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Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

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Down through the centuries many, many Christian creeds have been composed. Some of them are rather long and complex; the Nicene Creed that we normally say at Mass would fall into that category as its neither short nor simple. Yet other creeds are very short and very simple, and the oldest of them all is in some ways the shortest and the simplest. It’s found in fact on the lips of Mary Magdalene on Easter day, so a woman speaks the first, the simplest and the shortest of all the Christian creeds. She says simply “I have seen the Lord”, and a few verses later in the Gospel of John, the apostles take up that cry and they say “we have seen the Lord”. Now that is the cry of the church down to this day, it’s not just once upon a time. If ever the church stops saying or finds itself unable to say we have seen the Lord then we have a monumental problem and I suggest that we should close the shop. Because in the end, that’s all we have to say; faced with all the criticism and rejection that we have copped down through the centuries, and now; in the midst of all our faults and all our failings, our flaws and fantasies; in the midst of it all, wounded by sin all we can say is “but we have seen the Lord.”

This is why Jesus speaks to us on this Easter morning and says, as we have heard, “in a short time the world will no longer see me,” and the world doesn’t see Jesus; or they see him only back there once upon a time as some kind of wonderful teacher or moral exemplar. Yet the world doesn’t see Jesus as Jesus really is. Jesus continues “but you will see me”, which he says to us, the disciples. “You will see me, not as once upon a time but as presence and power here and now. You will see me as the firstborn from the dead.” Who would have believed it? They put him up on the cross, they laid him in a tomb, rolled a stone across the entrance and that was that, or so it seemed. Yet we have heard the words of St Peter, in his letter; “in the body Jesus was put to death”; absolutely true; “but in the spirit he was raised to life.” God breathed his breathe, the Holy Spirit, into a corpse of an executed man, and that executed man rose from the dead, and he’s here in now in Brisbane on this Easter morning. We, his disciples, see him with the eye of faith. St Peter also says “be ready to give the reason for the hope you have.” What is the reason for the hope that is the very core of Christianity and therefore of the churches life? What is the reason for the hope which is the greatest of all gifts that the church offers the whole world. The answer is the resurrection of Jesus. If he is not raised from the dead then, as St Paul says, we are the most pathetic people of all because we are pedalling a false hope and we need that like a hole in their head. Yet if he is risen from the dead, if we see him as he really is, then we have a hope that nothing and no one can destroy. We have the one thing which the human being cannot live without. There are many, many things we think we need but we can do without them. But you ask the human being to live without hope and he or she crumples within and eventually shrivels up and dies. For us hope is life and therefore we give the reason on this Easter morning for our hope. In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life, and we see him – in surprising places. Who would have imagined what we have heard from the Acts of the Apostles? Who would have imagined first of all that those poor old Samaritans would have accepted the good news of Jesus Christ crucified and risen? Who would have imagined that God would give the poor old Samaritans the gift of the Holy Spirit to open their eyes; to see Jesus everywhere? I mean the Samaritans were the original bad news. They were outsiders but even they see Jesus; they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and rise from the death of not seeing Jesus, the death of hopelessness. So the fact is when we see Christ, risen from the dead, we see Him in all kinds of surprising places, and one of the risks we face is that we can be imprisoned by our own expectations. We say he can only appear here or there; or in this way or that. But in fact Jesus appears all over the place where you least expect him. So we need the eye that spots him even in the most surprising and unexpected places.

Here today we have Chad Hargrave, you see him sitting down there halfway down the Cathedral; he’s going to be admitted to candidacy for orders. Chad is a very well known and highly regarded parishioner in this Cathedral parish. I won’t ask him to stand up at this stage or wave, but I think many of you know him. Chad has a flourishing professional career but in the midst of all that and his family commitments he has felt the call to be ordained a deacon. He has been on a path of preparation under the watchful eye of Fr Trevor Trotter SSC, who is the director of our diaconal program, and I see him here today also halfway down the Cathedral. Priests and candidates never sit down the front. Chad will be admitted to candidacy, which is a threshold moment on his journey to ordination and beyond. Our prayer surrounds him as the church gathers; the community of disciples on this Easter morning. What is our prayer for Chad Hargrave as he is admitted? It is that in the midst of everything he will be a minister of true hope as a man ordained Deacon. The word Deacon has a fascinating history and etymology. It basically means a messenger who comes through the dust, so through the dust of this world, and there’s a lot of it – the dust that blurs our vision; our prayer is that this man; our brother Chad, will be a messenger of hope with the far-seeing eye. That he will be first of all a man who sees the Lord and is therefore gripped by a hope and who can help others as an ordained minister, to see Christ and to come to the Easter hope which is our true life. Amen.

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