This homily was delivered on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009. The readings were Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Col 3:1-4 and the gospel was Jn 20:1-9.
TODAY IS THE DAY – HE IS RISEN.
HE IS RISEN AND HE IS HERE with us.
So I want to ask each of you – why are YOU here?
WHY ARE ANY OF US here today?
What is it that compels you to come here on this day of all days?
(They tell you in homiletics training never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to – so . . .)
I can tell you why you’re here – why ALL of us are here.
You’re here today because of something amazing – no matter where your faith is – be it as strong as the mightiest fortress on the highest mountain . . .
. . . or as weak as the fingers that are just barely holding onto the edge of a cliff with worry, afraid of the fall that you fear is coming any time now . . .
Regardless of any of that – everyone is here for the same reason, a reason I’ve already told you actually . . .
HE IS RISEN.
You’re NOT here because this guy called Jesus walked around 2000 years ago and told everybody to “be good”, “play nice”, “turn the other cheek” or any of that stuff.
You know – Jesus said a WHOLE LOT OF THINGS – all good and true and right and necessary for us to hear and even to live by . . .
But you’re today NOT here TODAY because of anything Jesus ever SAID.
You’re here because of ONE THING . . .
HE IS RISEN!
If Jesus was just a philosopher of great insight, or someone who founded this “revolutionary new way of living” 2000 years ago – would we be here?
If Jesus were just the most original thinker in the history of mankind and even if he just told us all the most amazing secrets – about the universe, about humanity – even about GOD himself and ever single piece of it was the amazing, absolute truth . . .
Would we be here?
If THAT was all that Jesus was about – who but maybe scholars and philosophers or thinkers would have any significant interest in him?
In fact, Jesus would have been just another – who? – Gandhi? Einstein? Nietzsche? Oprah?
How many people do YOU know that would be willing to DIE for their belief in Frederick Nietzsche or Oprah Winfrey?
Again – we’re here for one reason – HE IS RISEN!!
You see it is the RESURRECTION that makes everything clear, and it’s the resurrection that makes everything else matter.
Christ’s words and teachings – his MIRACLES as marvelous as they all were – they would all be nothing but unexplained occurrences centuries ago.
The Eucharist – we would have never understood it, much less celebrated it, without the Resurrection. Indeed, what would we have to remember?
Even his DEATH – Good Friday – as crucial as it is . . . It would just be hopeless without Easter Sunday – just as Easter Sunday would be meaningless without Good Friday.
Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter – they’re really one dissoluble event and the Church celebrates them as such – they’re really one three day liturgy, from Holy Thursday through the Easter Vigil.
BECAUSE of the RESSURECTION – ALL of the miracles suddenly make sense like they never did before.
BECAUSE OF THE RESSURECTION – his teachings REALLY command attention and convey TRUTH and MEANING like they never did before.
BECAUSE OF THE RESSURECTION – we can understand the concept of “sacrament” – and how VITAL they are for our salvation.
BECAUSE OF THE RESSURECTION – the institution of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday night we understand for what it really is and what it means – Christ’s True Body and True Blood, poured out for us and our salvation.
BECAUSE OF THE RESSURECTION – we understand NOW what his death REALLY WAS and what it MEANT.
BECAUSE OF THE RESSURECTION – we now KNOW who he REALLY IS.
The apostles you know always seem sort of thick headed in the Gospels, they only rarely understood who Jesus really was and the significance of what he did.
We really should try and not be too hard on them for the times when they “didn’t get it” – those times were always BEFORE the Resurrection – I mean what did we expect?
The Resurrection is the moment where everything that went before and everything that would come after ALL crystallizes into focus.
And BECAUSE OF THE RESSURECTION – we have HOPE for ourselves. Christ showed us by the RESSURECTION what we have to look forward to.
You know, Eternal Life is NOT A MYTH.
It’s NOT wishful thinking or the “ignorant self delusion of the masses” like the atheists want us to think or an “after-the-event, made-up-occurrence” like some wayward theologians might say either.
I had a professor once – well over 20 years ago – who tried to tell us that the Resurrection was (and I’ll quote) “NOT ABOUT RESSUCITATED CORPSES BUT A STATEMENT OF FAITH.” HE was basically telling us that the Apostles had made up the whole “RESSURECTION thing” to give people some reason to believe in this Jesus guy in order for them found this “church” thing they’d come up with.
That statement stuck in my head and it kept coming back to me for years afterwards – had I been missing the point all this time? Was this Jesus Christ in whom I professed to believe – was it all really something else TOTALLY all along and I was just too blind, ignorant or just backwards to know any better?
But thank GOD, the Holy Spirit never left me, and in fact it was that incident more than many others that caused me to really investigate and learn my faith over the years – and I suppose in many ways I owe that professor a debt of gratitude – since that day in many ways helped to lead me to stand before you here today.
It was when I heard and then read St. Paul that I finally realized the truth – and I discovered to my amazement and relief that I wasn’t a fool after all.
In his first letter to this Corinthians – St Paul hits it right on the head and it was a relief to me like no other:
“If Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty, too, your faith. Then we are also false witnesses to God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if in fact the dead are not raised.
For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain and those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
If for THIS life ONLY we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.
BUT . . . HE IS RISEN!!!!! And that DARN WELL IS THE POINT!
Peter and the beloved apostle saw the evidence as we just heard, and the dawning of true understanding came to them. Jesus will appear to them and to many as we will hear in the coming weeks, and we will understand what is truly in store for us if we but keep his commandments.
The Resurrection is REAL – it really HAPPENED and it’s WHY we are here – today and EVERY day– and THAT is why we have reason to rejoice!
THAT is why that even though we may be hanging on by our fingernails and thinking we can’t face what the future holds for us in our lives – in the end we KNOW what the future ultimately holds.
HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN!