My latest and sixteenth great nephew or niece was born here in New York to my niece, Phoebe, and her husband, Mathias Mueller, on Easter Monday. They have given him the grand name, Otto Richard St John Mueller! He is surely destined for great things. But there is nothing quite like a new birth in Eastertide to bring home the wonder of new life and resurrection. I had the privilege of visiting young Otto at his home in Brooklyn last Saturday. He seems a fine baby even if his parents are somewhat weary from the long birthing process and the new regime of regular feeds and the associated sleep deprivation! Many of us have suffered the loss of loved ones in the past year, and times like Easter bring them to mind. But at least Easter gives us a context and a perspective on issues surrounding loss and death as well as birth, new life and hope. As my eldest sister, Jenifer, lay dying last year I was able to relay the news of Phoebe’s pregnancy to her. She was thrilled and immediately suggested a friend who could make a baby jacket and other garments for the expected baby. After she died I was able to accomplish her intention and brought the baby clothes back with me in February. So, in a way there was a death; I have no doubt about that; but there was also a birth with all the associated joy and hope that new life brings. I do not cease to be surprised by the extraordinary connectedness of death and life at the very heart of the Christian Gospel. Each year on Good Friday we come face to face with death; the death of loved ones; the pain of grief and loss; as well as our own deaths. But even on Good Friday we begin to feel that death does not have the last word. That cross on which Jesus died is central to our Good Friday liturgy. But even that cross “shines forth with mystic glow;” the sign of suffering and defeat becomes for us the sign of victory and hope and salvation. The cross is the paradox at the heart of our faith; that out of death comes new life, hope and peace. And then on Easter Eve and Day we experience the full reality of that transformation; that God raised Jesus from the dead; that the Risen Christ appeared to Mary Magdalen, to the other women, to the gathered disciples, to the disciples on the road to Emmaus; and as a result, people and communities were and continue to be transformed with new energy, confidence, vision and hope.
May the hope, joy and peace of Easter continue to transform our lives and the life of Holy Apostles.