New Harmony

New Harmony

Easter Sunday. Fr Malcolm McMahon tells us how a question from a nine year old child brought him to reflect upon how God restores His creation through His Son Jesus Christ.

A child of nine years of age asked me a rather difficult question during a recent visit to a primary school. He asked me why the date of Easter changes every year. Not the easiest thing to explain to a child I thought, but I made an attempt at an answer and was surprised by how much the the child grasped of what I said. Remembering a piece of advice that my uncle gave me years ago – never talk down to a child – I told him that Easter was on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. He knew about the equinox, a day made up of twelve hours of light and twelve of darkness, and he also understood that the moon was a good way of marking time by its phases. So to him it was fitting to celebrate Easter on this moveable date because of the new life that was coming into the world during spring time, and how Sunday was the day of the resurrection of Jesus according to the scriptures, or at least the day after the Sabbath. He said that I had given a good answer! Now what intrigued me about him was the way he held together in his thoughts the cycle of nature, the effect of the moon on our planet and how God had used this together with the miracle of the resurrection to help us understand what new life in Christ is all about.

Our new pope, Pope Francis was on to the same thing during the sermon at his mass of inauguration. He too sees the link between, our life in Christ, nature and the planet we inhabit. He said, ‘Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world!’

Celebrating God’s plan inscribed in nature is precisely what we are doing tonight/today. My nine-year-old lad had grasped that. Have we? When we celebrate Easter we celebrate the coming together of light and darkness: “How blessed is this night, when earth and heaven are joined and we are reconciled to God.” These are the words of the Church, sung in the Exsultet on this Easter night.

Tonight we celebrate the work of the bees whose wax makes the candle that gives us light, and we celebrate the coming together of the discordant notes, the cacophony of the modern world, into the harmony of the Alleluia, the Great Alleluia! This Easter Day we celebrate the possibility of harmony between nature, and mankind and the God who made it all. The God who sent his Son to die and rise for us so that we may be divine.

The difficulty comes for us in so far as we do this every year and not much seems to change. Even if we don’t have such a clear idea about the interconnection between the moon and the resurrection as my young friend we do know it is important to protect and care for creation. In Jesus we have been given another chance to find the harmony that was there in the beginning. Jesus’s blood has flowed from the cross to sanctify the earth, and yet we still abuse it and misuse it. Christ’s body was broken on the cross so that we might not have to suffer death anymore, and yet we continually inflict pain, suffering and death on each other. Even now, as we gather together to celebrate the greatest feast in our calendar, nearly two millennia since the resurrection of Jesus, we know that war continues in Syria and Afghanistan, that children are starving to death, that families are broken up, that refugees flee for their lives, that for many people Easter is not a time of hope. Yet, if only we can protect rather than dominate, be concerned for the poor rather than our own wealth, then some of the those who have no hope will see the light of Christ shine on them. If only we can use the resources of our planet sparingly then those who have nothing will be able to enjoy the God-given riches surrounding us. If only we can remove the darkness from our eyes and see clearly by the light of the moon and the sun, then the light of Christ will shine through the shadows of our time.

At Easter the omens of death and destruction are cast aside. They need not accompany us into the future. We can start again and thus get a clear view of the way ahead, like a nine-year-old child. That fresh start is given to us this Easter, because He has risen, He has truly risen. Let us grasp that truth with both hands.


Readings: Acts 10:34,37-43|Colossians 3:1-4|John 20:1-9

fr. Malcolm McMahon O.P. is the Archbishop of Liverpool. From 1992 to 2000 he was Prior Provincial of the English Dominicans, and from 2000 to 2014 he was the Bishop of Nottingham.