Monday, April 9, 2012
The door of the tomb and the door of faith
Homily for Easter:
“They were saying to one another, ‘Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back; it was very large.”
The three women on their way to the tomb, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, were concerned about an obstacle that threatened to block their access to Jesus Christ, whom they supposed to be lying dead behind the stone.
St Mark adds that the stone was “very large.” We could describe it as a huge stone, a huge obstacle, something that the women would not have been able to move by their own strength.
They found, however, that this stone had been rolled back, and so they were able to enter through the door of that tomb. The door of that tomb was to prove to be much more than an entry into the tomb where they expected the dead body of Jesus to lie. Rather, the door of that tomb was a “door of faith”. By entering through that door, they were able to hear the testimony of a young man clothed in a white robe – an angel – who told them that Jesus “has been raised; he is not here.”
The young man told them to tell Peter and the other disciples. We may suppose however that the women believed, even before Peter and the apostles came to verify for themselves the truth of the testimony of these women, before – if you will – the Church officially believed in the Resurrection. The door of the tomb was a door of faith.
“The ‘door of faith’ is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church.” It was with these words that Pope Benedict began an apostolic letter entitled PortaFidei – the door of faith – on October 11th last and in which he announced a Year of Faith which will begin on October 11 next, the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and end on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, on November 24 2013.
The Year of Faith will be “a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the world. In the mystery of his death and resurrection, God has revealed in its fullness the Love that saves and calls us to conversion of life through the forgiveness of sins.”
Today, one of our number will enter through this door of faith, setting out on a journey that will last a lifetime. This journey “begins with baptism, through which we can address God as Father, and it ends with the passage through death to eternal life, fruit of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” (PF, 1)
Patty enters through that door of faith now. We entered so many years ago. Our journey will lead us through another door, the door of death, that leads to eternal life where faith will disappear, hope will be fulfilled, and charity will endure in the fullness of purity.
There are many obstacles – large obstacles – to faith, like that huge stone that the women expected would block their entry into the tomb, a place of death where they found life. Only the grace of God can remove these obstacles.
The people of Israel faced the waters of the Red Sea as they fled Egypt. They were led by the fiery cloud, that appeared as a cloud – the glory of God – by day and a fire – the light of Christ – by night, just as we were led by the light of the paschal candle form the darkness of night into this place of light and joy, led by the light who is Christ, the light of the peoples.
To enter through the door of faith and to persevere on the road of faith is only possible by the help of God’s grace.
We are only too well aware of the challenges to our Christian faith today. There is first of all the challenge of our own weakness leaves us vulnerable to the temptation to lack of faith, or even to sin.
There are the forces of secularism and relativism that tell us that there is no place for religion in the public square, that our religious beliefs should not have any social consequences, that there is no such thing as truth, that faith is myth.
The Church proclaims the dignity of every human being: “God created man in his image; in the image of God he created them” in the face of a widespread disregard for human life and human rights, including the right to religious liberty.
The Church proclaims a beautiful vision of life and fertility: “Be fertile and multiply”, whereas powerful institutions at national and international levels seek to promote anti-fertility policies and aggressive population control.
The Church proclaims the equality yet complementarity of the sexes: “male and female he created them” and the consequent teaching of marriage as an indissoluble union between a man and a woman, in the face of attempts to redefine marriage to encompass other kinds of union.
Even though these truths do not pertain exclusively to the realm of faith – they are all of the natural law, accessible to all men and women who use their reasoning powers correctly – they are being challenged today as at no other time in history.
There are other challenges we may face, in which things just seem impossible – until we place our trust in God. And then the impossible becomes possible.
The prophecy of Ezekiel sums up the work that God wishes to accomplish in us in leading us through the door of faith which is baptism:
“I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you… I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony (or hard) hearts and giving you natural hearts (of flesh)… You shall be my people, and I will be your God.” This new heart and new spirit will lead us into a greater desire for union with God in prayer, for it is only in union with God that the human heart finds the fulfillment of its deepest desires: “Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you my God.”
And to strengthen us on this lifelong journey we are nourished by the food of the Holy Eucharist. This is the truly living Son of God, Jesus Christ, who gives his body and sheds his blood for us. As he gives us himself, so we must give ourselves to him in an act of total faith and total trust. Then all obstacles to faith will be overcome. The door of faith will always be open for us.
To abandon faith is to abandon hope and ultimately to lose any sense of the purpose of life. To journey in faith is to live by hope, and to live a life of the deepest charity – love – united with the Risen Christ in this life, so that we shall live forever with him in the next.
Let us this Easter ask Our Lord to increase in us the gifts of Faith, Hope and Charity that he placed in our hearts at baptism, when we first entered through the door of faith.