Homily preached in the Michael Chapel at the abbey  on the Island of Iona third Sunday in Easter time

The Michael Chapel, abbey of Iona

Brothers and sisters, we are gathered in Christ with the disciples in this Easter time. We are following the them as they begin to grasp the mystery of the resurrection. We hear about the Emmaus-disciples who are filled with awe as they listen to the stranger on the road. And we witness Peter as he preaches the Gospel that has matured within him. He’s on fire, and asks the crowd to listen. Here’s a man who got something to say! For the Emmaus-disciples, after having met the Lord, they are left with glowing hearts, rushing back to Jerusalem to share with the others what has happened.

And this is what faith hides within itself: glowing and burning hearts, filled with longing for the Lord. That said, we should also remember that this is not reserved for those of us who believe. Either a person is aware of it or not: The human heart is a longing heart, searching for meaning, searching for answers, and above all, searching for the one, for the profound relation that may fulfill the deepest desires of the heart.

We find traces of this deep longing everywhere. The other day, I happened to hear a song of the heavy metal band Metallica. It was written by one of the members of the band, James Hetfield, as he was chatting with his girlfriend on the phone while being on tour. The first lines goes like this:

So close, no matter how far
Couldn’t be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
and nothing else matters

I don’t know how James Hetfield would respond to being quoted in a homily here on Iona, but what I do see in his song is traces of a deep longing that leads us the core of what it is to be a human being. The poetry that flowed from his longing heart ecchoes in me and reaches my own longing. This is more than a sweet love story. It is about being. Because being created in God’s own image, we desire to be reunited with the one who brought us here to this earth. And we desires to trust each other, in everlasting loving relations. Poetry like what we’ve just heard expresses this depth, and Hetfield himself later agreed that the lines he wrote was much more than a plain love song. It reaches further…

Leonard Cohen once said that «Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.»

If this is true, then AIona is filled with ashes. With Colomba and his disciples, this ground became a place where faith, life and poetry flurished. Proximity with nature and proximity with God melted together, and the place became a place full of holy, secret places. One of them is Cnoc angel, -the Little Hill of Angels, where a disobedient munk secretly followed Saint Colomba against his interdiction, and witnessed how angels descended from heaven, talking with Colomba before «swiftly returning to the hights of heaven».

Why is it that this story awaken our hearts? Do I expect angels to descend once more? It would of course been lovely, but that is beside the point. The point is what we just heard in the heavy metal rock band song: «So close, no matter how far». We are lead close to what really matters in our lives. We are lead to see that God is near. Just like Peter aclaims to the crowd. Listen up! The Lord is here!

The Emmaus disciples urges the stranger they have met to join them for the night. And as they sit down, Jesus is breaking the bread, giving thanks – and they recognise him before he dissapears. In the Eucharist Christ is present, hidden but revealed in the host, «so close, no matter how far». The Lord is here. Our hearts are burning.

And Nothing else Matter.