us worship”. “The Light of Christ” “Thanks be to God”. “Do you reject Satan and all his works and all his empty promises?” “I do”. Cornelius’ household addressed by Peter “you must have heard about the recent happenings in Judea” (Response).”This day was made by the Lord” “We rejoice and are glad” (Response). “Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ you must look for the things that are in heaven” (Response) “Get rid of all the old yeast” (Response). Early that Easter morning they went to the tomb (Response). When they found it empty they went in search of the others (Response) and hearing the women’s story two disciples run to the tomb (Response). On seeing the tomb emptied, the truth dawned “Till that moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead”. (Response)
If the women didn’t go to the tomb how could we have known it was empty? If the apostles didn’t run to the empty tomb how could the truth have dawned for them? If Peter didn’t bother speaking to Cornelius and his household how could a conversion take place? If the men hadn’t walked and talked on the road to Emmaus how could he have joined their conversation? If there’s no response – meaningful response – to this day, to the journey we’ve been on since Palm Sunday, no since Ash Wednesday, something will be missing from our lives and a Sacred Story will go un-shared.
This Easter Day is an invitation to faith in the Risen Christ and to the lasting consolation that is the empty tomb. It is a day to hear and keep close to the heart the Easter Day stories of slowly coming to realise that He is risen. Like all invitations, some are more welcome and expected than others but out of courtesy and better again friendship, there is a need to reply. He is inviting you to the celebration in its entirety, the celebration of life and love that is around us. In a strange way too, of course, he is inviting us to “the afters”! When the living is done, the journey complete the invitation does not end. “I go,”, he told them “to prepare a place for you …. that where I am you may be too.”
It’s mighty that we are here. It’s mighty that you are all here – we have heard it all again, gone through those days again, stood at the Cross and the Empty Tomb again and now there’s only one thing needed – Response! Respond with faith, through faith and in faith.
Sometimes it causes me, causes us (and it should) to tremble, tremble, tremble ….