"When the women returned from the tomb, they told all this to the Eleven and to the others, but this story of theirs seemed pure nonsense, and they did not believe." "Pure nonsense", that's what we are celebrating tonight, "pure nonsense". And thank God it's the Gospel that says so. It's plain to see that, from the beginning, the apostles and the other disciples found the news of the empty tomb and the message of the angels to the women, that the Lord Jesus had risen from the dead, simply impossible to believe, unbelievable, in fact "pure nonsense".
So it doesn't come as a surprise anymore when we read and hear all sorts of disparaging remarks about Jesus, the Resurrection, the Gospel, the Christian faith and, above all, the Catholic Church. We've heard it all before, so why get upset? For us Christians, the more we hear foolish things said about Jesus, the more we love him and want to be counted among his disciples. The more we hear his Church, our Church, criticised and insulted, the more we love her and try to be faithful to her teaching and way of life. Persecution, whatever form it takes, certainly separates the men from the boys, and I mean that inclusively.
But let's return to tonight's Gospel and focus our attention on Jesus. We all learn by making mistakes and reflecting on personal experience. The same happened with the apostles. They listened closely to what the angels had told the women. "Why look among the dead for one who is alive? He is not here: he is risen. Remember what he told you; that the Son of Man had to be handed over into the power of sinful men and be crucified, and rise again on the third day." But they were not convinced. They had to see and hear for themselves. These men weren't dumb - they asked intelligent questions and thought things over seriously. Think of Thomas - "Unless I see the holes in his hands and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe."
Then, early in the morning on the first day of the week, something finally twigged in Peter's mind. Hadn't he heard Jesus talk about this very moment many times before his Passion? So he went running to the tomb and, seeing it empty, came back home, amazed at what had happened. His doubts began to evaporate in the first light of dawn. He was beginning to believe. Only gradually, as Jesus appeared first to one, then to another, then finally to all of them, did the disciples come to believe that he had risen from the dead. To see is to believe, yet "blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe."
Tonight we give thanks to God for the gift of faith. It might still be "pure nonsense" for many, but for us Christians, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the source of our joy and the key that opens the door to the meaning of life and the meaning of death, the meaning of suffering and God's ultimate purpose in creating all that exists.
We leave the final word to St Paul, writing to the Romans. "When we were baptised we went into the tomb with Christ Jesus, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father's glory, we too might live a new life. When he died, he died to sin once for all, so his life in now life with God. So too you must consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus."
On behalf of the monastic Community I wish you all a joyful and holy Easter. Christ is risen; he is risen indeed. Alleluia, alleluia.