The below post is the Easter homily of Fr. Michael McGourty, pastor at St. Peter's Church in Toronto.
Have you ever noticed how we as human beings talk to one another when we are in love with another person? Once we realize that we are in love with a person, we usually try to get the courage to tell the other person about this love. After we have said it once, we usually want to tell them over and over again. As these words lose their strength, we start to add adverbs and adjectives to describe our love. We say: "I love you very, very much," or, "I will love you for all eternity."
I have always thought that this reality about ourselves, that when we love someone, we want to love them forever, is one of the best proofs for the existence of God and the fact that we each have an eternal soul. Because we are made in the the image and likeness of God, who is love, we are all of us made for love. The fact that when we do love, we usually wish to love a person for all eternity, points also to the fact that we have an eternal soul, one which was created to live and love forever. This is why when two people are in love and one of them dies, they can still feel such attachment and such a strong desire to continue in relationship with the person with whom they are in love.
There is a movie in the theatres these days that deals with the power of love and many of the themes of light and darkness that are a part of our Easter liturgies. The movie is the Walt Disney movie called A Wrinkle In Time. This movie is about a scientist, by the name of Dr. Murray, who believes that people can "think" themselves across the universe if they are just able to put their minds in communion with the great energy source that governs the universe. He spends years trying to figure out what is the proper frequency of the energy that governs the universe in order that he might put his mind in communion with this force. Eventually, he is able to discover that the force governing the universe is ultimately love and as he places his mind in communion with this energy of love, he is transported across the galaxy millions of miles away. Sadly, however, we learn that there is also another force at work in the galaxy and that is the force of evil and darkness.
The forces of evil and darkness have the capability of taking people prisoners by making them focus on their selfish ambitions and turning them in on themselves. As Dr. Murray succeeds in transporting himself across the universe, his pride kicks in and he becomes a victim of his desire to be famous and discover something great. The forces of darkness overtake him, he turns his back on his family and he becomes a prisoner of these dark forces. Because his heart has been overtaken by the powers of darkness, he is unable to transport himself back to his home, because the frequency of love that transported him is not a frequency that can be accessed by those who have given their hearts over to the powers of darkness.
The plot of the movie develops as Dr. Murray's daughter, Meg, and son, Charles Wallace, encounter three celestial messengers who are sent to help them rescue their father. These three female figures can only operate in the light of love. They have no power over anything when they encounter the forces of darkness, which in the movie is referred to as "Camazotz." The Camazotz are represented in the film as a black dark hole that consumes all that it encounters. The Camazotz are governed by an evil entity known as the "IT," which devours all that it comes in contact with and turns anything or anyone that falls under its power into a selfish creature that is turned entirely in on itself. As Meg and Charles Wallace set out on a mission of love to rescue their father they are initially accompanied by the three celestial beings known as Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which. However, as they eventually encounter the forces of evil, the three celestial beings are no longer able to accompany them and they must rely on their own efforts. The brother, Charles Wallace, eventually falls to the power of evil and is taken over by the evil "IT." He tries to entice his sister also to enter the darkness and be tempered to become what she could be if given over entirely to selfishness. Meg, however, resists and shows the power that love has to save everything and everyone from the powers of darkness. Because of her love, she rescues her father and brother from the power of the evil "IT" and they are transported back to their home and reunited as a family. As I watched this movie, I was amazed at how it built upon so many of the truths that are at the heart of our human existence— the power of love, the struggle with evil and our desire for communion with one another and the forces that govern the universe. The story has appeal because it builds upon what we as humans know to be the truths of our lives. Yet, at the same time, I could not think how pointless the story was, because it missed the fundamental reason why all these things are part of our human experience.
Easter is the only reason any of the themes that are dealt with in the movie A Wrinkle in Time make sense or appeal to the human condition. In fact, I would like to suggest that Easter is the only story that can make sense of our human experience and existence. The whole story of Easter is told most perfectly at our Easter Vigil. At the Vigil, we begin in darkness. This is our human condition without Christ and it speaks of the struggle that takes place in our world between the forces of good and evil, or real authentic love and selfishness. The Easter candle is lit to announce that Christ has destroyed the darkness of death to become the light of the world. We are each given a candle at the Easter Vigil to symbolize the fact that at Baptism we received the light of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and are called to resist the darkness and allow His light to illumine our hearts.
