You have in English a lovely phrase about the dropping of a penny. The first time I heard it, I did not immediately get it, but after a while (a short while: I am less stupid than I look!), “the penny finally dropped”. Let me suggest it’s exactly what happened to Peter and John on the very morning we are celebrating today, the morning of the resurrection. “As yet, says the Evangelist, they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead”. Now, they had seen the empty tomb, with the cloths of death folded in a tidy way. Jesus’ body was absent. There was no trace of it having been taken away by someone. The disciples were left with only one option: Jesus’ body had been filled with the Spirit of life and assumed by its owner – what we call: the Resurrection, Christ risen from the dead. This is precisely the moment when “the penny dropped”. They did not receive a message from an angel, as others did. They did not see Jesus at that moment. Instead, they were given the grace to understand the Scripture. From the Scripture, they made sense of what they observed, and indeed of everything.
The Evangelist is obviously suggesting that it is the same with us. When we came to this church this morning, we were met neither by an angel nor by an apparition of the Lord. Instead, we were presented with music, chant, symbols (like candles, water and flowers) and rites. We listened to the Word of God. Once more we heard Peter’s homily: “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day.” We welcomed Paul’s exhortation: “Christ, our Paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us then celebrate the festival with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” And we stood up, in the upright posture which symbolises the resurrection, to listen to the story of Magdalene and the two disciples which is now for us part of the Scriptures.
With and around these texts, the memory of our souls was unconsciously busy at gathering many other parts of the Scripture. The fact is that all these texts, indeed the whole Bible, point to the very event which we are celebrating. Think only of our Lenten Sunday gospels. Jesus’ victory over Satan, on the Sunday of the temptation, announces his victory over the author of death in his resurrection. Jesus’ transfiguration manifests something of the glory of Christ’s resurrection. The dialogue with the Samaritan woman reveals the Spirit of life to be released by the Risen Christ and bestowed on his Church. The illumination of the man who was blind from his birth manifests the risen Jesus as the light of the world. Lazarus’ resurrection prepares us directly for Jesus’ one. And Palm Sunday’s triumph is really an anticipation of Christ’s glorious victory over sin, death and hell. When the disciples who had been through all these events with Jesus, finally found his tomb empty, they received, as it were, the last word of Christ’s message, the one with which all suddenly made sense. It is the very moment when the “penny dropped”
And for us also, has the penny dropped? Have we realised that there is not a word, a story or a symbol in the whole Bible, and especially in the life and the teachings of Jesus, which is not pointing in one way or another towards the Paschal Mystery of Christ? Here, let me be clear. I am not advocating some sort of intellectual exercise as if it would be enough to put texts together in the right order as you dispose the pieces of a puzzle to see the full picture. The word we have to understand is not a word after many other words in a big book. It is a fact: Jesus, who died on the cross, is really risen from the dead. It is even someone: Jesus is not, like Lazarus, a dead man who comes back to ordinary life only to die again. Jesus and the Resurrection cannot be separated; they are one; the Resurrection affirms who Jesus is: He is God, who lives for ever; He was made flesh and submitted to death in his human nature so as to introduce our human nature into His eternal life by His resurrection. He Himself is, as God and as man, “the Resurrection and the Life”.
Therefore, our faith in the Resurrection is not only a vague affirmation that “there is something after the death of the body”. It is more than accepting that Jesus’ Passion has had a happy end which confirms the validity of His message. If we believe in the resurrection, we enter it. That is why faith and baptism are one: to believe is to die with Christ and to share in His resurrection; it is partaking in His resurrection, that is to say, in Who He is, in his life, in His identity.
The faith in the resurrection has to be life transforming. If I believe in Christ risen from the dead, I begin to die with Him to my sins (that is what we have been trying to do during Lent) and to live in newness of life with Jesus, in Jesus, for the Father (that is what the season of Easter, the Paschaltide, will guide us to do).
When Peter and John left the empty tomb, their life had taken a totally new direction. The Scriptures now made sense, albeit in a largely unexpected and overwhelming way. God was not only offering to them an honest life and happiness on earth. He was inviting them to live here below with their mind and their heart in heaven: with the risen Christ, in the power of His Spirit, in the strength of His resurrection.
Let us ask for the grace of realising always at a deeper level the gift of Christ’s resurrection. It is the gift of God bestowed by Christ to his father Adam and to all of us, provided we open our hearts and believe. If we are in this church, it is certainly because “the penny has dropped”. Nevertheless, there might very well be left a few more things we have to realise and to live out fully. The fullness of life according to the Resurrection is what we call: holiness. It is what Easter offers us. It is what the Father expects from us. It is what Jesus gained for us by His death on the cross and His resurrection on the third day, according to the Scriptures. Amen. Alleluia.