Sunday 31 March 2024

Joint Easter Message 2024 - Bishops of Limerick

One of the things that intrigues one each Easter as one reads the Gospels is that in the original version of Mark, the first Gospel to be written, the risen Jesus is never seen. 

The Resurrection is certainly a reality, the women at the tomb despite their fear have seen the evidence for it, but they are reminded that the risen Christ has already gone from the place and is now ahead of them. Their task is to be one of pursuit ; the narrative ends abruptly as they realise that to follow Jesus means never ceasing to be on the move.

Throughout the centuries since the first Easter the experience of Christian disciples has been largely similar. We spend our lives in pursuit of the Risen Jesus, magnetised by his integrity and his example, almost feeling that he is just around the next corner. 

Wherever we travel, whatever places we visit and people we encounter , we have an uncanny sense that Jesus has been there already. A retired missionary sister pointed out many years ago that she assumed her role was to bring Jesus to where he was unknown. That was indeed in many ways her task, yet she readily admitted that all her life she never once felt she arrived in a place where Jesus, always forging ahead, had not already been and mysteriously left his imprint.

Those whose vocation and joy it is to pursue the living Christ whom no tomb could contain must be open to the possibility that they will encounter him already present in the most surprising of people and circumstances. 

He has already beaten a trail for his followers through the complex maze of life ; we must be ready to encounter him in the stranger we meet on the way, the person who shows us selfless acts of kindness, the newcomer in our company who challenges our deepest cultural assumptions. 

To be Easter people is to be people who never cling to the securities of the past but who embrace the future that is already God’s with positive expectation. There is no path, however thorny, for us to explore that Jesus has not already trodden.

This year as it happened we celebrated St Patrick’s Day almost as a prelude to Holy Week and Easter. 

Patrick prayed that he too would encounter Christ in the stranger, and he returned to the land of his previous  captivity keenly aware that he was being called back by a people who somehow  already anticipated  the richness of the Gospel that he would share fully with them. 

And for the Irish themselves, this godly immigrant to their island home was to be the most radical and wholesome influencer that they had ever known. We just never know the jewels that newcomers among us carry with them until we make the effort to look.

We wish you a truly blessed Easter season, a season spent in pursuit of the Risen One who is always ahead, who leaves us breathless as we pursue him, who meets us in the most amazing people and situations. 

Truly, each time we leave the Eucharist we who seek to  know the risen Lord in the breaking of the bread are also SENT , energised ,in pursuit of a living Christ  who is never trapped in history but is always ahead challenging us to follow, and promising us eye-opening encounters if we dare to do so.