ET3 EV – 30 Mar 2024

Shells and Tombs

Message by: Fr Richard M Healey


MP3 media (Easter Vigil)

MP3 media (Exsultet)

In today’s homily, I shared my journey walking the Way of Saint James, a pilgrimage that taught me the profound lesson of surrender. We carried stones, symbols of our burdens, and at Cruz de Ferro, we let them go, embracing the freedom Christ offers. The shell, our emblem of baptism, reminds us of the paths leading to Jesus. Reflecting on Lazarus’s tomb, I spoke of the necessity to surrender our deepest wounds to rise anew in God’s love. As we distributed shells, I invited everyone to release their burdens and renew their commitment to God, trusting in His promise of new life.

(00:00:00) – Just after the World Youth Day in Sydney back in 2008, I led a pilgrimage and we travelled through various holy sites in Europe, and part of the pilgrimage went along the way of Saint James, going and ending up in Santiago de Compostela. And that kind of awakened within me this deep desire not to travel on a bus along that road, but to walk that path, because the Christian life is sometimes about taking those long and arduous journeys. And so a few years later, I managed to find some friends that when we agreed that we would, would go and do the pilgrimage. And so over the course of 15 days, we walked about 330km from Leon to Santiago de Compostela, and along the way, a few days into the journey of that pilgrimage, there’s this place called Cruz de Ferro – the Iron Cross. And one of the things that the pilgrims are invited to do is they make their way along. That journey is to carry with them a stone, a rock kind of representing all of your junk or whatever it is that you want to be free from.

Speaker 1 (00:01:24) – And so when you finally get to the Iron Cross there, there’s this huge pile of stones all gathered around the crosses. Different pilgrims over the centuries have attempted to surrender and to release whatever it is that they’re carrying, whatever they’re holding onto. And as you go along the Camino, I didn’t actually get this on the path was one of the coveted things that you could do, all these virtual things. And so I signed up to as part of my regular walking, to be able to complete virtually the whole length of the 773km of the full Camino. But one of the things that kind of marks the Camino. One of the things that you’re always looking out for is the shell. The shell has kind of become one of the signs and symbols of the Christian life. A lot of priests use a shell for baptism, and we will use that tonight for the seven candidates that we have. The smashing seven. 

(00:02:31) – And,, that sense that, you know, one of the things about the shell is that there’s multiple kind of things that the fans out, but there is only one centre point. All the paths, all of the roads lead to the person of Jesus. That is that sense of what we’re about as a Christian people. But doing those rituals, doing those things are such a key part of our lives as we journey along. A couple of weeks before Easter,  I read the new book by Father James Martin. It’s the book about Lazarus, and it’s entitled Come Forth. And one of the things that James talks about in that book is the way he takes people on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, to the tomb of Lazarus El’Azar, that one of the things that he invites people to do is to go down into the tomb via the slippery steps. He kept reminding us how slippery the steps were going down into the tomb. But just as pilgrims would leave a stone kind of representing all of their junk at the Iron Cross.

(00:03:39) – So he encouraged people to to go into the tomb and to really let go of whatever it is that you might be holding on to in your life to let the darkness, the stillness, the the power of the tomb kind of hold all of those things, those dysfunctions, all of that junk that we accumulate over life. And it really struck me on this Holy Saturday, as we’ve been kind of listening in the silence and the stillness of the tomb, that that’s a sacred place. It’s not a place that we go to very often. It’s a place of waiting. It’s a place where there’s no entertainment, there’s nothing happening, nothing that is kind of attracting our attention. But the tomb is a place that we need to go into. Because unless we surrender our dysfunction, our wounds, our mistakes, our resentments, the fears, all of the things that can shape and mark and carry us unless we take them into the tomb, unless we let go of those things, we cannot participate in the resurrection.

(00:04:55) – We can’t actually experience the new life and the grace of. But if we do, if we take the time to go into those uncomfortable places, knowing that even there Jesus has been, even there, his love is available to us, that he will be there to embrace and to take whatever it is that we need to be free from whatever thing, whatever relationship hasn’t worked. Whatever person has disappointed us, whatever part of ourselves we are disappointed by whatever that hope, that dream that we brought, that we had, that we thought, yes, that will be the thing that will define me, that will be the thing that will mark and shape and characterise my life. But it didn’t work out. We lost the money. We weren’t able to win the contract, whatever it was, to take that into the tomb, to take that experience, to take that disappointment, to take that grieving into that place of darkness, into that place where all there is is tears. All there is is the bitterness of death.

(00:06:09) – But we need to first do that. We need to first experience what it is to surrender, what it is to let go in order that we can find the freedom of new life in Christ, because he’s always promising us this gift of new life. He’s always inviting us that there is so much more to life that we have discovered, so much more that is waiting for us. The Lord has prepared this banquet table. You know, our readings have given us those promises of the God who is always calling and always inviting us more deeply into that experience and encounter with God. So if you are prepared, you know, take those disappointments, take those bitterness, take those resentments, take whatever it is you need to surrender and let go of them tonight. Allow the Lord to meet you there. Just rest with him. Wait with him. But know that our God is a third day God. And God is a God who will, on the third day bring us to that fullness of life in him.

(00:07:26) – The God is always the one where hope is the answer, where darkness and despair will never have. The final word will never have the end of the story. They will be part of our story. They will journey with us. There will be those moments of disappointment that accompany us along the road. But it’s the Christian people. Hallelujah is a song we can proclaim and announce. That death will not have the final word in my life. The darkness will not have the final word, even if it’s just a little flickering flame that we bring into a dark church. That will be the sign of the reminder that our God is doing this work among us, and will continue to bring us to that place of life and freedom. So one of the things that we have prepared for everyone tonight is a show that you will get to take home a shell as a reminder that we are all called and invited to be that pilgrim people, to be that people that continue to journey along our way to God. That there will be times when we need to let go of things.

(00:08:38) – There’ll be times when we need to renew our promises. There will be times when we need to make a fresh commitment to follow God, and to be brought into that love and that mercy. But there’s always the room of God’s grace. He’s always, always the God who’s calling us and inviting us more deeply into the freedom that only God can offer.

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