Happy Easter! Here is Archbishop Leo Cushley's Easter message, delivered this morning in his homily at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh.
Homily of Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews & Edinburgh
Celebration of Easter Sunday 2022
St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Edinburgh
My dear friends,
A very happy Easter to you all!
Over these three days, here at the cathedral we have been looking at the mysteries of our faith through a particular lens, that of courage. We recalled different kinds of courage: we saw how Simon Peter is bold; St Thomas too; Our Lady and St John likewise; and others too, all in their own ways.
We remember how Peter’s words are courageous at first, but the roots of his courage aren’t very deep as yet, and he runs away in fear. Our Lady and St John show courage simply by standing at the foot of the Cross, with a silent and dignified courage before the mob, and before the terrible majesty of Christ’s death on the Cross; and later we will hear from St Thomas again, who will remain bold and outspoken, even to the very highpoint of John’s Gospel.
Last night, we also saw how the women who went to the tomb – Mary of Magdala, Joanna and Mary the mother of James, are brave, and have been bold, up to point. They had stood bravely at the foot of the Cross, and had seen Jesus die a slow and cruel death. They had been very brave to risk the jeering and the insults from the mob gathered there “to see the spectacle” of Jesus’ last hours; but here, in the quiet of the garden, at the tomb, their courage deserts them completely. Ironically, now that the danger to themselves has passed, they are terrified, here at the empty tomb. Their courage will only return later on.
Meantime, today, the story takes another twist. Peter and John become the next protagonists in the story. Their courage has also been put to the test. Peter was full of fine, brave words, but his courage failed him when he was recognised on the evening of Jesus’ trial, and he fled for his life. This is the point in the story where he re-emerges and, be it for faith or love or regret or curiosity, he sets off for the tomb.
John, meantime, has accompanied all the events, although no remarks of his are recorded. We understand that he was known to the high priest and so he was present at Jesus’ trial and condemnation; he stood with Our Lady at the foot of the Cross; and here he is again, present at the empty tomb. His courage, although he says nothing in all these episodes, is there for all to see. He is a silent but courageous witness to the Lord’s death and resurrection. St John is an inspiration to us all, and shows us how Christian witness is often just as eloquent when it is a tacit one; his witness isn’t flashy, but it is consistent, it is real, and it is a mark of a true friend and follower. The Gospel text here acknowledges his faith: as he stands before the empty tomb, it says of him, alone, “He saw, and he believed”.
As for Peter, this too is one of several moments where he is redeemed after the failure of his courage. In contrast to everyone else, even John, we are told that Peter boldly goes “right into the tomb”. He sees that everything is neat, in order, and that there is no body. The text says no more of him alone, but it adds that, until this moment, they had both failed to understand that Jesus must rise from the dead. And this short sentence marks the moment which changes everything. John’s courage and faith are now confirmed; and Peter’s courage and faith begin to return. He starts to glimpse that he was right after all: Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God. And he begins to see that the whole of creation stands on the threshold of a new, and unexpected, and wonderful future.
Meantime, as we saw on Holy Thursday night, only a very few disciples remained steadfast and faithful to the Lord in his agony and death. And as we saw on Thursday, St Thomas is one apostle who stands out for his courage. St Thomas, famously, was the only one who wasn’t there when the risen Lord appeared in the Upper Room on the first Easter Day. Who knows if he wasn’t there, precisely because he was the only one there brave enough to show his face in public while the rest of the disciples were cowering in the Upper Room, for fear of the mob? And even that was turned to great account, when the risen Lord appeared to them all eight days later, and Thomas declared before him and before us all, “My Lord and my God!”
Our faith may be like that of Peter, weak but genuine; it may be like John’s, silent but constant; or it may be like Thomas’s, outspoken but firm; but all of us, through our faith and our baptism, are heirs to the life of grace, and we all of us have the greatest reason to rejoice: Jesus is the Son of God, and today he is risen from the dead. The rest comes after that.
A very Happy and Holy Easter to you all!