Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.
‘Forgiveness has risen from the grave’
My television viewing is restricted to programs on Channel 9 – my reception impaired by an aerial blown out of position by the wind a while back. So, I hope you’ll forgive this homily its commercial TV basis. Today’s homily is called ‘Forgiveness has risen from the grave’ [also a line from the fourth-
The other night I was watching, with one eye (the other on the lap-
That is, we are all, in some sense, victims and oppressors – wounded and wounding people. We try to enact justice, but always imperfectly. We apportion blame, hold grudges, stake out the high moral ground. We punish and avenge wrongs committed against us; we regret the wrongs we ourselves commit – regret them, or repress them. Our best efforts at justice breed resentment.
The tradition calls this predicament Original Sin – that is, we are all born into an already damaged and damaging culture. And we struggle in vain to disentangle ourselves from prejudice and injustice, classism and sexism, and so on.
We also long to be loved – wholly loved, for who we really are. Sins and all. Williams makes the point that were we to see the whole truth about ourselves we would not be able to face it.
Unless, that is, our victim were also a saviour. The power of the Resurrection, he says, is the power of the victim, our victim, to forgive. In a violent world, God appears as the victim who refuses to inflict violence – the victim who refuses to imprison or to punish or to return fire for fire. That’s how God appears, that’s how God reveals Godself – in the flesh, as the victim of our fears and hatreds. And the risen Christ judges in the power of a love that forgives our fears and hatreds, exposing them and covering them with love. The risen Christ judges in the power of a love “who waits on our love”.
What I draw from this is that the Resurrection is most keenly felt by us when we experience the forgiveness of the one in whose downfall, destruction or death we ourselves have colluded. God’s forgiveness comes by way of the human face of Christ – in spite of death, in spite of the death I have dealt another. Peter the timid, the fantasist, the betrayer, is raised to new life – in a moment of amazement.
In the episode of Cold Case I was half-
And then I caught a scene showing Lily with tears and pleading with her mother, taking her by the arm: “I don’t care if you’re drinking … Stay with me.” The thought of losing touch with her mother, again, the reality of her mother’s addiction and consequent illness, too much to bear.
The words transcend the vicious context of blame and fantasy. They do not deny the pain of the past, but offer restoration – more to the point: a freedom, a space for another to be, to become, to live. Grace, like hope, takes unfamiliar shapes in a world of dead souls. Rowan Williams draws this lesson from the Easter Gospel: “Life is constantly capable of being opened to God’s creative grace.”
One final scene from Cold Case. Mother and daughter sit for a few minutes and recall sharing a story – Lily’s favourite book as a child, The Velveteen Rabbit. It’s the story of a toy rabbit loved so that it became a real rabbit. “That bunny just kept coming back,” said Lily’s mother. “You wanted me to read you that story every night, so many times … And that bunny just kept coming back.” This was to be the last conversation between Lily and her mum, who passed away that very night.
Lily’s face was the face of Christ for her mother in that scene. Her mother, past and present, recovered and called forward in hope. It’s a strange hope, yes. Strangely particular, concrete, personal. And none the weaker for that.
Another commentator writes, perhaps with an eye to our Resurrection Icon – also called the Harrowing or Destruction of Hell (the risen Christ grasping the hands of Adam and Eve, that is all humanity, as he rises, death’s doors shattered beneath their feet): “This is what resurrection faith is all about … It is a radical trust in the God who keeps coming back when everything seems lost. A willingness in the face of overwhelming odds … to entrust ourselves to the ways of life and love …” (Nathan Nettleton).
In Lent we touched on a movement from victimhood to vulnerability. We can now better appreciate our dependence on the Christ who calls us to such, the Christ who calls us from beyond this world of dead souls to a vulnerability that is life-
Perhaps the homily today may be completed in the silence of our hearts. This Easter Day, whose face bears for you the forgiveness of the Christ who has endured and overcome this world of dead souls, victims and oppressors alike? Where have you seen such a transcendent and forgiving face? When have you heard such a transcendent and forgiving voice? …