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Microsoft word - pastoral message easter 2012.doc
Pastoral Letter, Second Sunday of Easter (Low Sunday) 2012
My dear people of Arundel & Brighton,
One of the signs that there is little real news about is the emergence of stories in the media that are of
little real significance but of minor interest, and can be understood easily. One of these before Easter
was the amount of packing that goes into – or rather around – Easter eggs. It’s a bit surprising that the
media seem to be aware of this only now. The story was that a well-known and respectable chocolate
maker was selling eggs that advertised chocolates inside the egg as well. It turned out that there were
about six. But the egg was packed in layers of cardboard and with a protective plastic shell round it.
The egg itself, of course, represented the amount of chocolate you would get in a fairly ordinary-sized
bar. It’s all presentation and little substance, like much of our world.
The events of the Olympic and Paralympic Games that appear to cost most and seem most popular are
the opening and closing ceremonies. It’s the wrapping again. Presentation is all-important today.
We are celebrating Easter for the next six weeks, leading up to Pentecost, and the Easter liturgies are
probably the most impressive and powerful of the year: think of the Mass of Chrism, the celebration of
the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, the very moving liturgy of Good Friday and then the
dramatic celebration of the Easter Vigil and the First Mass of Easter.
But liturgies like this are in some ways the wrapping that enclose and point to the truth that we believe
in, and we mustn’t confuse the two. Very often we will come out of Mass feeling comforted, reassured,
better for having been part of that celebration, especially if the liturgy has been particularly elaborate.
On the other hand, the simplicity of some celebrations will offer comfort and reassurance to people.
Today’s gospel reading from St John is read on this Sunday for each of three years of the cycle of
Sunday readings, which would suggest that it has an importance that is not always obvious when we
The four gospels differ in their accounts of Jesus’ first appearance to the disciples after his resurrection.
In Matthew, Jesus appears to the two women who have gone to the tomb, and they are told to tell the
others to go to Galilee, where they meet Jesus. The account in Mark’s gospel is not clear, and many
believe that the original end to the gospel has been lost, and that what we have now is a sort of
mixture of Matthew and Luke. Luke himself has the women
going to the tomb also, and then recounts how they tell the others what they have found, and that
Peter runs to the tomb to find it empty. The first appearance, however, is to two disciples at they walk
along, in that wonderful story of the road to Emmaus.
So back to John and today; John also has Mary coming to the tomb. This is Mary Magdalene, and she
finds the tomb empty and tells the others. In this account Peter is beaten in the race to the tomb, but
when the two disciples find it empty they understand what the cloths lying there mean, and go back
home. Mary stays outside the tomb weeping, and Jesus approaches her, but she doesn’t recognise him
until he calls her by name. She goes back and tells them what she saw, and then that evening Jesus
appears in their midst and speaks to them. His first words are, “Peace be with you.” In some ways this
might be a simply reassurance for them, because John says the doors were closed “for fear of the
Jews.” The disciples are now filled with joy, but again he says, “Peace be with you.” Curiously, it is also
the greeting Jesus uses in Luke’s account when he appears to them all.
This greeting is more than just an attempt to calm or reassure a group of frightened people. It is a
message that is profoundly associated with the events we have just celebrated. It is a reassurance for
us in our anxieties and fears. It is a promise that, as the other John says in the second reading, we
need not fear, “because anyone who has been begotten by God has already overcome the world.” It is
a way of pointing us to the consequences of the death and resurrection of Christ, that our sins have
been forgiven and that salvation has been won for us all. We have been brought back into that
relationship with God that we lost in sin; God the Father has shown us just how much he loves us, by
sending his only Son to die that we might live. Here is the cause of our peace. This is why at this time
we can feel reassured, despite all our own secret anxieties and fears.
I hope that this is, then, a specially fruitful time for you. I am thinking also of those who have been
received into the Church last week, and of those preparing for Confirmation in the months ahead. It is a
time also to say to one another in whatever way we can, “Peace be with you.”
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