‘The Easter message urges us to raise others up, not tear them down, to offer words of healing and comfort in a world so often given to anger, mockery and spite. It reminds us too that the best way to honour the dead is to care for the living, and above all to cherish and protect the very gift of life itself.’ – Mgr Joseph McGuinness
Below is the text of the homily given by Monsignor Joseph McGuinness at the Easter Vigil in St Patrick’s Church, Tyholland, Co Monaghan, on Saturday 31 March 2018.
“He has risen, he is not here”
In Ireland we have a very strong tradition of honouring the dead. Our wakes, our funerals, our month’s minds, our anniversaries and our Blessing of Graves all demonstrate the respect and love we have for all who have gone before us. We pay frequent visits to the graves of our loved ones. We still feel a close and intimate connection with them.
Even so, we certainly wouldn’t expect, when visiting a grave, to have an experience like the one described in the Gospel. The women hurrying to the tomb of Jesus in the half-light met with something utterly unexpected – an empty tomb and an angel with an astonishing message. The women had come to honour the dead, but were instead honoured themselves as the first witnesses to the triumph of life over death.
This is what our celebration tonight is all about. We believe that what God has done through Jesus Christ, he has also done for all our loved ones who have died, and he will do the same in love for each one of us. It would, of course, be lovely if when we visited our loved ones’ graves there was an angel there to remind us – to say to us “there is no need to be afraid or sad. They have gone before you to heaven, and there you will see them.” But the angel isn’t there, and so we have to keep reminding ourselves.
And that is what we do above all on this holy night. We remind ourselves of what God has done in love for us and for those whom we love. We remind ourselves of how his power can bring life out of death and light out of darkness. We celebrate the power of God to raise up all that is cast down.
We see how, even in the midst of hardship, cruelty and suffering in our world, God’s Spirit moves people to heroism, courage, devotion and selflessness. So too, when we are in dark places of grief, pain or despair, his Spirit is there in every word of comfort, every act of kindness and every offer of support.
Easter calls us to embrace and appreciate these gifts, and to be the bearers of these gifts for others. The Easter message urges us to raise others up, not tear them down, to offer words of healing and comfort in a world so often given to anger, mockery and spite. It reminds us too that the best way to honour the dead is to care for the living, and above all to cherish and protect the very gift of life itself.
In these ways God is at work in our lives, and he asks us to be as the angel at the tomb, messengers of joy and hope especially to those who have lost heart and have little to hope for. May we rediscover again and again the joyful hope of this Easter night, keeping that joy alive in our hearts. May it help us know, wherever we journey in life or whatever hardship we may face, that the Lord has gone there before us – may we see him there.
Notes for Editors:
1. The Diocese of Clogher encompasses all of Co Monaghan, most of Fermanagh and portions of Tyrone, Donegal, Louth and Cavan. It has a Catholic population of 88,000, across 37 parishes, which are served by 63 priests and 1 deacon. There are 85 churches in the diocese.
2. Monsignor Joseph McGuinness is the Diocesan Administrator of the Diocese of Clogher, pending the appointment of a new bishop. He is also the Administrator of the Parish of Tyholland, Co Monaghan.