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Sunday, 24 April 2011

Easter Sunday (A)
(Acts 10:34, 37-43; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-9)

On this Easter morning we are gathered to rejoice in the Lord for the glory and beauty of His triumph over sin and death and for the wondrous salvation He has thereby won for us.

If we look back to our origins we can learn there something of the true significance of what, at first glance, would appear to have been the utter degradation and revolting ugliness of Our Lord sufferings and death on Calvary.

God had been wonderfully good to us at our creation: making, forming, us in His own image and likeness, to rule over all that He had made in a way that would give glory to His holy Name and provide for all our needs.   There was, therefore, a close bond of friendship between God and our forebears, Adam and Eve, and God used to walk in the Garden He had prepared for Adam and Eve and hold converse with them:

The Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day called out to the man …

There had been only one restriction to Adam’s total freedom in the garden, and that had been established when God had told him:

You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.

Notice, People of God, that prohibition was made by God because such fruit would be harmful to Adam … eat of it and you shall surely die … and Adam recognized God’s goodness without difficulty for we learn how God subsequently, having lovingly taken notice of Adam’s situation, decided:

It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him … and the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man He made into a woman and brought her to the man.   Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman.”

Thus there was indeed joy and closeness between Adam and Eve and God before the Serpent poisoned Eve’s mind by insinuating that God’s command not to eat of the tree of knowledge had been made not out of love for them but out of His own oppressive wilfulness.

Ultimately the true nature of the bond between Adam and God was determined by the issue of obedience, for Adam chose to follow Eve into disobedience to God’s command… and that, People of God, is why Jesus declared so very frequently that He had come among men not to do His own will but the will of Him Who had sent Him:

            My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me. (Jn. 4:34)

             I do not seek My own will, but the will of the Father who sent Me.

I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (5:30; 6:38)

Jesus made many more such assertions so that we might surely recognize the root of our human sinfulness.

From the very beginning, there has been no true love for God in man where there was no obedience.  On the other hand, the obedience we show to God should never be cold or automatic, for that would be a betrayal of its true nature … it is essentially a supremely authentic expression of human love for God.

Now, bearing in mind what we have learnt about our origins, let us look for the glory and the beauty of Our Lord’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection brought about on Jerusalem’s mount of ignominy, which was called Calvary.

We were told in our reading from the Acts of the Apostles that:

            They put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree.

How wonderfully beautiful!!   The beautiful fruit of God’s good tree in Eden which -- with the Serpent’s deception of sensuous Eve and Adam’s subsequent weak compliance -- had become a stone of stumbling, was totally transformed by Jesus’ obedient self-sacrifice into the death-destroying, life-enhancing, fruit of divine bounty which is offered to us in the Eucharist.

What delight in His Father, what love for us, enabled Jesus to hold His head high throughout those atrocious torments on the Cross?  Of that we are told  in the Psalter from the very beginning:

Blessed is the man (whose) delight is in the law (the command) of the Lord … He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither. (Ps. 1:2-3)

·        Later (Ps. 110:5,7) we read:

The Lord is at your right hand (yes, Father, for Jesus is doing what pleases You, suffering for Your glory and our forgiveness) ….…. He will drink from the brook (whose waters signify Your Holy Spirit) by the way; therefore (like the tree planted by streams of water) He shall lift up His head.   

How wonderful!!

            They put such a man to death by hanging Him upon a tree ..

where He was destined – by His Father’s gift -- to become the fruit of salvation, the fruit of Calvary to be received with faith and humble gratitude, not grasped with pride like that of Eden :

Take this, all of you, and eat it, this is My Body which will be given up for you.
When the serpent deceived Eve he had promised her that:

When you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

And, because he had already secretly poisoned her with pride Eve did not realize that only the goodness of God could sustain the challenge and overcome the threat of evil … and thus being deceived in her folly she became a fitting tool to implicate complacent Adam in her fall.

Our blessed Lord and Saviour, on the other hand, opens our eyes to the full truth of our situation when He offers us the strength of His grace with the call to repent and the warning that only those who humbly believe in Him and in His Father’s goodness are able to receive with profit the full fruit of His sacrifice which is His Holy Spirit.

People of God, today we should rejoice!   Rejoice in God’s infinitely beautiful wisdom that extends throughout all ages and shapes all our destinies; rejoice in His omnipotent and universal might that manifests itself in a love willing to suffer in order to conquer; rejoice in the goodness of Him Who knows no evil and suffers no evil, and Who, in His only begotten Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, our Love, and our Saviour and by His Most Holy Spirit, our Light and Life, our Joy and Peace, is so uniquely able to transform all our evils to His greater glory and our eternal salvation.

(Easter 2011)