Monsignor Liam Kelly’s Easter Vigil Homily 2020:



May the light of Christ rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.

In our liturgies over the past few days we have, behind closed doors, been celebrating the passion and death of Jesus Christ. And tonight, in our Easter Vigil Mass, we celebrate with great joy the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The light has overcome the darkness, Jesus Christ, the light of the world, is risen from the dead. And tonight as we lit the paschal candle we prayed May the light of Christ rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds. This lovely prayer has more significance for us this year than in any other year as the coronavirus pandemic which we are living through has cast a shadow over all our lives. The truth is we all need the Risen Christ to dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds and to bless us with Easter faith, Easter hope and Easter joy.

We have been blessed with lovely weather over the past few weeks. Spring has sprung. The whin bushes and blackthorn are in full bloom, the grass is growing, trees are budding, flowers are bursting into new life, the birds are singing happily and the new lambs are dancing in the fields. Nature has much to teach us if only we are prepared to watch, listen and wonder. Nature will teach us that no matter how long or dark the night is that new light comes with the dawn. Nature tells us that no matter how long or dark the winter is, no matter how wet or cold the ground is, new light, new life and new growth will come with spring. The natural world tells us that no matter what difficulty we are going through in life, no matter what crisis we are faced with, no matter what suffering we are going through, nature informs us there are better and brighter days ahead, that there will be a spring of joy and peace and hope and love in our lives after our winter of suffering.

The church celebrates the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, at this springtime of year when nature reflects what we are celebrating. If we look closely at the world around us at this time of year we will understand something of the mystery of death and rising to new life that we have been celebrating during over the past few days.  And this Easter we pray that the light of Christ will dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds and that we will be blessed with that great gift of hope. Hope is as important to us in life as the ground we walk on and the air we breathe. During these difficult weeks that we are going through we pray that we may be blessed with that hope.  We pray for the hope that helps us to see that there is no hard road without a turning, no crisis that does not come to an end, No Good Friday of suffering that doesn’t end with Easter joy.

These are difficult times that we are living through and the example of the way Jesus carried his cross will help us all to cope with the crisis. Over the past week we prayed and followed the stations of the cross and I would like, very briefly, to focus on two of those stations because they will help us to understand something of how people are responding to the crisis we are living through.  

The fifth station tells of Simon of Cyrene who helped Jesus to carry his cross. Times of distress bring out the best in people and over the past month or so many people, volunteers and helpers, have stepped forward to help others to carry their cross, to help others in their time of need. We thank God for all of them and pray that God may reward them for their goodness. By helping Jesus carry his cross, Simon of Cyrene was demonstrating in a very real and practical way how we Christians should live our lives, we should walk the road of suffering with others and we should help them to carry their cross. So be on the look-out for people who are in need, those who are lonely and isolated, those who are missing loved ones, those who may need shopping done, those who need nothing more than for you to lift the telephone and give them a ring. It is by helping others to carry their cross that we ourselves work our way to God.

Veronica wipes the face of Jesus is the sixth station of the cross, She too is a model for our times. Veronica bravely stepped forward and wiped the sweat and blood off the face of Jesus. In doing so she represents all our health care workers, who at a risk to their own health and their own lives, are working heroically to care for those who are unwell. Veronica in ministering to Jesus in his distress, represents not just all the nurses and doctors in our hospitals and nursing homes but also the chaplains who minister to the sick and the dying, and those who cook the meals, clean the wards, all who carry out the tests and work in the laboratories and all the scientists who are searching for a vaccine to treat the virus.  We thank God for all these wonderful people and we pray that God will protect them and give success to the work of their hands.

These are hard times for people who are grieving the death of a loved one.  And on this Easter Saturday night we pray for grieving families who had not the consolation of being able to spend time with their loved before they died and who haven’t the support of their community to help them. Coping with the death of a loved one is always difficult but it is especially difficult now. Those who are grieving are sharing in a very real way in the suffering of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. They are sharing too in the grief and anguish that Mary experienced as she watched her son suffer and die. May Mary who stood by the cross as her Son was dying comfort all who are grieving at this time.

These are uncertain and fearful times for people. It is a time to remind ourselves that Jesus, the risen Lord, is ever close and ever with us. For our part we must turn to him in prayer, putting our trust and our hope in him. We must not let fear paralyse us. Seamus Heaney, our great Irish poet, sent a short Latin text message to his wife just before he died. The message he sent was noli timere, do not be afraid. That same message is repeated twice in tonight’s Gospel reading from Matthew chapter 28. Firstly, the angel of God spoke to the women who had discovered the empty tomb saying: There is no need for you to be afraid. And later in that same gospel the risen Lord says to them. Do not be afraid. That noli timere do not be afraid, is the Lord’s message to all of us this Easter Saturday night. Jesus is risen. God is with us. There is no need to be afraid. We finish with the prayer we began with.

May the light of Christ rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.