Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Sunday – The Resurrection of the Lord
Platform 9 ¾

Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Colossians 3:1-4 OR 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8; John 20:1-9
Picture: CC Nenyaki

Dear Sisters and brothers, do you know who Harry Potter is? I think most of us are familiar with him – the main character in the popular series of children’s novels written by J.K. Rowling. Today I’m reminded of a scene from the first novel in the series: Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone. As some of you know, the eleven-year-old Harry is actually a wizard. And he is told to go to King’s Cross train station in London to catch the train that is bound for Hogwarts, the school of wizardry, where he will be trained in the magic arts that are his birthright.

But there’s a problem. Harry has been told to board the train at platform 9 ¾. But when he gets to the train station, he finds, of course, that there is no such platform. He stands and stares instead at the brick wall between platform 9 on one side and platform 10 on the other. No platform 9 ¾. What to do? It seems that his journey towards becoming a full-fledged wizard has come to a premature dead-end.

Thankfully, just at that moment, he happens to meet the Weasleys. Mrs. Weasley has come to the station to send off her sons George, Fred and Ron, to Hogwarts. Together, they show Harry how to get onto platform 9 ¾. As it turns out, what you have to do is to run into the brick wall – the dead end – between platforms 9 and 10. Harry follows the example of the Weasley children. And, marvel of marvels, he actually goes through the wall and onto the platform he is looking for. There, he finds the train bound for Hogwarts, which carries him into a whole new world filled with mystery and adventure.

Sisters and brothers, you may think me crazy for suggesting it, but doesn’t Harry’s experience tell us something about this joyous Easter feast that we are celebrating today? For instance, aren’t the people in our gospel today doing just what Harry did at King’s Cross Station? In the gospel, we find Mary, Peter and the beloved disciple running towards a tomb. And what is a tomb but a place for laying lifeless bodies to rest? What is a tomb if not a dead end?

But something happens to the disciples when they get to the tomb. For one thing, they find that the stone that once sealed its entrance has been rolled away. The depressing dead end has been transformed into an exciting entrance into mystery and adventure. The burial cloths have been changed from mere coverings for corpses into signs pointing to new life.

Early yesterday morning I received word that a relative of mine was on his deathbed in a hospital in LA. In a way, as I made the 2-hour long drive south along highway 101, it felt a little like running towards a dead end. And yet, when I got to the hospital and prayed with the family, I couldn’t ignore the unmistakable signs of new life breaking through the hard soil of grief and pain. I couldn’t ignore the strong faith of the wife, who whispered repeatedly into the ears of her unconscious husband, telling him to go into the arms of Jesus. I couldn’t ignore the efforts of the young daughter who, even in the midst of her own sorrow, was bravely trying to help her mom with the arrangements for the funeral that was soon to come. Yesterday, what was to be a drive towards an apparent dead end turned out to be something of a rendezvous with the resurrection.

Still, we need to be honest. These transformations from dead ends to doorways are difficult to discern. When Harry Potter first arrives at King’s Cross Station and approaches a train conductor to find out where platform 9 ¾ is, the conductor says to him, Are you trying to be funny? And, in the gospel, any other people would probably have seen nothing more than an empty tomb. For the mystery of the resurrection is something mysterious, something invisible to the naked eye. As Peter tells his listeners in the first reading, God granted that the risen Christ be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance.

Is God biased then? Why do some people only see an empty tomb, but not the risen Christ? Why are some people able to see only platforms 9 and 10, but not 9 ¾? Perhaps the name of the train station has something to do with it. Seeing the burial cloths at the empty tomb, it is only the disciple whom Jesus loved who saw and believed. Why? Perhaps it is because only someone conscious of being a beloved disciple can appreciate the tomb’s true location under the shadow of the King’s Cross. Isn’t this why we need to take care to look continually beyond the superficial realities of life? Isn’t this why the second reading tells us to think of what is above, not of what is on earth? To be able to locate platform 9 ¾, we need to be less focused only on getting onto the trains on platforms 9 and 10.

And isn’t this what our world is like? Isn’t ours a world that often seems obsessed only with getting onto the twin trains of economic and technical advancement, never mind the cost? Such that many others are left stranded between platforms 9 and 10, facing apparent dead ends, because they have been crowded out of the trains? Isn’t this why some people snap under the pressure? People like 42-year-old Vietnamese immigrant Lin Voong, for example, who went on a shooting spree on April 3 at the American Civic Association in Binghamton, New York, killing 14 people, before turning his gun on himself.

What then are we to do, we who have been entrusted with the secret of platform 9 ¾, we who profess to believe in the mystery of the empty tomb? Are we not called to do what Mrs. Weasley did for Harry Potter, and what we find Peter doing in the first reading today? Are we not called to be witnesses to what we have experienced, to assist others in breaking through the various dead ends of our world, so as to find a place on the train that leads to life? Is this not the very thing that we will be recommitting ourselves to when we renew our baptismal promises shortly? Are we not called to continue to work, each in our own way, towards transforming the global marketplace into a train station located under the shadow of the King’s Cross?

Sisters and brothers, on this joyous occasion of our Lord’s resurrection, where and how might we find platform 9 ¾ today?

A blessed Easter to you all!


  1. Talk about Platform 9¾! I've been ramming my head into brick walls for some time, looking for that elusive platform. Maybe I've doing the right thing in the wrong station!

    Should have known that it's at the King's Cross! :-p

    May God grant me the necessary graces and determination! Have a blessed and inspired Easter, Fr Chris!

  2. Happy Easter Fr Chris.
    And thank you, once again, for a beautiful homily.

  3. Fr Chris,
    Your sharing reminded me of an old childhood friend who succumbed to cancer in his late 30s (10 years ago)leaving behind his parents, siblings, widow and 5 young children.
    It would have been hard to see beyond the stonewall of grief and loss if God had not sent many angels to pour love into this bereaved family. The deathbed scene was the place of much reconciliation especially between father and son.
    It is heartening to meet his children in their teens now and see how God has truly been gracious and faithful.

    And yet, waiting for new life to emerge when one is buried under the winter of grief is so incredibly hard.
    One can only pray for the grace to wait in hope, and trust that God is present though seemingly invisible.
    Your ministry at such times of need is certainly one sign of God's loving presence.

    Have a blessed Easter.


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