Happy Easter. He is Risen! Here is a message to you from Archbishop Leo Cushley.

Here is Archbishop Cushley's Homily from Holy Mass on Easter Sunday at St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Edinburgh  

My dear friends,

A very happy Easter to you all!

St John’s account of the Empty Tomb is one we always hear on Easter Sunday morning, because those of Matthew, Mark and Luke are kept for the Easter Vigil.

Somehow, this is in keeping with the slight bias in our tradition towards St John at this time, as we like to give him pride of place on the most solemn feasts.

Not only that, we listen to almost the whole of his Gospel around now, from two weeks ago in the fourth week of Lent right up until Pentecost, 50 days from now.

Our tradition does not tell us why John should be so particularly favoured.

There is, however, something that sets John apart from Matthew, Mark and Luke, and if you’ve been coming to church here for the last three days, you’ll have heard me allude to it already.

Unlike the others, St John is an eye-witness to what we read in his Gospel.

He is also a close personal friend to Jesus.  Of course, the twelve were all close to Jesus – making, for example, the scandal of Judas all the greater - but John is distinguished by his Gospel and by an ancient tradition as a very close friend of Jesus, and perhaps indeed the closest.

Modestly, in his Gospel John goes by the title “the disciple Jesus loved”.  So, although the name isn’t there for us to see, from the earliest times, tradition has always identified “the disciple Jesus loved” as John.

We are also confident that John wrote his Gospel as an old man, many years after the events themselves, and that gives his Gospel the quality of a mature and thoughtful reflection.

Nevertheless, in spite of John writing some sixty years after the events described, anyone who reads his Gospel will have no difficulty in feeling his clarity of memory, and the warmth of friendship, esteem, affection and loyalty shine through beautifully and movingly.

Even in the Gospel passage we’ve just heard, we see something of that affection in the race that takes places to the Lord’s tomb.

Peter is already marked as the leader of the Church, and so he’s always going to be first to act and first to speak - as well as the first to get it wrong, before picking himself up, brushing himself off, and eventually getting it right.  Peter is the rock.

But John is always there too.  John is the constant, loyal, affectionate companion.

He is the friend who never left Jesus.  Let’s recall that Peter and John both get into the house where the trial of Jesus is taking place on Good Friday.  John is known, and he even gets Peter in, but it is Peter, not John, who denies Jesus and runs away.

Peter lives bitterly to regret it, but John never deserts Jesus.  Of the twelve, John alone is there at the foot of the Cross, surely a very dangerous place to be, but also the loyal, faithful place to be too.

And here at the Tomb, both are there again.  Both race to the Tomb when they hear the news that it’s empty.  Peter goes in first – but it’s John, although he doesn’t go in, who arrives there before him.

Here is a subtle business.  John is the more constant disciple, the more affectionate one – but by chance or by design, it is left to Peter, the leader, to enter the tomb.  Peter becomes the principal witness to the account of the Empty Tomb, and this is not to be taken away from him, even if he must wait to meet the Lord face to face in Galilee, at the Sea of Tiberias, to be reconciled with the Lord.

John, however, is different.  John was completely constant and faithful through all the events of Jesus’ life and death.

He didn’t abandon the Lord, he didn’t run away.  He stood at the foot of the Cross with Mary and was even asked by Jesus as he hung there to look after his mother.

John has been a constant friend.  He has already told us that he stood there at the foot of the Cross; he watched it all, risked his life, and witnessed to all these things.  Standing before the Cross, he turns to us in his Gospel and says, I witnessed all these things so that you might believe.

Shortly, he will say again, with exactly the same words, I’ve written all things down - so that you might believe, and believing, have eternal life.

And sandwiched in between those two moments, those two glances at us, we have the Empty Tomb.

Peter goes right into the Tomb, he sees the linen cloths, and the one that been over the Lord’s head, in a place by itself.  But then John goes into the Tomb.  Here, all the text says is, “he saw, and he believed”.  This phrase is for John alone: “he saw, and he believed”.

Then we read, for them both, “Until this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead”.  The meaning is dawning upon them both; but John is the one who sees and believes.

There is more of this comradely, gentle rivalry between Peter and John, and later St Paul himself will describe them as among the pillars of the early Church.

But here today, for now, we notice that John, the Lord’s friend, the one who never left, who never betrayed him, who risked everything by staying with him, even at the foot of the cross, is the first to believe.

And not only that, he has written his Gospel, and he tells us so, for you and for me.  He reaches out of the pages of his Gospel, not once but twice, to speak to us.  And he says, “All that I can remember about my friend Jesus, all of it is written here, so that you also might believe, that Jesus is the Christ, and that, believing, you might have life in his name (cf. Jn 20:31).

A very happy Easter to you all!