The most memorable homily I heard in my time in seminary, and there were an awful lot of them, contained the simplest yet most profound of sentiments. It was in the barbershop, if I recall correctly, when a young seminarian was asked: why do you want to be a priest? Because I really love Jesus and I want everyone to know it. He makes me happy. I want you to know Jesus and then you will be happy, too.
This sentiment came from a powerhouse of intellect. From a man I greatly admired; a man outstanding in priestly qualities. Though we had never talked of why he was priest, suddenly it became crystal clear. He was a man on a mission – quite literally.
This is what Peter is talking about in the Acts of the Apostles. He says that Jesus has ordered the apostles, as witnesses to the Resurrection, to bring the Good News to His people. This is what I am doing now, this is what we are all doing now in participating at Mass and it is what we all must do when we leave here. The deacon will send us on our way today: Go in the peace of Christ, alleluia, alleluia. This Easter double alleluia underlines that we go praising God. Alleluia means ‘praise God’, a transliteration of the Hebrew Halleluya. Hallel in Hebrew means a joyous praise, to boast in God, or to act madly or foolishly.
So we’re being told to go out and act madly, foolishly. That sounds good to me. It sounds like the actions of one in love. St Augustine said “love is a temporary madness” as anyone who has read or watched Captain Corelli's Mandolin recognises. And we know only fools fall in love.
St Paul reminds us today, we have been brought back to true life with Christ, and thus we are compelled, just like Mary Magdalene to go running. She ran to Simon Peter and the other disciple; they in turn ran to the Tomb and from there Peter brings to all the Good News. To Cornelius and his family he is compelled by Christ to tell the world and to share His love.
Alleluia, Praise God, go out and tell the whole world the Good News, that Jesus Christ is Risen, alleluia. Does this mean we must all become born again Christians? Does this mean we must go up to complete strangers and say “do you know the love the Jesus”? It’s not for all, but what is for all, and is most especially the case for you and for I, is to follow the example of those who first met the Risen Lord.
Now the priest who shared the simple tale of his encounter with the barber is a humble man, an excitable man and a man whom you look at and say, like the Babycham advert of years gone by, I’ll have a babycham! I’ll have whatever he’s having because he is so filled with evident joy and love that I want a little, too.
If you, too, share your joy with those around you, then I guarantee that you will be bringing in people to this Church. Next Easter we’ll be fighting them back and will it not be wonderful? In these challenging times – you only have to read the newspaper – we can become introverted, feeling afraid, perhaps even a little ashamed of being Catholic. Be not afraid. Look what they did to Jesus but that wasn’t enough to hold him down. Oh, no, he rose triumphant and so can we.
Alleluia, sing to Jesus, his the sceptre his the throne. Let’s sing it loud, let’s tell the whole world and we can jolly well start at the barbers!