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- “We are the Easter people and Alleluia is our song … This message of hope needs to be heard more than ever in today’s world, where some people plot to fill every moment of our lives with fear and foreboding, where families are wrenched apart by war and persecution, where homes are destroyed and human life itself is cheapened and taken away without a moment’s notice” – Archbishop Eamon Martin
At the beginning of the Easter Vigil the new Paschal Candle was inscribed with the year 2-0-1-6, and with the letters Alpha and Omega – the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. A beautiful prayer accompanies this moment:
“Christ yesterday and today,
the beginning and the end,
Alpha and Omega,
all time belongs to him,
and all ages;
to him be glory and power,
through every age and for ever. Amen”.
When I was a young boy I was fascinated by the concept of time. As a fan of programmes like ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Star Trek’, I was amazed at the notion of “time-lords” who could zoom forward into the future, or travel back in time to see life as it was, decades or centuries ago. Now, as a “boring adult”, I have learned to be content with those days every spring and autumn when we put the clocks forward or back and become “time-travellers” – if only for one hour!
In my work as a priest I have often come across people who wish time would go faster: the happy couple who can’t wait until their wedding day; the children who count the days to the holidays at Christmas or Easter; the expectant parents who marvel at the scan pictures of their baby in the womb and long for the day of the birth.
But I have also met people who dearly wish they could turn back time. I imagine the heartbroken relatives and friends of those who died at Buncrana pier must wish they could turn the clocks back to before last Sunday; or think, if only there had been a few more minutes to save them; or, what does the future now hold? I think also of the innocent victims of Tuesday’s bombings in Brussels – there they were, so anxious to ‘check in on time’, oblivious to the terrorists who were mercilessly plotting to destroy precious human life.
A few people have said to me during the week that awful and tragic events like these make them more conscious of the importance of their family and loved ones, and of approaching every day and hour as a gift, every moment as an opportunity not to be wasted.
Our faith encourages us to lift our minds and hearts to encounter God in every moment – yet, in the harrowing aftermath of tragic accidents like at Buncrana, or the violent attacks in Brussels, or natural disasters around the world, it is very human instinct to call out: “Where are you, God?” On Good Fridayeven Jesus called out in His anguish on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
The pain and mystery of human sorrow and suffering can never be fully grasped or answered in the context of this world alone. Only the light of Easter can lift the despair and darkness of Good Friday. It is only by faith in eternal life that we can find our way through this life which is for so many, a “valley of tears”.
Pope Saint John Paul II loved to quote Saint Augustine, saying: “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and Alleluia is our song.”
Our challenge, as an Easter people, is to enter into the hours and minutes of every day, aware that they pass so quickly, but realising that, with faith and trust, each second has so much potential for good, for love, for peace, and for joy.
The Second Vatican Council reminded us that Jesus Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, is the Lord of Time.
“The Lord is the goal of human history, the focal point of the desires of history and civilization, the centre of mankind, the joy of all hearts and the fulfilment of all aspirations” (Gaudium et Spes n. 45).
This theme resounds in the Easter Proclamation and in the various Easter readings from the Old and New Testaments which re-tell the story of God’s work in history, since the beginning of time, to bring about our salvation in Christ. This message of hope needs to be heard more than ever in today’s world, where some people plot to fill every moment of our lives with fear and foreboding, where families are wrenched apart by war and persecution, where homes are destroyed and human life itself is cheapened and taken away without a moment’s notice.
Some years ago Pope Benedict XVI reminded us of the message of hope that God is, and always has been, at work in human history, and that ultimately the power of love and good will overcome evil, just as eternal life conquers death. He said: “History is not in the hands of dark forces, of chance, or of merely human choices. The Lord, supreme arbiter of historical events, rises above the discharge of evil energies, the vehement onslaught of Satan, the emergence of plagues and wickedness. He knowingly guides history to the dawn of the new heaven and the new earth…” (Pope Benedict XVI General Audience 11 May 2005).
This Easter season, let us fill every moment with the hope and joy of the Risen Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the only Lord of Time.
Tá Críost éirithe! Go deimhin, tá sé éirithe! Happy Easter to you all.
+Archbishop Eamon Martin