Homily for Easter Sunday
The Holy Face of Jesus IV: His Face In Us
The shock of the empty tomb was devastating for Mary Magdalen; it was salt in the wound already opened by the agony of the last few days. She witnessed Jesus' horrific suffering, saw him die on the cross, she had tried to comfort his mother as she held her son’s dead body in her arms. And then there was the loneliness of the burial rites, the hesitancy to leave the tomb because when she did she knew it was now definitely all over: he was gone. Now his body had been further defiled, stolen: "where have they put him?" She was desolate, empty and distraught; and yet, ironically, in reality this was a moment of victory and triumph.
Mary Magdalen’s encounter with the Risen Jesus would exorcise this desolation – a desolation which was necessary, I believe, to prepare her heart for the new joy which was to come, and the mission the Lord had prepared for her. When she looked on the Face of her beloved Rabboni her anxiety evaporated and her faith was restored, renewed – transformed and deepened. She was a new woman: reborn, we might say, through the gaze of her resurrected Lord. Though she would want to stay and cling to him, Jesus immediately sends her out to the disciples to announce the resurrection. She will go before him like a new John the Baptist. This pattern will be repeated with the other disciples too: they will come to life again when they see the Risen Lord and he will send them out to the world to proclaim the Gospel and the Resurrection.
Many of the Church Fathers teach an astounding truth: God became man so man could become God – Deus fit homo ut homo fieret Deus, and we see the proof of this in the Resurrection. But this truth is not one which will only come to pass in the next life, it is to begin here and now in this world. When we look on the Face of Jesus, now glorified in the Resurrection, we not only see our destiny in heaven, but also our task on earth – we are to become the face of Jesus Christ in the world so in us the people of the world may come to see his Face, hear his voice through us, come to believe in him through the humble service we are called to carry out. As the disciples were sent out to proclaim Christ and the resurrection, so are we, and all of us are to bear the features of Christ himself. Jesus said to St Philip: “To see me is to see the Father”, now it must be said that to see the disciples of Christ is also to see Christ who is living and working in them. This was the intention of God from the beginning when he created man and woman in his own image and likeness; it was intended in the Incarnation when God became one of us to reveal himself to world through human flesh. And now we are the flesh which cooperates with God to reveal the Saviour and his message for all humankind. We are to be the Veronicas - the true icons of Christ in the world.
Our Easter joy emerges from the rising of Our Lord from the dead – death is conquered; it is the joy of the disciples gazing now and forever on the Face of their beloved Master; but it is also the joy of being sent out as his missionaries, transformed by him into images of him to win souls for him. The veil has been lifted; the veil of our shadowy humanity has been torn down, from top of bottom, by Christ himself, and now he intends to shine through us so he can touch the lives and hearts of those who still live in the shadow of death. Gazing on the glorious Face of the Risen Jesus we are made to realise that we are to become like him, made into authentic images of him, not just for ourselves, but for the sake of the world.