There is no need for alarm…Do not be afraid (Mark 16:1-7)Messages from God are invariably introduced with an encouragement to let go of all fear.
The sun is rising as the women are coming to the tomb in the early morning after the Sabbath. They were over-due to anoint the dead body of Jesus as it was forbidden over the Sabbath rest. Also, after a terrifying experience for all Jesus’ friends and followers, many who ran away, they buried his body in a borrowed tomb in haste. In a sense, they couldn’t wait for first light on Sunday morning so they could do for him what they could in all charity. The body would no doubt be in a bad way after a brutal and savage scourging and a horrific execution by the Romans – humiliation for the entire world to see. They have brought with them herbs and spices to anoint the remains and fresh linen cloths because the shroud he was put in would be soaked. All they were concerned about was who would they get to roll away the large stone that was placed in front of the tomb. Their broken hearts thumping, they turned the corner and drew near to the tomb.What greeted them was very strange. The stone had been rolled back. Now this was no small boulder. This was a large heavy circular rock which had been fashioned for the specific purpose of guarding the entrance to a burial tomb. They hurried in and were greeted by a young man in white who said “There is no need for alarm, you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified: he has risen, he is not here. See, here is the place where they laid him. But you must go and tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going before you to Galilee; it is there you will see him, just as he told you."
There is no need for alarm. Do not be afraid. These are words that have been ringing in my ears for a while now. As powerfully as the angel inside the empty tomb, the ‘man in white’ challenges the women to let go of all fear, we Christians are challenged by the fact that Jesus is alive to do the same in our time. So what scares us? What scares me? What are the fears I must let go of in order to be fully alive? Because have no doubt, fear locks up all of us with a power stronger than jail doors, high walls and prison bars.In our own community here in the city centre, we need to shake off the shackles of the fears that imprison us in crime, in addiction, in hatred, in racism, in rivalry, in trafficking, and in violence. Speaking at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday in The Pro Cathedral the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Diarmuid Martin said; “How many are there who feel that our culture offers them fulfilment and yet never seem to reach the happiness that they seek. How many are frustrated into resorting to violence – just think of the brutal murders on our streets? How many find themselves trapped into a culture of empty consumerism, of drugs or even of morbid depravity?”
It’s no secret that we have an epidemic addiction problem in this city and in Ireland. Many know the details far more than me. I’m not qualified to speak with any authority on the horrors of addiction but these people, our sisters and brothers, are buried in a tomb as dark and foreboding as Christ’s tomb was. This is the vicious circle that has them tied up and restrained in bandages which are almost impossible to undo. But all is not lost. Even though things seemed all was lost and gone for the women of Jerusalem and for the disciples of Jesus as he died on the cross, what was actually happening was a new beginning. There is no need to be afraid – there is always hope. I salute the members of NA, CA, AA, Soilse, and the SNUG counselling service in our Parish. You all are bearers of the light in what can be seen as a darkened tomb. The impossibly heavy rock will be thrown away.When the women went to disciples, they all remembered what Jesus had often said about his passion, death, and resurrection. They came to faith in him and in his promises. They were fuelled by the power of the Holy Spirit to go out and witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and to preach the Gospel to all nations. From day one there was ridicule and even hostility to this new Christian movement. There were some who actively tried to oppose it and some again who have done so from the inside. Men and women were martyred because of their belief in Jesus Christ. Over and over again, across the centuries, the church of Christ has stood in the shadow of the cross of Christ.
In our time, I would argue there seems to be very little appetite in Irish society for example, for the church, and by that I mean the Bishops or church spokespeople, to explain Church teaching. The Archbishop of Armagh, Dr. Eamon Martin also spoke at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday in Armagh about the challenges of being a Christian and holding Christian values in the Ireland of today; “Sometimes daring to witness openly to our sincerely held Christian convictions can bring upon us ridicule, condemnation or even persecution. I am thinking, for example, about our strong beliefs in the sacredness of human life from the first moment of conception until the moment of natural death; our Church’s understanding of marriage and the family; our Catholic social teaching about the fair distribution of goods, care for creation and concern for the weakest and most vulnerable.”While I am aware that there can be over-zealous Catholic and Christian opinion out there, I wonder why our church which is simply stating its time-honored, centuries-old teaching of marriage being between a man and a woman, which is open to life, can be told to more or less get out of the way. Like I said earlier, again, I am not eminently qualified to speak as I am not married, but I feel I have some insights into it since I spent the first 18 years of my life living with a mother and a father in a family. And while I don’t live with them now, I am aware of their lives, and their struggles, and their highs and their lows, and I love them just the same. Many priests are married today in different places where the Church is and in Dublin we have married Permanent Deacons who preside at weddings, celebrate baptisms, and lead funeral liturgies, so that old argument of clergy not having a clue will disappear too.
Meeting us with the words, ‘There is no need for alarm,’ We are challenged by the ‘angel in white’ who sits in the tomb and announces that Christ is not there. We are asked who are we looking for? Ultimately we all seek Jesus. We want to be happy and he alone has the message of eternal life.
“I plead with you--never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.”
“The future starts today, not tomorrow.” Pope St. John Paul II