Easter Sunday 2012

"Now we are those witnesses 
 we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead."

At the house of Cornelius, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, addressed those gathered there for this new Pentecost. What he had to tell them was something unexpected. It was about Jesus of Nazareth, whom most people presumed to be dead and buried. But Peter was saying something quite extraordinary, that this Jesus, who had been put to death by crucifixion, had been raised to life by God three days later. And not only that, Peter was even suggesting that Jesus was God, for "all who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name." The Pharisees had been right, only God can forgive sin, and yet Jesus often told people "your sins are forgiven". Now here was Peter claiming that sins would be forgiven in Jesus' name if people believed in his Resurrection. Jesus then is the Son of God, equal to the Father, indeed "God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good," healing and forgiving all those who come to him in faith.

But Peter was also claiming something else: "Now we are those witnesses - we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead." Who was he talking about? The Apostles, Our Lady, Mary Magdalene and the other women, who formed part of the inner circle that met in the Upper Room. Then there were his friends, people such as Mary, Martha and Lazarus and many more: those he had healed like Bartimaeus and the man born blind, the lepers and the paralytics, the woman with the haemorrhage, the widow of Nain and her son and the centurion's daughter. What about the small lad who had provided the loaves and fishes to feed the five thousand? Then there were those who had been with him to the end: Veronica and Simon of Cyrene, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea, Cleopas of Emmaus and his companion.  

To them you can add St Paul who wrote to the Corinthians. Not only does he give us the earliest account of the Last Supper, he was able to write what we heard this morning. "Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed; let us celebrate the feast, by casting away the old yeast of evil and wickedness, having only the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." We can say that all those, who throughout history have believed in Jesus and lived their lives for him, those who have done in his memory what he told them to do, "have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead".

That is what we are doing today. We are celebrating the Eucharist, the Mass, to recall and remember his death and resurrection and, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to represent and make those saving events a present reality in the life of the Church. That, after all, is the meaning of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. At this Paschal Banquet, we are present in the Upper Room, we are present on Calvary and we are present in the Easter Garden. Like Mary Magdalene we see the stone rolled away. Like Peter and the Beloved Disciple we see inside the empty tomb; we see and we believe. Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus our hearts burn within us as Jesus walks with us and explains the scriptures to us and we recognise him as Lord and Saviour in the breaking of bread. Like the disciples at Pentecost we too have received the gift of the Spirit, the fullness of grace, and now we too bear witness to Jesus. We proclaim him to be Lord and Saviour and that in his Church we find salvation. "Now we are those witnesses - we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead."

In the Victimae Paschali we sing the words, "Dux vitae mortuus regnat vivus" - The Lord of life is dead yet lives and reigns." Where there is death, there is life, where there is sorrow, joy, where there is darkness, light, where there is hatred, love and, in our hearts, where there is doubt, there is also faith.

On behalf of Fr Prior and the Monastic Community I wish you all a joyful and a holy Easter. Christ is risen.

Alleluia, alleluia.