The Easter Vigil also presents us with a beautiful summary of the history of salvation. In it we are reminded that we were created in God's image and likeness. This means that we were created for love. However, as this story also tells us, there are many occasions in our lives that the power of darkness and sin overtake our desire for love or we fall under the spell of the same false god's that entrapped the Israelites in the desert. Just as in the movie A Wrinkle in Time, the Easter story tells us that there are three persons at work in the universe to bring about our good and our salvation. These three persons that are at truly at work governing our universe are revealed to us by Jesus Christ as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We recall on Easter Sunday that we were baptized into the Holy Trinity as we profess our faith in the Trinity and baptize in the "name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit," as Jesus taught us to do. As we celebrate the Eucharist this Easter Sunday, and every Sunday, we too overcome the division of time and space as we are established in a Communion with the Holy Trinity and the Church in Heaven at the sacrifice which Christ has asked us to do in memory of Him.
The Easter story proclaims to us that love did come into the world in the person of Jesus Christ to destroy death and sin. Because of the Easter story, the love of God has destroyed death and every aspiration of the human heart will be fulfilled for those who turn to Jesus in faith and accept His message of salvation. Jesus has come not just to save us in the present moment, but to give us the gift of eternal salvation and eternal love. Because of His victory, our mortal longing for love will be eternally fulfilled. Jesus promises us eternal life and because of His victory the confines of time and space will be destroyed for all eternity in the Kingdom of Heaven that He has won for us. Because Jesus has died and risen, love will live forever, and so shall we, in the Father's love.
There is another movie in the theatres these days that explains why it might often be so difficult for some of us to see God and the Easter story at work in our lives and why it might be tempting to take movies like A Wrinkle in Time more serious than the Easter story. The movie, Paul, Apostle of Christ, deals with the struggles of the Roman Church in about the year 67. In this movie the forces of darkness and light are at war as the early Church is being persecuted by Nero as he attempts to blame his burning of the city on the Christians in Rome. At the time, the Church of Rome was made of up many persons, who like us, had not met Christ, but had only heard of His message. These Christians cannot understand why they must suffer and how the forces of darkness remain so powerful. They think it should be easier to see Christ and that He should come more visibly to their rescue in the face of their struggles. In the face of these trials and struggles, Paul speaks to this early community of his faith and confidence that Christ has conquered death and that His victory over death will be experienced by all who persevere in faith with Him.
The message of Paul's writing to the early Christian community is that because of His resurrection Christ has conquered death and by His love has secured the gift of eternal life and love for all people. The Christian message is also that Christ has entered our world and become one of us. Because of His incarnation we must seek in faith to see His face in the ordinary and real events of our lives. Their is no romance in Christianity. Christians are called to live in reality, not fantasy and movies. The Christian people must have faith and persevere in the trials of life confident that God is with them. We have been saved, but we must also believe in this salvation enough to allow the power of God's grace to strengthen us. It is up to each individual to open his or her heart to Christ to allow His power to strengthen and transform each individual's weakness. Until we let go and let Christ, the powers of darkness will and can dominate our hearts and make us prisoners of sin. Christ has conquered death and the forces of darkness, but we must act in faith to allow His Holy Spirit to act in us and set our hearts free. Without faith, the powers of darkness will overtake our hearts and we will never see the Lord present to strengthen us and allow us to open our hearts to the power of His love and the victory that He has won for us over death.
Movies about love are so powerful for one reason: you and I have been made in the image and likeness of God— who is love. We are made for love, love will always be at the heart of our human experience. Love is a part of our quest for meaning in this life. Any story that attempts to quench that desire for love without taking into account who we really are as human beings will be entertaining and provide us with an emotional fix. There is, however, only one story that can quench and satisfy who we are as God's people. Made in God's image and likeness only the Easter story can bring fulfillment to the human person. In the Easter story, we celebrate that God has made us in His image and likeness. This story tells us that even though we often turn towards the darkness of sin and are overcome by it, Christ's love and grace can set us free if we allow Him to do so. To be saved we need only have faith in the Son of God and his victory over death and persevere in our faith in His power over death and sin. The Easter story celebrates the fact that the desire which we mortal human beings have for eternal love will be fulfilled because the Son of the Eternal God, who is love, has died and risen so that we might live and love for all eternity.
This Easter, as we celebrate the story of our lives, may the Son of God, who came into our world to destroy death, grant all of us the grace of accepting and sharing in His life giving victory over death and sin.