23 April – Easter Vigil Mass – St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh

EASTER VIGIL MASS – ST. PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, ARMAGH
HOMILY
BY
CARDINAL SEÁN BRADY
SATURDAY 23 APRIL 2011

Tonight it is a great joy for the Church in Armagh to welcome into its midst Anna Soledad from Germany and Arvydas John James from Lithuania.  In a few minutes they will be baptised, confirmed and receive their first Holy Communion.  In that way they will become sharers in a new life – the life of God.

When John the Baptist baptised Our Lord in the Jordan, he plunged him down into the water and drew him up again.  That is how baptism was carried out in the early Church.  This way of baptising symbolised death.  The sinner went down into the water as if descending into his grave.  There he left behind all his sinful nature and rose up a new personality so that he might live a New Life.  

One of the many joys of living in Armagh is the beauty of its hinterland.  I particularly enjoy, at this time of year, an early morning drive up to Markethill and Gosford and onto Newry to see the sunrise behind the Mourne Mountains dispel the mists and darkness, revealing hills and valleys, full of new life. What a heavenly delight.  

Every sunrise is a reminder that Christ rose from the dead.  Each day the sun comes up and brings light to the world. Jesus rose from the darkness of death so as to conquer it forever with the light of his love and his life.  So I am very happy to have this opportunity of sending Easter greetings and good wishes to all of you.  I want to greet, in a special way,

  • Those who are sick this Easter,
  • Those who are troubled in any way,
  • Those who are grieving – I am thinking especially of those who are lonely because they know that they are terminally ill, or because they know that a loved one has truly left them.
  • I am thinking of those who are depressed because they feel today, a sense of loss or bereavement, failure or rejection.  

I am happy to send you greetings on this Easter Sunday.   For this is the day on which Christ has given us all hope – no matter what our situation.  This is the season when Christ remembered those who had forgotten his promise of rising from the dead.  So, if you are one of those for whom life has lost its meaning, do not despair; the Risen Christ can give you new hope.  If you have lost hope of ever getting forgiveness for your past, remember the Risen Christ said:  ‘Peace be with you’ and gave to the apostles, who had abandoned him, and to Peter, who denied him, the power to forgive.  

If you are afraid of dying, and who is not! – please remember that God raised Christ from the dead.  Christ himself will raise us up to life by His own power.  If your suffering is so severe that it, at times, seems overwhelming, at this time let us remember that Christ followed the way of suffering even to the cross.  He won for us all the patience to endure.  He is living now to intercede for us.

If you find it difficult to rest and be at peace, never forget that Christ can keep us united with those who have gone before us and enable us to find rest with them when life’s work is over.  

If you find the struggle with temptation awful, never forget that Christ has broken the power of hell and can destroy, within us, everything that is at enmity with God.

But this, of course, will only happen if we play our part.  The first thing we have got to do is to believe in Him.  We have got to set our hearts on the things that are of Heaven.  In Christ and in His Resurrection, a new hope has dawned.  It is the hope that if we stay united to Christ, through faith and grace, we will rise with Him but:

  • We have got to be in union with Christ.  
  • We have got to die to sin in our lives and opt for union with Christ – our one and only Saviour.  No-one else offers such a hope, because no-one is in a position to offer it.

So, this Easter I suggest that wherever you are, and however you feel, try and find a quiet time and a quiet space in which to contemplate the joy of the Easter story, come into the presence of the Risen Jesus.  He is alive and he is present, here and now – within you, in your friends and in creation.  He is also present in His word and in the sacraments, especially the Blessed Sacrament.  

I hope to be present at the Beatification of Pope John Paul II on Sunday next.  The late Pope John Paul had great devotion to the Divine Mercy.  He himself died on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005.  

The great promoter of the devotion to Divine Mercy Sunday was St. Faustina.  At her canonisation eleven years ago, Pope John Paul II passed on this message which she received from Jesus:

“Humanity will not find peace until it turns trustfully to Divine Mercy”.

Pope John Paul II went on to say that the light of Divine Mercy will light the way for the people of the Third Millennium – especially in the face of the inevitable painful experiences”

As the apostles once did, today too humanity must welcome into the Upper Room of History, the Risen Christ who shows the wounds of his crucifixion and repeats “Peace be with you”.

We must let ourselves be touched by the Spirit given to us by the Risen God

•    A Spirit that heals the wounds of the heart
•    Pulls down the barriers that separate us from God and divide us from one another.

Many people were surprised at John Paul’s fervent promotion of Divine Mercy Sunday and of the preparatory novena which begins on Good Friday.  They thought that it would distract us from the celebration of the Resurrection.  But John Paul II did not see it like that.  He saw the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ as the most powerful revelation of the Mercy of the Father.  

St Faustina once wrote:  “If people could only realise how much God loves them”:  May our celebrations tonight not only to heal the wounds of our hearts but help to pull down all barriers that separate.  Then we can realise how much God really loves us.

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